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Santoni


LCA


Tramontano


Church's

The history of Beerens International goes back to 1977 when the activities on the international shoe market started with a combined market research project for four American shoe companies. The purpose of this project, initiated by Alden Shoe Co in Massachusetts, was to examine the viability of American Comfort footwear concepts on the European market. With his experience in marketing and retail at Bally’s in London and Paris this project had been confided to Peter Beerens, who met the owner of Alden Shoe Co in Paris when he was still employed by Bally France.

After one year of desk and field research it proved that a migration of successful orthopaedic systems between the USA and Europe was not practically feasible, due to cultural differences and discrepancies in legislation. Orthopaedic footwear in European countries is often subsidized and therefore subject to governmental approval schemes. The national shoe manufacturers were and still are often protected by this structure making it difficult for outsiders to enter the market. With this conclusion the research was closed. The progress reports during the investigation process were considered to be constructive and transparent and when the project was terminated Alden Shoe Co decided to maintain contact with Peter Beerens and offered him the agency of the Alden brand for the European market for his performed services. Although the orthopaedic range of Alden was not getting sufficient feedback in Europe, the premium quality traditional men’s shoes proved to be having more potential.

The early years

The Alden agency was a nice gesture but did not generate much of an income to live on. There were only two small customers in Europe, one in Munich and one in Paris, so everything had to be built from scratch.  It was not a full time job and therefore the agency activities during the first years were combined some linguistic studies in Maastricht.

On a part time basis the acquisition of new customers started in Paris where the traditional Anglo-American look started to become fashionable. The Brooks Brothers look from USA in particular started to penetrate in the BCBG (Bon Chic Bon Genre) bourgeoisie market. Especially the Brooks originals such as the tassel loafer and the cordovan penny loafer were well received in the traditional clothing stores like Old England and Berteil. These authentic American styles got the attention of several fashion journalists and soon after a number of editorials appeared in the leading fashion (Vogue) and opinion magazines (Le Point). The growing feedback in Paris and an increase in business volume inspired the owner of Alden to participate in the Parisian Men’s Clothing show called SEHM. The first appearance there was a booth within the American pavilion, a sponsored project by the American government in an attempt to stimulate the export of clothing and footwear manufacturers. It created an interesting platform for the European market and from there onwards there was an influx of new prospects and customers. The distribution on the Parisian market was intensified and also other major cities in France began to show an interest.

The first successes

A big step forward was the association with the Faconnable group, which had quality-clothing shops all in every major city in France. Albert Goldberg, the headman of the Faconnable brand had a lot of confidence in the product, which matched his ready-to-wear collection and his henchmen were soon to follow.

The SEHM show became a seasonal event and as the show became more and more international, so was the spread of customers. It is in these days that also German customers visited the SEHM and the German market started to take an interest in the cordovan shoes of the Alden collection. Carefully listening to the needs of the customers in the market and also implementing the agency’s own ideas into the European collection, the success started to really take of in 1985 when more and more quality shops started to find their way to the Parisian show and later also the HMW, a clothing show in Cologne.

The golden years

From 1985 onwards, new countries began to show an interest. Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Spain, Norway, Greece and even Lebanon. However the biggest breakthrough of the brand was in Germany where the cordovan shoes were hyped and sales developed into very interesting quantities. The magic of the cordovan leather inspired and addicted the well to do Germans and the range of styles in this leather went through a major evolution. By 1990 every reputable clothing store in the high end of the market in Germany had adopted the brand and by 1992 it reached its pinnacle.

The aftermath

Then a number of changes took place.  The Anglo-American look was under attack from Italian brands, which started to change the fashion. Gradually the fashion dealers switched from the Anglo-American style to the Italian style and the number of customers were declining, leaving only the authentic traditional as a customer base.

Then there were some serious quality issues, extreme price increases and a generation change in management. The market was in need of innovation but this innovation did not come, despite the demands of our agency. The range remained static, unchanged.

With declining results and insufficient collaboration from the new management the situation became unworkable resulting in a break-up early 1998.

A new start

One door closes and another opens. After the break-up with the Alden brand our agency received new offers. The lesson learned however is to never become too dependent on one brand only. Not to be a mono brand agency. Since then we are a multiple brand agency reducing our working area to the Benelux and Germany and since 2005 more and more focused on the Dutch market. In 1998 we acquired several new collections.

We were experimenting with a young brand called Varuk. A project, which was successful until the company, went out of business. To replace Alden we received the reputable Church’s brand from the U.K. for Germany. Then we received a call from Italy from a young man, called Giuseppe Santoni, who heard of the break-up with Alden through our customer Mauro Di Volponi in Florence.  Santoni was eagerly looking for new distribution possibilities in Europe and was very much interested to use the European network of customers, which had been built for 20 years.  A meeting was arranged in a hotel in Verona, where the collection of shoes was shown. In those days the range of shoes did not have a clear identity, but the workmanship of the shoes stood out by excellence and because of this fact we agreed to introduce the product with some of our key customers. The beginning was hard. Nobody heard of the name and the styles were not designed for our market.

The new century

But the collection developed quickly and although the passionate and ambitious Santoni family made mistakes, they were always corrected and improvements were visible each season.  In ten years time the Santoni brand has evolved from a fairly unknown product into one of the leading high-end shoe brands in the market. The Netherlands has become one of the most successful export markets and its volume can be compared to bigger countries like Germany. The Church’s name got an important boost by the takeover by the Prada Group in the beginning of this decade, however is going through a difficult period now.

2010

Today the agency is successfully servicing the high segment of the shoe and clothing market in the Benelux and Germany, but the focus of attention is The Netherlands. The brands in the portfolio are Santoni, Church’s, Tramontano, Arianna, and La Cordonnerie Anglaise. Furthermore the agency is working on a consultancy basis for some buying groups in the clothing industry.

Bredestraat 33 - 6211HB Maastricht - +31(0)43-3500701 - +31(0)43-3218963