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Up-and-coming journalists get an insight into the work of Germany’s largest footwear manufacturer


The renowned Georg von Holtzbrinck School of Business Journalism and BIRKENSTOCK have a lot in common – quality education and training, the high aspiration of being one of the best in their respective fields, and the ability to have produced proof of this for years. It therefore made perfect sense for BIRKENSTOCK to invite the school’s current set of trainees to take a peek behind the scenes to offer them an insight into the day-to-day activities and the latest developments within the long-standing German company.

As part of their weeklong training focus on family-owned enterprises, eleven young business journalists visited the St. Katharinen plant and subsequently had the opportunity to hold an in-depth informal discussion with CEO Oliver Reichert at the head office in Rahms.

Following an hour-long tour of the production plant in St. Katharinen, the Holtzbrinck trainees were even able to make their very own sandals featuring the famous footbed and corresponding upper materials. This resulted in eleven exclusive pairs of Arizonas and Madrids being handcrafted under the expert supervision of our employees. Each individual step was explained to the trainees, was more or less understood, and was then executed by them single-handedly.

“The tour of the plant was fantastic. It was really interesting to see the individual steps so clearly, from the handcraftsmanship to the automated steps,” reports the budding business journalist Mareike Müller.

Following the plant visit, BIRKENSTOCK CEO Oliver Reichert answered the Holtzbrinck trainees’ questions and explained BIRKENSTOCK’s strategies and the secret to its success. In the process, he, too, learned a great deal about how the young journalists’ got into their profession, their understanding of media relations and the future focus of this, and the image and public perception of BIRKENSTOCK. The topics covered ranged from sustainability within production, labor conditions, and workplace codetermination to planned and implemented innovations and BIRKENSTOCK’s global focus.

The Georg von Holtzbrinck School of Business Journalism in Düsseldorf is an institution of the Handelsblatt Media Group. It has been considered the leading education and training institution for business journalists in Germany for more than 30 years. The trainees are trained up to work on the Handelsblatt Media Group’s quality business publications, such as the daily paper Handelsblatt and the weekly magazine WirtschaftsWoche. It also offers ongoing training for editors for them to maintain the high standards of reputable and high-quality business journalism. Many of the school’s graduates now have leading positions within German and international media companies. 


BIRKENSTOCK is a global lifestyle brand with a heritage in iconic footwear, rooted in the creation of the BIRKENSTOCK footbed that can be traced as far as 1774. The notion of quality and function guides the brand in all its actions and across categories. The concept of all-round wellbeing is developed into footwear, sleeping systems and Natural Cosmetics, increasingly translating the lifestyle vision of the brand heritage. With more than 4,300 employees worldwide, this traditional, sixth-generation family-run business is also one of the German footwear industry’s biggest employers. BIRKENSTOCK was already using the term “footbed” in the 1910s, giving it the meaning which is commonly understood by consumers all over the world to this day – as a synonym for outstanding comfort when walking and standing. By the early 1970s, BIRKENSTOCK had become a global player. Manufactured in Germany, the sandals are now sold in more than 100 countries on all continents. BIRKENSTOCK also has a growing range of closed shoes, children’s shoes, and occupational footwear, as well as specialist products for orthopedic retailers, socks, bags, and belts. In 2017, BIRKENSTOCK added sleep systems and natural cosmetics (BIRKENSTOCK NATURAL SKIN CARE) to its portfolio of products. The company is headquartered in Neustadt (Wied). BIRKENSTOCK has 13 sites in Germany, in the states of North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, Hesse, Bavaria, and Saxony. The long-standing family-owned enterprise also operates its own sales offices in the United States and Canada as well as in Brazil, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Denmark, Spain, the United Kingdom and Dubai.

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