SSL pledges new look for staid Scholl

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The Independent Online

Scholl sandals are to get a funky makeover, their makers pledged yesterday, as the staid footwear brand proved the sole disappointment in an otherwise strong set of figures from SSL International.

Scholl sandals are to get a funky makeover, their makers pledged yesterday, as the staid footwear brand proved the sole disappointment in an otherwise strong set of figures from SSL International.

The company said it was on track to meet its promise of doubling operating profit in three years, after strong sales of other brands, including its most important, Durex condoms.

Group sales rose 4.4 per cent as Durex increased its share of the global condom market to 29 per cent. Strong sales of its Pleasuremax condom and lubricating gel drove performance.

And in Scholl, footcare product sales rose 5.3 per cent thanks to the introduction of lines such as Party Feet - gel cushions to ease the pain of high heels.

However, Garry Watts, the chief executive, said there was still work to do in Scholl's traditional footwear business, where sales slipped 5 per cent. "We have focused on our objective of eliminating less profitable styles, and are continuing with our strategy of investing in new ranges which are appealing to younger consumers and of widening our distribution to mainstream retail stores in a number of selected markets," he said.

SSL has been cutting manufacturing, distribution and administrative costs as part of a recovery programme under Mr Watts, chief executive since April 2004. In 2000, the company was discovered to have used dubious marketing practices and fraud to inflate condom sales.

Operating profit for the year to 31 March was up £8.5m to £39.8m, stripping out the effect of the disposal of SSL's last remaining medical products divisions. Its shares have fallen from a high of 331.5p this year as bid speculation has faded, but were up 1.75p to 265p yesterday.

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