Hi-Tec, the Dutch-based outdoor and sports footwear brand, has reorganized its distribution in Eastern Europe by attributing more rights to Martes Sport, its Polish partner. Martes has long held a license for Hi-Tec footwear in Poland, along with a global license for Hi-Tec apparel, and three years ago its remit was enlarged to include the Ukraine. Under the new deal, Martes' rights for footwear were expanded to the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Hi-Tec previously had a regional subsidiary in the Czech Republic, which has been dismantled. Martin Linek, former head of this subsidiary, has become a Hi-Tec regional manager supervising distribution in all of the East European countries not directly covered by Martes, using the Polish company's warehouse and other infrastructure. The company said this would enable both parties to use economies of scale in the region.

However, Martes' rights with regard to apparel were restricted to some countries in Eastern Europe: Hi-Tec has decided to take the development and sales of its apparel range in-house, starting with products to be delivered early next year. The company has hired several designers from Nike at its new head office in Amsterdam to get the range started. The international Hi-Tec apparel offering, which will be introduced at the end of April, will enable Hi-Tec to launch a retail concept with both footwear and apparel.

Meanwhile, Martes, which is also the Polish distributor of Arena and Colmar among others, has been expanding its retail operations at breakneck speed in Poland. Starting with a dozen stores two years ago, Martes Sport already has 45 multi-brand stores in Poland, and it should have at least 65 by the end of the year.

Apart from these multi-brand stores, Martes runs a dozen Hi-Tec outlets: Half of them are in Poland and already existed under the previous setup, while the others are in the Czech Republic and were taken over from Hi-Tec as part of the new deal. Martes also plans to open regular stores for Hi-Tec in the region.

The Hi-Tec group's turnover was roughly flat last year. Sales to international distributors made up for a decline in the U.S. market, where Hi-Tec pulled out of a few accounts. Sales to international distributors jumped by nearly 30 percent last year, driven by Latin America and Asia-Pacific.

Hi-Tec has opted for a particularly offbeat approach in China, where it sells mostly through its own online platform. The company previously had about 25 stores, but it kept only six of them open as a means to display its products in large cities. Supported by 25 staff members dealing with customer service, Hi-Tec said that it sold about 300,000 pairs online last year.

This juicy business is supported by a particularly judicious deal with a transport company, whereby the delivery of three pairs of shoes is charged at the price of just one. This allows Hi-Tec to get three pairs of shoes delivered to the customers, in three different sizes. The delivery person then stands at the door waiting for the customer to try on the shoes and pick the most suitable size – so that Hi-Tec does not have to deal with costly returns relating to size issues.