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August 16, 2018

Lewiston company steps into Danish clogs with exclusive distribution deal

Courtesy / M. Leonard International
Courtesy / M. Leonard International
Matt Tracy is president of M. Leonard International Inc., a Lewiston-based company that has been named the exclusive U.S. distributor of footwear made by Sanita Denmark A/S.

Lewiston's M. Leonard International Inc. has been named the exclusive U.S. distributor for Danish footwear maker Sanita Denmark A/S, creator of professional clogs popular with nurses, hospitality workers, teachers and others who spend hours on their feet.

"This is a very big deal for M. Leonard," Matt Tracy, president of M. Leonard, told Mainebiz via email from a trade show in Las Vegas. "This new partnership will effectively quadruple the sales volumes of the company within the first year."

He said he's also proud of the new partnership on a personal level, adding: "As a native Mainer with roots in Lewiston, I feel like I am doing my part to change the 'Maine-isn't-always-the-best-place-to-do-business' narrative that often dominates the headlines."

Tracy explained that while there has been a Sanita distributor in Texas for the last six years, he and his new Danish partner see a "much broader, untapped potential" for the brand in this country and want to expand its reputation "as the hardest-working clog on the market."

After Sanita's current U.S. distributor winds down operations this fall, M. Leonard International will take over next year, starting with Sanita's spring/summer 2019 collection.

"We are already out marketing to the trade and taking orders for winter delivers from our Lewiston office," Tracy said.

Besides strengthening Sanita's core professional clog distribution. M. Leonard will expand Sanita's heritage wood-fashion sandal collection and work/safety collection in the United States, according to a new release.

Tracy founded his distribution company in 2006, setting out to import woolen slippers and shoes made by Austria's Giesswein, which was little-known in this country at that time, and working with a single retail customer, namely Cuddledown, of Yarmouth, that first year.

Today for Giesswein USA, M. Leonard works with hundreds of retailers, including Cuddledown, across the country who carry that brand in their stores and online.

"In retrospect, I probably chose one of the hardest niche products to market in the USA," Tracy admits, "but after 11 years of commitment and hard work, it has paid off."

Asked about his rollout strategy for Sanita clogs, Tracy said the educational, hospitality and medical markets are high on the list.

Hiring plans, headquarters move

M. Leonard has four full-time employees in its Lewiston office and warehouse, along with a sales force of five independent agents traveling throughout the country. It hires a half dozen part-time warehouse workers during the peak season.

This October, M. Leonard will open its new headquarters in Scarborough.

On the workforce front over the next 12 months, it plans to hire an additional eight employees in its new Scarborough HQ and another four in its Lewiston warehouse. It also plans to lease an extra 30,000 square feet in its downtown Lewiston mill location, Tracy said in his email.

"Quite frankly, Maine (and Lewiston, in particular) needs all of the well-paid, non-seasonal, full-time jobs that it can get," he added. "I'm excited to be able to give a little bit back to my state in this way."

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