On March 13th 2020, Lorenzo Delladio, the CEO of La Sportiva, the Italian world leader in climbing footwear and clothing, had to make an extremely difficult decision to close production, offices and shops one week earlier than the government ordered. This was in reaction to the pressures put on the business by coronavirus and out of a sense of responsibility towards his employees and the local community.
Luca Mich, Marketing & Communication Manager for the brand tells us how the company has since risen to the challenges of the pandemic by turning a problem to an opportunity. Jennifer comments: “Luca takes us behind the scenes of La Sportiva, to tell us how the company has dealt with the social, health and economic emergency with resilience:”
We all have to do our part
The small artisan workshop of La Sportiva in the 1930s is today the most significant economic generator in its valley, with over 360 employees. It is easy to imagine the social pressure on the shoulders of Lorenzo Delladio when he was forced to close the business.
As Mich explaines: “During the period of lockdown and the “onlife” experience for employees and athletes, there were significant changes in mental and productive paradigms as we kept a socially acceptable distance from each other. It was a difficult period, especially for the management, as La Sportiva is a family-run company that has solid foundations in the economic and social fabric of the Valle di Fiemme community in Trentino.”
Innovating with passion – the ethos of La Sportiva
From that moment on there was a sense of reciprocity triggered between the company and its workers that had never been so strong and led La Sportiva to work together with an aim to restarting after two weeks.
Delladio chose to convert part of the production to produce surgical masks with certified tissue to be supplied to the Trentino health system through a supply of 55,000 pieces to the Civil Protection of Trento. The company then put itself at the service of the Trentino community by giving work to a task force of 20 employees at a very difficult time.
This was followed by a new proposal, born from an environmental consideration that the surgical masks in widespread demand were actually highly pollutive, non-recyclable waste products. The challenge that Delladio put to the research and development team was to create a sustainable, washable, anti-bacterial and reusable mask with an interchangeable filter element that still had the protective efficacy of a PPF1 mask.
Mich explains: “Within a few weeks the product had a name and was being tested and in an attempt to turn a problem into an opportunity, the Stratos Mask was born. This supports the attitude we have been pursuing since 1928 and is well summarised in our company ethos – innovation with passion.”
Today, the masks are a much sought after accessory and their production has guaranteed the involvement of an entire production line, which probably would have stopped or slowed production significantly in its absence. The objective of the company at this stage is very clear: to keep all jobs and be able to pay all wages at the end of the month.
The company has also made other ethical business choices, as Luca clarified: “About 80% of the innovations for the Spring Summer 21 season have been moved to 2022 to assist shop owners who found themselves with full warehouses but an inability to sell for two/three months, both in Italy and abroad. This allows them to carry over products and trade successfully without relying on discounts into the summer period.”
Turning a problem into an opportunity
Mich discusses how the company is adapting to a fast changing sector: “It’s important to remember the difficulties bricks & mortar retailers face, so we decided to keep eCommerce open as the only sales channel in the lockdown period. We did this without accelerating digital campaigns or free shipping promotions so as not to penalise those who do not have eCommerce capabilities. Despite this, organic data from our online channel was truly amazing and showed a 60% increase.
“We also have a network of ambassadors and influencers who create user-generated content on social media to promote the concept of “I stay at home” with the hashtag #SportividaCasa. The company uses this to share content on home workouts with athletes and the wider community.
“The period of lockdown at home did not spare anyone and even the athletes and ambassadors of La Sportiva had to rethink their relationship with nature as they were confined to their homes. There have been those who have broken records by completing over 500 ascents of their home stairways, and others who created and shared their workout sessions so they can get closer to their communities than ever before.”
He continues: “It was a great time in terms of marketing as the “LaSpo” team got to work creating new and entertaining content for the community, including a series of podcasts on the history of climbing which will soon be published on our new Spotify channel. LaSpoRadio can now be heard today across the company’s single-brand stores (six in Northern Italy).”
The evolution of the La Sportiva brand
La Sportiva leaves behind three months of lockdown with well-defined action plans for the future that include important environmental considerations and reflect new consumption habits. Many of the initiatives that will impact the future have actually been implemented during the lockdown period itself.
Mich says: “Our other main area of focus is undoubtedly that of omnichannel, because the “new normal” has accelerated technological convergence and the evolution of purchasing habits. Approximately 60% of those who have made eCommerce purchases during the lockdown period (thanks to the Stratos Mask project) were new customers, and therefore, the future for us will be based around the continuous monitoring of touchpoints from all new and existing customers.”
Mich concludes: “All communication must continue to leverage the values, ethics and emotional aspects that support our credibility and encourage reciprocity. I am convinced that any company which puts transparency, eco-sustainability, ethics and respect for people first, will be able to transform the problems of the new normal into stimulating opportunities.”
Thanks to Jennifer Puzzo, Head of Client Services at Kooomo