Birkenstock Footprint Sandals Inc., the 100 percent employee-owned company and U.S. importer and distributor of Birkenstock footwear from Germany, will shorten special-order handling time by weeks and increase its product offering in U.S. retail stores through an agreement with UPS Supply Chain Solutions.A new distribution program developed by UPS will manage special orders to the U.S. fulfilled by Birkenstock manufacturing centers in Germany. Special orders that once took months to ship to the U.S. now will take days.“UPS Supply Chain Solutions will help us bring additional new styles, colors and sizes of Birkenstock footwear to American consumers much faster than we have been able to do in the past,” said Birkenstock Chief Operating Officer Gene Kunde.Under the agreement, implemented this month, UPS Supply Chain Solutions will provide a dedicated team utilizing UPS’s full portfolio of services including air, ocean, customs brokerage and small package. The solutions allow shipments to go directly to retail outlets. This alleviates interim handling and repackaging steps typical of the retail distribution process. UPS also will deliver retailer orders for the Spring 2004 season beginning this fall.“While our main goal is to satisfy our customers, there also are significant operational benefits to this new distribution arrangement,” Kunde said. “The UPS program takes pressure off our U.S. warehouses and gives our retailers more options for consumers.”Birkenstock, the first company to introduce the U.S. market to the Euro-comfort shoe category in 1967, realized 20 percent growth in fiscal 2002, exceeding the industry average of six percent. The agreement with UPS Supply Chain Solutions will enable Birkenstock to keep pace with rapid growth while increasing its ability to respond to its retailers and consumer needs.