After acquiring Jela in Germany from Freudenberg and Siesta Shoes in Hungary from MSC, the Austrian Shoe & Shirt group that owns Richter adds another children’s footwear specialist, this time in France. Effective Nov. 1, after a lengthy due diligence process, it has acquired GBB and its Catimini brand from the Suez investment firm, which had been keen on selling it for a long time, but the terms of the transaction have not been revealed. GBB’s CEO and former owner, Georges Biottot, is retiring.
The Austrian group, which sold a total of 2.25 million pairs of children’s shoes under its various brands in the year ended last Apr. 30, wants GBB to act as “local hero” for the introduction of Richter and other labels in the warmer Southern European countries. Conversely, it will use Richter’s sold presence in Central Europe to improve Catimini’s sales in that part of the world. Siesta remains the group’s “local hero” for Eastern Europe. Other acquisitions are now being sought in the Northern part of Europe. In addition to Elefanten, which is being dismantled, the group has apparently shown interest in Start-rite in the UK
GBB’s takeover will help the group to reach more critical mass to negotiate interesting and reasonable supply contracts with producers in China and in India, ensuring timely deliveries. It will also create larger economies of scale in the purchase of materials, components and molds. On the other hand, the group is keeping for the moment the entire workforce of GBB, which has already been outsourcing the manufacturing of many of its 630,000 pairs of shoes in India and Tunisia. GBB had breakeven results in the financial year ended Sept. 30 on sales of €15.6 million, of which about 15 percent were sold outside France.