Grouped into a holding company called Front Shoes, Aerosoles, Kyaya and the other Portuguese investors who bought Chaussures Labelle of France earlier this year (see Shoe Intelligence of July 29 and Sept. 1, 2003) have renegotiated the licensing contract that the Labelle brothers had with Ted Lapidus. They have also bought the other asset of the two brothers, Tachon Diffusion, including its chain of Pallio and Shop Affaires stores, which had no production of its own.

Miguel Ribeiro, the youngest of the 3 family members who own Campeao Português, the large shoe company in Portugal, is moving to Saint-Pierre-du-Vauvray to run the combined operation, called Samic. He left Campeao in late 2002 after working with his father, Domingos Ribeiro, and his brother, also called Domingos, who still run the company.

Miguel Ribeiro has been charged of implementing a business plan intended to bring the newly acquired French operations to a satisfactory level of profitability by 2006, with breaken results already expected by next year. Overall, the Labelle group suffered a net loss of about €1.5 million on sales of €35 million in 2003, selling a total of 1.85 million pairs at the wholesale level. The new owners want to reach net profit of €1.6 million on sales of €53 million in 3 years’ time after investments of €10 million, particularly on the store network. Sales outside France will be boosted under the leadership of Nathalie Longuemarre, Tachon’s former export manager, who has been retained along with a few 35 other employees.

Interestingly, while some of Labelle’s former production in France is being shifted to the Portuguese shoe factories of the 6 industrial investors, the business plan gives them only the option to handle product development and to make an offer for the manufacture of the various models, but they may as well be subcontracted in Vietnam or somewhere else if price and other conditions are more attractive. Each of the 6 industrial investors owns a stake of 8.5 percent in Front Shoes. Two Portuguese venture capital funds own the balance of 49 percent.

The number of SKUs will be reduced. Aside from brands like Ballerine de Provence or Cop Copine, the new owners are not sure whether they will retain other former Labelle brands like Hollywood or U Shoes. The Loïs footwear line will be replaced by Best Mountain. As for the higher-end Ted Lapidus shoe collection, major efforts will be made to rejuvenate the line, working with designers based in Italy, while keeping some of its classical models. The first fruits should become visible in the Spring/Summer 2005 Ted Lapidus collection.

Aside from 4 discount outlets called Shop Affaires, the new Samic holding company will operate about 65 multi-brand points of sales in France and Belgium under the Pallio banner, including 34 free-standing stores and 31 corners in Galeries Lafayette and Printemps department stores. The new owners would like to add about 5-6 new stores a year, particularly in suburban locations, and some of them may feature Aerosoles models or others supplied by the Portuguese investors. Two urban Pallio stores in Paris and Lille will be redecorated and converted to Ted Lapidus concept shops.