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LINEAMARCHE SHOES, AN INNOVATIVE MADE IN ITALY PRODUCT WITH A STRONG SENSE OF IDENTITY


LINEAMARCHE SHOES, AN INNOVATIVE MADE IN ITALY PRODUCT WITH A STRONG SENSE OF IDENTITY

Created in 1972, Italian shoemakers Linea Marche is now present with its two brands, Vic Matié and O.X.S., all over the world, with more than 1,000 sales points in multibrand shops and medium-high level department stores, as well as five flagship stores of their own. Last year, the firm, which has its headquarters at Piticchio di Arcevia (province of Ancona), recorded a turnover of 42.5 million Euros. Half of this was from exports, mainly to Europe, which alone contributes 40% to the total. Outside of Western Europe the main outlet markets are Russia, followed by Japan, the Middle East and to a lesser extent the United States. The two brands, Vic Matié and O.X.S., are distributed by approximately a thousand retailers (half of which are outside Italy) all over the globe. We asked President Renato Curzi to tell us about his company, starting from their distributional strategies.

President Curzi, isn’t it more difficult to get a hold on the market without single-brand sales points to promote the brand?

We are aware that we need dedicated points in the key locations of world shopping, just to say that we’re here too. This is why we have opened flagship stores in Rome, Milan, Catania and Düsseldorf. These points are very important to show that we exist. This year we will be opening a “shop in the shop” with our Vic Matié brand at the Galleries Lafayette in Paris. Apart from these stores, we have fixed showrooms in Spain, France, Russia, and Greece, and travelling showrooms in Germany, Belgium and Switzerland. Our sales network is completed by agents and sole agents supported by the company showrooms in Milan and Rome, or operating on their own, such as our representant in the UK. To reach high figures, however, we don’t need distributors. Our thousand operating clients are multibrand retailers who we supply two to four times a year. For them, we produce collections up to twice in a season, including not only shoes but accessories, which don’t have a big effect on volume but are useful to promote the brand and to create our image.

How important is positioning in your business model?

There’s no doubt that it holds a fundamental role. But that’s not enough – the most important thing is have the capacity to be discontinuous. The logic of the two spring/summer and autumn/winter collections is no longer in line with the consumer’s evolution, which no longer follows a pattern. Only a firm able to break with the past can survive in this market. Otherwise you go down, there aren’t many alternatives.

Changing purchase strategies, rock bottom consumerism due to the global financial crisis. How difficult is it to remain competitive, at the moment?

At the moment consumers have very little faith in the future, in our current dynamics and systems. I, personally, was expecting this. I’m not saying that for love of paradoxes – I believe Made in Italy products are facing an extraordinary occasion. On the condition that we are aware of change.

What kind of change do you foresee?

The fall in consumerism will be accompanied by a change in habits. Consumers will spend less, but pay more attention to quality. Fewer occasions to buy, therefore, but much more gratifying. In this sense, I have faith in Made in Italy products, because their fundamental characteristics of style, refinement, innovation and modernity put Italian products in line with the times. The Italian brand, however, is nothing without identity.

Who decides this identity, in your company?

My daughter, Silvia Curzi, our brand manager. She is responsible for the brand, and she defines its identity. In detail, our brands are positioned just below designer goods: in this way we can propose what we believe is an “accessible” price for our reference target, an honest value for a product with a high level of genuine and perceived quality. We believe that a purchase is above all the response to an emotion. Therefore, first we try to arouse an emotion in our clients, and at the same time we propose a highly functional and quality shoe.

You mentioned quality only after talking about emotion. So which is more important for Linea Marche?

Quality is and always will be important. It is a fundamental element which pays over time. The skill of our craftsmen, who are genuine master shoemakers, are the best guarantee of high quality levels. However, a well made shoe that transmits no emotion doesn’t arouse anything in a potential buyer. It is important to ensure that shoes that look good and create emotion are also easy to wear and use. Otherwise, the shoe is worthless.

Perhaps you mean that designers sometimes go too far, seeking more to create effect than to design “wearable” shoes?

If you forgive me the paradox, I’ll reply by saying that designers could be the ruin of companies, but companies would be ruined without them. By this I mean that it’s impossible to do without them, but the last word always belongs to the person who holds and is constantly reinventing the brand’s image, the brand manager. This is why we prefer to use designers from outside the firm, who are willing to share the risk with us. Without forgetting our in-house professionals who have the sensitivity, taste and technical knowledge to develop our collections. One of the most exciting aspects, for me, is that the average age of our “creative” staff is not much higher than 30.

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