Allison has a new name - AVM 1959 - and a new black and white logo. The acronym stands for Allison Volta Mantovana, which refers to the small city near Mantua, in the region of Lombardy, to which the company has returned from the city of Padua in the Veneto region, going back to its roots. It was in Volta Mantovana that the Italian company set up its first eyewear factory in 1959.
A spokesperson points out that there has been no change in the company's ownership or its financial position. The move will allow Allison to cut costs by working with a smaller staff in smaller premises that are directly owned by the company, rather than rented out.
The company has struck an agreement with the unions under which only 50 of its 120 employees would transfer from Padua to Volta Mantovana. The remaining 70 have been laid off and will benefit from the Italian welfare system until they find new jobs in their region, where the eyewear industry is thriving. They will receive their severance fees from Allison in six monthly installments, and they will also receive a bonus of €2,000 if they agree to take no legal action against the company.
The 50 employees who have now chosen to follow Allison to Volta Mantovana will get a €300 pay rise on top of their usual monthly salary. At the end of August only 20 had agreed to the move. The company had already cut 39 jobs in September 2013.
The company's new headquarters at Volta Mantovana cover a surface of 18,000 square meters. They are located in the hills behind Lake Garda, with a panoramic view over the lake. The company hopes that the name change to “back to the roots” will boost its image, offsetting the sacrifice of losing a brand name that had wide recognition on the international market.
Allison started at Volta Mantovana as a contract manufacturer. It continued in this way for 40 years until 1999, when two of its managers – Silvio Vecellio Reane and Antonio Bortuzzo - conducted a management buyout with the support of Itierre, a big company in the world of fashion, with major brands such as Romeo Gigli and Gianfranco Ferré, which then became IT Holding. Allison's operations were merged with those of Optiproject, another Italian producer acquired by Itierre. In 2002, the moved its headquarters to prestigious premises in the city of Padua, where Safilo also has its base, while continuing to produce glasses at Volta Mantovana.
Vecellio Reane and Bortuzzo, who had both worked for Safilo before, had decided to upgrade Allison to the rank of a company operating like Safilo in the medium and higher segments of the market through new licensing agreements. Besides some of Itierre's own labels, Allison has been since then the licensee for many other important brands including Anna Sui, Benetton, Cerruti, Dunhill, Iceberg Mercedes, Missoni, Moschino, Vivienne Westwood and others.
IT Holding withdrew its support in 2004 and sold its shares in the company to Paladin Capital Partners, an equity fund belonging to the Carisma Group, which bought it for an enterprise value of €62 million, including €57 million in debt.
Allison has had its ups and downs. Its turnover reached a peak level of €100 million a year in 2006 and 2007. With the advent of the global recession, its annual turnover declined to a range of €50-70 million. Thus, the company went through major restructuring program between 2008 and 2011 under the management of Bortuzzo, who returned to Allison after working as the CEO of Marcolin. The number of licenses was cut from 23 to 13, and staff levels were reduced by 15 percent, allowing the company to generate an operating profit again. By the end of 2012, the group's debt had been completely absorbed, partly through a recapitalization conducted by Paladin, and partly through the sale of the factory at Volta Mantovana.
In the last three years, the company further consolidated its main markets and rationalized its portfolio of licenses and own brands, following the appointment of a new CEO, Jacopo Romano, at the beginning of 2013. Early last year, Allison announced that its turnover had risen by 25 percent to around €50 million in 2013, but it has not reported any new figures since then. Company officials have continuously refused to do so, while pointing out that Allison has no bank debt since 2012, unlike other Italian companies in the sector.
The company says its own brands currently represent half of its turnover. They are Zero Rh+, Try, Opposit, Mila ZB, Polygon and Hally & Son. AVM 1959 still holds the eyewear licenses for Moschino, Missoni and Vivienne Westwood, as well one with Kiton, acquired earlier this year.
There are plans to add new licenses over the next five years, with top-secret negotiations already underway for two new projects.