Harbor Adds Exec Talent, Updates Flagship Lines

NEW YORK — Harbor Footwear Group Ltd. is fine-tuning its portfolio.

The Port Washington, N.Y.-based firm recently added fashion industry veteran Marty Staff as chief business development officer, as well as retooled its signature Giorgio Brutini line and stepped up its Web presence.

“The economy changed and that’s why we have to be sharper,” said CEO Dennis Lazar. “It’s time to restart.”

Leading the charge is Staff, who is focused on setting a new tone, starting with spring ’13. “We want to be clear on what each brand represents and put up firewalls between [them],” Staff said about Harbor’s marquee brands: GBX, Giorgio Brutini, Bass and Izod. “Each represents something different and special. We’ve edited our styles more carefully than ever before.”

Already, Izod and Bass have helped the firm expand its reach, according to company VP Jason Lazar.

Bass, licensed to Harbor in 2006, opened the door to upscale retailers including Barneys, J.Crew, Opening Ceremony and Bloomingdale’s. “It’s the most-expensive tier in retail [for Harbor],” Lazar said.

Conversely, Izod, licensed in 2011, has afforded nationwide distribution in such stores as JCPenney. According to Staff, footwear will be included in the string of new Izod shops set to bow in 150 to 200 JCPenney doors for the holidays.

Now, family-owned Harbor Footwear is ready to put its energies back into building its signature GBX and Giorgio Brutini labels, which represent 60 percent to 70 percent of the overall business.

Harbor is kicking off the initiative by updating the Giorgio Brutini line, which retails from $50 to $100. Over the years, the brand had been known for its colorful, urban-oriented dress looks. Now it features a more contemporary look to broaden its appeal.

“It’s more fashionable and modern. We’ve cleaned it up,” said Lazar.

At Zappos.com, men’s fashion footwear buyer Avneet Singh said the brand’s spring collection is right on trend. He cited two-tone looks and colored soles as highlights. “It’s what we’ve been seeing in the market,” he said. “They’ve been doing a good job of placing [these trends] in their space. At their price point, they do it well.”

To help fuel buzz, Harbor is collaborating with blogger Izzy Tuason of The Dandy Project on a special Giorgio Brutini collection set to bow next year. “He wears the shoes himself,” said Staff. “He’s an opinion leader.”

Complementing Giorgio Brutini is the GBX line of casuals, retailing from $40 to $80. “In the casual marketplace, there’s an opportunity to [garner] significant market share,” said Lazar.

Among GBX’s accounts are The Buckle, Journeys and DSW. The brand also is sold internationally in the Philippines, and the firm is now working on European distribution.

All told, Harbor Footwear expects to see a double-digit increase in sales this year.