AKU, the Italian trekking and outdoor footwear company, has announced the acquisition of a factory in Serbia that will focus on the production of its Mountain Inspired line of travel lifestyle shoes, complementing the company's own plant in Montebelluna and a Romanian factory at Cluj Napaca that it has been using since 2001.

Occupying more than 5,000 square meters at Simanova in the region of Vojvodina, the Serbian factory will take advantage of its experience in the manufacture of fashion shoes for other clients. AKU says the investment is a response to the growing demand for high-quality products “made in Europe” for different markets and distribution channels.

Like another Italian outdoor shoe manufacturer, Garmont, AKU is also making a big statement in the military field. It has just won a five-year contract to supply the British Army with two models of combat footwear in a contest against more than 40 other firms. The shoes will be made in Europe, AKU points out.

AKU is already a supplier to the Swiss Army, and it worked in the past for the Navy Seals in the U.S. To help develop its presence in the international military channel, AKU has appointed a dedicated sales manager, Francesco Gallina, who comes with a long experience in the sector from his past work with companies such as Vibram, Geox and Tiesse.

Meanwhile, AKU is expanding with its classical outdoor footwear range in France and the U.S. It has signed a distribution contract with Sunset for the French market, after working directly for many years with the country's biggest outdoor retailer, Au Vieux Campeur.

The collaboration starts with AKU's spring/summer 2019 collection. Sunset, which has five exclusive sales reps specializing in footwear, works also for other major sports brands including Alpina, Colmar, Elan, Montana and Uvex.

AKU has had a hard time breaking into the U.S. market in any significant ways, despite the investment made in the company nine years ago by the Cook brothers in Canada, who also own Genfoot and its Kamik brand.

The Italian company has now announced its first contract with REI, the big American chain of more than 150 stores. The contract follows a positive test for “best fit” conducted by Backpacker magazine on AKU's Alterra GTX model and a recognition of the company's commitment to environmental protection across its supply chain.

In this respect, AKU's product manager, Giulio Piccin, has been appointed as CSR manager.