It's more than apt that Oklahoma City-based McCubbin Hosiery sock manufacturer turns 60 this year and in 2012 — with the addition of Costco and Walmart as clients — will do about 60 percent more in sales over last year.
McCubbin Hosiery is on track to ship about 46 million pairs of socks and tights this year, and hit some $50 million in revenue, Chairman Mark McCubbin said.
The company, which employs 100, holds licenses for private brands, including Stride Rite, Keds and Absorba, and develops private label products for Nordstrom, Dillard's, Kohl's, Payless Shoesource and other retailers. Its socks, legwear and slippers are sold in some 15,000 stores across America, and in Asia, Canada, Israel, Mexico, Peru, Poland, Australia and elsewhere.
From the company's 125,000-square-foot distribution center at 5310 NW 5, McCubbin, 56, sat down Tuesday with The Oklahoman to talk about his professional and personal life. This is an edited transcript:
Q: Can you tell us about your childhood? Did you grow up working here?
A: Yes. As young boys, my brother David and I started pitching in early — sweeping floors, putting up stock, packing and selling orders from our distribution center at 815 Robert S Kerr Ave. Our grandfather, the late Chester F. McCubbin, and father, the late Richard McCubbin, established the original warehouse at 21 W Main in the Merchandise Mart Building, but moved to Robert S Kerr in ‘66, where we operated until we outgrew that 40,000-square-foot space and moved to this leased space three years ago.
Summers as a boy, I used to go on the road with my grandfather to visit stores across Oklahoma. In the early days, Anthony's stores represented about half of the company sales, which occurred mostly west of the Mississippi River. My grandfather loved to sell and taught me how. Meanwhile, from my grandmother, the late Margaret McCubbin, I learned the importance of taking care of finances and running a tight ship.
My father left the business in 1967 to follow his passion and teach history at Casady School; subsequently serving as headmaster. Our mother, D'Arline (pronounced Darlene), was a homemaker. Today, she's a grandmother to six: my two girls and David's four daughters.
Q: Did you attend Casady when your dad taught there?
A: Yes. I'm repeatedly told how great a teacher he was, but never had him. Along with preparing long and hard every night for his classes, he coached basketball and baseball. I excelled in academics and played soccer. One of the great things about Casady was it was small enough that you got to, had to, participate. Many of my classmates and I remain very good friends.
Q: And college?
A: As a family, we spent the summer of '73 in Hanover, N.H., where my dad was completing his master's degree. It's a beautiful location, and I fell in love with it and decided to pursue a history degree there. Dad's advice was to study what I liked, and things would work out OK. I expected I'd join the family business, but I was never pressured to.
Q: When did you take the helm?
A: In the spring of 1982, upon the death of our grandmother. She was 80. David and I were 24 and 25 when we took over. Our grandfather had died six years earlier, at age 82. We had 18 employees at the time. We grew up quick, because we realized their livelihoods, and abilities to feed their families, depended on us. In general, I handle internal operations and David, external.
Q: What have been some of your biggest struggles?
A: C.R. Anthony Co., our biggest customer, went bankrupt in '86, which forced us to seek other customers. And in '95 we began offshore production, realizing it costs one-third as much to manufacture in Asia (China, Taiwan, Korea and the Philippines) versus here. It's not just about the lower labor costs, but also the capacity. There's now no domestic mass production going on here, like there once was in North Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee.
Q: What's on tap for McCubbin?
A: Since 1999, we've bought a portfolio of licensed brands, including Keds, Stride Rite and most recently, Robeez (pronounced Robbies) soft-shoe infant prewalkers. Today, 80 percent of our business is focused on the kids' niche. Fashion is very important, and our designers work closely with our licensors to come up with a multitude of patterns and designs, appliques and bows. Next year, we expect to grow an additional 20 percent, partly through the direct sales of Robeez.com, which will launch in February. Robeez shoes retail from $22 to $30, while our socks retail from $1.99 to $9.99.