MILAN — Bikkembergs is banking on the footwear category to further its global reach and growth.
The brand has signed a five-year footwear deal with Rodolfo Zengarini, a manufacturer based in the Marche region that already produces and distributes footwear collections for such brands as John Galliano, Les Hommes, Ungaro Paris and Vivetta, among others. Bikkembergs’ former shoe licensee Global Brands Group Holding Ltd. filed for administration last year.
The first full collection will bow for spring 2023, although a number of styles have been produced as part of the fall 2022 collection.
Dario Predonzan, Bikkembergs’ chief operating officer, has been fine-tuning the company’s strategy since his arrival in 2017, forging new licenses to spur sales. He noted that “the first fashion item usually associated with Bikkembergs is the soccer-inspired sneaker,” explaining the buoyant success of the footwear category.
The latter accounts for 40 percent of Bikkembergs’ business, two-thirds of which is ascribable to men’s sales. The new partner is expected to fuel demand and growth for women’s shoes and to boost the international footprint of Bikkembergs’ footwear especially in the U.S., where it operates a showroom. Bikkembergs’ shoe collections are available at Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom.
“We’re targeting premium department stores, both in the brick-and-mortar and dot-com spaces,” said Predonzan. “The U.S. is a complex market, which you’d better approach straightforwardly, and the footwear category seemed the best option for us.” The deal marks a return to Made in Italy manufacturing, too, which had been traded for European suppliers with the former deal.
Although 2022 will be focused on expanding the footwear category, Predonzan said Bikkembergs is assessing other growth avenues, including the now-discontinued eyewear category, previously licensed to Allison.
The executive didn’t provide figures for 2021, but said he expects Bikkembergs to post a double-digit revenue jump compared to 2020, or a high-single-digit increase versus 2019.
For 2022, he mentioned bullish investments in the e-commerce channel, which increased 16 percent in 2021 versus the previous year, on top of a 29 percent jump in 2020 compared to pre-pandemic levels.
The dot-com strategy goes hand in hand with more cautious brick-and-mortar developments. In October Bikkembergs unveiled a new store in Saint Petersburg, Russia, its 11th in the region.
Globally there are 32 flagships, five of which are directly operated by the company’s shareholder Canudilo Modern Avenue, the Chinese retail giant that took over the brand in 2019, acquiring the remaining 49 percent stake it did not already own from Italian companies Zeis Excelsa and Sinv.
A retail push in Italy is also top of mind, especially with the reopening of a Milan unit, which was closed in 2018, but Predonzan said he’s waiting for post-pandemic stability before such a move.
Along the same lines, the brand is returning to Pitti Uomo, albeit in a digital format only, as the health emergency has cast a shadow over in-person events. As part of the fall 2022 collection to be showcased on the Pitti Connect digital platform, Bikkembergs will introduce a Fifa World Cup-themed capsule collection, nodding to the brand’s links with the soccer world. Predonzan didn’t rule out returning to showing in-person at the men’s trade show in the summer.