Registered under the German name for “shoe” and totally unrelated to the British retailer by that name, Schuh.de, the new online portal of the ANWR Group, is going to get a lot of television exposure for the first time next month through a cooperative advertising agreement with Skechers. Under this deal, which is more common in the sporting goods sector than in the more traditional footwear sector, the American company is financing the promotion in exchange for size-able orders from ANWR's retail members. Viewers will be invited to check out to see which stores affiliated with ANWR nearest to them are carrying the Skechers styles advertised in the commercial spot.

Gabor, Rieker and other important brands are following this first experiment with view to similar cooperation with the big German buying group. Search engines are already driving a lot of traffic to Schuh.de, which doesn't sell any shoes online, and to the 3,000-odd independent retailers affiliated with the cooperative. The new cross-channel concept will likely be rolled out also in the Netherlands and other countries where ANWR has a presence at a later stage.

Günter Althaus, chief executive of ANWR, told participants at the annual convention of the group a few days ago that independent retailers can only compete with online retailers and the integrated chainsby being different and special, offering quality and service. He was recently in the U.S., talking to the top management of Skechers and to other important players in the sector.

About 340 guests from Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France participated in the convention, which was held in Paris. For ANWR Garant, the international arm of the group, France has become the fastest-growing market with a total of 1,200 affiliated shoe shops, thanks in particular to the centralized invoicing and settlement facilities of its DZB bank. With its acquisition of the former Garant Schuh + Mode and other more recent moves, ANWR's foreign transactions have risen to 33 percent of the total value, compared with 14 percent three years ago.

At the Paris convention, ANWR reported a slight 1.3 percent decline to €7.5 billion in the amount of transactions carried through the group in 2012. They mainly consisted of nearly €5.2 billion in financing and over €2.3 billion in product turnover. The total amount was still 36 percent higher than five years ago.

The group ended up with a profit of €3.1 million before extraordinary items and a net profit of €1.9 million on revenues of €298 million. Members of the group will receive dividends of €0.9 million.

A new milestone will be reached with the opening next year of a more modern and enlarged Order Center for affiliated retailers at ANWR's headquarters in Mainhausen, near Frankfurt, in a project worth €15 million. With some 7,400 square meters of usable space, it will be called O1 and will accommodate the showrooms of 80 brands and host 17 house fairs each year.