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Firms Crack New Markets as Italian Shoe Biz Surges

MILAN — Signs of recovery in the Italian footwear business — including a rise in international expansion plans — emerged at the latest edition of The Micam, held here Sept. 15-18.

“Considering last summer’s slowdown in sales, we expected a difficult trade show, but we are registering positive signs,” said Enrico Paniccià, managing director of Giano, which manufactures the footwear collections of Italian brands La Martina and Harmont & Blaine. The company registers 60 percent of sales from Italy. Revenues for 2012 rose 20 percent year-over-year to 10 million euros, or $13.5 million at current exchange.

“In the last 12 to 24 months, the national market suffered and sales dropped, also because of the VAT [value added tax] increase,” said Paniccià, adding that Giano is reinforcing its business abroad. The firm, which counts Russia, various former Soviet Union countries and the Middle East as its most important markets, is also looking to China for further expansion.

Another high-end brand, Ballin, which expects to close the year with revenues up 10 percent compared with 2012, has its sights set on the U.S.

“We want to make a comeback in the North American market with a specific strategy,” said the company’s sales director, Lorenzo Del Biondo, noting that Ballin aims to set up a showroom in New York to manage sales there.

Del Biondo said the first step of expanding in the U.S. includes the creation of a solid wholesale business. The firm also is interested in opening a flagship on New York’s Madison Avenue.

Retail expansion is on the agenda for Gimmi Baldinini, president of Italian footwear company Baldinini, which operates 150 stores worldwide. The company forecasts 15 percent revenue growth for 2013 and plans to open additional doors in Russia and a boutique close to London’s Old Bond Street by year-end.

During The Micam, the firm opened its first “Baldinini Trend” store, featuring a new retail concept and a different range of products. “It’s a format we want to expand in the world,” Baldinini said. “With ‘Baldinini Trend’ we offer beautiful-yet-affordable items, not exclusively for a younger target.”

Growth also is expected for the contemporary division at Iris, which, along with a number of in-house collections, manufactures the shoe range of Jil Sander Navy and See by Chloé. “Due to an increase in the price of raw materials, we had to review our retail prices, which are up between 5 and 10 percent. Also for the contemporary lines, we never want to compromise quality,” said the company’s commercial director, Gabriella Zampolla.

On the other hand, Attilio Giusti Leombruni opted to maintain existing prices.

“We are going through a positive moment for the company, which during the last few years has seen its revenues rise,” said Vera Giusti, the brand’s creative director and communications manager.

For Milan-based Yoox Group, owner of Shoescribe.com and operator of a spate of brand-specific online shoe stores, The Micam served as “one of the most important exhibitions” for footwear, according to Alessandra Rossi, commercial director of multibrand. She noted, “There was a prominent mix of materials, transparencies via mesh effects and lace, as well as printed fabric shoes, particularly for pumps and sneakers.”

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