Keds and PRO-Keds, the sporty footwear brands owned by the Stride Rite Corporation, should have their own European sales office by the spring of next year. The company, which also owns the Sperry Top-Sider and Stride Rite brands, has identified Europe as its largest area of potential growth for the coming years. Like for some other American shoe companies, its new emphasis on Europe is partly linked with the low value of the dollars and the end of European quotas on Chinese footwear.

The European sales office should be based in London and its primary job will be initially to foster or accompany the entrance of Keds and PRO-Keds into new European markets. Sperry, the American company’s boat footwear brand, and Stride Rite, its children’s shoe brand, would follow in the longer term.

The investment decision follows a flurry of recently signed distribution deals for the group’s brands in various European markets. The most recent agreement for Keds and PRO-Keds was signed in Italy, where the two brands will be sold by Asap, a company that already markets many other brands including Dr. Martens and Irregular Choice.

Meanwhile, Grupo Dicanco, the Spanish subsidiary of a company that already works with the Stride Rite group in Mexico, has just started selling all of its brands in Spain. Another deal signed with Grube Sportartikel in Germany for Keds and Sperry has come into effect. The Benelux, which was previously covered by a strong partner in France, The Lifestyle Company, has been assigned to SGA Vanneste.

Stride Rite’s brands already have good distribution in France, Portugal, Greece, Scandinavia and the UK. For the time being its strongest European sales are recorded by Keds. Then comes Sperry Top-Sider, which is selling particularly well in the UK. PRO-Keds, a lifestyle and retro sneaker brand which just took part in the Bread & Butter fair in Berlin for the first time, is now attracting more interest from high-end independent stores in Europe.

The situation is somewhat more complicated for the Stride Rite brand due to a dispute with Start Rite over the brand name in the UK. However, the company will seed in this market for the next couple of years. In other European countries the competition with Start Rite is open.