Friday, June 23, 2000

Nine West to shut Madisonville warehouse




By Sarah Anne Wright
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Workers at the Nine West distribution center in Madisonville say they weren't surprised to learn their facility will be closing by year's end.

        “We kind of expected it. They closed all of our local factories,” said Robert Cook, a warehouse worker who had close to 30 years with the company.

        The distribution center is one of the last local vestiges of the former U.S. Shoe Corp., which made such brands as Easy Spirit, Cobbie and Papagallo shoes. The company was bought by Nine West Group Inc. in 1995. Shortly thereafter, Nine West became a wholly owned subsidiary of the Jones Apparel Group. Since the sale, factories in Vanceburg, Ky., and Madison, Vevay and Osgood, Ind., have closed.

        Jeff Howald, chief financial officer with White Plains, N.Y.-based Nine West Group Inc., said labor is cheaper overseas.

        “That's just what it takes to be competitive,” he said. “It's the nature of our business.”

        Workers at the plant will be given six months' pay and managers a full-year's if they stay until the closing.

        Some of the workers at the distribution center were not happy about the shut down. They described their work atmosphere after the Nine West purchase as “touchy” and “awful, like somebody died.”

        “Not too many people have under 15 years here,” said Barb Nagelhout, who began making shoes in Norwood 32 years ago.

        “This is all the work they've ever done,” she said. “When you work in the shoe industry all those years, what do you do?”

       



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