Corso Como Branches Out, Expands Online

NEW YORK — Corso Como is having a growth spurt.

Since its 2006 launch, the Campo Bom, Brazil-based brand has been steadily adding new categories, expanding its retail and online presence and bolstering its name in the U.S. and abroad.

“We’re feeling very bullish,” said Corso Como President Max Harrell. “We’re opening at least one new account a week and have a lot of growth potential.”

Though the brand saw a modest 6 percent increase in 2009, Harrell said he hopes that moves over the last year — including a new e-commerce site and the launches of handbags and foldable shoe line Ballasox — will boost sales about 30 percent by the end of 2010.

Sold in 870 doors in the U.S., including Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s and Anthropologie, and in another 250 shops internationally, Corso Como in May made its first move into branded retail with a website and e-commerce platform. While the site is set up for consumers to buy directly from the brand, Harrell said a critical part of the initiative is to make it easier to find retailers carrying the collection.

“We want this to be a selling tool not just for us but [for our retail partners],” said Harrell, noting that the site links to department store and e-tailer home pages and provides maps to the shops.

The company also is eyeing expansion across Europe, particularly in England, France, Italy and Spain, and plans to up its trade show presence in the region.

Corso Como has made its mark in the women’s market with its collection of low-key, sophisticated and comfort-driven designs at accessible price points, and is growing the category mix.

Handbags, launched for fall ’10 with licensee HBA Accessories, are the most recent addition and include styles for Corso Como and Ciao Bella, the brand’s lower-priced, China-made line.

Ciao Bella has become a key part of the business since its launch in spring ’09, making up about 20 percent of total sales, Harrell said. The line has been picked up by independent and department stores looking for the Corso Como aesthetic at a lower price point.

“Corso Como brings great styling and quality, and our customers like the clean but fashionable looks,” said Rachel Funk, merchandiser at Shoemall.com. “We’ve recently started carrying Ciao Bella, and are excited for the addition of an opening price point associated with the Corso Como name.”

Moving forward, Harrell said he also is seeking to turn the Ballasox offering into a standalone business.

Harrell said the line of rubber-soled, foldable flats, which launched for spring ’10, is being targeted to footwear stores and less traditional points of distribution.

The leather shoes, which come in two sock-lined styles and are priced at $60, are packaged in small pouches and sold in Plexiglass displays suitable for department stores or a nail salon. The goal, Harrell explained, is to make the product accessible for women who are stuck in less-comfortable shoes.

“I’m hoping to have them on every corner. I want them to be like Starbucks,” he said. “It’s great for any woman, especially tourists who weren’t expecting to walk around so much.”

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