Making a statement with “Made in Korea”! The Return of Max
You might remember an advertisement featured on the BNB Magazine cover in 2010. Under the title of “MAX Trading, a Visionary Company Dedicated to Shoes”, the Statue of Liberty is holding a Max brand shoe in this iconic ad. Max Trading enjoyed great success based in Los Angeles, distributing shoes across the country but disappeared from the market only several years later. Max returned this year. Under the new “Max Collection” flag with shoes “made in Korea”.
Last March, at an event hall hosting the Georgia Beauty Trade Show. A booth displaying only a couple of shoes was visited by many people who exchanged greetings in excitement. “Are you back?” “Now it’s no longer discontinued.” “You should bring back those hit sandals of the past!” The shoe brand Max was remembered by so many people even after a decade of its absence. CEO Don Kim talks about the story behind Max’s comeback with a face that cannot hide the excitement from a new start.
There was a reason for coming out of retirement
Max established itself as a popular shoe maker, but it stopped its business operation because the manufacturing cost rose in China and could not meet the quality or quantity standard. After closing the business after twenty years of operation, Mr. Kim spent several years in retirement in South Korea. However, he felt there was more for his shoe enterprise for which he devoted his entire life.
“I spent more than three years in Korea, and I observed that China was raising tariffs while losing her foot on quality. The shoe market was a mess. I have always dreamed about manufacturing shoes in South Korea.Now, it has become a possibility. Chinese goods are subject to 30-50% tariff, so Korean goods became competitive thanks to the FTA. Since then, I made up my mind to restart and traveled around the country, acquiring machinery and setting up manufacturing facilities. I came back to the U.S. last year and prepared a comeback.”
What’s different about the new Max?
“The biggest difference is that Max shoes are made in Korea now.” The difference in quality is pretty obvious. While Chinese shoes are made with a large percentage of post-consumer raw materials, making texture rough, Korean shoes are made with all-new material, resulting in soft and elastic shoes. Color is more vivid too. It would be meaningful to manufacture high quality goods on our own.”
In fact, Max shoes made in Korea offer outstanding bounce thanks to the high quality EVA. Dyes are also made in Korea and produce more vivid colors. Above all, Mr. Kim is proud of the size accuracy.
“For shoes, size matters. If you cut costs and lack quality control, you cannot get correct sizes. Usually, you would have one-to-two sizes small. And that results in many unsold goods. Most African American customers look for sizes 9, 10, and 11, and you want to have actual 9, 10, and 11 sized shoes for efficient inventory management. Max offers accurate size and would fit comfortably. “The liberation of African Americans’ feet starts from there.”
Another advantage of manufacturing in South Korea is that you do not have suspension of supply. In China, two-to-three months of suspension of manufacturing activities is expected during and around the Chinese New Year. That is not the same in South Korea. “When you go on a sales trip, you hear questions like ‘will this continue to ship or not?’ so often. They complain about the shortage of supply when there is demand. Now, we are manufacturing in South Korea and can confidently say that supply will continue. That is our greatest strength.”
Once legendary in the shoe industry: Max Trading
The predecessor of Max Collection, Max Trading, started the business in Los Angeles in 1992. Around 2000, hit products made quite a splash, and it operated a 100,000 sq.ft. warehouse in Norcross, Georgia. That was how big Max was in the beauty supply industry at the time.
“We swoop the nation. From a beauty supply to another, everyone asked for a shipment of Max shoes. In California, Max was the top 4 customers of UPS by volume of shipment. Our UPS bill once recorded past the $100,000 mark for a week. We joked that Max shoes are wearing off UPS’s drivers’ shoes. Flower sandals and mesh sandals at the time were legendary hits. Everyone remembers even today.”
Dreaming of a big comeback
Max made the State of Georgia home this time. It is the distribution hub for the 7 Southeastern states. According to the freight schedule, they might use LA Long Beach or New York ports but will increase the share of Port of Savannah and reduce the cost and time for supply.
The headquarters is also close to the Korean community, making it easier for retail store owners to pick up goods. “UPS shipping costs can be punishing, so many clients like to pick up goods themselves. They would come to Atlanta to shop for groceries anyway. So, we open 10am to 2pm on Sunday.”
There are many stories behind the new launch. He made frequent trips to South Korea and kept making changes to the samples. While he is nice and pleasant in person, he is meticulous and stubborn with shoes. The long and tricky road must have tired him, but he looks only excited with the prospect.
“Others are retiring at my age, but I love making shoes. The development stage is tough, but once the product is on track of success, you wouldn’t produce enough with ten factories. I hope to generate a lot of tax revenue for the country I live in, create jobs for the local community, and provide sought-for goods for beauty suppliers with pride. Please look forward to our new start and cheer for us!”
Location: 2880 N. Berkeley Lake Rd #4, Duluth, GA 30096
Calll: 470-374-5925 / E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org