Named after the famous Italian astronomer, Galileo is a magic name in the Italian eyewear sector, still enjoying an assisted notoriety rate of 59 percent. Founded by an astronomer in Florence in 1836, the company bearing this name had market share of almost 40 percent in the Italian ophthalmic lens market in the 1990s. It had a presence in other markets such as Spain and Germany, and it owned Signet-Armorlite for a while. Due to bad management and lack of innovation, Galileo went under at the beginning of the new millennium, surviving in the last few years as a brand managed by Ital-Lenti.

The Essilor International group, which bought the brand and its 10 distribution centers in Italy two years ago, when it was generating annual revenues of €13 million, has orchestrated its re-launch through its subsidiary BBGR, which in turn acquired its Italian distributor, ATR Mec Optical, in 2005. In effect, ATR and Oftalmica Galileo Italia are going to be merged into a single company at the end of this month that will market BBGR's extensive product range in Italy.

BBGR made similar moves in 2008 by taking over a Belgian company, De Lennynk, and a Polish one, JZO, which are now marketing its products under their own well-established names in their respective countries. The two takeovers helped BBGR to post a sales increase of 1.9 percent last year to €332 million.

The re-launch of Galileo is part of the multi-channel strategy used by Essilor to penetrate all the segments of the market. The group previously bought another Italian firm, LTL, specializing in the lower end. Company officials declined to say whether the new set-up will allow Essilor to have a share of 30 percent or more in the highly fragmented Italian market.

Together, ATR and Galileo are already servicing about 1,800 points of sale in Italy. The products will come from BBGR's large French factory in Provins, which processes 11,000 lenses per day, and from a new laboratory near Milan equipped with digital surfacing machinery. The new operation will have facilities for online ordering and remote edging.

The new Galileo was launched at the Mido show last week with a modern new logo, a new image and a moving speech by Paolo Fonelli, former commercial director of Essilor Italia, who has been appointed general manager of the new company. He reports to Laurent Schmitt, president of BBGR, who spent 13 years in Italy before. Stefano Favari, who comes from the computer sector and has been running ATR for the last two years, acts as commercial director.