Outdoor shoe specialist Lowa and technical apparel company Schoeffel are teaming up to open a chain of Schoeffel-Lowa franchise stores in Germany that will sell a wide range of both company's products.
The first store -- slated to open in November in the Frankfurt region with about 260 square meters (nearly 2,800 square feet) -- will be developed by the two companies in order to jointly determine its look, merchandising plan and product selection to set the standard for other stores to follow.
Neither company, though, wants to get into the retail business, Lowa General Manager Werner Riethmann told SNEWS, so the first concept store will be quickly franchised and all that follow will begin life as franchises to be run by the newly founded Schoeffel/Lowa Sportartikel GmbH. "We aren't retailers. We're manufacturers," Riethmann said. "The plan is to portray the brands better."
He said the two companies want to showcase themselves, broaden their public reach, and get a larger selection of their products in front of consumers, as well as help area retailers. Plus, merchandising appropriate products together -- for example, women's Lowa hiking boots with women's Schoeffel hiking clothing, or men's outdoor lifestyle apparel with men's casual shoes -- will in the long run help sell all the products by both companies, he said.
Long ago, Riethmann said he asked Schoeffel CEO Peter Schoeffel about doing a line of Lowa clothing, but was turned down because Schoeffel said he "doesn't think much" of licenses. Riethman himself wasn't interested in finding his own clothing manufacturer since "we make shoes and that's our focus."
The idea for the stores came partly from the success of the only Lowa specialty shop that exists -- a hole-in-the-wall of 60 square meters (646 square feet) in Innsbruck, Austria. Riethmann said in the two years it's been around, sales of Lowa shoes at other shops in the area have doubled.
Plans call for two more stores in 2004, then the future is up for grabs since, Riethmann said, "I don't know how many are interested in running a franchise." Already, he said, several inquiries are floating in only days after the announcement.
SNEWS View: The concept is somehow so simple and so refreshing -- that two market leaders can simply decide to work together in the best interests of both, and that each doesn't need to add other product categories to its portfolio or license other categories, but can simply focus on its forte.