Leder & Schuh has opened its first two stores in Slovenia under the Humanic and Jello banners, the latest move in its rapid European expansion.

The Austrian shoe retailing group has about 10 low-priced Jello stores in Italy, 25 higher-end Humanic stores in Hungary, over 20 Humanic, Jello, and Shoes 4 You stores in Germany, and a few Humanic stores in the Czech republic. The biggest potential for growth, however, is Hungary where about 52 new shopping centres are planned around Budapest.

Leder & Schuh also trades under the Dominici and Top Schuh brands in Austria. Last year, the company opened 14 new stores in Austria and 11 abroad, but it closed 14 others, ending the year with a total of 247 outlets. A total of between 10 and 20 new stores have been planned for this year, with the number of foreign outlets growing to 75, which will represent about one-fourth of the total turnover.

The group's total sales grew by 3.1 per cent last year to 3.306m Austrian schillings ($207m). However, the growth in turnover rose seven per cent in the first half of 2000, generating a 112 per cent increase in pre-tax profit to 38m Austrian schillings ($2.4m). The group boasts a market share of 18 per cent in Austria and a solid equity ratio of 33 per cent.