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Payless ShoeSource to expand in Korea, Thailand and Vietnam

Footwear firm Payless ShoeSource has signed two new franchise agreements with partners Emart, a business unit of Shinsegae Group, Seoul, for stores in Korea, and Central Marketing Group, a business unit of Central Group, Bangkok, for stores in Thailand and Vietnam, bringing the total countries which will have franchised Payless stores to 20 countries.


Payless and its partners said that in 2012 they expect six store openings in Korea, as well as five stores each to open in Thailand and Vietnam.


“The franchise model has proven to be a profitable and effective way to quickly reach more international markets with the Payless brand and all it has to offer,” said LuAnn Via, CEO of Payless ShoeSource. “Payless brings the know-how in footwear specialty retailing, a sophisticated sourcing and supply chain system and powerful seasonal product collections. Our franchise partners like Emart and Central Marketing Group bring their strong infrastructure and experience within the local market. Together with these new franchise partners we are truly excited to bring the Payless brand to these three countries and their nearly 200 million consumers.”


Emart has a fundamental retail discounting principle called Every Day Low Price (EDLP) across its markets, and in 2010 declared a new price policy in which the company continuously provides products at low prices throughout the year, rather than short-period discounting such as on a weekly basis.


Central Marketing Group has more than 50 years of experience in distributing and marketing international brands in Thailand and Vietnam. It manages more than 120 brands in six different product categories including fashion and sports apparel, cosmetics, branded watches, electronics and home appliances, IT and stationery and travel goods.


“We see strong alignment with our retail principles and Payless’ model and are thrilled to partner with Payless to bring its store chain to shoppers in Korea,” said Joo Hyung Park, executive vice president, Corporate Strategy and Operation of Emart. “Payless is known across the globe as an American brand that delivers great shoes and accessories for the entire family at a great price. We see strong synergy with Payless’ products when aligned with Emart’s number one competitiveness in the Korea retail market.”


“We are excited to partner with Payless to bring its store chain to consumers in Thailand and Vietnam,” said Vachiranunt Suphakarn, senior vice president, Business Development for Central Marketing Group. “They love fashion, shoe shopping and to get the latest styles at a great price.”


Through the franchise arrangements, Payless will provide both franchise partners with seasonal product assortments, as well as expertise in retail operations, merchandising, marketing and brand strategy. Both Emart and Central will provide retail location strategy, construction, logistics, store training and staffing and local marketing execution.

Tanners and brands in trouble can find willing buyers in India

The chairman of the Council for Leather Exports, Rafeeque Ahmed, has said that Indian companies are keen to buy up western footwear brands if they get the chance.

At a press conference at the India International Leather Fair in Chennai on February 1, Mr Ahmed said Indian companies will snap up European or North American brands when they come onto the market as a way of raising their profile in the international marketplace. He cited Tata’s controlling stake in Move On, the parent company of the Aerosoles brand in Portugal, as an early example.

Buying distribution companies, resellers of big-name branded products, to increase their profiles is another alternative. Brands that want to establish a presence in India through the franchise model should also talk to Indian leather-sector manufacturers, he said, and he promised that the Council for Leather Exports would help companies outside India find buyers among its member companies.

“The Indian leather industry has gone to a different level now,” the CLE president said. “Our manufacturers are strong and they can buy out other companies.”

Growth for ASICS Europe

ASICS Europe has reported a sales increase of 13.2% between January and September 2011, with a particularly strong result in its running category. In running, footwear grew by 21% over the nine-month period, compared to the same period the year before. The company also reported double-digit growth in its tennis footwear lines.

Chief executive of ASICS Europe, Alistair Cameron, said on announcing the results that the company had invested heavily in a centrally managed retail organisation, a strengthened performance footwear team, a fully operational apparel design, development and product marketing team, the complete separation of a new fully integrated business unit focusing on the Onitsuka Tiger footwear brand. “Despite the economic challenges in our region, ASICS Europe is set to continue to outperform the marketplace,” he said.

Former Asda CEO wants to help Office grow its business

Footwear retailer Office has appointed Allan Leighton, a former chief executive of UK supermarket group Asda-WalMart, as its non-executive chairman.

On agreeing to take up the role, Mr Leighton said:
“Office has built a great brand, known by anyone looking for fashionable shoes, because it understands the customer’s desires and needs. There is still significant opportunity for further growth and I’m looking forward to helping build the business further.”

Office now has 84 standalone stores in the UK and Ireland as well as 52 concessions in Harvey Nichols, Selfridge’s, House of Fraser and Topshop stores, including in New York and Chicago.

