After running the Lowa group for 25 years, Werner Riethmann announced that he is preparing to hand over its operational leadership, while reporting on a buoyant year that saw the German-based outdoor footwear company's sales leap by 11 percent to €163 million.
Riethmann intends to gradually transfer the operational leadership of the company, starting at the end of 2018, after reaching the age of 70 years. Under the plans, which are to be outlined later this year, he will pass on the helm to one of the company's executives through an internal promotion. The transfer will be gradual, with the new CEO sitting along with Riethmann and Giancarlo Zanatta, chairman of the Tecnica Group, on the board of management for a transition period of 18 months.
Riethmann, who is still a minority shareholder in Lowa, will continue to oversee sourcing, and we shall probably continue to see him at several international events in the future. After running Raichle, a Swiss footwear brand that was then taken over by Mammut, he was brought in as Lowa's CEO in 1992 to manage its turnaround, and one year later the Tecnica Group acquired control of the company.
Selling about 2.78 million pairs in all of last year, the Lowa group reached a turnover of €161.9 million for the Lowa brand alone, up from €144.5 million in 2016. The figure of €163 million pertains to Lowa Sportschuhe, which includes the revenues of distributed brands. The Lowa Gruppe, encompassing subsidiaries in Germany, Switzerland and the U.S., raised its turnover to €182 million, up from €170 million.
About half of the sales were generated in Germany. The group performed strongly in Switzerland, where sales soared by more than 30 percent to €30.7 million, with deliveries of 340,000 pairs. Its turnover in Austria moved up to €15.5 million, as the company sold 215,000 pairs in that country. Lowa said it performed strongly in the Benelux countries, and its sales progressed in the U.K. and Canada.
The revenues were pushed up by strong demand for multi-functional footwear. Lowa reported sales increases of 40 percent for footwear in the all-terrain category. Sales of cold-weather boots soared by more than 50 percent last year, albeit from a smaller basis. Lowa managed double-digit growth in the alpine, trekking, kids', military and hunting categories as well.
Riethmann reportedly said at an annual conference earlier this month that he had the ambition to raise sales to 3 million pairs. This number could have been reached in 2017, probably due to the strong demand generated by the cold winter weather, but it would have taken extra sewing lines and more staff to fulfill the demand.
Based on current orders, the group is projecting sales of €166.2 million for the Lowa brand this year, €167 million for Lowa Sportschuhe and €188 million for the Lowa Gruppe, amounting to relatively low single-digit growth.