Zeis Excelsa, an Italian firm based in Montegranaro, in the Marche region, is aiming to grow by an annual average of 25 percent over the next three years to 2022 by becoming a platform for Italian footwear brands. As a former president of Anci, the Italian shoe industry association now called Assocalzaturifici, the president of the company, Maurizio Pizzuti, has a lot of contacts and experience in the sector.

This year, the company expects to have sales of some €30 million, of which 80 percent should be generated in Italy. Over the next couple of years, the objective is to lift exports to 35 percent of revenues from 20 percent currently. In the 1990s, when he was still president of Anci, Zeis Excelsa had managed to reach a turnover of about €130 million, notably with the acquisition of Dirk BIkkembergs, a fashion brand with which it started to be associated as its rather successful footwear licensee.

Zeis Excelsa’ new business plan comes after the company underwent a thorough overhaul to relaunch the once flourishing firm, lowering prices to remain competitive on the Italian market. The most high-profile move was the sale of its stake in the Dirk Bikkembergs brand to a Chinese group in 2015, followed by the sale of its footwear license to another one (see Shoe Intelligence Vol. 21 n° 3+4 of Feb. 9, 2019) .

Pizzuti noted that, with the boom in demand for sneakers, a large share of the market has been captured by sportswear giants such as Nike and Adidas who have set the market price for shoes around €110 a pair. Pizzuti pointed out in an interview that local producers have had to follow suit and cut prices. But, he stressed that it is “impossible” to produce and make a profit in Italy at such price levels, prompting his group to delocalize manufacturing outside the country. He indicated that its components are bought where it is most convenient and that its shoes are assembled by third parties in Portugal, China and Turkey.

The group used to have its own manufacturing facilities in Slovakia and Romania. It still has a 10,000 square-meter building in Slovakia and a 5,000 square-meter facility in Romania but prefers to continue working with third parties “for the time being and the near future,” Pizzuti explained.

The company owns the brands Docksteps, Oxs, Sonora, Cult and Virtus Palestre. Last year, it signed a five-year licensing agreement to use the well-known brand name of Alberto Guardiani, a shoe company in the Marche region that was in financial trouble. Pizzuti said that the crisis affecting the Marche footwear cluster has generated opportunities to buy other brands and he expects to finalize a deal soon. He believes that with its sourcing model, Zeis Excelsa can become a platform for local brands.

The company also has plans to increase its retail network to 40 stores in Italy by the end of 2022. Currently, it has 15 Docksteps stores in the country. While they carry the Docksteps banner as if they were mono-brand stores, the shops offer all of the company’s brands.