Guy Rapp, a well-known shoe industry veteran, is moving next February from Paris to Sydney with his family following his appointment as chief executive of Bloch International, the Australian company known for its ballet shoes. The French executive has been consulting for more than a year for Bloch, and he is going to continue a project to turn it into a broader lifestyle brand.
The goal is to more than double Bloch’s global turnover, which has recently been in the range of $70 million a year, partly through the development of new segments and through licenses. The company also wants to take on a firmer footing in Europe, where it took over the distribution last year from a Dutch-based distributor. Bloch is already very strong in the U.S. market, where it shares the leadership in dance shoes with Capezio.
With Rapp’s help, Bloch set up a European office in London’s Covent Garden one year ago, with a full staff to take care of sales and customer service, and with a warehouse in Milton Keynes. Next to an existing network of agents for its dance shoes, a separate network has been built up since then to sell Bloch’s new lifestyle shoe collection to selected shoe shops all over Europe.
Introduced at retail last spring, the new lifestyle collection has been very successful. The Spring/Summer 2009 line will be sold in more than 700 stores all over Europe. The next collection will be presented at the Bread & Butter show in Barcelona next month.
With this collection, Bloch intends to take advantage of a trend in the European women’s footwear market that has led its French competitor, Repetto, to market successfully its ballerinas as street and evening shoes. Repetto still produces most of its collection at its own factory in France. Bloch produces its high-end ballerinas at its own factory in Thailand.
Bloch is a family-owned company that takes its name from the Russian immigrant, Jacob Bloch, who set up the company in Australia in 1932. It was a pioneer in the use of the “stitch & turn” technique that is now widely used in ballet shoes. In addition to its pointe shoes for classical dance, for a while it had a small line of sneakers and a line of dancewear and accessories.
Rapp, who is now 48 years old, is taking on a newly created position at Bloch International, the family holding company. He is joining the company with an option on part of the shares. A grandson of the founder, David Wilkenfield, will continue to be involved as chairman, concentrating on product development and other domains.
The career of Rapp includes stations as country manager of Timberland and L.A. Gear in France. Married to an American, he has helped numerous brands enter the European market including Perry Ellis (footwear), UGG, EMU Australia, Ecko and Steve Madden.
More recently he has been acting as managing director of U-Roads, a brand of Italy’s DC Company, and as a consultant to Bensimon for the international sales of its shoe collection, but he has resigned from both positions. He still has a company, Newcorp, that is distributing Ed Hardy shoes in Europe, but its future has not yet been determined.