It has been another busy summer for Itochu Shoji, with several new contracts signed and handed over to trusted subsidiaries and affiliates for day to day management. There are three new footwear brands, a Hawaiian clothing retailer, and an Italian bag brand.
Itochu Shoji has signed a crop of footwear brands in the last eight weeks, starting with an exclusive distribution deal with US footwear brand SoftScience. Itochu Fashion System will handle day to day operations and will have the rights for both Japan and five other Asian countries (Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines). Within Japan, Itochu-affiliate Doshisha will distribute the footwear. Known for their comfort, lightweight and seamless outer soles, SoftScience shoes was created by a founder of Crocs in 2013. It will be sold through select shops and department stores and sales of ¥1 billion are expected within five years.
Itochu has also formalised a long-standing deal with US sports shoe brand KSwiss. The new deal gives Itochu the distribution rights to KSwiss shoes from S/S 2016. Sales of ¥800 million are expected in the first year rising to ¥2 billion within five years. Itochu has been a licensee of the KSwiss brand since 2004, but not for the shoe category.
Itochu-controlled sports firm Descente has also acquired UK sports shoes business Inov-8. Descente has been selling the brand in Japan, Korea and Hong Kong since 2013, leading to the acquisition. It now plans to widen the scope of the brand’s offer to more types of shoes – until now Inov-8 has focused largely on trail running and other off-road activities. Descente is also expected to work closely with other Itochu group members to develop licensing programmes for apparel and related sports merchandise.
In apparel, Itochu signed Reyn Spooner, a Hawaiian retailer last month. In this case it has taken a master license but will also import core merchandise. The license covers apparel, bags and footwear as well as accessories, and Itochu expects sales of ¥2 billion within five years. Reyn Spooner is a long-established menswear brand founded in 1956 and sold in Japan since 1996. As is increasingly common with Itochu agreements in the fashion sector, the deal is as much about the rest of Asia as Japan, with plans to build a chain of stores across the region longer term.
Finally in accessories Itochu Shoji acquired a master license for Italian bag brand Orobianco, making Ace the main licensee. The license covers both bags and accessories such as watches, and Itochu will again have rights to key Asian markets too. The deal will see flagship stores within three years, and target sales of ¥15 billion within five years in Japan and other Asian markets. Orobianco was established in 1996 and already has a strong fan base in Japan among men in their 20s-30s, with the brand so far being sold directly to various select shop and department store chains.
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