G-Lord, the new German footwear buying group, and its financial backers are among the potential investors in Garant Schuh + Mode. Independently of that, the group continues to recruit new retail members, using the well-established SABU cooperative and its bank to handle centralized invoicing and settlements. All the vendors doing business with SABU supply their products to G-Lord’s members as well.

Since it began its recruitment drive last April, offering better conditions than the competition, G-Lord has enlisted about 100 retailers with 180 shops to place their orders through the new group, starting with the Spring/Summer 2006 collections. Indicating that most of them were previously members of Garant, the young chief executive of G-Lord, Thomas Schulte-Heuermann, says he had counted on an initial nucleus of only 100 retailers.

This has allowed G-Lord to budget a 7-digit buying volume for the season and to reach the break-even point already in the current quarter of 2005, instead of a previously set mid-2006 time-frame, because of the group’s very lean structure. It has only six full-timers, which get 30 percent of their wages based on the attainment of certain performance targets, plus six free-lancers.

It also has permitted the implementation of a new concept whereby retailers that specialize in a particular sector - such as shoes for children and their families, or comfort shoes and orthopedics – are followed by dedicated individuals. G-Lord proposes to enlist between 50 and 100 retailers for each broad product category, providing a range of services customized for each one of them.

Schulte-Heurmann says that each retailer is carefully screened through an independent financial and operational audit before it is allowed into the G-Lord group. While the Belgian market is in a standby mode, a dozen retailers are being screened in the Netherlands prior to their registration.

Meanwhile, G-Lord’s partner for central settlements, SABU, says it has been winning over new retail members in Germany as well, due to Garant’s financial problems. This has contributed to a 3.7 percent in deliveries to affiliated retailers over the first nine months of this year, according to Schuhkurier.