EYES AHEAD: Prada and Italian eyewear maker De Rigo announced Wednesday that EID (International Eyewear Distribution), the joint venture created in 1999 between the two companies to produce and distribute eyewear lines for the Prada, Miu Miu, Jil Sander and Helmut Lang lines, will sign a licensing agreement with Avant-garde Optics to produce and distribute Prada-branded eyewear in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. Avant-garde Optics is controlled by De Rigo’s competitor, Luxottica Group SpA. The deal squelches rumors that Prada chief executive Patrizio Bertelli was planning to terminate the joint venture with De Rigo after growing unhappy with its distribution in the U.S. The Avant-garde agreement does not change the distribution for the Italian and European markets, where EID operates directly through its own network. The Prada eyewear collections will be showcased at Vision Expo East in New York this month. Meanwhile, well-placed sources here say Luxottica continues to consider an acquisition of De Rigo, although Luxottica has denied it. Luxottica has been looking for ways to fill the gap left by the termination of the license with Giorgio Armani last year. Earlier this year, it signed a deal to acquire IC Optics, the firm that produces Versace eyewear, and to produce and distribute eyewear for that company.

This story first appeared in the March 13, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

KOHL’S JOINS NRF: The $7 billion, 400-unit Kohl’s Corp. and several other retailers have joined The National Retail Federation industry organization this year. Other retailers signing on include Jo-Ann Stores Inc., the largest national chain for the retail fabric and craft industry with almost 1,000 stores in the U.S.; Cort Furniture Rental, with 120 locations coast to coast, and OBI Bau, the largest retail home center in continental Europe with 464 stores.

LUCK OF THE IRISH: Enterprise Ireland, the government agency that promotes Irish exports, cited QVC as the largest single purchaser of Irish consumer goods in the U.S. “QVC has been a wonderful associate for Irish small business and craftspeople, and a great way for these companies and individuals to market their goods outside of the Irish marketplace,” said Ruairi Curtin, vice president of consumer products for Enterprise Ireland in New York. Said Doug Howe, QVC’s vice president of merchandising: “When we first introduced Irish products to our customers, it was a novelty business. It has now grown to over $30 million. Certainly, many Irish products are purchased during our themed programs on St. Patrick’s Day and on the Rose of Tralee, but they are very popular throughout the year, as well.”

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