Propét, an American company known for its orthopedic and comfort shoes, has set up a European office in the Netherlands under the management of a European industry veteran, Bert de Benis. It is using a special new functional EVA clog as a catch to establish its presence in the market, differentiating itself from Crocs (see article in the news briefs) and other suppliers.

Called Kröten (German for toad), the new product is a rather sophisticated and affordable sports and leisure sandal that the company is offering with nice margins to regular shoe shops as well as multi-sport retailers and specialized outdoor and water sports stores. Its ventilated EVA shell is studded with functional elements for rock climbing and other uses such as an adjustable strap, a rubber outsole and a water-permeable removable insole (more details at www.propeteurope.eu).

Presented at the last GDS fair in Düsseldorf, the Kröten carries a recommended retail price of €49.95 per pair, or €59.95 including a neoprene sock. It was developed with technical input from Aicad, the Italian company that produces the high-end Lizard brand of sports sandals. It is already selling well in parts of the U.S., in Asia and in Australia.

Located in Waalwijk, Propét’s new European office features a showroom and a distribution center, but the company has also a stand in Cast, the permanent showroom center near Utrecht, and some of the merchandise is handled through a third-party logistic operator. De Benis, 47, acted as a consultant to Propét before accepting his current position. He ran Airwalk in Europe between 1995 and 1998, and then carried out several missions in the shoe industry through his own company.

De Benis is talking to potential agents in Germany and Austria and finalizing a distribution contract in Greece. The rest of the European market is still wide open, with the exception of Spain and Ireland.

Propét generates annual sales of more than $4 million in Europe. Sales in the U.S. are about 10 times higher. Propét also sells in China, where it has its own production facilities, and in other parts of the world.