Both markets were previously handled by distributors. Spy Optic, which already had a European sales and distribution center in Italy, set up a sales subsidiary in the country on Jan. 1 to handle directly its sales in Italy as well as France in order to boost sales and add new retail channels. The subsidiary will also be responsible to service its agency for Germany and Austria, Soul Distribution. Elsewhere in Europe, the American action sports eyewear brand continues to work through distributors.

The new Italian-based operation is run by an American general manager, Ron Perkins, who comes from the company's headquarters in Carlsbad, California. He works together with Massimo Bonfanti, who joined Spy last May after spending three years at Type 20, the company that markets the Briko and Arnette brands, most recently as international sales manager. Bonfanti takes care of sales development in directly controlled markets. Nelson Phillips, the former European sales manager, has left.

Orange 21, the newly named parent company in the USA, which went public late last year, says its Spy Optic subsidiary had a 22 percent sales increase in the 4th quarter ended last Dec. 31 and achieved net income of about $800,000, up 60 percent from 2003. The company believes that sales will grow this year by 25-30 percent to an implied range of $41.9-43.6 million.

Spy Optic, which joined the European Sunglass Association last August, is budgeting investments of $600,000-700,000 in Europe this year in a bid to generate 25-30 percent of its 2005 sales from countries outside the USA. The investments will include a 15-man sales force and strong spending on marketing and point of sale advertising.