The Portuguese manufacturer of Aerosoles shoes for the European market will send its team of sales developers to Angola for the third time this month and is considering the opening of a new factory in that Portuguese-speaking country that would produce up to 2,000 shoes a day for the African market, where it wants to play a stronger role. Aerosoles is opening its first store in the South African city of Cape Town this month and plans to add three more in the country within the next three years. The group is already represented in South Africa by a distributor, Lashbrooke, selling about 13,000 pairs of shoes a year, but Aerosoles wants to raise the volume to 50,000 within the next three years.

Aerosoles is also planning to enter the North African market and is looking at a stronger presence in the Middle East where it wants to open 15 stores in the next three years. This brand of affordable comfort shoes plans to open its first shop in Casablanca, Morocco, next January. Depending on the customers’ behavior, Aerosoles will then decide to open other shops in Marrakesh, and Rabat. The company also has two stores in Tel-Aviv in Israel.

The group’s network of stores all over Europe is still growing. It now amounts to 70 doors, with 25 units in France, 7 in Spain, 17 in Portugal, 4 in Germany, 3 in the Netherlands, 5 in Cyprus and three in Belgium with the opening of a third shop in Liège in September. Aerosoles just opened a store in Athens two months ago. The company sponsored the Portuguese Olympic and Paralympic teams in Athens, providing the athletes with its comfort shoes. The group is targeting to reach a number of 120 stores in Europe by 2007 and 140 by 2009.

Aerosoles wants to develop its market there in Eastern Europe. The group is already represented in Croatia, where it has managed to sell a volume of 25,000 pairs through the network of Peko, the largest retailer in the country. Aerosoles recently began to make some of its shoes in Romania that it was previously contracting out in the Ukraine. Its top-range Aerosoles Signature line is sourced together with the company’s US partners in Brazil.

For 2003, Aerosoles Europe’s sales increased by 9.8 percent to €80 million. The group’s operating income declined slightly to €4.3 million, leading to a net profit of €2.45 million. Men’s shoes represented only 5 percent of last year’s deliveries of 4.7 million pairs but the company wants to raise that to 10 percent. Sales through company stores increased by 14 percent, with gains of 30.8 percent in France, 33 percent in Germany and 32.2 percent in Spain – a market where the group was having a few problems before. Italy, where Studio Tonelli is selling the brand to about 300 stores, is also a growth market for the brand.