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Tommasini Selling Direct to Build Demand

Published March 25, 2009

SAN DIEGO, CA (BRAIN)—Tommasini has shifted to a direct sales strategy in an attempt to help rebuild the niche Italian brand in the United States.

Before this month, Tommasini sold its handmade frames through 12 authorized dealers in the U.S., but will now put more focus on selling directly to customers through its San Diego, California, office, said Tina Indalecio, of Cicli Tommasini USA.

Tommasini manufactures 2,000 to 2,500 road frames per year from its Grosseto, Italy factory.

“Dealers still have the ability to sell our frames but at this time, they will only have around a 20-25 percent margin, they will not be listed on our website as a dealer, they will not have a protected territory, but they also do not have to do a buy-in or meet yearly sales minimums,” Indalecio said.

The change was linked to many factors that were limiting the growth of the U.S. dealer base including dealers using the Tommasini name to get customers, but selling them another brand they had in stock; dealers ordering frames for custom orders and not keeping many in stock, which hurt sales; the company having little leverage with dealers because Tommasini was such a small portion of retailers’ overall business.

Tommasini was also experiencing an issue to which many small, high-end brands can relate.

“Dealers would get pressure to push other larger brands and drop their small lines, leaving a small brand like us out in the wind,” Indalecio said. “For people who do not know the difference between a Tommasini and another brand, they need to be educated— there is a big difference, and that is also why there is sometimes a big price difference.”

Indalecio said Tommasini tried focusing on smaller high-end shop that sell only custom frames, and while the majority of them like the brand, they wanted Tommasini to increase consumer advertising to help spur sales, which the company doesn’t have the budget for.

Jeffrey Taliaferro has sold Tommasini frames since 1979 in his San Francisco shop, Ocean Cyclery, and other bike shops in the city. He said he’ll continue to stock and sell, although he risks being undercut by Indalecio because he plans to maintain his pricing to keep his margins at 30 to 35 percent.

“I just love the bikes. The whole thing about them being handmade—they’re just beautiful bikes,” Taliaferro said.

Even though the retail price will probably be about $500 lower if consumers buy direct instead of through him, Taliaferro believes he’ll have the upper hand because he keeps frames in stock, whereas direct orders will likely have to wait three months for the frame to be manufactured in Italy.

Indalecio said the new strategy isn’t necessarily permanent.

“We will go back to building a solid dealer base down the road, but we need to rebuild the demand for our product first and the dealers need to see more people walking into their shop asking if they can buy a Tommasini. Once that starts happening, we know we will have more leverage with the dealer and they will be more interested in getting behind our brand,” she said.

—Nicole Formosa

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