By  on January 3, 1994

NEW YORK -- Following a restructuring designed to completely change the way it sells its products, the accessories and shoe firm Bally of Switzerland is ready to take on the world.

In the last year, the company has opened a 25,000-square-foot design and sales center in Schonenwerd, Switzerland, near its Zurich headquarters; revamped its approach to wholesaling; launched a new design concept for the stores in its retail division, and introduced new advertising and marketing strategies.

A big goal of all this work is, of course, to amplify sales for the company, which has an annual worldwide volume of more than $800 million, about one-quarter of which is done in accessories. According to Josef Ming, president and chief executive officer of Bally of Switzerland, the company created the Swiss facility, called the Bally Lab, as a central place to organize this growth.

The lab, which was opened last August, enables all of the firm's designers and merchandisers to collaborate under one roof. Previously, the company had its designers scattered in separate divisions around the world, but now they all work together.

"In an area like accessories, having all of our designers work as a team makes a great deal of sense and could lead, I think, to increased opportunities," Ming said.

"In the past, handbag styles designed and sold in Europe, for instance, were much different from those in the U.S. Now we have the choice of doing bags that are salable in a number of different countries, in addition to creating bags exclusively for a particular market," Ming noted.

The lab also has showrooms and prototypes of Bally boutiques and shopping arcades that enable buyers to see for themselves how all Bally's merchandise can work together. This approach, which Bally calls its global range presentation, has already served to boost the firm's wholesale accessories business.

"In some countries, our accessories sales have already increased by 30 to 40 percent," Ming said. "The idea is to show stores that only carry our footwear that our accessories can also be worked in to create a full presentation at retail."

To give its wholesale volume an extra push, the company has also made all of its sales representatives -- who were formerly independent and contracted through Bally -- employees of the company. This has been done to bring Bally closer to its wholesale accounts, Ming said.

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