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Australian firm to re-launch PVC sandals in US

By: Kate Tilley

April 10, 2013

NOOSA, AUSTRALIA — Australian fashion accessories company Holster Fashion Pty. Ltd. plans to re-launch its injection molded PVC women's and children's footwear, called jelly sandals, in the U.S. next year, following an unsuccessful attempt in 2011.

Holster, based in the seaside shire of Noosa, in Queensland, is owned by husband-and-wife team Ben Nothling and Natalie Miller.

In 2011, jelly sandals were sold in North America through a distributor in Tustin, Calif., which marketed them through a website and more than 20 U.S. retail outlets.

At that stage, Nothling was buoyant about the sandals' enormous growth potential in the U.S. market. "Reports of the 2011 summer season styles' sales in U.S. retail stores stocking Holster have been fantastic," he told Plastics News.

But this week he said U.S. growth had stalled after "parting ways" with the distributor after only one season. "I believe Holster has not been properly launched into the U.S. market yet. We are starting again in the 2014 summer," Nothling said.

Its U.S. website does not list products and there have been no U.S. retail sales since the original distributor's agreement was terminated.

But Nothling confirmed a new distributor, a private company he will not name, will sell the products in the U.S. next year.

Nothling and Miller formed Holster in January 2001 after a surfing trip to Indonesia. They began importing and marketing Indonesian-manufactured surfboard covers and fashion accessories.

They added jelly sandals to the product range in 2005, and the footwear now accounts for 90 percent of total sales volume. Designed by Miller, the point of difference is the sandals' decorations with stylish touches like diamante studs and varied patterns.

The soft, open-toed PVC sandals are made by an unnamed Chinese manufacturer. Although Nothling and Miller originally used the manufacturer's generic molds, they now design molds in-house. Jelly sandals are exported globally from China. Nothling said some components were manufactured in other countries, but would not provide more detail.

In 2010, the company sold more than 300,000 pairs of jelly sandals, which increased to 450,000 in 2011 and the same in 2012. Nothling expects Holster to sell 500,000 pairs this year.

Jelly sandals are sold in more than 50 countries and 2,300 stores globally. Nothling said Asian sales have increased 500 percent since the company launched in Asian markets in 2008. It exports to Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand.

"Our brand helps to drive sales [in Asia]. Many people are aware of our brand now, and want to wear our products and be associated with what we have created," he said.

"I see opportunity in all Asian markets we sell into, as our brand is becoming very popular there. Asian people are very brand focused as opposed to western countries."

Nothling said Holster's sales were impacted by the European economic crisis. "Orders halved [from 2011 to 2012]. They are increasing again with some new U.K. and European distributors onboard."