Brown Shoe Company has eliminated its Naturalizer division, which was handling wholesale and retail operations under the brand, and created a new division, called Specialty Retail, to manage its 365 Naturalizer stores and 16 FX LaSalle stores in the USA and Canada. John Mazurk, senior vice president of retail sales for Brown Shoe’s large Famous Footwear division, has been promoted to act as senior vice president of specialty retail. Gary Rich, who has been running Brown Shoe’s wholesale division since 2000, will take responsibility also for Naturalizer’s wholesale business. Byron Norfleet, who ran the former Naturalizer division, building up the brand into the #2 in US department stores, is leaving the company.

These changes follow the announcement of an 11.2 percent decline in Brown Shoe’s net income to $11,820,000 for the 3rd quarter ended Oct. 30 and a projection of about $45.2 million for the full financial year, down from $46.9 million in the previous one. The group’s operating income declined by 19.0 percent to $26.3 million as a 5.9 percent gain for the big Famous Footwear chain of family stores to $24.8 million was offset by continued problems in its Naturalizer retail stores and certain parts of the group’s wholesale business.

The group’s total retail sales increased by 4.3 percent to $514.8 million. Famous Footwear raised its sales by 3.3 percent to $311.68 million, but on a comparable basis they declined by 0.4 percent. Like at Genesco, fashion athletic styles experienced the biggest growth, driven by new colors and by exclusive products. In the non-athletic categories, children’s shoes rose by 5 percent, while men’s and women’s shoes declined by 1 and 6 percent, respectively, due in large part to a certain weakness in the more casual styles.

The group’s Naturalizer stores in the USA and Canada had basically flat sales of $49.9 million in the quarter, but on a comparable basis they were down by 5.7 percent. Their losses were trimmed down to $1.5 million, but they remained in the red after many years of bleeding.

The wholesale division generated a 33 percent lower operating profit on 6.2 percent higher sales of $148.7 million, but wholesale sales under the Naturalizer brand were down by 9.8 percent. The Lifestride and Carlos brands improved their sales.