Cortina will continue to develop a collection of competitively priced women's shoes under its own Sprox brand, but it will only sell it directly to some big self-service retail chains that already source unbranded and private-label footwear from the large Belgian trading company. It will be positioned in their shops as a complementary mid-priced line that can generate good margins, generally retailing at between €49.90 and €59.90 a pair.

In sum, Cortina will stop investing in marketing and sales to turn Sprox into a major brand for independent retailers. The brand, which has become popular mainly in the Benelux countries and in France since its launch in 2006, will no longer be shown at any shoe fairs. Sales of the line, which is entirely sourced in China, reached a peak of around 450,000 pairs a year.

Starting with last month's Expo Riva Schuh show, Cortina is now concentrating its marketing efforts on its three core brands ? Patrick, Quiva and Safety Jogger ? and on the multiple character licenses of Leomil. In partnership with Moretti, the Italian-based licensee for Patrick teamwear, it is outfitting numerous football teams all over Europe. It is selling millions of Quiva EVA clogs, priced at €19.95 a pair.

Without quoting specific sales figures, Cortina is sharing a claim with France's Groupe Royer that its Leomil subsidiary is the biggest supplier of licensed children's character footwear in Europe. Spider-Man, Hello Kitty and Hannah Montana are its best-sellers. It is even selling some products outside Europe, such as Spider-Man shoes in China.

Next to Cars and Spider-Man, Hello Kitty is probably the hottest character in Europe right now. Royer and another French company, Rondineau, have contracts to sell shoes under this brand, but Cortina retains the right to supply it to some big European customers such as Deichmann.

For the third year in a row, Leomil got the 2009 award as best European footwear licensee by License! Global. The only other company to get the award last year was Pentland Group.

Cortina continued to grow slightly in 2009, in spite of the recession. A stronger sales increase of more than 10 percent is now expected for 2010.