FILA TO INCREASE INTERNET FOCUS

Byline: Rosemary Feitelberg

NEW YORK — With its newly formed subsidiary, FilaNet Inc., Fila Holding SpA plans to upgrade its Web site and tighten the ties between online sales and in-store traffic.
The company announced Monday that it will manage its worldwide business-to-consumer pitch through a sports and lifestyle portal. The launch is scheduled for the first quarter of next year and a “more than seven-digit investment” is under way, according to Howe Birch, vice president of advertising and communications for Fila USA.
Under the guidance of Vincenzo Russi, FilaNet’s new chief executive, the company aims to offer more customized products for individual consumers, provide various information about fitness and lifestyle issues, communicate regularly with shoppers and create a retail experience that incorporates online visits.
Russi, 41, previously worked as vice president of the e-business service line for Ernst & Young. In that role, he helped European companies such as Ducati and Barilla establish and execute their Web sites.
Fila plans to implement new technology and broadband services to insure that consumers can contact the company easily, Russi said.
The click-and-mortar approach also encourages shoppers to support stores that carry Fila merchandise, he added.
FilaNet will be based at Fila’s research and development center in Peabody, Mass. Within the next 12 months, about 25 employees will be hired; that figure should double in 2002.
In March, Fila plans to open a 14,000-square-foot flagship on Milan’s Piazza del Duomo that will mirror the brand’s online experience. Customized products — merchandise that will be available online once the revamp is complete — will be offered based on customers’ athletic and stylistic preferences and in-store kiosks will be set up to allow shoppers to browse and make purchases from the entire selection.
In addition, if a shopper is unable to find a correct size or color in the store, she can use the in-store kiosk or ask the store manager to have the item shipped, either to her home or to the store.
The company is focusing on the U.S. and Canada, due to the presence of Fila.com, consumers’ familiarity and usage with the Internet in general in these markets and the opportunity to play up the brand’s traditional advertising online, Russi said. Additional information that relates to Italy, Spain, France, Germany, the U.K., Japan and Korea will be added subsequently.
The brand is also trying to maximize its lifestyle image through the revamped site.
“Unlike Nike, Adidas and some of the other brands, we’re not all about competition and who is first at the finish line. We think sport is part of life, but not life itself,” Birch said.
Earlier this year, Adidas unveiled its trainingforsport.com site, which also offers users a variety of sport-related information, and Reebok followed suit with a more customized informational approach to its Web site, reebok.com.
The objective is to create a community of users who relate to Fila’s lifestyle-inspired brand image. Given that, FilaNet will offer a breadth of information such as travel tips for the New York City Marathon, nutritional tips and training-related book titles.
“It’s not just about buying running shoes,” Birch said.
The new design is expected to attract three types of customers — people looking for a community that shares their interests; people looking for content that relates to their preferred sport or lifestyle, and people looking to buy online products without any hassles, Russi said.
To drum up ideas for the new site, Fila hosted “idea labs” with architects, musicians, doctors, athletes and a host of other individuals, Birch said. The company came up with 300 ideas from the five sessions, which were held here and in Milan.
The concept will later be rolled out in London, Paris, Tokyo and throughout the U.S.

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