Sioux, the German company best known for its comfortable moccasins, got a very good domestic and international response at recent trade shows to the introduction of a new line of colorful and original sneakers marketed under a secondary brand in its portfolio, Grashopper (sic), for the spring/summer 2016 season.
Capitalizing on the current sneaker fad and addressing a younger generation than the Sioux brand, the new Grashopper line consists of 100 styles of leather and canvas shoes with good lasts for adults and children, retailing at attractive prices of between €89 to €149 per pair. Lewin Berner, the young chief executive of the company, says it got good orders and great feedback for the line, particularly from buyers in Northern Europe.
Sioux' founder, Peter Sapper, had invented this shoe in 1964, using a revolutionary moccasin with a natural shape, and called it Grashopper. Lance Clark, who was acquainted with the Sapper family, took the shoe to the U.K. in 1970 and produced it and marketed it as Grashopper under a licensing contract with Sioux, using the same advertising materials. Subsequently, in mid-1970, after showing the Grashopper to the trade in New York, he renamed the style as the Wallabee, for copyright reasons. The style became famous worldwide after its introduction in North America.
After acquiring a major stake in Rohde in 2008, Berner bought Sioux in 2010 through his investment company, Square Four Investments. After selling Rohde in 2014, Berner has been concentrating on the revitalization of Sioux, whose profitability has been adversely affected by high pension charges and an unprofitable licensing contract with Joop, which ended in 2014.
Before the re-launch of the Grashopper brand, after taking full managerial responsibility from two managers who left Sioux in 2011 and 2013, Berner has focused on making greater use of Sioux' Native American heritage and its reputation for well-fitting shoes. In this spirit, the company recently re-launched Sioux' main collection with rejuvenated and lightweight shoes, retailing for between €120 and €150 per pair. His next plan is to re-launch a brand of goodyear welted men's shoes belonging to the company, Apollo, for the spring/summer 2017 season.
The termination of the Joop license will lead to a lower group turnover of around €33 million in 2015, down from €35 million in 2014, but it will allow the company to make an operating profit before amortization (Ebitda) equal to between 3 and 5 percent. Sales and profits are certain to grow further afterwards.
One of Sioux' features, which Berner wishes to preserve, is the availability of quick reorders from its own factory in Portugal. Only some basic styles and some entry-price models are made elsewhere, particularly in India. The Grashopper is exclusively produced at the company's own plant in Portugal.
Only 40 percent of Sioux' turnover comes from outside Germany. The company continues to make a decent business in Russia, although it has stabilized at about half the previous level due to the economic problems in the country and the devaluation of the ruble. Through a local partner, Sioux has put together a network of 25 mono-brand shops in China.
Berner, who is also responsible for international sales, is talking to potential distribution partners in other countries. He is quite open for deals in Northern America, Japan and South Korea, where Sioux' presence is much smaller than it should be.