MANUFACTURING: Green Cross Keeps Bouncing Ahead
Recent Western Cape Business News
EPPING-based shoe manufacturer and retailer Green Cross just keeps on walking and, it seems, as years go by the bouncier it gets.
This year has marked the 35 year anniversary of Green Cross, and in the wake of the recession it is clear to see how the family owned business is still a cut above the rest.
Hatti Zeppel, director for Green Cross says the company is a third generation family business. It currently employs 665 people nationally, with an increase in the staff complement of 101 new staff members. Unusually for the industry, the company still retains its own sales force to sell its products to pharmacies and shoe stores in even the smallest towns in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Swaziland.
Green Cross currently has 25 retail outlets nationwide and recently came second in the 2009 retail awards for the category shoe stores. “About 45% of our manufacturing output is taken up by our retail arm; the balance of our stock is sold through pharmacies, independent shoe stores and bought directly by corporations for their work force,” Zeppel says.
“Green Cross traded very well during the 2010 winter season, despite the tough trading environment due to the economic down turn, competition and cheap imports from China. In fact our manufacturing has grown by 33% in the past year and the retail arm has grown by 21%, with group turnover in excess of R 300 million.” Zeppel says the company plans to continue to expand and aims to increase its retail footprint to 30 stores in the next year, with three new stores already in the pipeline for 2011 and a further three stores up for refurbishment.
When asked if the recession had any effect on the Green Cross business, Zeppel quickly replied: “Not at all. In fact our order book is up over 35 % compared to the previous year.” With over R8 million invested in new machinery, Green Cross is gearing up to tackle the increasing demand for Summer 2010.
Zeppel says the “quality, comfort and authenticity of Green Cross” gives the brand its muscle in the local market.
“The intrinsic strength of the brand and its quality products has given it the room to expand despite increased competition and cheap imports from the East. Green Cross shoes are unique in that they are orthopaedically designed to ensure the bones and muscles of the feet are protected and supported. Our shoes are made of genuine leather and flexing properties to ease the movement in walking. They are light weight and made of soft supple material which conforms to the shape of the wearer’s foot.”
Green Cross recently increased the range development staff complement and invested in CAD and laser pattern cutting machinery to ensure that the design process is in line with international standards.
“Being in manufacturing and retail has allowed us to listen to the needs of the Green Cross customers directly, focusing more on fashionable trends, likes and dislikes. Planning and merchandising have also played a vital role in the success of the brand due to the stocking of seasonal products all year round: insuring that the correct style and colour are on the shelves at the right time,” says Zeppel.
Zeppel notes that the consumer profile was ever changing with a larger focus on the younger consumer. However, the black market has seen the biggest increase in sales and this will be the main focus area going forward, considering its tremendous brand loyalty.
In terms of range , Green Cross provides for all different types of feet requirements such as broader feet and larger sizes. Even though the women’s range makes up the bulk of both sales and manufacturing, Green Cross does provide for a larger spectrum of consumers, including both men’s formal and casual, and children shoes ranging from infants to school going age. In fact the school shoe range has seen a tremendous growth, 45% in the past year due to a larger range and updated styles.
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