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ITALIAN SHOES FOR CHILDREN, SYNONYMOUS WITH TRADITION AND QUALITY
Children’s shoes hold pride of place on the international footwear market: in 2007 they generated a turnover of more than 22.1 billion Euros. Also in 2007, Italian businesses produced almost 16.6 million pairs of shoes, netting 395.2 million Euros (data provided by ANCI, the National Association of Italian Footwear Factories). Production is intended primarily for the foreign market, as indicated by the 15.4 million plus pairs of shoes exported in 2007, at the equivalent value of 347.7 million Euros. In the field are budding new players (such as Lelli Kelly) and other firmly established brands: such as the Tuscan shoe business Balducci on the market since 1934, or the Umbrian company Primigi, founded in 1976.
Primigi, a brand of shoes for children up to the age of ten, is the brainchild of Igi, a company that has specialized in children’s footwear for more than four decades. Igi was acquired in 2001 by Imac Spa, a leading Italian footwear group based in Le Marche. The Umbrian company, now known as Imac Spa divisione Igi, has in addition to Primigi the brand of Igi & Co: in 2007 it generated a turnover of around 92 million Euros. Primigi-Igi markets around four million pairs of shoes every year. The company has diversified over time and, since the early 1990s, outsourced its production to Eastern Europe and North Africa (Rumania, Bulgaria, Russia and Tunisia). The point of this strategy is to maintain a good quality/price ratio and an edge on the competition. Overall, 35% of Primigi’s production is intended for export, prevalently to European markets. Recently, however, its products have also seen positive results in the United States and in the Middle East.
Balducci, instead, makes the Italian spirit its coup de force. Graziano Bottai, the commercial manager, explained: “We operate primarily on the national market and manufacture our shoes almost entirely in Tuscany, thereby exalting the broad knowledge of the art of footwear in our region.” In the case of certain product lines, however, Balducci has had to turn to the needs of the global market; Bottai added: “The gym shoes are manufactured by foreign suppliers, although we like to keep a tight check on these mainly to ensure the products are not toxic.” Balducci, the doyen of the Italian children’s footwear industry and now over 70 years old, is specialized chiefly in footwear for children up to the age of four – the so-called “first step” shoes. Bottai continued: “Children never fail to love our footwear.” The shoes are most appreciated for the fact they always adapt to the anatomy of children’s feet, thanks to raw materials that exalt properties such as softness and flexibility.
If Balducci and Primigi have made Italian history in children’s footwear, the most recent phenomenon has been the company Lelli Kelly, owner of the brands Lelli Kelly and Bull Boys. The brands have now been around for 15 years (Lelli Kelly was founded in 1992, Bull Boys in 1993), and in this time have established themselves in Italy and overseas to be sold by more than 1,500 retailers in Italy and at 1,700 sales points world-wide. With a turnover of more than 60,000 million Euros, the company has also (since 2004) successfully explored the market in the USA.