The rumor had been floating around during the recent international shoe shows, but Deichmann had denied it. The big German shoe retailer has now confirmed the acquisition of the famous Elefanten brand of children’s footwear from C&J Clarks, but it says that the two companies have agreed not to disclose any information about the price.

Apparently, Clarks had talked to other potential suitors before, asking for more than $100 million for the goodwill, considering the high extraordinary charges that it has taken for the closing of all its factories and the dismissal of all its employees. Clarks announced last July its decision to fold the Elefanten business after continuous losses and after it was unable to find a suitable investor, but according to certain sources, the large British retailer and wholesaler declined at the time to discuss the offers of some competitors and one from Deichmann itself.

The last Elefanten collection was delivered to the trade for Fall/Winter 2004/05, leaving a big hole in the market. Provided anti-trust authorities approve its takeover proposal, Deichmann plans to launch a shoe collection by the Spring of 2006 through its own 1,600 stores in Europe and through other distribution channels as well, indicating perhaps that it is considering an involvement in the wholesale business as well, like Clarks.

Deichmann wants to preserve the high quality image of the Elefanten brand, offering it at value-for-money prices based on its own well-tested philosophy. The elimination of Elefanten’s former European production sites will evidently help to accomplish this goal. The German-based retailer says it will cooperate with previous producers of the children’s brand while using its own well-oiled international procurement and logistics know-how and its marketing experience.

Company officials decline to say whether Deichmann is seeking a licensing contract with W.L. Gore for Elefanten shoes, and indicate that the final price structure has not yet been set. Deichmann will keep a private label of children’s shoes, Bärenschuhe (= bear shoes), in its product range. Introduced in 2002, it was the first line of children’s shoes approved by the German TÜV quality certification office.

The demise of Elefanten has benefited mainly other German and Austrian brands of children’s footwear, which have gained some market shares. Gabor Shoes is now planning to enter the market for children’s footwear, too, partly at the demand of its UK distributor, which sold Elefanten, too. Interestingly, another big German footwear retail chain, Görtz, has been offering since last month a new private label program for children’s shoes, called Görtz One, to make up for the disappearance of Elefanten, which reportedly represented about 30 percent of its own sales in this product segment.