ORANGE — Christopher G. Staff, a top executive at Authentic Fitness Corp. in Van Nuys, has been selected as president and chief executive officer at Vans Inc., the tennis shoe manufacturer.
Staff, 52, president and chief operating officer of the Speedo and Action Sports divisions of Authentic Fitness since 1990, will join Vans on Sept. 16 at its headquarters in Orange. Staff succeeds Vans Vice Chairman Walter E. Schoenfeld, 63, who became president on an interim basis in April, 1993.
Shoe industry analysts said the appointment was in keeping with Vans' ongoing bid to restore revenue and profitability. "I'm not comfortable saying that Vans is all the way back, but they're clearly making changes and they're on track with the schedule (Schoenfeld) set last year," said Seth Feinstein, a Los Angeles-based analyst with Crowell, Weedon & Co.
Vans shares rose 25 cents on Monday to $5.50 in Nasdaq trading. The stock had traded as high as $13 in 1993.
"I think given the great position Vans has in California there's tremendous opportunity to take this company nationwide," Staff said Monday. "We're going to be a marketing-driven company with a tremendous manufacturing base."
Staff said Vans has "in the last six months begun to reflect some of the opportunities in the market. The company has outstanding factories in California and it's now ready to take an aggressive posture in terms of expanding its base nationally."
Schoenfeld said that Staff "fits perfectly with what we're trying to do with the fashion and design team we've built over the past year."
"We've been through some difficult times and we've turned things around," said Schoenfeld, who continues as Vans' vice chairman and also assumes the position of chairman of the executive committee. "Things are looking much better and our business is showing dramatic signs of improvement."
Vans, a familiar footwear name among Southern Californians, has struggled in recent years to reverse a slowdown in domestic and international sales. The company's revenue was hurt in recent years by the economic slowdown in Southern California, where the company operates 78 stores.
In July, Vans reported that fourth-quarter net income fell to $879,000, or nine cents a share, from $1.2 million, or 13 cents, in the year-earlier period. Quarterly sales, however, rose slightly to $22.9 million, up from $22.7 million a year ago.
In recent months the company has appointed several new top managers, including Karen J. Ratcliff, who was selected vice president and chief financial officer.
Feinstein said that Monday's announcement had been anticipated. "Walter Schoenfeld told us earlier this year that he wanted to have the new guy coming on," he said.