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Omas’ Signature Strategy

NEW YORK -- Omas is ready to ink the next chapter in its 77-year history.<P>The Bologna, Italy-based luxury pen company is planning to increase its visibility in the U.S. market, with stepped-up distribution, a streamlined collection of handmade pens...

NEW YORK — Omas is ready to ink the next chapter in its 77-year history.

The Bologna, Italy-based luxury pen company is planning to increase its visibility in the U.S. market, with stepped-up distribution, a streamlined collection of handmade pens and a new marketing campaign.

Omas, short for Officina Meccanica Armando Simoni, was founded by Armando Simoni in 1925. The firm was family owned and run by descendants of Simoni until 2000, when LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton purchased it for an undisclosed sum.

At the time of the acquisition, LVMH chief executive officer Bernard Arnault said: “Omas is exactly the type of company we’re interested in acquiring. As a brand, it has a respected image and product, but its sales are underdeveloped.”

Initially, LVMH left Omas, which is estimated to have annual sales of about $5 million, in the hands of Simoni’s grandson Gianluca Malaguti, as ceo, and other family members.

Last September, LVMH installed Eric Aliamus as president, who joined from Hennessy, where he was international vice president. Prior to that, he was sales and marketing vice president for Veuve Clicquot.

“Mr. Arnault was interested in Omas as a testament to excellence and uniqueness of product,” said Aliamus at the LVMH headquarters on 57th Street in New York last month. “Some products are unique and niche, but they always represent total luxury.”

Founder Simoni favored classicist motifs and worked them into the pen designs, including a signature Hellenic motif that encircles the rings of the pen caps. Each pen is handmade in the artisan tradition, and the hallmark of the collection is the Arte Italiana group, which features a line representing a Greek column, and 360, a line of triangular-shaped pens.

Aliamus said that since the acquisition, Omas focused its stockkeeping units, decreasing them from 400 to 250 across five lines. The firm also modernized its production capacity to slash the manufacturing time from six months to 100 days, created basic communication tools, such as catalogs and press material, and began rebuilding distribution, which was virtually nonexistent in the U.S. and France.

Omas pens are distributed to 43 upscale specialty pen stores, and Aliamus said that the plan is to extend this with select higher-end department stores. The pens retail from $195 to $30,000, though the average item sells for $500.

Omas’ target market is similar to that of Montegrappa, the Milan-based luxury pen company which was acquired by Richemont in 2000 and is distributed in North America by Cartier, Inc. Montegrappa’s prices range from $95 to $12,000 and limited editions can retail up to $700,000. In comparison, Montblanc pens are generally priced between $130 to $12,000, with limited editions up to $20,000.

“The U.S. is the number-one market for very nice pens, and it should consist of one-third of sales in the future,” Aliamus said.

Aliamus’ key goal is to maintain an exclusive, luxury clientele.

“Omas is a small company and will remain small,” said Aliamus. “This year, we will produce 35,000 to 40,000 units. Within three years, we want to produce 100,000 pens. That’s still only one-fifteenth of what Montblanc produces.””