The best-selling Greenflash model and other nicely designed Dunlop branded shoes have acquired a strong image in European fashion boutiques thanks to the strong efforts of Marco GmbH, a German-based licensee of the British Dunlop Slazenger (DSIL) sports group. Marco’s sales of Dunlop shoes reached about €18 million last year, with sales of about €8 million in Germany and €4 million in the UK, the brand’s second-largest market. On the back of double-digit order growth, the company predicts another 30 percent sales rise for Dunlop shoes this year, with contributions from all European distributors. The latest appointee is Jean-Francois Caillet, who already distributes Dickies apparel in Belgium, France and Spain. He has taken on the same territory for Dunlop shoes.

Also the new Slazenger footwear collection launched by Northern Leather Group, which took on the license for the UK and Ireland last October, has had a good start in fashionable shoe shops like Schuh or Size. A similar performance is expected in the rest of Europe for the first Slazenger range of shoes that has been developed for Spring/Summer 2004 by an even more recent French-based licensee, Now & Zen, which may produce some of the models through its own factory in India. The deal with NLG doesn’t include Slazenger golf shoes, which are licensed to the UK’s largest sporting goods retailer, JJB Sports, along with Slazenger golf equipment.

A prime reason for these successes is no doubt the global retro/vintage trend in fashion sports, which has made the fortunes of other old sports brands like Gola, Quick or Patrick in the fashion circuit and boosted the results of more established athletic brands like Adidas or Puma. DSIL, which had been developing its own range of Dunlop tennis shoes in-house until 5 years ago, is now asking its licensees to develop more technical footwear models for the sporting goods stores, creating synergies with the tennis racquets and the golf clubs that are sold there under the same brand names.

At the same time, DSIL is negotiating an extension to the retail sector of another very successful European apparel licensing contract that it had previously signed for the Slazenger brand for the business-to-business market with Pollyflame, a division of PF Concept, described as the largest B2B company in Europe and No. 2 worldwide. If the negotiations come through, interesting synergies would be possible with the Slazenger footwear licensees. DSIL is also working with its existing apparel licensees for the Dunlop brand in the UK, the Benelux countries and Italy to further develop their Dunlop business in these countries and looking at various new arrangements in other European countries.

Marco, which was previously the distributor of Dunlop shoes in Germany when the company was called Höko, has focused in the last 4 years on building up the image of the brand in the general lifestyle footwear sector, cleaning up the distribution and developing well-designed leisure shoes. It introduced a freshened-up version of the Greenflash, a Dunlop tennis shoe worn in the ´30s by Fred Perry, multiple champion in the Wimbledon tennis tournaments.

Now, Marco is broadening the Dunlop footwear range beyond the retro niche to appeal also to less trendy shoe shops and to the sporting goods stores. To accompany its efforts in the sports segment, DSIL recently signed an endorsement deal with Thomas Johansson, a high-profile Swedish tennis player. At the same time, the company is approaching the general shoe trade selectively with a higher-end Greenflash Deluxe collection. The Italian-made range only has men’s models so far, but Deluxe for women is due to be launched next year. In a separate move, Marco has teamed up with Irie Daily, a successful German clothing label, in a one-off agreement to produce two models of co-branded Irie Daily and Dunlop shoes.

Marco, a German trading and licensing company that is also involved in other operations, has basically the global licensing rights for Dunlop sports and lifestyle, except for the USA, where there is no licensee yet, and certain countries in the Asia-Pacific region where other licensors hold the Dunlop brand name. In Japan and Korea, the rights are owned by Sumitomo Rubber for shoes and most other kinds of products, generating huge revenues. In Australia and New Zealand, the rights are owned by Pacific Brands.

Established in 1987, Marco essentially consists of a large footwear trading business, which currently develops and sources more than 10 millions of pairs annually for the likes of Deichmann, Reno and Metro. The company’s managers later strove to build up a branded business, concentrating on the Dunlop shoe license and on a US distribution deal for Betula, one of the lines of the Birkenstock family as well as the distribution in Germany of Drew Pearson baseball caps and Mudd jeans for girls.

Marco’s trademark rights don’t include those for Dunlop rubber boots, which were taken over by Hevea when the former Dunlop tire company in the UK was dismembered. They don’t include slippers either, for which the rights have been taken over by D. Jacobson & Sons of Rawenstall, Lancashire. Dunlop’s European shoe business was run by Dunlop UK, a subsidiary of DSIL, which continues to sell Dunlop and Slazenger sports equipment. At that time, Dunlop shoes were mostly sold through mass merchants and the brand was severely tarnished, leading to the closure of the division in 1996.