The shoe retailers affiliated with the international Ariston-Nord-West-Ring buying group raised their average profit margins from 0.4 to 1.5 percent last year, in spite of an overall 2 percent sales decline due to the tough economic situation. They improved buying procedures and reduced their inventories – a move that contributed to the decline in ANWR’s central settlements.

ANWR Schuh, the fully owned subsidiary specializing in the shoe business, suffered a 9.4 percent drop in central settlements to €780.6 million. Adding up other retailers that specialize in other operations, such as those affiliated with the Sport 2000 buying group, ANWR’s total central settlements in Germany declined to €2,120 million from €2,201 million. In the Benelux countries they fell off sharply to €74 million from €105 million. They increased in Austria to €68 million from €41 million and they remained steady at €35 million in Scandinavia.

Cost savings partly generated by the merger between Ariston and Nord-West-Ring led the group to turn around to a profit of €4.7 million in 2003 before extraordinary items, against a loss of €2.0 million in the previous year, in spite of a slight drop in its total turnover to €2.3 billion. ANWR Schuh had a profit of €2.0 million, against a loss of €1.6 million a year earlier.

At the group’s annual meeting, symbolically held last month in Maastricht, Holland, Hans-Jürgen Robers was elected as the new chairman of ANWR, replacing Claus Heinrich after 15 years. Some changes are expected in ANWR’s buying department following the recent retirement of a couple of executives.