Birkenstock’s History and Case Study

Birkenstock is a shoe company from Germany. The company has 36 of its own physical stores throughout the world, but the brand’s shoes can be found in most major shoe stores. Their products are sold in around 90 countries in all continents. Birkenstocks can be found in large retailers such as Nordstroms to smaller and local shoe stores. The company is also Germany’s biggest employer within the shoewear industry.

Birkenstock’s Products

Birkenstock manufactures and sells all different kinds of shoes, but their most popular are their clogs and sandals. Many of their popular shoes are made of natural cork, which is very unique to this specific shoewear brand. Their product categories include: 

  • Shoes
  • Sandals
  • Accessories
  • Shoe Inserts
  • Natural Cosmetics
  • Sleep Systems

The brand offers products for women, men, and children. Birkenstock makes many different designs of shoes in order to be able to appeal to a large demographic of consumers. Although Birkenstock offers a very wide variety of shoes, their sandals are the most popular. 

The brand has 10 different kinds of sandals, and each kind has multiple color options. The different kinds change the number of straps, where the straps are located, the thickness of the sole, and whether they are open or closed toe. Their most popular designs are the Two-Strap Sandal and the Clogs. To help maintain the quality and sturdiness of the shoe, Birkenstock offers shoe care items that include shoe cleaner, protectant cream, cork renew paste, and other items to make sure the colors stay vibrant. 

Birkenstock’s Natural Cosmetics collection is a part of the brand that many consumers do not know about. This collection offers body and face skincare that contains creams, cleaners, serums, and oils. These products are all vegan, silicone and paraffin free, dermatologically tested, and the company does not test on animals. 

Birkenstock’s Sleep Systems collection is another part of the brand that many consumers are not aware of. This collection offers mattresses, slatted frames, and beds for sale. The inspiration came from their footbed in the sense that the bed also molds to the customers body when they sleep. The main goal is to decrease the strain on the human body in a convenient way when lying down, which will increase the ability to sleep comfortably and in turn increase health and well-being. The mattresses are made with the Body Shaping System created by Birkenstock and they have six very important and thought out layers to them, each with different functions.

Birkenstock’s History

Birkenstock was founded in 1774 by Johann Adam Birkenstock. After Johann started his brand, his passion and commitment to craftsmanship was passed down his family year after year. Because of this passed down commitment, Birkenstock shoes have kept their great quality, comfort, and style for centuries. Some of the companies large milestones include:

  • In 1896 Konrad Birkenstock began to manufacture and sell footbed insoles
  • In 1902 Konrad created the first contoured arch support. 
  • In 1925 Birkenstock opened a facility and Germany and began to manufacture the blue footbed
  • In 1932, Carl Birkenstock released the Birkenstock training course called the “Carl Birkenstock System” and it was enforced by leading physicians and podiatrists
  • In 1947, The Carl Birkenstock System was published, creating over 14,000 copies and became the highest selling podiatry textbook
  • In 1963, Karl Birkenstock released the first fitness sandal that had deep and flexible footbeds, it was called the “Madrid Model”
  • In the 1970s, Birkenstock began to sell shoes globally
  • In 1988, Birkenstock took its first step towards being more sustainable by utilizing environmentally friendly adhesives in production.
  • In 1990, production was expanded and innovated to reduce energy consumption by more than 90%
  • In 2009, Birkenstock opened a newer and bigger production facility in Germany. 
  • In 2013, Birkenstock officially became a corporation, instead of a network of 38 separate stores. Three business units were formed (productions, sales, and services) to operate the corporation. This is the first time the brand was run by an executive board that was not composed of the Birkenstock family members. 
  • In 2014, Birkenstock entered the licensing business. They were able to focus on new strategic business segments such as healthy living and sleeping, healthy workplaces, healthy feet. 

The Footbed: Birkenstock’s Claim to Fame

Birkenstock invented the footbed that many companies have copied since. Their original Birkenstock footbed is the heart of all of their shoe products. Its main characteristic is the shaped inner soles with special support components. The design is inspired by a natural footprint in the sand, this is to make sure that feet can withstand being in this shoe for hours while remaining comfortable and stress-free. In turn, this comfort and support increases health and well-being. 

The first part of the structure is the first jute layer, which is the base of the footbed. It adds stabilization to the natural cork-latex core. The second part is the cork latex bedding which is the main aspect of the footbed. It is cushioning, very flexible, and heat/cold insulating. These characteristics support and relieve the foot while keeping it at a good climate. The third part is the second jute layer, which is placed around the edges of the bedding. This adds flexibility and makes it much more durable while regulating moisture. Finally, the fourth and final part is the suede cover. The suede cover is moisture absorbing to ensure a comfortable foot climate. The high-quality natural leather is responsible for keeping a pleasant temperature. 

