ROCKPORT, KIRSHENBAUM CALL IT QUITS ON SHOE BIZ: N.Y. AGENCY'S LAST SPOT FOR CLIENT BREAKS THIS WEEK

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Rockport Co. and Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners have realized they no longer fit. The shoe marketer and the agency are parting ways as Rockport searches for a new shop.

The split is amicable; the division of Reebok International probably will seek a smaller shop closer to its Massachusetts headquarters.

This week, New York-based Kirshenbaum Bond breaks a new TV spot for Rockport, a departure from its previous "Uncompromise" campaign.

The ad shows a woman in Rockport shoes walking down a city street crowded with cars, people and dogs. Yet the woman is oblivious to the noise: She hears peaceful ocean sounds. For example, a taxi horn sounds like a ship's horn and the barking dogs, seagulls.

A LEVEL BUDGET

Part of the reason for the split may be that the account -- billed as $7 million when Kirshenbaum Bond won it in 1996 -- was supposed to have grown to $28 million by 1998, according to an executive close to both companies. But that didn't materialize. Rockport spent $7.1 million last year and $2.4 million through May, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

Kirshenbaum likely won't pursue another shoe account. It handles Tommy Hilfiger, which has expanded its clothing line to include shoes.

SLOWING SALES

Rockport's sales have been relatively flat recently. The brand ranks No. 3 in men's shoes and No. 14 in women's by revenue, according to Footwear Market Insights, which pegs the total market at $38 billion. Rockport's share in the men's category increased slightly in 1998, to 3.7%. It dropped a bit in the women's category, from 1.4% in '97 to 1.2%.

Rockport is trying to spur growth with several new strategies. It opened concept boutiques within both department and athletic shoe stores last year and plans to have about 900 open by yearend. A few months ago, the company began selling golf

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