It is proof of recognition that the German footwear model Birkenstock by no means wished. Within the combat in opposition to fakes, the shoemaker has been sending groups of undercover investigators with hidden cameras into what they are saying are counterfeiting factories.
Birkenstock’s CEO Oliver Reichert is aggressive. “We do not simply punish the marketplaces or the resellers. We actually go to the factories. Turkey, Philippines, China, wherever.”
“Sounds such as you’re working particular ops,” mentioned correspondent Seth Doane.
“Sure, however that is vital.”
His unconventional strategy is obvious at their Munich headquarters. Doane mentioned, “You had been sitting at your desk listening, at instances blasting, music. It isn’t what you’d count on from a CEO.”
“In all probability I am not the common CEO,” Reichert mentioned. “I by no means tried to be common in something.”
And Birkenstock has proved it isn’t common, both. If you have not seen, Birkenstocks are all over the place, revealing the toes (or, sure, socks) of not simply essentially the most retro amongst us, however fashions and celebrities, too. It is simple that Birkenstock is having a second, practically 250 years within the making.
And “Birks” have come a good distance from their days as a hippie staple.
Since he took over this previously family-run enterprise in 2009, Reichert has tried to inject a “startup” vitality. “If in case you have such a practice and such a historical past, the menace is to get up in your individual museum,” he mentioned, “and I do not need to have this.”
He is ruthless concerning brand-collaboration requests. They get a lot. “Eight out of ten, we are saying no.”
They mentioned “sure” to Dior, and are actually producing a felt-covered shoe.
Doane requested, “How a lot is that this?”
“Not sufficient, I might say,” Reichert replied.
It is retailing for over $1,000.
“It is about supporting the thought behind the product and never harming the DNA of both model,” he mentioned. “It is like a wedding, you already know?”
And there is luxurious shoemaker Manolo Blahnik, recognized for his coveted stilettos. Blahnik, an avid Birkenstock buyer, is now a collaborator.
Doane mentioned, “You consider Manolo Blahnik in ‘Intercourse and the Metropolis’ and Sarah Jessica Parker.”
“Yeah, yeah, however she’s carrying Birkenstocks as nicely, even within the non-public life,” mentioned Reichert.
“If you see some superstar pictured with Birkenstocks, what do you assume?”
“I am proud that they are carrying Birkenstocks, and I do know – and this makes me even prouder – they purchase for it.”
“You do not give them to some well-known individual?”
“No. We do not have a Hollywood workplace or one thing like this.”
“And if some superstar says, ‘Hey, I am going to put on this shoe,’ you will not ship them a shoe?”
“In the event that they ship me cash, I’ll ship them a shoe!” Reichert mentioned.
It is a glamorous twist for an organization that traces its roots again to a cobbler in central Germany in 1774. Within the late 1800s, a descendant, Konrad Birkenstock, started making and promoting versatile insoles. For many years that humble “footbed” was the household enterprise.
Reichert mentioned, “Within the Sixties, Carl Birkenstock was someway pissed off that, ‘OK we make one of the best insole on the planet, however no one sees our product.’ So, he determined to attempt to convey the footbed out of the sneakers, and that is the birthday of the sandal.”
“However the shoe shops in America did not need the product?” mentioned Doane.
“It was the ‘ugly shoe’! You realize, they are saying, ‘Oh, OK, are you loopy?'”
Ugly, maybe, and for a time uncool. However in simply the previous decade, Birkenstock stories gross sales have greater than quadrupled, with the preferred mannequin being the Arizona.
Then, COVID supplied one other sudden enhance: “Sadly, we turned the primary dwelling workplace shoe,” Reichert mentioned. On-line demand was “loopy.”
“So, why do you say ‘sadly’?”
“It is painful to don’t have any gross sales, nevertheless it’s very painful to have an excessive amount of gross sales, attempting to handle this international demand. It is difficult.”
Doane noticed that at considered one of their factories within the east of Germany, the place they had been racing to fill a backlog of practically one million pairs.
Managing director Hilmar Knoll juggles the logistics. “Now we have right here inventory just for ten days,” he mentioned. “We’re all the time on the restrict of our capability.”
Day by day, they produce 80,000 footbeds, which all begin as a mixture of cork from Portugal. Their “secret recipe” of jute, cork, latex and leather-based is heated, then squeezed into molds.
Birkenstock nonetheless makes all its sneakers in Germany, and is fiercely protecting of that high quality. As a part of its effort to crack down on counterfeiters, it stopped promoting on Amazon, citing the variety of fakes being bought.
How arduous was that? “For us, nothing,” mentioned Reichert.
“Properly, it is an enormous outlet!” mentioned Doane.
“Perhaps, however not a superb one. I believe originally Amazon was a pioneer in on-line buying and selling. You must kill monsters when they’re small. They’re getting too massive? You possibly can’t kill them, okay? They are going to eat you. And we determined to kill our monsters early.”
In a press release, Amazon advised “Sunday Morning,” “Fewer than 0.01% of all merchandise bought on Amazon acquired a counterfeit grievance from prospects and we can’t relaxation till that quantity is zero.”
The strong marketplace for fakes reinforces (as if anybody wanted a reminder) simply how in style these sandals are, regardless of the cause: “Even the individuals who hate the model put on them as a result of they’re good,” mentioned Reichert. “It is like, you already know, do you want taking medication? No. It helps! So, you swallow it.”
Doane mentioned, “You appear nearly proud that some individuals do not like your product?”
“It is a proof of idea. It would not matter for us, as a result of when you get the product, you’ll put on this, and also you re-buy it. So, you already know, at some point we’ll get you.”
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Story produced by Mikaela Bufano. Editor: Brian Robbins.