Since the release of the original footbed, Birkenstock has created a derivative product called “The Soft Footbed.” This option increases the comfort of the original footbed. There is only one added part, which is the foam insert. The foam insert is placed between the cork latex bed and the suede cover. The foam insert is anatomically shaped and has millions of tiny air bubbles that add to the unique feel of it. 

Birkenstock’s Success

In an industry composed of ever changing styles and trends, Birkenstock has stuck to their roots and designs throughout many years and the changes that have come with those years. This strategy has paid off well for the company, who has been very successful throughout its time in business. Birkenstock is one of the top five footwear brands in the world. It is also one of the most well-known German brands in the world. 

The brand’s success stems from the fact that their products are designed to improve the consumer’s life. The shoes Birkenstocks produces are made to make people’s lives easier by making shoes that are comfortable, functional, and durable at the same time. Their anatomically shaped footbed is extremely unique and since they were the original innovators of this concept, they are authentic and the concept behind them is clearly understood by the company. 

When considering the quality of these shoes, they are priced very fairly. The shoes and sandals range from $50 to $200 depending on the design and material of the shoe. The classic natural cork shoes are on the higher end of the price range, but Birkenstock’s new water resistant line is on the lower end, since it uses cheaper materials. Boots are the only shoe category that Birkenstock offers that goes above the $200 range, boots are priced between $170 and $350 depending on the specific style. These prices are on the average range for shoewear when looking at the entire industry. 

Birkenstock’s Sustainability Efforts

Birkenstock is aware of importance of being more sustainable and making efforts to help the environment. The protection of natural resources is their main focus because they see it as the biggest issue. Birkenstock does not participate in sustainability efforts as a marketing tactic, they do it because they truly care about making a difference. This is evident because they have been making their processes more sustainable since 1988, which is before people started to become more aware of the damage being caused to the environment. 

Birkenstock is motivated to continuously improve production processes, products, packaging, and logistics. By nature, the company is already a lot more sustainable than most shoewear companies. Because the shoes they produce are so durable, they are sustainable since they have an extremely long life cycle. Additionally, many of the products Birkenstock uses are natural materials from sustainable sources. These products include cork, natural latex, jute, leather, wool felt, copper, and brass which are some of the company’s most important materials. 

One of their key materials, cork, is reproduced which means it can be harvested again and again without causing any real damage or harm to the tree it comes from. In regards to the adhesives used by the brand, 98% of them are water-based which makes them environmentally friendly because they are water soluble and solvent-free. Birkenstock uses natural latex from the resin of rubber trees as their adhesive, which is completely natural and does not have pollutants in it. The company also uses a natural stabilizer in their production called Jute. Jute comes from renewable textile fibers so it is very sustainable. 

Collaboration With Dior

In an unexpected collaboration, Dior and Birkenstock designed new versions of some of Birkenstock’s most popular sandals. They teamed up with Kim Jones, a legendary designer, to update some of the most iconic styles with modern palettes and playfully chic details. This collaboration brings a glamorous side to Birkenstock’s classic sandals. 

By getting inspiration from the heritage of Dior and Birkenstock the Dior Men’s 2022-2023 Collection was launched and shown at Place de la Concorde. The runway-exclusive redesigned Tokio sandal was showcased. It was inspired by an iconic Dior Haute Couture dress and had flower embroideries on it. The collaboration between the two brands includes products that will be released and available for purchase in June of 2023. The two shoes/sandals that got redesigned and are a part of the collaboration include The Milano Style and The Tokio Mule. The shoes will include both Dior and Birkenstock branding. 

Final Thoughts: Birkenstock is a Classic Company That Has Strongly Maintained Their Success

Birkenstock is a company with over two centuries of history. They were the first inventors of the footbed, something used by multiple shoewear companies in the present day. The brand has stuck to their heritage and traditions with the shoes they make but have also added products to modernize their company a bit. Their main goal when creating their shoes is to improve the well being of their customers and by making the shoes supportive and comfortable they are doing just that.  Shoes are the backbone and foundation of your stability and posture. Birkenstock took this into account when creating their shoes. Walking or standing for long periods of time in uncomfortable shoes can result in back pain and foot pain that is difficult to heal, so the company made sure to manufacture a product that would do just the opposite of causing damage. 

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Birkenstock has also ventured into other industries with their Sleep System and Natural Cosmetic Lines. Birkenstock is known for its clean materials/ingredients and for its comfort and durability. The brand transitioned these reputations to the mattress and skincare industry very well. Having a well known and trusted brand was a great step for customers to gain interest and even try the new products they launched. 

Finally, Birkenstock is staying trendy and appealing to a new demographic by doing a collaboration with Dior. Dior is a luxury brand and Birkenstock working with them could bring new light and interest to Birkenstock’s products by people who prefer more glamorous looks. Whether the shoes are their traditional look or glammed up a bit, they still contain the most important qualities of comfort and durability that are important to the Birkenstock brand.

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Birkenstock’s History and Case Study In this post, we're looking into the history and evolution of the famous brand Birkenstock
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