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The story of modern footwear

BRAND WATCH - Times are changing. Punks might have sworn by them but nu-metal kids aren't taking to Dr Martens any more, while Reebok shows that a little gun-toting notoriety from modern sports stars isn't all bad, writes Jennifer Whitehead.

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Dr Martens, the chosen footwear of punks, students and... er... policemen, has announced that it is closing of one of its three remaining British factories as the brand that thought it transcended normal rules of competition sees sales fall.

Its traditional thick rubber soles have fallen out of favour as clubgoers switch to trainers and other new-fangled footwear inventions. Now, however, the company is thinking of modernising its range to include lighter shoes aimed at men and women.

Sadly, it is also considering following other British brands like Dyson out of the UK to manufacture in the Far East.

Dr Marten's might try a little notoriety. There was a time when a sports star like John McEnroe was deemed a bad role model for children because he was known to lose his temper and -- gasp! -- swear on court.

But the sports shoe maker Reebok thinks that a touch of the bad-boy image could be good for its credibility. The company has decided to stand by one of its stars, Allen Iverson, who plays basketball for the Philadelphia 76ers. This is despite the fact he faces a slew of charges, including firearms violations, assault and false imprisonment.

Adidas was not so lucky in holding on to its agreement with another basketball superstar, Kobe Bryant. The company announced that it had agreed not to exercise a two-year extension in its contract with the LA Laker's player. A release said that Bryant would be playing in "a variety of footwear brands next season while he takes the time to evaluate future opportunities", which commentators took to mean "while he negotiates an even bigger deal".

It looks like the Bin Laden brand will not be the new David Beckham. So cancel the order for the scorched mountain wear.

The Swiss, not normally known for having a problem with dodgy regimes, turned down an application made by a company to register the name Bin Ladin. The application, by a relative of Osama Bin Laden, was made well before the September 11 attacks on the US. However, in light of the notoriety of the name, the Federal Institute of Intellectual Property has ruled that it "can now be seen as offensive to the moral sensibilities of a considerable section of the public".

Mothercare shareholders ousted chief executive Chris Martin after the retailer issued its third profit warning in less than a year. Only two months earlier, he had said: "I'm focused on delivering the recovery." He is to receive a £475,000 payout. The group may now face a takeover bid.

While the vast majority of internet brands have fallen by the wayside, one continues to blaze a trail in terms of profitability and reputation. Ebay, the auction company, entered the Standard & Poor's 500 index, the list of America's established corporate giants.

Now the company faces a challenge to maintain its image as a folksy company, as more and more businesses use its site to reach a mass audience. However, it could be that Ebay is already becoming a victim of its own success. As more and more people use the service, it becomes harder for sellers to make an impression.

Pub chain JD Wetherspoon has insisted on sticking to its "no televisions or music" rule, even though it is blamed for causing it to miss out on the drinking boom around the World Cup.

After reporting a small slowdown in sales, Wetherspoons insisted that its no music or television policy was still its point of difference.

Damning words for Sir Terence Conran's chain of restaurants this week, as a restaurant guide voiced what the Londoners have known for a considerable time.

Harden's restaurant guide has deemed his chain, which includes eateries such as Mezzo and Quaglino's, to be fit only for "hen nights or suburban coach parties". It's bad news for the restaurateur, with the industry already suffering -- particularly chains.

The restaurant guide, which is to be published in September, will now rank at least five Conran restaurants in its list of the top 10 most-nominated disappointing eating experiences in London.

The week was looking no better for McDonald's, however, with stories that the government is being urged to launch its own fat tax on "fatty, highly processed and fast foods".

The US government is already being encouraged to launch such a tax, which will force up the price of cheap junk food. Now the left-wing think tank Demos is encouraging the UK government to do the same thing. The group hopes that it will give families on low incomes an incentive to eat fruit and vegetables.

However, critics have pointed out that increasing taxes on cigarettes and alcohol have failed to cut smoking significantly among the less well-off.

Finally, some better news. Deloitte Consulting managed to side-step some of the rebranding flak experienced by its rivals when it announced its new name this week. The firm chose the name "Braxton" -- not after the US soul singer Toni, but after the name of a management consultancy it bought in 1984.

No doubt the company, which is the consulting arm of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, was hoping to avoid the ridicule that greeted PricewaterhouseCoopers when it announced it was changing the name of its consulting arm to Monday last month.

Andersen, the consulting arm of the accounting firm, didn't receive much better press when it changed its name to Accenture in January 2001. David Owen, managing director of Deloitte Consulting UK, said of the name: "The fact it does mean something -- it is a real name as opposed to an invention -- makes it comfortable to adopt."

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