Groupe Royer has signed a European license for a line of lifestyle-oriented shoes under the Everlast brand name. The deal covers all the markets of Europe, the Middle East and Africa with the exception of Italy, where the brand has an excellent partner for clothing, A. Moda.

The large French group believes that it can make a strong lifestyle statement with the line because of the growing popularity of martial arts. Sports Direct, the big British chain of sporting goods stores of Sports Direct International, owner of Everlast, already sells a more technical line of Everlast shoes.

Royer has also strengthened its ties with Wolverine Worldwide by getting its licensing contract for Hush Puppies shoes in France and Switzerland extended to cover the Spanish market as well. It is enlarging its offices in Barcelona and Düsseldorf as part of a strategy to push the turnover ratio outside France from 40 percent to 50 percent. Last month, Royer added three other brands of Wolverine – CAT Footwear, Keds and Sperry – to the portfolio of brands that it distributes in France.

Meanwhile, Royer has made two significant moves in Italy. It has commissioned the Rubensluciano design studios at Stra, near Venice, to revitalize the Stéphane Kélian brand of high-end women's shoes and to coordinate their distribution in Europe. It has also bought the rights to the Kickers brand in Italy from the liquidators of their previous owner, Società Italiana Calzature (SIC).

Aside from its large sourcing, licensing and distribution operations, Royer owns two once famous brands of women's dress shoes, Kélian and Charles Jourdan, and many other brands in other segments of the market. While Jourdan is profitable, thanks in part to the royalties that it is getting from its licensees, Kélian has been struggling since Royer bought the brand in 2007.

Therefore, Royer has decided to stop handling sales of the brand directly and to discontinue manufacturing its collections in Portugal. It will get them made instead by Italian factories in the Riviera del Brenta area that specialize in this type of footwear and that already work with Rubensluciano. The studio has already designed and developed the autumn/winter 2017/18 Stephane Kélian collection.

Under the supervision of Rebensluciano, sales of the Stephane Kélian line in various European markets will be handled by three agents with showrooms in Milan, Paris and Berlin. The Italian agent will have exclusive rights for the Italian market and will have non-exclusive rights to sell to clients in other parts of the world. The German agent will also take care of the German-speaking countries, Poland and some other countries.

Royer, which owns the brand rights for Kickers in the rest of the world since 2007, has been confronted with its inability to sell its Kickers collection in Italy, where the rights were registered by SIC. Over the years, Royer made many offers to SIC to take over the rights, but the Italian company's owners always wanted a higher price to close the deal.

Using local subcontractors for the production, SIC was also selling two other branded lines of children's footwear, Sultanina and Zanotti, but its annual revenues have been plummeting in recent years, reportedly going down from more than €12 million to only about €3 million, including the revenues from two outlet stores.

SIC asked for bankruptcy protection last summer, but the bankruptcy court decided a few days ago that its assets should be liquidated. Royer was able to secure the rights to Kickers at a very low price. Giuseppe Zanotti, which has been in litigation with SIC and launched its own Zanotti Kids line of children's shoes, took over SIC's rights to the Zanotti brand name. We don't know what will happen with Sultanina.

The takeover of Kickers has prompted Royer to set up a sales office in Milan to manage the distribution in Italy of that brand and many others in its portfolio, with the exception of Kélian. The office will be run by Roberto Recaneschi, a veteran of the Italian children's shoe industry who worked previously at Siport, a licensee of Barbie and other brands that doesn't operate anymore, as well as for Melania. He joined Royer in 2008 to take care of its licensed character business and to handle other tasks.

Groupe Royer managed to lift its sales to around €300 million last year, generating a nice profit based on preliminary figures. The biggest driver was a 20 percent sales increase for New Balance, which Royer distributes and licenses for France, Germany and the Benelux countries. Kickers' aggregated sales, including those of licensees like the Pentland Group, grew by 5 percent, with a particularly strong increase of 30 percent in Germany.

When we met him at the recent Expo Riva Schuh fair in Italy, Jacques Royer, president of the group, expressed confidence that sales will continue to increase in 2017, despite the termination of a distribution contract for Converse. He didn't want to say yet why, indicating that other important new deals are in the pipeline.