Synonymous with Greece since ancient times, sandals are back in Athens. Of course, there’s plenty of stores already selling them, or making them in the case of one famous place – The Poet – in the tourist area of the Plaka, where The Beatles got their footwear.
And now, seven years after the launch of Ancient Greek Sandals, co-founders Christina Martini and Nikolas Minoglou have opened in the land of sandals, in a downtown Athens store, said Business of Fashion in a report.
“We have been looking for a store space for a couple years at least,” Minoglou told the site. “We didn’t just want to open a store without having found the right spot.”
That turned out to be in a building that used to have a popular Greek shoe store from 1890 and is close to the historical Syntagma Square and a fashionable street selling high-end goods such as Hermes, Prada and Rolex.
Martini said the spot is “strategic” because “it feels remote but it’s still in the center,” an area of side streets and arcades, some filled more with empty store fronts than goods as the country climbs out of a nine-year economic crisis that shuttered scores of thousands of businesses.
“We’re a bit hidden away on a back street but in front of a beautiful park,” she said, hoping word-of-mouth will bring plenty of feet looking for what they carry.
Besides new and also the core styles that make up about half of Ancient Greek Sandals’ revenue, the new flagship store will carry handpicked items, such as premium soap, olive oil, ceramics, and a selection of books on Greek artists and architects, the report said.
It also will house their first collaboration with well-established Greek jewelry designers Lalaounis, Yannis Sergakis, Ileana Makri, Venyx World and Maggoosh.
Ancient Greek Sandals has used a predominant wholesale model – their 350 global stock lists account for 75 percent of the business, while e-commerce accounts for 25 percent – having a physical space is “a different way to interact with the customer and tell our story in your own way,” Minoglou said, projecting the store will eventually account for 5 percent of the business.
The United States is the brand’s biggest market, accounting for 30-35 percent since launch, but Minoglou said they picked Athens as home “because we felt that it had to be in the country where the brand was born and what it’s about.” They’re glad.
“It’s also an exciting place to be,” added Martini, with a number of top hotels, restaurants, and galleries beckoning the kind of crowd they’d like and Athens gaining in popularity as a place to stay in Greece and not just a stopover on the way to the islands for many.
The timing seems to be good, with a slow but burgeoning recovery although the country hasn’t shed its image of being as unfriendly to businesses as Greeks are friendly to visitors.
Ancient Greek Sandals, without a store, started up during the crisis but still saw an impressive growth rate of about 50 percent for the first three years. “Since then, there’s been a small slowdown (in sales,)” Minoglou told BoF. “But we’re still growing in double figures.”
Anklets initially were priced from 60-80 euros ($67.91-$90.54) for the first time and will also be sold through existing wholesale partners such as Net-a-Porter and Matches Fashion.
“The main focus is on sandals and we’ll explore other constructions,” said Martini. “This year we’re launching a comfort elevated rubber sole, so it’s something between a sneaker and a sandal. It’s perfect for the city (and) comfortable to walk around or run errands in. We want our sandals to be for every need and age.” Minoglou estimated the brand will sell 140,000 pairs of sandals in 2019, a 15 percent increase from the previous year.