The Italian menswear brand is combating tough UK trading with a more original entry point offer
The recession hit Stone Island’s UK business hard. With its premium wholesale pricing ranging from £18 to £481, the menswear brand has met price resistance from customers over the past 12 months.
On top of this, reliance on its base of independent stockists - many of whom were also hit by the downturn - resulted in a slow performance.
The brand’s co-owner Carlo Rivetti says: “In the UK, independents make up 40% of our business and they have been among those that suffered most in the tough economic climate.”
Rivetti is co-owner of Sportswear Company, which comprised CP Company and diffusion brand Stone Island until February 2009, when CP Company was sold to Italian manufacturer FGF Industry. The sale freed Rivetti up to focus on the more commercial Stone Island brand, which he says carried CP Company for years.
For spring 11, Rivetti says his main challenge is to increase the financial commitment from existing stockists and to seek out new ones.
He says the 2009 offer at the lower end of the pricing architecture was “not very interesting” but that this has been rectified by launching a more focused autumn 10 collection: “We have been analysing Stone Island’s strongest and weakest areas to reinforce our offer.”
Stone Island has broad market appeal, with directional, premium independents such as Oi Polloi in Manchester and etailer Oki-ni buying into the trend-driven Shadow Project capsule collection. More traditional premium retailers such as Flannels and Cruise also buy into the Stone Island mainline (pictured).
Stone Island’s popularity among football fans is also considerable, although many a football hooligan has chosen the brand as their uniform of choice for the terraces.
“They choose us, we don’t choose them,” Rivetti says, adding: “I love how football brings people together. In Italy we have a Stone Island football blog.”
Last season, none of Stone Island’s 84 UK stockists dropped the brand, says Rivetti proudly and, although he acknowledges there is work to be done on the UK business, it does have a loyal customer following.
Garry Donaldson, menswear buyer for two-store Middlesbrough indie Triads, has bought into the brand for more than 20 years.
He says: “Stone Island is from the old school, there is not this mentality of mass volume and over-distribution seen from new brands. It’s moving in the right direction.”
Stone Island: 020 7490 9100 stoneisland.co.uk
- 40% Proportion of business which comes from indie stockists
- £18 Wholesale entry price point
- Two Number of UK standalone stores