Lurchi, the children's shoe brand of Salamander, won a special prize for outstanding achievement in brand management on March 13, shortly before the GDS fair in Düsseldorf. Reintroduced to the market for the fall/winter 2010-11 season, Lurchi was crowned by the German Marketing Association (DMV) for the “Best Brand Relaunch” in Germany during the past year, after a sparring match with Bayer and other brands.
Lurchi's relaunch followed the acquisition of Salamander by Ara Shoes in 2009. This once-famous German brand of children's shoes, which had gone out of the market in 2004, reached a wholesale turnover of around €5 million in the first full year of its rebirth and is now retailed in 19 countries. Officials of Ara and Salamander hope that a similar process will take place with the wholesale relaunch of the Salamander brand, which began in the men's shoe segment for spring/summer 2011, followed by the women's range for fall/winter 2011-12.
One interesting aspect of the Salamander brand's revival is the fact that it is raising a lot of interest internationally from new potential retail partners in countries where the Salamander brand name was strongly associated with its collections until its wholesale operations were stopped due to the bankruptcy of Garant Schuh + Mode in 2004. Some shoe retailers in the Baltic countries, Bulgaria and Georgia have started licensing the Salamander brand name at retail for dedicated stores and shop-in-shops carrying its new collections. Similar deals are in discussion or under negotiations in other former Soviet countries such as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova and Ukraine.
The Salamander lines are also slowly making their way back into numerous Salamander stores all over Europe, which have always carried other brands as well. They have been missing a powerful Salamander shoe collection since 2004. Depending on the market, Salamander branded shoes are expected to represent between 20 and 90 percent of the merchandise in those stores. The new Salamander collections are also being sold to many other multi-brand retailers all over Europe.
Garant took over Salamander's wholesale and retail operations in 2003, but the deal was much too big to swallow. The wholesale business was interrupted one year later and the streamlined Salamander retail chain was bought in 2005 by Egana Goldpfeil, which itself went bankrupt a few years later. The Ara group eventually took over the Salamander brand and its stores in January 2009, but subcontracted the management of its 51 stores in Germany to another retailer, Klauser. Ara kept the 142 Salamander stores in six other countries and relaunched the wholesale business together with Wortmann, but objections by Germany's antitrust authorities led Ara to stop the cooperation.
Today, a dedicated Salamander business unit of Ara runs the brand's wholesale operations and an enlarged chain of 158 Salamander stores run by subsidiaries in Austria, the Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Poland, Russia and Slovenia. The Czech subsidiary takes care of Slovakia as well. The biggest national Salamander retail chain is in France, with 38 relatively small stores mainly offering Salamander shoes, but the banner also has a strong presence in Austria (37 doors) and Russia (31 doors).
Some 15 new Salamander stores have been opened in Russia recently, and more are in the pipeline for the next years. After opening seven new stores in 2010 and closing five, last year the Austrian unit took over Stiefelkönig's 35 Delka stores, which continue to be run under that banner.
About one-third of the Salamander stores operating outside Germany are fitted with a new concept introduced under Egana Goldpfeil's reign. All in all, they have an average surface of about 140 square meters, but some of those in France, Poland and Russia are only 50 to 100 m² wide. The biggest one is in Vienna with almost 1,000 m² of net retail space.
Most of the countries have an independent organization that takes care of purchasing and all other operations. Officials of the group stress that they have complete freedom to purchase any brands they want as long as they remain profitable. While they may be motivated to buy Salamander branded products because of the name of their stores, they are not necessarily buying more shoes from Ara or from Lloyd because they are part of the same group, they insist.
The Salamander subsidiary of Ara is run by Norbert Breuer, who has been with Salamander since mid-2004. Precise figures could not be obtained, but Ara officials indicate that the unit is more profitable than before on annual consolidated wholesale and retail sales of around €150 million. Its enhanced profitability stems in part from its use of Ara's strong back office and its synergies with the group in product development, production and sourcing.