Durabel Van der Putten, an acquisitive Dutch shoe company, took over another group in its small country at the beginning of this year to reach combined annual sales of about 300,000 pairs worth roughly €15 million. Smits/Van Niekerk, which was the target of the latest takeover, suffered a 20 percent decline in sales last year to about €5 million. About 75 of this turnover is derived from sales of women’s comfort shoes sold under the Picardi brand in the Benelux and Germany, while the rest is generated by Big Horn, a brand of wooden clogs and health sandals, distributed in the Benelux as well as France and Germany.

The tie-up, which follows several years of informal talks, will yield some quick savings. To begin with, the Smits/Van Niekerk offices in Dongen will be closed in April and its employees will move in with their new colleagues into Durabel’s headquarters Kaatsheuvel. Also, the production of Picardi and Big Horn, which had been transferred from the Netherlands to a Hungarian plant bought by Smits/Van Niekerk 2 years ago, will be moved to the Durabel facilities in the Czech Republic.

On the other hand, Durabel has decided not to acquire Burley, a brand of stylish women's and children's shoes that Smits had acquired a couple of years ago. Sales under that brand had reached 200,000 pairs year several years ago but then collapsed and Smits was unable to redress the situation. Durabel will decide over the next two months over the fate of Burley. Current orders will be delivered regularly as Smits signed an agreement last September to get Burley shoes manufactured at Durabel's Czech factory.

This plant, which was taken over by Durabel 3 years ago as part of its acquisition of Spiess, a German comfort shoe company, has an annual capacity of about 200,000 pairs. For the time being it employs 125 people but Durabel is studying ways to cope with additional production, either by enlarging the plant’s capacity or by shifting some production work to Asia. Meanwhile, Smits/Van Niekerk will look for a buyer for its Hungarian plant, which was excluded from the deal with Durabel. As part of the agreement, Durabel has guaranteed contract work for the Hungarian plant until September only.

Furthermore, some synergies are envisaged in terms of distribution, as some of Durabel’s other lines are represented by strong sales networks in countries where Smits/Van Niekerk failed to break through. Along with Spiess, Durabel sells JJ, a casual women’s brand, and it has a license for shoes under the label of Mart Visser, a couturier who is well known in the Netherlands.

Smits/Van Niekerk was previously owned almost equally by 3 managers. One of them, Johan van Weerdenburg, will join the combined group as chief financial officer and production manager. Carl van der Putten, who owns Durabel entirely, will continue to hold its reins.