In its home market, the retailer has built up a reputation for stocking good quality fashion shoes at prices only slightly above those of bigger fashion retailers such as Next and New Look. One criticism is that Office appears to make little distinction in its pricing for similar-looking shoes that on closer examination come from widely different sources. For example, three versions of a popular style of women’s court shoe were all on sale for around £50 per pair during 2011, even though one was made in China, another in the EU but from recycled leather, while the third bore the ‘Lavorazione Artigianale’ stamp on the sole indicating that it was hand-crafted in Italy.

Chief executive, Brian McCluskey, said on announcing the new appointment:
“The business has been performing strongly all year, with 12 month like-for-like growth in excess of 15%. During 2011 we have opened eight stores and eight concessions and all have traded significantly ahead of expectations. This is a very creditable performance, particularly in the current environment and is testament to the incredible team of people we have and the fantastic brands and suppliers we work with.”

He said that i the course of 2012, the company will open at least six new stores and continue to invest heavily in its web business.

Record year for Wolverine Worldwide and promises of product innovation for 2012

Footwear group Wolverine Worldwide has reported record revenue for 2011.

Revenue rose 12.9% to a record $1.4 billion, driven, the company said, by double-digit growth in each of its branded operating groups. Wolverine Worldwide’s Outdoor group includes footwear brands such as Merrell, Chaco and Patagonia. Over the year, the Outdoor group contributed revenues of $551.8 million, an increase of 18% on the year before. The other branded operating groups are Heritage and Lifestyle.

Other branded operating groups are Lifestyle and Heritage, which respectively brought in revenues of $200.3 million and $500.2 million in 2011.

On announcing the full-year results, chief executive, Blake Krueger, commented: “Each of our three branded operating groups and our direct-to-consumer business contributed to the year’s outstanding results. Additionally, all major international regions reported double-digit revenue growth, as our newly created international group focused on the significant opportunities outside of North America. We are very proud of the record performance in 2011 and are excited about the global momentum of our brands, our continued geographic expansion and the impressive product innovations we have planned for 2012.”

Aerosoles parent company to lay off 100 workers

Move On, a Portuguese footwear manufacturer with a troubled recent history, has said it is preparing to lay off around 100 of its workers.

Last year, multinational group Tata bought a controlling stake in Move On, manufacturer of the Aerosoles brand of shoes. An insolvency event at previous parent company Investvar in July 2010 led to the government there, in conjunction with the five biggest Portuguese banks, taking the firm into state ownership.

Since Tata became involved, production has taken place at the company’s factory at Esmoriz in northern Portugal and at a factory in India. In an announcement at the end of January, Move On said it had decided to consolidate its Portuguese operations and focus exclusively on using its facility at Esmoriz to create new designs, manufacture samples for new collections and very small production runs of its highest-value models. It said it saw this as the best way to guarantee a future for the business and to give it “a cost-structure that is in keeping with the present state of the market”.

In a statement, Move On said it had communicated its decision to its workforce and committed itself to making the process of laying off some of its employees as quick as possible.

Why 51 Italian shoe brands braved Moscow in January

Italian National Footwear Industry Association ANCI led a delegation of Italian footwear firms to the Consumexpo consumer goods exhibition in Moscow in January. Following the withdrawal of funding for Italy’s export promotions agency last year, ANCI took over as organiser of the Italian pavilion at the event.

In total 51 Italian companies used the event to present their spring-summer 2012 collections and previews for autumn-winter 2012–2013 to the Russian market, which ANCI has said is one of the most important for Italian footwear.

Russia is Italy’s fourth-biggest footwear customer, having regained the ground it lost in 2010 when it slipped down to fifth place. Performance in the first nine months of 2011 showed growth of 21.6% in value and of 16.3% in volume for exports of shoes from Italy to Russia. These increases brought total exports for the nine-month period to EUR 424 million and 5.6 million pairs of shoes. An average price of EUR 76.18 euro per pair is also one of the highest in all export markets for Italian footwear and increased by 4.5% over the period in question.

“Consumexpo has lived up to the Italian footwear industry’s expectations,” said ANCI chairman, Cleto Sagripanti, after the event. “The 51 companies attending the exhibition met with highly qualified selected dealers to define the fine print of their last orders for spring-summer and consolidate their business relations.”

Goat leather used in minimal shoes

Oregon-based footwear company Skora has unveiled its Form running shoe; a minimalist, barefoot-inspired shoe with an upper which is crafted from goat leather and lined with sheep leather, making it one of the only minimalist running shoes with a fully leather upper.

The leather is tanned using Pittards’ WRX100 treatment, which Skora says adds permanent water resistance and allows sweat to breathe outside the leather. The treatment is also meant to keep the leather soft and supple. Skora claims the Forms can be run in without socks.