The passion, energy and spirit radiated by the entire South African Fila team has resulted in a year of success way beyond our forecasted expectations, given the current economic and political volatility in South Africa, says Laurence Slotsky, MD of 1721 Distributors, opened a year ago to distribute Fila.

“The economy has been extremely challenging, with most branded retailers over-exposed with overstocks and declining consumption, due to less freely available money to spend and increase in the unemployment rate and inflation affecting most of the population.”

The past 12 months also presented them with multiple hurdles and challenges, he adds. For example, Jon Epstein, the CEO of the US market and “a dear friend to us all” passed away in February.

Customers can share the Fila brand experience in their showrooms. Photo supplied.

After they sold their property in Selby they had only three months to find and relocate to suitable new headquarters for Fila in South Africa.

“Luckily, we managed to find an amazing new building located near Melrose Arch, which had an amazing feel and energy that was suited to the ethos and spirit of the Fila team,” says Slotsky. “We only had two months to design and fit out the complete interior, which was relevant to our future vision for Fila and our growth expectations for 1721 Distributors.”

They also implemented a fully integrated new IT and logistics support system.

“Having jumped all these hurdles and keeping up with the amazing global growth and pace of Fila, we are now well positioned in our new showrooms and offices to ensure we can achieve organic sustainable growth for our company and support our key retailers. We are ready to take on new opportunities when they present themselves.

The Biella Caffe features a vintage pinball machine and a pool table for the enjoyment of staff and customers. Photo supplied.

“Our offices and space have amazing energy, which creates a great positive working environment for all our staff — to work, play and have fun.”

For summer 2019 they have undertaken some new marketing initiatives that focus on consumers and support their retail partners. New global categories have been introduced to South Africa, like underwear, swimwear and accessories and their kids ranges are expanding.

“The demand for Fila is far greater than we are supplying in the market,” says Slotsky. “This will ensure brand longevity and the consumer aspiration for the Fila brand will be ensured for the years ahead.”

It is only the beginning and they will continue to face any economic challenges presented in a positive way, whilst taking every opportunity that fits in and is core to their business model and strategy, he adds.

“We welcome all retailers and partners to visit our new showrooms and Caffe Biella, where you will be treated to the best coffee in town and products. My staff is my biggest asset,” says Slotsky. “As a team we value and respect each and every one of us.

“Watch the space … there is a lot more is to come.”