Tim Cooper, the London-based managing director of OPS who has been distributing Steve Madden in Europe, has given up on the task. The present spring/summer collection is the last one to have been distributed by the company, mostly in Northern Europe and in Germany. Delivery problems were cited for the break-up after almost three years of operation, and Cooper is about to sign an agreement with another brand.

Things are probably going much better than expected for Madden in the core U.S. market. The American company's net sales increased by nearly a quarter for the first quarter, rising by 22.5 percent to $131.6 million, with a 13.6 percent increase in comparable store sales.

The operating margin almost doubled to 18.9 percent, compared with 9.6 percent. Net income more than doubled, rising by 134 percent to $15.4 million. The gross margin rose by 5.0 percentage points to 45.5 percent, broken down to 42.5 percent for the wholesale operations (an increase of 4.4 percentage points) on higher initial mark-ups and more full-price selling; and 56.7 percent for the retail operations (up by 8.9 percentage points) on higher mark-ups as well as lower discounting.

Turnover from the wholesale division grew by 21.8 percent to $103.1 million, driven by big gains in existing wholesale footwear divisions as well as its new license for the brand Elizabeth and James, and the recently introduced Madden Zone and Big Buddha lines. Retail sales were up by 9.1 percent to $28.5 million. In the three months, Steve Madden opened one store and closed five for a total of 85 stores, including the online shop, at the end of the period.

For the full fiscal year, the company expects sales to grow by 17 percent to 19 percent.