Consolidation and financing may be a good way for the smaller players in Italy's fragmented shoe industry to find new avenues for growth.

An Italian private equity company, Consilium, has announced the acquisition of Calzaturificio Claudia, a producer of sneakers and women's shoes for luxury brands, for an undisclosed amount. Merging it with River Group and Calzaturificio Energy, two other fast-growing Italian firms acquired in 2018 and involved in similar types of production, Consilium has formed a new entity called Gruppo Manifatture Italiane (GMI).

With an annual turnover of about €80 million, GMI aims to become a center of excellence for the production of sneakers and formal luxury shoes. It is aiming to produce one million pairs of shoes per year, up from the current level of 700,000 pairs. Following the recent opening of a new factory in the Tuscan town of Fucecchio, where Calzaturificio Energy is based, it has more than 15,000 square meters of production facilities and about 1,000 employees in Tuscany, Albania and Tunisia,.

Based in the Tuscan city of Lucca, Calzaturificio Claudia achieved a turnover of €35 million in 2018, after growing at a rate of 16 percent per year since 2016. It employs 140 people in Italy and over 500 in Tunisia. Between 2014 and 2018, River and Energy recorded an average annual growth of 14 percent, rising from €24 million to €40 million. The synergies between the operations of these companies are expected to improve the quality of customer service and invest in technology.

The project may take on new dimensions. By setting up GMI, Consilium has created an interesting platform in a fragmented sector that can potentially grow organically as well as through new acquisitions. The private equity firm holds a majority stake in GMI, while the founders of the acquired companies – including the Chelini family, which controlled Calzaturificio Claudia – maintain their operational roles.

Consilium has decided to partially redefine the governance of GMI. Alberto Zunino will be the new chief executive, aided by Marco Cisbani, who has been the chief financial officer of the River Group since May of last year. Zunino is bringing 18 years of experience at the Boston Consulting Group and Booz Allen Hamilton, in sectors such as consumer goods and retailing and in the roles of managing director and partner.

Before acquiring the River Group and Energy, which also manufactures car shoes for leading Italian and international luxury brands, Consilium took a majority stake in De Fonseca, the well-known Italian producer of lounge shoes. The move was followed by investments in several Italian apparel companies. In 2011, Consilium took over a majority stake in Macron, a leading producer of jerseys for sports teams. In then acquired Tucano Urbano in 2012 and Navigare in 2015.