Retail

“ANYONE WHO SURVIVES A STORM COMES OUT STRONGER”

The Italian brand EYE Sport operates in the problem markets of Spain and Greece, among other places. In an interview with ACROSS, CEO Alessandro Ariu explains what he and his business partners have learned from the crisis.

ACROSS: PLEASE GIVE US A SHORT INTRODUCTION TO EYE SPORT.

ALESSANDRO ARIU: EYE Sport is an Italian brand of sportswear, produced and distributed by Double A s.r.l. and has been active in the international market since April 2006. It specializes in teamwear and sportswear for competition and leisure. It produces and sells the EYE Sport Line, which is specially designed to improve athletic performance in football, basketball, volleyball, handball, cycling, and running; and the EYE 4 Mori Line of summer and winter collections which are designed entirely in Italy. During these few years of trading, EYE Sport has landed high-level sponsorships. EYE Sport presently equips the basketball team Dinamo Banco di Sardegna, the football team Ergotelis F.C. (star of the Greek A series) the volleyball team Murillo (the Spanish champion). As the official sponsor of the Italian Volleyball Federation it recently dressed the last Beach Volley European Championship – and the list goes on. With a catalog of over 1,600 products, EYE Sport is building an extensive, international distribution network. EYE Sport currently has 15 brand stores across Italy, Spain, and Greece and more than 150 multi-brand stores all over Europe. We are still growing as well, adding an average of five new stores per year.

ACROSS: EYE SPORT RECENTLY OPENED ITS FIRST STORE IN POLAND – GALERIA WARMINSKA IN OLSZTYN. WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS COUNTRY?

ARIU: First of all, macroeconomic data indicates the Polish economy as the only one with strong growth in the European contest. In my opinion, Poland is a nation destined to become one of the strongest economies in Europe in the next twenty years.On top of that, there are no other competing brands in Olsztyn, except for big brands like Adidas and Nike.

ACROSS: DO YOU PLAN TO OPEN FURTHER STORES IN POLAND?

ARIU: We are taking it step by step. At first we want to figure out how long it takes to be well known and to start to do in Poland what we are doing in Italy. We definitely plan to open two more stores by 2015. We intend to use the Olsztyn store as a prototype with our Polish distributor, but over the next two years, we would like to open at least 10 franchises through local entrepreneurs and establish more than 10 stores in different cities with catchment areas of at least 200,000 inhabitants within 10 km. Serious investors are welcome!

ACROSS: AFTER POLAND, DO YOU ALSO INTEND TO ENTER OTHER EUROPEAN COUNTRIES? IF YES, WHICH ONES?

ARIU: From Poland, the true center of Europe, we are thinking of exporting our brand to all the neighboring countries. We have several contacts with entrepreneurs interested in selling our brand in Germany and Romania. We hope to come to an agreement by 2015. We plan to sell in Russia: we plan to open the first EYE Shop there in 2015.

ACROSS: WHICH ROLE DO SHOPPING CENTERS PLAY IN YOUR BUSINESS EXPANSION STRATEGY AS LOCATIONS FOR YOUR STORES?

ARIU: Shopping centers are ideal locations for commercializing our sportswear line “EYE Linea 4 Mori “and promoting our teamwear line “EYE Linea Sport” towards active sportsmen and clubs (football, basketball, volleyball, handball, beach volleyball) as well as to sell technical products for individual sports, such as gym, running, cycling, tennis, and table tennis.

ACROSS: WHAT REQUIREMENTS MUST A SHOPPING CENTER FULFILL IN ORDER TO BE INTERESTING FOR EYE SPORT AS A SITE FOR ONE OF ITS STORES? CONVERSELY, WHAT ARE YOUR EXCLUSION CRITERIA?

ARIU: We need shopping centers located in an area with at least 200,000 inhabitants within 10 km. Before every new opening, we conduct targeted studies on site usability, potential customers, competitors etc. But this is a trade secret!

ACROSS: WHAT IS THE BEST LOCATION WITHIN A SHOPPING CENTER FOR AN EYE SPORT STORE?

ARIU: The best location is usually close to a supermarket or at least to an area where they sell food. It is hard not to be noticed!

ACROSS: HOW MUCH DID THE ECONOMIC CRISIS AFFECT YOUR BUSINESS, ESPECIALLY IN SPAIN AND GREECE?

ARIU: The economic crisis is like a strict teacher during school time: many students failed but those who passed, even with very low scores, will be among the best in life and will also remember that professor. Franchises in Spain and Greece are more than just franchising shops, they are like distributors which sell to clubs, above all. Their sales volumes are increasing in spite of great difficulties. The crisis has forced them to become smarter, to run faster, to be more flexible, and to make faster decisions. I am convinced that anyone who survives a storm comes out stronger.

ACROSS: WHAT IS EYE SPORT’S MULTICHANNEL STRATEGY? HOW LONG HAVE YOU SOLD YOUR PRODUCTS ONLINE AND WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH IT?

ARIU: Our products are sold through brand stores, multi-brand stores, and online. Today the online channel covers only 10% of our sales. One of our priorities in 2015 will be to develop this distribution channel. For the moment, we are very much focused on promoting our brand internationally through traditional distribution. We were born in 2006, even if this does not justify the “mea culpa”!

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