December 2014

Justin Blair’s acquisition of new orthotic materials division aims to increase innovation, customer service

JustinBlairLogoBy Brigid Galloway

In 1997, Marvin Bearak built a foot care business around a simple, but important, motto: “Doing business, made easy.” Bearak named the business after his son, Justin Blair Bearak, and set out to create a leading supplier to shoe retailers across the country. Over the years, Justin Blair & Company has thrived and continued to add new and innovative products to its line.

Today, Justin Blair along with its affiliated companies, Marcott Specialty Resources, located in Chicago, IL, and Marcott Hosiery, located in Oakboro, NC, manufacture and distribute foot care, shoe care, and hosiery products under the Ralyn brand (named for Marvin Bearak’s daughter, Rachel Lynn) and health and beauty products under the NightCare brand.

Most of the company’s shoe products are manufactured in and distributed from its 60,000-square-foot Chicago facility. Marvin Bearak remains at the helm as president and CEO, and Justin has since joined the team, managing marketing and operations. With customers across North America, including those in O&P, retail footwear, and wholesale, Justin Blair’s commitment to customer care is more than just a catch phrase.

“When you look at life, we all have stressors, but why should business be stressful if it doesn’t have to be?” said Scott Weinstein, principal partner (since 1999) and chief sales officer. “Everything we do is with that principle in mind. We think of our customers as our partners, and we view our vendors the same way. We believe, if we have success, our vendors will have success, and our customers will have success.”

One way to ensure this collective success is through Justin Blair’s dedication to communication through a variety of resources. A dedicated sales and service team makes old-fashioned sales calls and one-on-one appointments. For those who need additional support, Justin Blair provides a robust digital interface to ensure customers have 24/7 access to product and order tracking information.

“Our website is fully interactive so our customers can order online and they know immediately if supplies are in or out of stock,” Weinstein said. “It gives them the opportunity to manage their account in real time.” As the company expands its capabilities and offerings, those lines of communication are even more essential.

In August 2014, Justin Blair acquired the orthotic materials division of Aetrex Worldwide, a manufacturer of comfort and wellness footwear. The move positions Justin Blair as a leading source in the O&P marketplace with the ability not only to distribute, but also fabricate finished goods, said Weinstein. “We have the oldest brands in the fabricating business,” he said. “The brands we acquired have tremendous brand equity and are synonymous with quality. Now we’ll have reach into a market where we didn’t have much of a presence previously.”

Located in Teaneck, NJ, Aetrex Worldwide was founded in 1946. Its mission? To create the “healthiest shoes on the market.” The company carries forward a strong legacy for developing innovative materials and methodology, such as some of the first arch supports. Justin Blair will now manage the operations and distribution of Aetrex raw material brands, including Plastazote, PPT, ThermoSKY, ThermoCork, and Carboplast, in Chicago. The acquisition may seem invisible to Justin Blair and Aetrex customers, as both entities continue to do business as usual and collaborate on transitional processes.

“When Aetrex brought this opportunity to us, it allowed us to get into a different side of the business,” said Weinstein. “We were already selling to many of their customers—and now they could get even more of the products they wanted from us. It goes back to our motto. If we sell everything our customers need, that makes doing business easier for them.”

Matt Collins, CPed, Justin Blair’s vice president for the orthotic materials division came on board in June 2014 to work closely with the Aetrex facilities, but he has been in the O&P industry for almost 20 years. A certified pedorthist, his technical acumen is matched with experience in the field, as well as a personal connection to the business. “My father was an amputee,” he said. “It’s one thing to sell a product, but it’s another thing to know the profound impact that the products we provide can have on the outcome of a person’s life.”

Understanding the customer’s perspective will carry the growing company into the future. (Justin Blair’s three territory managers are also CPeds.) As new products enter the planning stages, customer input will be used to inform Justin Blair’s enhanced product line and capabilities.

“We like to interface with our customers as much as possible,” Collins said. “We rely heavily on these relationships and the feedback we get from them. What are their needs? What direction do we want to go in collectively? What products do we want to offer? It has a far-reaching impact when you interface with your customers like that. It’s powerful.”

Brigid Galloway is a freelance writer in Birmingham, AL.

Article sponsored by Justin Blair & Company.

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