Kurt Moons, managing director and chief executive of the Belgian-based shoe retailing group, is taking over for a few months as managing director of its large UK operation, replacing John Hood who has left the company. Brantano is recruiting a new executive there to launch a new marketing program, with plenty of local advertising, to build up its brand name with a clear positioning in the country now that it has reached critical mass with 145 stores, thanks in part to external growth.

The group reports a 2.1 percent increase in turnover for 2005 excluding its former stores in Denmark and the Netherlands, which have been sold or closed. It reached sales of €304.1 million for the year in Belgium, Luxembourg and the UK, where it had the remaining 270 stores, plus 10 franchises in the Middle East. In terms of local currencies, sales were up by 2.6 percent.

The turnover was particularly strong in the 4th quarter, registering a 9.6 percent increase to €79.4 million for the period. Sales grew by 11.8 percent in Belgium during the quarter, including a same-store increase of 10.7 percent. They rose by 5.8 percent in the UK, with a gain of 1.4 percent on a same-store basis.

For the full year, the chain’s total sales in Belgium and Luxembourg were up by 4.7 percent to €139.2 million. They increased by 3.5 percent on a same-store basis. Besides the positive effect of the cold December weather, Brantano benefited from a successful promotion program where it gave a 7 percent loyalty discount to customers on their next purchase. The number of stores in the region remained constant at 125 shops in the course of the year.

In the UK and in the Middle East they were basically flat at €165.0 million, and while they were up by 0.8 percent in terms of pounds sterling, they declined by 2.1 percent on a same-store basis. Like other British retailers, Brantano suffered from a drop in consumer confidence, but the company reacted in the 4th quarter by starting its end-of-season sales early. Brantano opened 10 new stores in the UK last year and closed two others, but is planning 5 new openings for 2006. Six new stores were opened in the Middle East in 2005.