Establishments that fall under this category are primarily engaged in manufacturing leather soles, inner soles, and other boot and shoe cut stock and findings. The industry also includes finished wood heels. Establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing heels, soiling strips, and soles made of rubber, composition, plastics, and fiber are classified in the major group for rubber and miscellaneous plastics products.
All Other Miscellaneous Wood Product Manufacturing
Fasteners, Button, Needle, and Pin Manufacturing
All Other Leather Good Manufacturing
In the mid-2000s, the boot and shoe cut stock findings segment continued to suffer from the growing penetration of relatively low-cost imported footwear into the United States. As of 2004, there were only 18 establishments engaged in this industry, which shipped a modest $47 million in product, down significantly from the 2002 total of $78 million. According to footwear industry statistics, in 1966 the United States market for nonrubber footwear totaled 735 million pairs, and 641 million pairs were made in America. By 1996 the market had grown to more than 1.2 million pairs, but the United States produced only 143 million pairs. The import/export imbalance was even more telling—nearly 1.2 billion pairs were imported in 1996, while only 24 million were exported. As a result, U.S. manufacturers began to shift operations overseas to take advantages of lower operating costs in countries like China. In fact, by 2003 China was exporting more than 1.3 billion pairs of shoes into the United States annually.
In this environment, many of the footwear plants that did remain in the United States were forced to close, and plant openings had slowed to a trickle by the late 1990s. Pricing was also under intense pressure due to competition from imported shoes. In the labor-intensive footwear industry, U.S. makers simply could not compete with manufacturers overseas whose wage rates were far below U.S. levels. When nonrubber footwear penetration levels reached 98 percent in the early 2000s, the American Apparel and Footwear Association, which had once been vehemently opposed to the growing levels of imports, began calling for the elimination of tariffs on nonrubber footwear imports. As stated in a June 2002 issue of Footwear News, "In a dramatic reversal that reflects the changed character of the domestic footwear business...