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DE TOMMASO, WHEN THE TRADITIONAL SHOE AND HI-TECH COME TOGETHER
The origins of de Tomasso date directly back to the 18th century, when the ancestors of the family which has always controlled this little gem of the Italian handmade footwear industry, are said to have supplied shoes and boots to Napoleon. Today de Tomasso (www.detommaso.it) produces footwear of various types, as well as classical styles. All are produced entirely by hand, with leather purchased exclusively from tanneries in Tuscany and Marche. It has always been a conscious choice of manufacturing strategy to offer various product lines which range from “luxury” (formal footwear) to technical footwear such as the “Golf” or “Yacht” product lines. The Italian company recently won an order from a large Chinese fashion group for its golf shoes. In general, de Tommaso exports its golf footwear to various countries, including Russia, Australia and Japan.
Internationalisation, which is today the norm (40% of revenues come from overseas) was a conscious choice right from the company’s origins. The de Tomasso company is headquartered in Cosenza province (a city in the South of Italy within the Calabria region) and far from the major shoe-making districts of Italy. We could only make our brand stand out by manoeuvring the lever of quality and by being forward-looking beyond our field of reference. “That is how it happened. But the effort to gain credit for the company – explains the sole director Cosimo Tommaso – was not straightforward”. The approach adopted was original, as it made use of a sort of word of mouth which involved the company’s first clients and turned them into testimonials for the quality of de Tommaso, which has gradually asserted itself in Italy and the world.
Today, management of global markets is executed in various ways: the company makes use of distributors (leading fashion groups and/or groups in the shoe sector) as well as upscale boutiques associated with high craftsmanship (many of them offer tailored clothing creations and are interested in footwear sewn by hand so that they can offer a complete look which is entirely tailored and ‘Made in Italy’). Finally, it also has its own commercial network present in the most significant foreign markets as well as throughout Italy. And today the company exports primarily to the Russian Federation, England, Switzerland, Germany, Australia, Japan and the United States.
Once markets are won over, de Tommaso has set in motion a more organic approach, involving the company’s underlying set-up. Our very high level of hand-crafted quality – continues the company’s number one – was no longer enough: in order to position ourselves consistently at the upper end of the market, it was necessary to invest in research. A partnership was thus launched with the University of Calabria, which has brought not only added value but also prestige”. A small company with 35 employees, all highly-professional skilled craft workers, with a turnover of 1.5 million (though in 2008 the company expects to increase revenues by 33%) has in this way won plaudits, thanks to the interest and curiosity aroused by these initiatives. And the relationship with research has been essential in fine-tuning the remote measurement system or “foot scanner” which, thanks to a double scan (optical and laser), is able to collect all parameters of the foot remotely and to transmit them to the headquarters in Rende.
“Only in this manner – continues Cosimo de Tommaso – are we certain to produce a shoe which is literally made-to-measure and constructed on the foot of the person wearing it. We currently make use of four scanners: two in Moscow, one in London and one in Switzerland. But we are planning on increasing their distribution. They are machines made available to the clientele at specialised retail outlets or at leading tailored fashion shops, to reinforce the old-fashioned link between tailor-made clothing and shoes sewn by hand based on the client’s measurements”. The foot scanner technology does not originally belong to de Tommaso: the Italian company enhanced a Japanese patent that was already in existence. “Our role was to add that secret ingredient which comes out of our craft tradition in the workmanship of shoes, which allows us to develop the shape of the shoe in a manner that guarantees well-fitting shoes for anyone", emphasises de Tommaso.
At the start of 2008 and just a few months ago, the company unveiled its first single-brand shop in the Calabrian city of Catanzaro. “The objective - explains Cosimo de Tommaso – is to test the market and the initial response has been decisively encouraging”. The success of the test in its own territory has reinforced the company’s ambition to launch itself in overseas markets with dedicated retail outlets. And the first cross-border leg could be the United States. “Just recently at the beginning of July – continues de Tommaso – I was in the States to check on the progress of a study (developed jointly with the University of Calabria) to evaluate the capability of a small Italian shoe-making company to penetrate the local market”. In a manner of speaking, if this prospecting is successful, ‘landing’ in the United States will soon become a reality. “I believe that two years might be a realistic time horizon”, concludes Cosimo de Tommaso.