PORTLAND, ORE. - Deja Inc., whose Deja Shoe became a symbol for the recycled product movement, is closing its doors because of a lack of one resource it could not recycle: operating cash. Deja was unable to line up the venture capital it needed for a fourth round of financing. That funding would have brought the 4-year-old operation close to profitability, said Chief Executive Officer Bruce McGregor. The company had raised $11 million in three previous rounds.
Despite the enthusiasm of retailers for Deja's products, sales were sluggish until recent months. The company last year had sales of about $1.5 million.
Sales this year of Deja's ecologically correct footwear, however, have risen sharply and were on track to triple last year's volume, McGregor said. At that rate, Deja would have hit the break-even point in the second half of 1996, he said.
``It's as if you've been practicing for ages and just as you're ready to go into the game, it's called off,'' said McGregor, who had been a top executive at Avia Group International Inc. before joining Julie Lewis, Deja's founder, in building what they called ``the environmental footwear company.''
Deja's 60 different leatherless shoe styles - from ladies' sandals and sport shoes to men's hiking boots bearing names such as ``Ecosneaks'' and ``Enviro-lites'' - were made from recycled materials, including PET soda bottles, polystyrene cups, high density polyethylene milk jugs, tires, ethylene vinyl acetate foam, magazines, and trim waste from diapers, wet suits, gaskets, coffee filters, file folders, corrugated cardboard, canvas and denim.
Deja's approach stirred media attention, and the company was praised for its environmental sensitivity. A year ago, Deja received the American Marketing Association's Edison Award for Environmental Achievement, which recognizes innovation in environmental products and services. It also won the United Nations Fashion Industry and the Environment Award.