Sunglass Hut International represented annual sales of about $100 million at the retail level for Maui Jim. Last October, the Hawaian-inspired company decided to stop supplying products to the chain, controlled by Luxottica, claiming that its products were not being properly merchandised. The relationship resumed in January after SGH gave assurances that Maui Jim products would be treated like those of Luxottica.
The new deal followed the appointment of David Stoltz, a former official of SGH, as associate vice president of Maui Jim for merchandising. In another important move, Maui Jim has named a new director of product development in Richard Walker, who had been working with the company on a contract basis for the last year.
Walker is well known in the industry as the man who launched the Blinde brand of sunglasses, which is currently licensed by Larry Sands' Optical Shop International (OSI). Based in his loft in the SoHo district of New York, he has already started to design glasses for Maui Jim, joining the team formed by the company's founder, Walter Hester, and Jennifer Williams.
The economic crisis in the U.S. caused Maui Jim to post a small sales decline in 2009, after 15 years of double-digit growth. Sales went down also in Spain and Dubai, but increased in other foreign markets such as France, Germany, the U.K. and Canada, and the company returned to double-digit growth in the first few weeks of this year.
The management reacted to the crisis by telling its employees that nobody would be fired, as long as other operating expenses would be reduced. They were cut by 18 percent. Maui Jim continued to invest in advertising in clever ways, and it will do more marketing in the future.