Richelieu Legwear

Montreal, Quebec

Number of employees: 32


President: Michael Penner

Primary markets:  Canada, the United States


Entrepreneur builds foothold in the sock industry


During recent years, a slew of North American manufacturers either moved operations overseas or folded due to competition from low cost emerging market producers. Those that survived, like Richelieu Legwear, have had to do a lot of adapting says Michael Penner, its president.


“In late 2002, we transferred all of our domestic hosiery manufacturing overseas,” says Penner. “We go where we can get the best quality for the best price. Customers demand it.” Richelieu bills itself as North America’s leading legwear provider. The company develops and markets to an array of retailers ranging from Wal-Mart to Sam’s Club, Zellers and a slew of others.


 “We are building a lean, flat global model,” says Penner, who is a lawyer by trade. “We are locally rooted, but at the same time we are trying to sell to the EU and are opening an office in Dubai.”


Choosing the right sub-contractors, whom the company regards as strategic partners, is crucial, says Penner. “We believe that good facilities are made, not found. Furthermore, there are many small ways we bring value to the supply chain such as through our knowledge of markets and quality control systems.”


“Effective distribution is also key,” says Penner. “If we are sourcing in China, I need to check my E-mail at 1:00 in the morning. If I get back to my supplier too late we lose a whole business day.” Other changes that Penner made include switching Richlieu’s marketing mix from being primarily private label focused, to relying more on proprietary brands. Richelieu also tries to stay ahead by introducing innovations such as therapeutic socks, new fabrics and sports related products.




Photo: Michael Penner was profiled in the Montreal Gazette by Sarah Dougherty on December 24th. A photo is available in Can West archives.




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