Wolverine Worldwide has created joint ventures in India and Colombia as part of its efforts to expand internationally through a direct presence, starting off with its Merrell and Caterpillar Footwear brands. The group believes that setting up joint ventures will enable it to have more clout in developing brands than through its traditional distribution and licensee business model.

In January 2011, the group created a business unit for its international activities to steer regional strategies and boost growth for all its brands outside North America. The strategy is being carried out by using the distribution and licensee business model as well as by consolidating existing partnerships or setting up new business structures.

The Indian initiative has been formed with Tata International, involving footwear as well apparel. The venture, in which each partner will have a 50 percent stake, will be initially responsible for the wholesale distribution of the Merrell and Caterpillar Footwear brands. The joint venture will serve as a gateway for further growth throughout the Asia Pacific region.

Tata brings retail and marketing expertise to the partnership as well as 30 years of experience in footwear manufacturing. The Indian conglomerate markets shoes in India under its Tashi brand. It has been boosting its activities in this segment by acquiring significant stakes recently in Bachi, a leading Indian manufacturer of children's shoes, and in Move On, a Portuguese company that has resumed a license for Aerosoles. Both have production facilities in India. The joint venture with Tata will have an agreement with Trent, another company of the Tata group that operates more than 50 department stores in India.

In Colombia, Wolverine has formed a joint venture, in which it will have a 51 percent stake, with its long-standing local distribution partner, Forus, to market footwear in the country. The company, called Lifestyle Brands of Colombia, will be granted long-term distribution rights for Merrell and Caterpillar Footwear.

Wolverine is also buying a 49 percent in a subsidiary of Forus, Forus SA Colombia, which has the rights for the American company's Hush Puppies and Cushe brands in Colombia. Forus SA Colombia runs 23 stores and sells directly to the country's most important department stores and specialty footwear retailers. The American group expects the joint ventures to expand its presence in Colombia through stand-alone stores, shop-in-shops and selected wholesale distribution.

Founded by Alfonso Swett in 1980, Forus has more than 300 stores in Chile, Uruguay and Colombia. The group has been working with Wolverine for more than 30 years and is the group's largest distributor and licensee in Latin America, representing Wolverine brands in Chile, Uruguay, Peru and Colombia.