Italian distributor Blubox thrives with new licences
Bologna-based distributor Blubox was founded in 2012 to exploit the leather goods licence for A.G. Spalding & Bros., a long-established label that was created about 15 years ahead of US sportswear and equipment brand Spalding. In November 2019, Blubox also inked a licence deal for the production and distribution of RefrigiWear leather goods.
In both cases, Blubox holds a Europe-wide licence, and is also looking after product design. The licence agreement with A.G. Spalding covers men's and women’s handbags, small leather goods, aluminium stationery products, belts, watches, diaries and luggage. It was renewed two years ago for 10 years, and will end in 2028, while the RefrigiWear licence agreement has a five-year term. The RefrigiWear line by Blubox features about 40 items, a number that is set to increase in the near future, while the A.G. Spalding line includes some 250 items.
“Our goal is to distribute RefrigiWear via 220 clients in Europe within the next two years,” said Luca Lin, the owner of Blubox, in an interview with FashionNetwork.com. The backpacks, messenger bags, bum bags and other products designed by Blubox for RefrigiWear have a mid-market positioning, while the A.G. Spalding line is more upmarket. “We plan to cover different market segments, to avoid direct competition between the two brands,” said Lin.
The RefrigiWear brand was created in 1954. It was inspired by the workwear of US cold-storage operators, and was given a more fashionable twist by a previous Italian owner. Four years ago, it was bought by Renato Rossi, co-founder with Wicky Hassan of the Sixty fashion group, owner of the Miss Sixty, Energie, Murphy & Nye and Killah labels. Rossi and his sons Lorenzo and Tommaso are now busy relaunching RefrigiWear.
“The products we create for [A.G. Spalding and RefrigiWear] are not distributed outside Europe,” said Lin. “A.G. Spalding & Bros. is well-established in Italy - where we have reached 450 stores - since it has a very Italian feel, despite its understated design. Outside Italy, it is distributed via some 90 multibrand retailers,” he added.
A.G. Spalding & Bros., through Blubox, also operates monobrand stores in Bologna, Milan and Modena, and two shop-in-shops at the Rinascente department store branches in Milan and Rome. It has a thriving e-shop, whose sales grew in double figures last year, accounting for 8% of the brand’s total revenue with Blubox.
In 2019, Blubox generated a revenue of €3 million, up 5% over the previous year, and in 2020, according to Lin, the forecast is to hit double-digit growth thanks to the RefrigiWear licence. As for A.G. Spalding & Bros., 85% of its revenue is generated by Blubox in Italy, the remaining 15% coming from outside the country.
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