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NEWS News briefs . . .

The Dune Group has launched a new store concept for its

namesake retail chain, starting with its new shop in the City of London, which opened on Oct. 28. Its sleek look with metallic accents is going to be adapted to other stores starting next year. Another new aspect that Dune is introducing is the use of hand- held mobile devices that clerks can carry anywhere in the store to tell customers if the product they’re looking for is available anywhere across the British retail chain. Orders can be delivered to the customer’s home or office the next day. The system will be upgraded to in-store iPads, which shoppers can use to browse Dune’s offerings. Several private equity forms are submitting bids to buy the UK

footwear retailer Office. It has been reported that they include PAI Partners, the firm behind Cortefiel, the Spanish retailer; Silverfleet Capital, investor in the discount department store TJ Hughes; Merrill Lynch, Blackstone and TPG. One bid was said to be as high as £170 million, but that report has been questioned. Office has 124 stores and is currently owned by Sir Tom Hunter through his own private equity firm, West coast Capital. Clarks has asked its warehouse automation supplier Knapp UK

to make modifications to the automated handling system it has in place at its distribution centre in Somerset. As demand for Clarks has grown in Continental Europe, the company needs to more securely package its shipments, packing shoes in cartons rather than shrink-wrapped. The new system should be in place by the end of the year. In most of the footwear factories in Dongguan, China, the

turnover in the workforce is as high as 15%, according to the employment authorities in the town of Houjie. There is a big discrepancy between labour supply and demand, and young workers switch jobs a lot in search of better pay and conditions. The China Leather Industry Association arranged job fairs in the Pearl River Delta in October, drawing 250 footwear manufacturers. Some of them even raise salary offerings by 15% to attract skilled workers. The Chinese tanner, Xinxiang Kuroda Mingliang Leather

Company is opening a tannery in Ethiopia later this month. Xinxiang paid a little over half of the $65m investment to get the facility up and running, and the rest of the money came from a China-Africa Development Fund. Members companies of the Spanish Footwear Components and Machinery Association have reported that they’re seeing an increase in business. Companies are optimistic, and they told the group that orders are up by 5% to 20% compared with last year. While the domestic footwear market is still sluggish, orders from abroad are picking up. About 250,000 pairs of shoes were confiscated by police in

Alicante, the main footwear-producing province in Spain. The police raised warehouses in the Carrus industrial park during a three-day operation that was prompted by a complaint from the Spanish brand Xti, which reported that shoes coming from Asia were infringing on its designs. 25 people, 17 of them Chinese, were taken in for questioning. The organisers of Modacalzado + Iberpiel have decided to move

next March’s show back by one day, with the new dates set as March13-15. The Madrid Show will now open on a Sunday in an effort to draw more independent retailers, and run over two work days for the professionals who prefer to come during the week.

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Havaianas grows very fast in Europe

The establishment of company-owned

subsidiaries in some of the major European markets is paying off for Alpargatas, the Brazilian company that owns Havaianas and several other Brazilian footwear brands. The company’s sales in Europe were by 211.4% in euros in the third quarter ended Sept. 30, as compared to the same period a year ago, and up by 147.7% for the first nine months of the year.

So far this year, about 80% of the growth in Europe has come from

increased business with existing customers. Taking over the distribution from former wholesalers in France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and the UK, allowed the two year old Alpargatas Europe to work more closely with its main customers offering higher service levels and a broader collection. Alpargatas sold 20.3 million pairs of sandals outside Brazil and Argentina in the first nine months of this year, or 9.1% more than in the same period of 2009, but the average price grew considerably. While declining to give specific figures for the European market, company officials say that they are now double as high as in the US, in terms of volume. Sales in the US rose by only 11.7% in dollars during the last quarter, but a recent consumer survey has indicated that the awareness of the Havaianas brand has improved in the country. Converted into Brazilian reals and coupled with expot sales to foreign

distributors, the revenues of Alpargatus USA and Alpargatus Europe reaches R$40 million (17.5m euros) in the latest quarter, and R$171.1 million (75m euros) in the first nine months. Due to the appreciation of the real, the rates of increase were limited to 9.3% and 14.4% respectively. Thanks to more direct transactions with retailers, the growth margin on

these operations improved strongly, by 4.5% percentage points to 53.4% in the quarter and by 7.8 points to 72.1% for the 9 months – well above the margins obtained in Brazil. However, over-proportional investments in new facilities and marketing resulted in an Ebitda margin of only 7.2% for the nine months, albeit much better than the 0.6% margin of a year ago. Alpargatus Europe continues to focus on the Havaianas brand, which

represents 95% of its sales in the region. The initial response to its Havaianas Soul line of closed toe shoes, which was developed and launched in Europe before the other markets, has been very encouraging. Consisting of sneakers, espadrilles and ballet flats, the line is already sold in some European stores and was presented to US retailers at Magic Las Vagas last summer. It should give more visibility to the brand and made it easier to justify a year-round business in future franchised stores anywhere in Europe, independently of weather conditions. Alpargatus sees a potential in the more distant future in Europe for

cheaper sandals of Dupe another Brazilian brand it acquired a few years ago. Made with PVC in China, they are currently sold mostly in Brazil. At the other end of the price scale, last month selected retailers such as Colette in Paris; Corso Como 10 in Milan, Dover Street Market in London and Webster in Miami started selling a limited edition of Havaianas thongs using crocodile leather and other precious materials. The line is co-branded with a French designer of small leathergoods, Fred Pinel, and is also available on Havaianas’ European e-commerce site, which went online last May. 4 • FOOTWEAR TODAY • JANUARY 2011

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