Footwear group Brown Shoe Company Inc has consolidated its wholesale operations into one division, Brown Shoe Wholesale, and announced the launch of new sector called Speciality Retail.

Speciality Retail will manage Brown Shoe's Naturalizer and FX LaSalle chains.

The changes are part of the company's attempt to further strengthen its product design, brand building and services to its department store customers.

Gary Rich, president of Brown Shoe Wholesale, will oversee the expanded division that now includes the company's flagship Naturalizer brand.

John Mazurk has been promoted to senior vice president of Specialty Retail, and will manage the new division of mall-and outlet-based concept stores.

Byron Norfleet, who headed the former Naturalizer division, has decided to leave Brown Shoe effective 1 December.

Brown Shoe president Diane Sullivan said: "As one Wholesale division, Brown Shoe Wholesale becomes a more powerful partner for our retail customers. Under unified management we can bring them more than a strong portfolio of well-known footwear brands."

The Speciality Retail division will focus on higher-ended concept stores based in malls and outlet centres.

The changes do not affect Famous Footwear, the Company's largest division, with 914 stores selling brand-name footwear for the family.