Noël, the French footwear company that acquired Babybotte in December 2004, is launching the brand in China. The move follows an initial contract signed with Mapelie Shoes, a Chinese company with a social headquarters in Bobigny, north of Paris, in January this year. Since then, Noël has developed country-specific styles for China – after realizing that the foot of a Chinese child is stronger and rounder than that of its European counterparts.

The new styles are currently being tested in corners in selected Chinese department stores, via a licensor who has retail contracts for corners in these stores. This follows an investment of over €100,000 to enter the Chinese market. Noël, which also has its own TTY and Le Lou Blanc children’s lines, is waiting for the results of this test to decide next January about some other possible retail arrangements.

The company feels optimistic about entering China, recognizing the huge potential of a market where more than 170 million people can afford to buy European brands. However, it admits being wary that Babybotte’s product range may be too upmarket and pricey in comparison with the average retail prices. Noël has also been testing a few of its TTY models in China, but not those of Le Lou Blanc.

More generally, Noël’s ambitions for 2005 and 2006 are to consolidate a good turnover in Europe and to stabilize its sales and business profitability. The company failed to achieve the results that it was hoping for last year, saying that business was affected negatively by the Iraq War, currency exchange rates, and the difficulties incurred by upmarket shoe retailers in the UK, Belgium and Italy. It is hoping that the situation will improve and stabilize. The company continues to manufacture its shoes in France, Tunisia and Morocco. Its exports to around 40 countries represent nearly 40 percent of the turnover.