Shoe & Shirt, the children’s specialist in children’s shoes that recently bought GBB in France, is still looking for other «local heroes» to take over in the other countries, such as the UK, and to add its growing brand portfolio, which also includes Richter, Jela and Siesta Shoes. Meanwhile, the company is supporting its main brand, Richter, with an innovative product extension and with a clever size-related merchandising idea that could easily be picked up by its competitors.

Starting with the Fall/Winter 2006/07 collection, each of the 160-odd models in the Richter collection will have a tag indicating the «optimal fitting area» for the children’s foot inside the shoe, in addition to the standard size indications. For example, a tag with the script «163-169 mm.» will mean that the specific model will fit a child if the effective length of his or her foot is between 163 and 169 millimeters. Each box of Richter shoes will contain a simple cardboard device to measure the length of the child’s foot as it evolves, alerting the parents that it’s time for a change of size.

The system is very simple, and Richter would like it to be adopted by many other brands, independently of the endless discussions in Germany about the so-called WMS system or the British penchant for offerings in multiple widths. It seems to be justified by the fact that each model has a different shape, which changes the inner dimensions and the actual fit of the shoe regardless of the length of the sole. Besides, as children don’t always feel the discomfort from a narrow shoe, the mother can easily check this out with this system, providing the information that will lead her to go back to the store.

Manufacturers and retailers can benefit from this in terms of image and turnover. The Austrian company is already starting to work this month on the new concept with a selected group of Austrian shoe retailers who have agreed to carry a poster in their stores, showing the «optimal fitting areas» recommended by Richter for some of its current styles. This comes after an agreement with Austria’s national shoe retailers’ association, following the recommendations of doctors. Richter has started discussing the implementation of the project with key German retailers for the next season. Other countries and the other brands of the group may follow afterwards, depending also on the results of this pilot program.

At the same time, the company is coming up with a new «Richter Edition» concept – a series of innovative ideas for complementary products, starting with a very practical and special «baby bag.» It’s a nursery bag with multiple pockets for the milk bottle, the bottle warmer, diapers and other baby-related items that can be carried by the mother on her shoulder or attached to the pram. It includes a removable mat to change the diaper, and it can be transformed in a normal bag to carry a laptop computer later on. This unique Richter branded product will be offered for sale next spring by shoe retailers in Austria, Germany, Holland, Switzerland and Japan to complement their business. Comforters and other branded accessories will come out in the future.

The acquisition of GBB allowed the company to raise to 3.2 million pairs the volume of shoes sold during the financial year ended last Apr. 30 under different brands around the world, resulting in sales of €70.5 million. It also gave the group more critical mass to negotiate with suppliers of raw materials, components and uppers for the whole group. GBB, which is concentrating on Southern Europe, has found a new agent in Italy through a sort of joint venture. A boost came from the disappearance of Elefanten (the brand has been taken over by Deichmann) and the recruitment of some of its agents in the Benelux countries, in Australia, in New Zealand and Russia.