Arthur van der Kroft, a former general manager of Converse in Europe, has obtained licensing rights for the Pony brand in northern Europe, and is about to relaunch it across several European countries. Almost absent from the European market for several years, the American sneaker brand feted its European comeback at the Bread & Butter fair in Berlin last week, where it presented a capsule collection of Pony shoes designed by Dee and Ricky, the 22-year-old twins from New York who have worked with the like of Marc Jacobs, with their belts and brooches sold at Colette in Paris.
Eight months ago Van der Kroft established his own company in the Netherlands, Product of New York, after the acronym that gave its name to Pony. The firm obtained licensing rights for the U.K., the Benelux countries, Germany, Austria and Switzerland, which might be extended to other European countries if Pony does well in its first licensed countries.
Van der Kroft is in contact with Roberto Muller, the former top manager of Reebok who established Pony in 1972, to dig up the brand's archives and work on the angle of New York lifestyle – unequivocally focusing on sports lifestyle. The licensee is targeting independent sports stores, as well as a few key accounts such as Foot Locker and the better denim stores. Product of New York will be selling footwear as well as apparel and accessories.
The licensee estimates that Pony could reach sales of about €50 million across Europe in five years' time. Gimme5, a company specializing in street wear, has been appointed as distributor for the U.K. market. For Germany, Austria and Switzerland, Product of New York has teamed up with Soon Projects. The Dutch company will cover the Benelux countries itself, and it is also preparing to appoint a distributor for Greece, Bulgaria and Romania.
The second group of markets targeted by Product of New York consists of Italy and Scandinavia, where it hopes to find partners by 2013, with Spain and others to follow in 2014. France is the only significant European market where Pony still has a distributor, GPG Company, which is strongly established in the French sports lifestyle market.
After repeated changes of ownership in the last decades, the Pony brand was acquired in 2006 by Symphony in Hong Kong. Pony has a strong license partner in Latin America, and a fully owned subsidiary in the U.S., as well as offices and stores in several Asian countries, run by Symphony-related companies.
For the time being, Product of New York is working with a team of eight people. Judith Teensma, former director of product at Converse, was hired as senior director of product and marketing. Van der Kroft left Converse in 2008 and teamed up with other Dutch footwear executives to acquire Mexx Footwear. This venture failed and was sold back to Mexx, enabling Van der Kroft to enter talks with Pony's owners last year.