Deckers Outdoor Corporation was incorporated in 1975 under the laws of the State of California and, in 1993, reincorporated under the laws of the State of Delaware. We are a leading designer, producer, marketer, and brand manager of innovative, high-quality footwear and accessories. Our footwear is distinctive and appeals broadly to men, women and children. We sell our products, including accessories such as handbags, headwear, and outerwear, through quality domestic retailers and international distributors and directly to end-user consumers, both domestically and internationally, through our websites, call centers, retail concept stores and retail outlet stores. Our primary objective is to build our footwear lines into global lifestyle brands with market leadership positions. We seek to differentiate our brands and products by offering diverse lines that emphasize authenticity, functionality, quality and comfort and products tailored to a variety of activities, seasons and demographic groups. Virtually all of our products are manufactured by independent contractors outside of the United States (US). Our continued growth will depend upon the broadening of our products offered under each brand, expanding domestic and international distribution, and developing or acquiring new brands.
We market our products primarily under three proprietary brands:
UGG®. UGG Australia is our luxury comfort brand and the category creator for luxury sheepskin footwear. The UGG brand has enjoyed several years of strong growth and positive consumer reception, driven by consistent introductions of new styles, introductions of UGG products in the fall and spring seasons and strategic geographic expansion of our distribution. We carefully manage the distribution of our UGG products within high-end specialty and department store retailers in order to best reach our target consumers, preserve the UGG brand's retail channel positioning and maintain the UGG brand's position as a mid- to upper-price luxury brand.
In recent years, sales of UGG products have benefited from significant national media attention and celebrity endorsement through our marketing programs and product placement activities, raising the profile of our UGG brand as a luxury comfort brand. We have further supported the UGG brand's market positioning by expanding the selection of styles available in order to build consumer interest in our UGG brand collection. We also remain committed to limiting distribution of UGG products to high-end retail channels.
Teva®. Teva is our outdoor performance and lifestyle brand and pioneer of the sport sandal market. We have expanded the Teva product line over time to include open and closed-toe outdoor lifestyle footwear, as well as additional outdoor performance footwear, including multi-sport shoes, light hiking shoes, amphibious footwear, and rugged outdoor travel shoes.
In recent seasons, we have focused on regaining our leadership position in the performance sandal market, while broadening our performance platform to include other outdoor activities such as multi-sport and light hiking to lessen our overall reliance on sandal sales, while bringing youthfulness back to the brand through contemporary designs, colors and materials. In 2008, we introduced a modest assortment of fall and winter footwear. We followed that up in fall 2009 with a more complete collection of seasonally appropriate performance and lifestyle products for men, women and children. The fall 2009 line included high performance light hikers with eVent waterproof membranes and Vibram rubber outsoles, rugged multi-sport shoes and a range of women's lifestyle boots in both leather and suede with warm, faux fur linings.
In 2010, we plan to continue to build on our water-related performance heritage and continue to inject youthfulness into the Teva brand. We will introduce a more expansive collection of performance and lifestyle open-toe product, while also significantly increasing our offering in closed-toe light hiking, multi-sport and rugged casual footwear.
Simple®. In 2005, as a response to the massive amount of waste produced by the footwear industry, the Simple brand launched a new collection of sustainable footwear called Green Toe®. Green Toe represents a revolutionary shift in thinking about footwear by building a shoe from the inside out using sustainable materials and processes. The Simple brand's mission is to be the world leader in sustainable and stylish footwear and accessories. We feel that how we make Simple products is just as important as why we make them. That means our goal is to find more sustainable and innovative ways of doing business as well as making products that are fashionable, youthful and functional.
In addition to our primary brands, our newest brands include TSUBO®, a line of high-end casual footwear that incorporates style, function and maximum comfort, and Ahnu®, a line of outdoor performance and lifestyle footwear. We acquired 100% of the ownership interests of TSUBO, LLC in May 2008, and we acquired 100% of the ownership interest of Ahnu, Inc. in March 2009.
Product Design and Development
The design and product development staff for each of our brands creates new innovative footwear products that combine our standards of high quality, comfort and functionality. The design function for all of our brands is performed by a combination of our internal design and development staff plus outside design firms. By introducing outside firms to the design process, we believe we are able to review a variety of different design perspectives on a cost-efficient basis and anticipate color and style trends more quickly. Refer to Note 1 to our accompanying consolidated financial statements for a discussion of our research and development costs for the last three years.
In order to ensure quality, consistency and efficiency in our design and product development process, we continually evaluate the availability and cost of raw materials, the capabilities and capacity of our independent contract manufacturers and the target retail price of new models and lines. The design and development staff works closely with brand management to develop new styles of footwear and accessories for our various product lines. We develop detailed drawings and prototypes of our new products to aid in conceptualization and to ensure our contemplated new products meet the standards for innovation and performance that our consumers demand. Throughout the development process, we have multiple design and development reviews, and members of the design staff coordinate with our domestic and overseas product development, manufacturing and sourcing personnel. This ensures that we are addressing the needs of our consumers and are working toward a common goal of developing and producing a high quality product to be delivered on a timely basis.
Our business is seasonal, with the highest percentage of UGG brand net sales occurring in the third and fourth quarters of each calendar year. Thus, our net sales in the last half of the year have exceeded that for the first half of the year, and we expect this trend to continue. Our other brands do not have a significant seasonal impact on our business. Nonetheless, actual results could differ materially depending upon consumer preferences, availability of product, competition and our customers continuing to carry and promote our various product lines, among other risks and uncertainties.
At December 31, 2009, we employed approximately one thousand employees in the US, Europe and Asia, none of whom were represented by a union. This figure includes approximately 470 employees in our retail stores worldwide, which includes part-time and seasonal employees. The large increase in employees during the year was primarily related to increased selling, general and administration headcount commensurate with our growth. We intend to increase our employee count further in 2010 primarily related to retail stores and our other expansion initiatives. We believe our relationships with our employees are good.