The beginnings of Birkenstock. An Interview with Marcel Goerke.
How long how has Birkenstock been around? When did you first bring the brand to Australia?
Birkenstock has been available in Australia since 1992, we opened the first store in Centre Way Arcade, at 259 Collins Street. Karl Birkenstock himself mapped out his Birkenstock distribution vision for Australia.
Is Birkenstock still a family owned business? How did you become involved?
The Birkenstock family is still actively involved in the world wide Birkenstock business. We were fortunate enough to meet Mr Birkenstock in 1991 and after sharing our plan to migrate to Australia took up the opportunity to bring the brand with us.
What makes Birkenstocks so unique?
Birkenstock is a very product orientated company that does stick to the core values of comfort and quality. The resulting unique styling can be embraced by all walks of life. It is not uncommon for different age groups to be interested in the same style, it seems everyone can make the styling their own.
Who were your Birkenstock customers back in the early days?
I suppose the traditional Birkenstock customer in Australia was the traveller, people who had spotted the brand overseas. Backpacking had just emerged in the late eighties and early nineties and Australians were amongst the keen travellers.
How has the business changed and grown over that time?
Over the last 25 years we have seen Australian’s embracing the vast variety of styles available, it surely all started with the classic sandals but if you’ve experienced the comfort of the sandals there’s plenty of opportunity to also consider Birkenstock sneakers, dress shoes, boots, gardening clogs, kitchen/chef shoes, kids sandals and shoes and even tilers knee pads. The list is long and there are all sorts of possible applications.
What are your core business values, and have they remained the same?
The values of comfort, quality and sustainability have always been the same over the years. In particular the sustainability aspect seems to become more important as time goes by. We’ve been operating a Birkenstock repair workshop for the last 25 years and are very proud to prolong the lifespan of our shoes by offering a repair service. Around 20 million pairs of shoes go into landfill in Australia, every 3 months, that’s a staggering number and even though Birkenstock repairs may not be cheap in comparison to the price of a new pair many consumers choose to have their shoes repaired anyway to maximise their lifespan and that’s great! Birkenstock Australia Pty Ltd is a member of the Australia Packaging Covenant and we make an effort to reduce waste associated to our business activities as much as possible and especially in regards to the packaging of our footwear.