Bringing an end to its manufacturing history in California, Vans Inc. said Wednesday it will close its shoe factory in Vista and fire 300 workers.
The closure is the latest step in a three-year restructuring in which the maker of trendy footwear has emphasized marketing over manufacturing. Founded in Orange in 1966, Vans closed its manufacturing plant in the city in 1995, and laid off about 1,000 workers. The following year it moved its headquarters to Santa Fe Springs.
The company said it plans to focus on marketing its products, and will contract out production to other manufacturers. The Vista plant will close Aug. 6, the company said, after which production will move to Mexico and Spain. The move will reduce costs and boost profits, the company said.
The shift to marketing "has proved to be successful and this is the last major step in closing the loop," Vans Chief Executive Gary H. Schoenfeld said.
Vans also announced that its fiscal fourth-quarter earnings would be less than expected because of slow sales of athletic shoes and the economic slowdown in Japan. It now expects to break even or report a slight profit, before charges, for the quarter ending May 31.
Analysts had previously estimated that the company would earn about 16 cents a share in the quarter. A year earlier, it had a profit of 20 cents a share.
Vans also said it would take a fourth-quarter charge of $11.5 million, or 82 cents a share, to close the plant and end distribution agreements in Italy, France, Germany and Austria. It plans to contract with sales agents to service those countries. The company said it will make similar changes in other European countries over the coming year, and will establish a central distribution center in the Netherlands.
The announcement came after the market closed Wednesday. Vans' stock closed at $10.19 a share, down six cents in Nasdaq trading.
Vans, whose shoes are popular among teens, has 98 company-owned stores. Its products are also sold by mainstream shoe retailers and department stores.
The company recently announced plans to build what it says will be the nation's largest and most technically advanced skate park at the Block, a retail and entertainment center under development in Orange. The plan is seen by industry analysts as a bold marketing move intended to bolster the Vans brand name among youth.
Vans has also raised its profile among the trend-setting skateboard crowd by sponsoring several professional skateboarders and endorsing competitions.
On Wednesday, the company said its backlog in the first quarter is the highest its history, and sales at its retail stores continue to grow at a double-digit rate.
Bloomberg News contributed to this report.