French eyewear is far from being doomed, despite the recent demise of Logo Eyewear and some smaller firms. To prove it, another big French player, the L'Amy Group, is doing better. It started to break even in 2017, after several years of losses, and it now has some interesting new plans for further development.
Dominique Alba, the seasoned industry executive who took over the company's management last spring, has decided to divide the group into four divisions to cover different segments of the market with its present brands and new ones. One of its new licenses is expected to be announced in April, and the other one in May. A third one should be announced before the end of this year.
Alba ran Logo for many years when the company was still flourishing. He also headed Alain Mikli's company before its sale to Luxottica at a good price. As a shareholder in the company, he made a nice capital gain in the transaction.
One of L'Amy's divisions will concentrate on innovation. For this purpose, Alba has decided to create a small new group of technical experts who will work on new projects in the areas of 3D printing, customization, and possibly also the manufacture of lenses. The first prototypes should come out this spring.
One of Alba's first moves after his appointment was to conduct the acquisition of Henry Jullien, a small brand of eyewear in the Jura region of France with a great know-how in the manufacture of high-end items such as gold-plated and gold-filled glasses. The company employed up to 90 people in the good old days, but it ran into financial difficulties in recent years, partly due to competition from lower-priced Italian contractors.
Under the umbrella of L'Amy, which has taken over only 10 workers and two salespeople along with the machinery, Henry Jullien, which contributed a small loss last year, is expected to boost its sales to around €2.5 million this year from €1.1 million in 2017. It will continue to make metal frames under its own brand and for various clients. It also will spearhead a new high-end division of L'Amy whose high level of technical craftsmanship should help the group to obtain new licenses.
Two other divisions of the group will manage the development and the sale of the other brands in its portfolio. A fashion division will take care of licenses like Kenzo, Balmain and its most recent acquisition in this domain, Canali. A lifestyle division will run licenses like Vespa or the distribution in Europe of New Balance eyewear.
L'Amy will also continue to make private label eyewear for big retail chains. This business represented a small portion of the group's total sales of €56 million in 2016.
The company is doing very well in the U.S., which represents about half of the total turnover. Its sales there grew by more than 20 percent in 2017, thanks in part to new licenses. In Europe, its sales rose by 6 percent, but Alba feels that it can do better, notably by setting up sales offices for the German and British markets. Its Italian sales subsidiary has become profitable.
In association with TWC, its sister company in the area of watches, jewelry and leathergoods, L'Amy already has sales offices in Hong Kong and Dubai. L'Amy will also use Hong Kong as a hub to coordinate the manufacture of many of its lines in Asia.