B&L Bulks Up with New Collections

LOS ANGELES — One-year-old B&L Distribution — which markets and distributes Land Rover and Gant footwear lines in the U.S. — is finding a silver lining in the weakening dollar.

Todd Lemere, president of the Santa Barbara, Calif.-based firm, said he is reaping the rewards of having a European partner, the Netherlands-based Bos Groep. “It’s a good time to start a company if your financial backing is coming from Europe,” he said.

B&L was formed last year when Bos — which had been a distributor for Skechers in the mid-1990s — wanted to expand into the U.S. Execs at the company contacted Lemere, who was then working at Global Brand Marketing Inc. as VP of international operations. “They approached me with this opportunity, and I felt it was a great one,” he said. “The idea was to bring some of their brands to the U.S. market.”

Under the banner of B&L, Lemere is responsible for importing, marketing and distributing Bos-owned and licensed footwear labels in the States. For the spring ’08 season, Lemere launched Land Rover footwear, accessory items and luggage. For fall, the company introduced Gant, which debuted at February’s edition of WSA. Both of those introductions were built on licenses held by Bos. Now, B&L is preparing to debut Bos-owned Maruti Footwear for spring ’09. “It will be a global launch focused on Europe and the U.S.,” Lemere said.

Dan Singer, co-owner, VP of sales and another GBMI veteran, said the company has chosen to introduce brands that retail for about $200. “We feel we’ll best excel with brands that hit the higher end of the medium price point,” he said. “We’re going for the upper end of better and best [retailers].”

Singer said the company’s distribution is 60 percent independent boutiques and 40 percent department stores. In the future, however, that’s likely to even out.

Looking ahead, Lemere said Bos’ non-fashion business ventures, which include furniture, could pull his firm into other industries. “As the company grows and other opportunities arise, they could take the company in different directions outside footwear,” he said.

For now, though, Lemere said the firm would focus on building and nurturing its nascent brand portfolio. “Our goal is to steadily grow the company and remain very focused on our business and our existing brands,” he said.

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