MILAN — Italian luxury innerwear and beachwear firm La Perla has taken control of its longtime partner, London-based distributor Hornvale.

This story first appeared in the January 25, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The move is in line with the company’s strategy to strengthen and expand its distribution. Through the acquisition, La Perla adds 12 directly operated points of sale, including the brand’s London Sloane Street boutique and several in department stores such as Harrods, Selfridges and Harvey Nichols, as well as an outlet store in Bicester Village.

Alain Prost, chief executive officer of La Perla, said it was “key” for the company to directly manage the U.K. market, which accounts for 12 percent of the company’s sales outside Italy.

“We feel that the market can continue to grow and develop, thanks to a more direct commercial oversight and stronger integration into La Perla’s logistics network,” said Prost.

In the second half of 2009, La Perla, which is owned by San Francisco-based private equity firm JH Partners, brought the Benelux market and its Brussels boutique under direct control of its French subsidiary.

In Asia, La Perla now directly manages its distribution in Hong Kong and China, adding six boutiques and shop-in-shops to the already existing Singapore boutique. The company plans to open two additional stores in Asia this year.

In November, the company opened a boutique in Malibu, Calif., adding to its 60 directly operated stores and 40 franchised boutiques. The brand is also available at 2,500 other points of sale worldwide. Exports account for 55 percent of revenues.

For fall, La Perla will unveil a new label, called Villa Toscana, to flank the premium La Perla and more minimal La Perla Studio brands.

In 2008, the company generated sales of 150 million to 160 million euros, or $225 million to $240 million at current exchange, down 10 to 15 percent from 2007. Combined annual retail and wholesale sales volume for 2009 were not yet available, said company officials.

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