Europe’s longest-established shoe manufacturer, Josef Seibel -founded in 1886 in Haunstein, Germany has opened its first Nairobi outlet as it begins expanding its presence in Kenya.
The company is targeting the country’s burgeoning middle and upper-class consumers with European comfort standard shoe brands made from Kenya’s highest quality genuine leather and designed for different age groups and occasions.
“We are bringing to the Kenyan market the same quality, fitting, and designs as we have elsewhere in the world. Nairobi is where most middle and upper-class populations live and where we also have big multinational organisations including the UN headquarters,” said Josef Siebel Africa, Chairman, Carl-August Seibel during the opening of the Nairobi shop.
He added, “We want to show that good quality shoes can be made and sold in Kenya. The shoes we are doing here are distributed to at least 20 countries in the US, Europe and Canada. You can be proud as Kenyans that this is possible in a short time.”
The local leather the firm uses to make its huge array of shoe brands has been tested for Chromium VI chemicals to ensure the leather is safe for use.
Some of the shoes already being made at its two-year old Ukunda factory include ShuShu and Nolan range under brand name-Romika.
Under Shushu range is a set of high quality, lightweight school shoes for the active child, while its Nolan range covers low-heel slip-on shoes with double elastic bands that are quick and easy, yet stylish and comfy. All these are designed in Germany and made in Kenya.
“ We are priced in the segment between Ksh 4,000 to Ksh 7,000. In market comparison, we are competitive,” said Seibel.
As part of its expansion plan, the company is looking to train more local staff and increase its production capacity from current 120,000 – 130,000 pairs of shoes annually and broaden its shoe offering range.
“A hundred people are currently employed at the Ukunda factory. We are targeting to increase the number to 200 by the end of next year as we look to produce more shoe designs in the market,” he said.
The move, Seibel said, will help to relieve the company from high import taxes when demand exceeds its local production capacity.
The company trains local staff- without knowledge of shoe making- from scratch, which it said has proven as a better system to meet high international quality, comfort and safety standards.
The company will leverage franchise models to expand its presence in Nairobi with plans to open more outlets in Mombasa, other coastal towns near its factory, and across Kenya.
“We have done the market study and are looking at opening 12 to 14 outlets across the country including Kisumu, Nanyuki, Nakuru, Kericho and other towns coming up,” said Josef Seibel Franchisee, Joe Ndungu
“Yes we can produce shoes here and export them to Germany,” Ndungu added.
German Ambassador to Kenya, Sebastian Groth termed the investment another big step for Germany and Kenya and adds to the total 120 German companies in the country.
“Germany will in the future look more and more interested towards Africa and Kenya especially in regards to investment and economic relations. We are ready to open a new chapter in our relations this year to mark our 60th anniversary of Kenya-German relations,” said Groth.
Josef Seibel Group produces upto three million pairs of shoes annually and exports to 40 countries globally.