After several acquisitions and reorganizations over the last years, Van der Putten, the Dutch footwear company, has decided to merge its two leading comfort brands, Picardi and Spiess Inspiration, into Picardi Inspiration. The company believes that, after a small decline at the beginning, the new brand should reach annual sales of about €5 million, predominantly in Germany and the Netherlands.

Spiess, originally a German brand, was acquired by Van der Putten in 2000 and revamped as a youngish label, upgraded with an offering of multiple widths. Picardi was part of Smits/Van Niekerk, another Dutch shoe company which Van der Putten swallowed in 2004. It was known as a more classical brand, catering for a somewhat older age group. While Spiess recorded most of its sales in Germany, Picardi was more established in the Netherlands, but the company still felt that the brands were too close.

Over the last two years Van der Putten has already divested Big Horn, the brand of clogs which it had bought as part of Smits/Van Niekerk, because there weren’t enough synergies to be achieved through its presence in the very specific clogs market. At the same time it dropped its footwear license for Mart Visser, the Dutch couturier, judging that it caused too much distraction for too little profits.

Under the new structure, Van der Putten will thus concentrate on a single comfort brand, Picardi Inspiration, as well as its more widely sold women’s footwear label, JJ, which has been doing particularly well last year due to the introduction of multiple-width boots, enabling women with larger calves to wear fashionable boots. The concept was well received in the Netherlands at the end of last year and it strongly contributed to a 30 percent increase in JJ’s sales to roughly €7 million this year. On the back of this success Van der Putten has launched an advertising campaign on national television – the first ever for a woman’s shoe brand for the last 30 years.

The concept of multiple calf widths is being introduced in Scandinavia this year through a private label, but over the next years Van der Putten hopes to launch it under the JJ label in several other countries, starting with Germany, the UK and the United States. The company has developed a unique database on the shape of women’s legs, estimating that up to 40 percent of women have problems buying boots due to the size of their calves. Van der Putten further predicts that this problem will worsen over the next years, due to the increase in the average weight of young women in developed countries.

Van der Putten’s footwear is predominantly made in Teplice, in the north of the Czech Republic, where the company acquired a factory a few years ago. However, due to the increase of Van der Putten’s volumes after its multiple acquisitions, some of the production was moved to China.

The company briefly suffered acute financial problems in 2004 due to the bankruptcy of Garant Schuh + Mode, which punched a hole of €700,000 in the Dutch company’s account. It had to file for receivership but struck an agreement whereby it was allowed to start up again with minimal changes. The company has since returned to profits.