By Eric Smith
In addition to showcasing new products at this week’s Outdoor + Snow Show in Denver, CO, the team at Bollé Brands had some timely business news to tout—a new corporate headquarters for the company’s U.S. operation and a heightened focus on the North American market.
On Wednesday, the company’s global and U.S. marketing leaders told SGB Executive exclusively that Bollé Brands has moved its U.S. headquarters to Carlsbad, CA, from Boston, MA.
It signals a strategic shift sparked by the 2019 acquisition of Spy Optic and coincides with a newfound emphasis on what Bollé considers to be its primary growth market moving forward.
“For the group, it’s a huge step forward because we are inspired to be much bigger and much stronger in the U.S.,” Louis Cisti, the company’s global VP of marketing, told SGB Executive on Wednesday, the first day of the show. “The biggest opportunity for us is growing the U.S. and Canada for all the brands in the group. This will be our focus for the next couple of years.”
Bollé Brands is the holding company that’s owned by A&M Capital Europe and counts Bollé, Bollé Safety, Spy Optic, Serengeti, Cébé and H2Optix in its portfolio. The relatively new entity formed in 2018 when Vista Outdoor Inc. unloaded the bulk of those brands for $158 million.
Makers of performance sport, lifestyle and fashion sunglasses, ski and bike helmets and goggles, the assets in Bollé Brands’ portfolio have now co-located in Spy Optic’s headquarters in Carlsbad, though global headquarters remain in Lyon, France.
Bollé Brands is also replicating its EPIC (Excellence In Product Innovation and Creativity) center in Carlsbad, giving the U.S. headquarters the same innovation capabilities as the Lyon headquarters. The company also implemented a new ERP platform to streamline applications and processes.
“All the four brands in the U.S. work very well together,” Cisti said. “We are going to create more synergies on the sell-side with support functions as well. On the marketing side, all the brands will live next to each other and keep their own DNA.”
Cisti said the company is investing “a couple of million dollars” for this entire process—moving operations to the West coast, completing the Carlsbad EPIC infrastructure and bringing additional resources to Bollé Brands’ new North American headquarters. It speaks to the bullish outlook corporate has for this market.
“That’s why we are ready to invest,” Cisti said. “We believe in this group. And we believe in the U.S. as a key priority. We want to be closer to retailers, and we want to build the right product for American skiers, cyclists and runners.”
Indeed, a major component of elevating its focus on the U.S. is enhancing relationships with retailers, added Chris Abbruzzese, the company’s vice president of trade marketing for North America.
He said Bollé Brands is doubling down on specialty retailer relationships through stronger channel partnerships and a more innovative—and diverse—product pipeline. At the heart of that focus is talking to retailers about the need to be more relevant to all consumers. Bollé believes it is positioned to help them thanks to the array of brands in its portfolio.
“We feel like Spy, Bollé and Serengetti all attract different consumers,” Abbruzzese said. “You put all those brands together and you have a way to speak to a consumer across several brands.”
What’s more, he added, is that the newly fashioned Bollé Brands, bolstered especially by the Spy Optic acquisition, has the resources to grow each brand where it’s currently less known.
“Spy is strong in the West but underrepresented in the East, where Bollé is strong,” Abbruzzese said. “Now we can have a Bollé sales team also carrying Spy in the East. They [sales reps] can say to a retailer, ‘Hey, if you’re trying to cater to a skate/surf/free-spirit consumer, age 18 to 34 and with a little bit of attitude, we now have something you can offer them.’”
Meanwhile, the company’s new EPIC allows its production team to develop innovative, performance-driven products across its brand portfolio and, more quickly, bring them to the U.S. market, something the company is already doing in Europe.
“We have chosen to make this the focus of the brand, and the contribution that the EPIC center makes to the brand is a key component in this process,” Cisti said. “It is also why we have invested heavily in the brand to design and develop products that are perfectly adapted to performance sports.”
For example, Cisti said, one innovation from EPIC is Bollé’s new Phantom lenses. Its technologies include polarization that blocks parasitic light reflections from all surfaces including water, sea and snow; a high-end contrast filter that enhances colors; and photochromic technology that allow the lenses to lighten and darken to adapt to conditions.
In addition to the headquarters move and the creation of another EPIC in the U.S., Bollé Brands also unveiled a major initiative at the show called “Customer First,” which is designed to deliver premium service and systems to all of Bollé Brands’ retailers.
“We strive to provide our retail partners with optimal conditions so they can offer our consumers the best possible Bollé experience,” Cisti said.
The changes happening at Bollé Brands speak to refreshed energy within the company, whose new ownership and new assets have only just begun this evolution.
“We’re just getting warmed up,” Abbruzzese said.
Photos courtesy Bollé, Spy Optic