Oliver Reichert

Birkenstock Boss Bets on Beds

Birkenstock Oliver Reichert source Birkenstock
Birkenstock's mattresses are curved in a way that recalls its iconic cork soles. Source: PR.

For decades, Birkenstock was a byword for comfortable if slightly old-fashioned sandals from Germany some chose to wear with white socks. The brand’s image has improved since Oliver Reichert became chief executive in 2013, but now the footwear company is facing a revolution as it launches a range of high-range beds and mattresses.

“In the furniture market, everything is cheap. We will deliver functional, high-quality furniture at a fair price,” Mr. Reichert said at the IMM furniture fair in Cologne.

Mr. Reichert had been thinking about expanding the brand for some time. “Walking, standing, lying down, sitting – these are the basic postures in people’s lives. When it comes to standing and walking, we’re there already,” he said.

Birkenstock has developed bedding systems with Austrian furniture producer Ada. But the new beds are laced with Birkenstock’s DNA: The mattresses and slatted frames are curved in a way that recalls the cork soles of Birkenstock’s iconic sandals.

Taking on a whole new market where competition is rife isn’t free of risk, but Mr. Reichert said it will pay off eventually.

The executive, a former TV reporter, is confident after having turned around the loss-making DSF sports channel. The Birkenstock family, which established its brand in 1774 and employs 2,200 people, also employed co-CEO Markus Bensberg in 2012.

Four years later, the pair had made the clunky brand cool. Now, Birkenstock sandals are ubiquitous from the country to the catwalk. Last year, the shoemaker sold twice as many shoes as in 2012, revenue tripled to €750 million ($800 million) and profit skyrocketed to €70 million.

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