The partnership between the two German shoe companies is limited for the moment to the production sector, but reports indicate that it may also include collaboration in certain foreign markets and insiders feel that Josef Seibel will sooner or later take over control of Romika, which has not been in good financial health lately. With global sales projected at about €120 million and strong sales operations in the UK and the USA, Seibel is about twice as big as Romika.

While Seibel has been recording very strong growth rates lately, even on the tough German market, as recently reported, Romika has been posting flat overall sales at best, with a decline in its home market. On the other hand Romika has been doing relatively well in France, Belgium and Spain, where it shares the same agent as Seibel, called Stellarium, since two seasons ago.

Two weeks ago, Heinz Weber resigned as managing director of Romika in charge of sales, marketing and product development. He had joined the company three years ago from Salamander after the departure of Jacques Hanssens, a former collaborator of René Jäggi, the former CEO of Adidas who bought the loss-making Romika in 1995. Hanssens then formed Stellarium together with Gérard Comte, a former executive of Portania. He is a small minority shareholder of Romika.

Under the new partnership deal, Seibel will oversee all the production, sourcing and related processes also for Romika, with the intent of maximizing the synergies between the two companies, starting with their Fall/Winter 2004/05 collections. They will purchase materials and components together and use their respective facilities and subcontractors as much as possible.

Seibel has its own factory in Hungary and uses contractors in Romania and Bulgaria. Romika doesn’t produce in Germany anymore, but it has an interesting plant for directly injected PU and PVC footwear that it bought in the Czech Republic around 1997, with a daily capacity of about 5,000 pairs. It will add one or more shifts to make some Seibel models on the same machines. Unlike Seibel, which has been producing most of its footwear in Europe, Romika has been producing a lot of footwear in Asia lately, but this should change under the new set-up. The number of models offered under the Romika brand may be cut back.