Intellectual property protection is one of those fronts. Working together with Mark Monitor, the Italian company says it has led to the shutdown of 198 websites that were selling counterfeit models of its Vibram FiveFingers shoes or shoes with fake Vibram soles. Action is pending against more than 150 other sites.
Some 2,000 ads for fake FiveFingers and Vibram products have been removed from the web as part of this program, which began in 2011 when the company realized that it was losing about one million euros a year because of counterfeiting.
Declining to release other figures for the moment, Vibram says that its revenues from the FiveFingers brand continues to increase in line with that of its total turnover, which grew at a double-digit rate in the past year, reaching a level of €175 million.
The company's line of footwear products continues to be expanded. Besides a line of FiveFingers shoes that has started to be offered to the public for the colder months of the year, Vibram launched last year a new brand, Euroshiki or “The Wrapping Sole,” which is inspired by the ancient Japanese art of wrapping objects in cloth for transportation. Fitted with a special multi-purpose Vibram sole, it can be easily packed into a backpack or a bag for use instead of regular shoes in a variety of circumstances.
This original line of portable, multi-use, multi-fit and easy-fit shoes triggered a lot of interest at Vibram's booth at the OutDoor show in Friedrichshafen, although the product is mainly sold in high-end department stores and shoe shops like Vergelio in Milan. It has sold very well in selected stores that have been chosen for the launch and on Vibram's web store.
In the U.S., meanwhile, Vibram celebrated the 100th anniversary of manufacturing in the country on Sept. 16 by opening the doors of its Quabang Vibram Innovation (QVI) plant in North Brookfield, in central Massachusetts, to the public. The company took the opportunity to announce its commitment to a five-year, multi-million-dollar campaign with investments in machinery and staff to support innovation. Vibram has invested $6 million for new machinery and machine upgrades in 2016 alone.
Besides upgrading QVI's capabilities and equipment, Vibram will start a two-year educational program for its staff and expand its domestic supply chain. The company also plans to make a significant investment in Vibram USA's materials testing and validation center. In addition, it will provide external educational growth programs on project management, in partnership with the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, on material science in partnership with the University of Massachusetts Lowell, and on innovation management in partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
In a further move that will give it more visibility, Vibram inaugurated last month a new 60-square-meter Vibram Academy in London, near Old Street, similar to the one it has in Athens. Inspired by the Vibram Sole Factor, this flagship store gives customers the opportunity to personalize and improve the performance of their shoes with the application of a Vibram sole. A similar concept has already been applied to a Vibram truck that travels all over Europe and to a series of corners in selected outlets for shoe repair, called Vibram Diamonds.