Mostly thanks to a long cold-weather season across most of the continent in the first half of 2010, Europe's shoe trade has seen its inventories cleared, opening up space for this year's fall/winter season, says Garant Schuh + Mode. The spring/summer sales period also saw good demand.

Citing data from various research institutes and from its own calculations, the overall turnover in the shoe market increased in Germany by 5.1 percent, in the Netherlands by 1.8 percent, in Switzerland by 3.7 percent, in Belgium by 4.6 percent and in Austria by 7.1 percent. Garant says the only country to have recorded a decrease in the overall turnover of specialized shoe trade is France, where it was down by 0.8 percent, but another source says it grew by 3.9 percent..

Garant benefited from these favorable conditions. It started 2010 well, with increases in both its centralized invoicing and the number of new members. In the first six months of the year, 123 specialty retailers joined the Garant group, bringing the total to 3,496 affiliated retailers in 19 countries, 64 percent of whom are outside Germany. The affiliated retailers are represented at 5,306 points of sale by specialist stores. In the same period, seven retailers left the buying group, 32 companies shut down and Garant ended its partnership with 34 firms.

As in the previous year, Garant recorded the biggest development dynamics in France. Compared with June 2009, the group expanded in the country with 86 new affiliated retailers and 100 specialist stores to currently 586 affiliate retailers and 985 specialized stores. This development is strongly reflected by the volume of centralized settlements.

The group's total centralized settlements rose by 5.3 percent in the first half of 2010, reaching €385.2 million. About 71 percent were in behalf of retailers located outside Germany.

Centralized invoicing fell in Germany by 1.8 percent, and in Switzerland by 2.6 percent, but it jumped by 51.8 percent to €36.6 million in France, by 38.6 percent to €15.3 million in Eastern Europe and by 20.4 percent to €10.6 million in Scandinavia. The figures remained stable in the Netherlands, rising by 0.5 percent to €100.5 million; in Austria, up by 3.7 percent to €15.7 million; and in Belgium, up by 3.6 percent to €73.1 million.

By category, footwear grew by 6.7 percent to €285.8 million, while leathergoods ticked up by just 0.3 percent to €37.0 million and sporting goods rose by 2.3 percent to €62.4 million.

In terms Garant's actual net revenues, Germany had a 5.1 percent drop to €8.6 million. In the Netherlands, they dropped by 5.5 percent to €7.7 million, in Belgium they rose by 3.2 percent to €4.3 million, and in France they grew by 29.4 percent to €2.5 million. Overall, the Garant group attained sales revenues in the amount of €27.7 million in the first half of 2010, 1.8 percent more than in the same period a year ago.

The company's gross profit increased by 3.6 percent to €14.5 million compared with the same period of the previous year. Operating income (Ebit) declined from €2.9 million to €2.4 million, and the company ended up with net profit of €0.7 million for the period.

Despite continued economic uncertainties, Garant is expecting turnover of €58 million and pre-tax profit of between €1.0 million and €1.3 million for the full year. The acquisition of centralized settlements for the French sports cooperative Twinner from July 2010 will also present new opportunities for the Garant group.

At its annual meeting on Aug. 16, Garant reconfirmed Hans Jakob Zimmermann as president of its supervisory board. Reflecting the recent acquisition of more than 75 percent of Garant's voting rights by Ariston-Nord-West-Ring, new members of the board are Günther Althaus, president of ANWR's executive board; the lawyer Rolf Schmidt-Diemitz; and Tom van Geemen, a shoe retailer from the Netherlands who belongs to ANWR's supervisory board.