Headquartered in Barletta, Calzaturificio Cristian was established in 1982: a year and a half ago, it kicked off the production of safety footwear
The 40th anniversary in the fashion and sports footwear sector will be celebrated this year, while the production of safety shoes was launched recently, back in spring 2020. A tradition-bound, success-driven history: Calzaturificio Cristian OBAK is a shoe factory established in 1982 in Barletta by Michele Ricco and Ruggiero Dicuonzo, the two founding partners who share a family tie. The latter had previously worked in an enterprise specialized in sneakers, in tennis as well as leisure footwear – a sector that, for decades, has been a strategic business for the entrepreneurial cluster based in Barletta, with plenty of firms supplying even the most prominent international brands. Noteworthy the slogan that stands out on the corporate website’s homepage, that is, “Great products for great people”.
“We keep producing sports shoes, acting as contractors,” explained Michele Ricco, when met him at the latest edition of the A+A exhibition, one of the world’s most prominent trade shows for the safety sector, held last fall in Düsseldorf (Germany), “even though we believe that, from here on out, safety footwear will guarantee more room for development, given the high demand for these articles in several professional fields. Currently, we are focusing on two different product lines, but the decision to manufacture safety models was taken one year and a half ago with a patented brand. The noteworthy market demand will result in a significant growth trend.”
Why have you chosen a slogan highlighting the firm’s “greatness”?
“Maybe because we are a team of enthusiasts who strive to improve everybody’s life thanks to cutting-edge solutions. We develop top- notch products to solve the issues of several enterprises. Our articles are conceived for companies that aim at optimizing their performances, and we are ready to interact with the customers and to meet all sorts of demands. Even the decision to keep the firm’s “core” based in Barletta can be ascribed to this mission: all the processes are carried out here, from cutting to injection operations, from the assembly and packaging phases up to quality control. Only the “sewing” procedures are performed in our upper factory in Albania, where we can rely on a highly skilled workforce. The corporate growth trend and the results achieved will play a key role in any future choice.”
What are your products’ distinctive features?
“We deal with two different price ranges, the first one is more affordable, while the second refers to luxury shoes, designed for some of the most prominent, internationally-renowned brands in the sector. Nevertheless, the manufacturing processes are carried out by the same professionals, who basically grow accustomed to working with great precision as well as with the utmost care with both high- and mid- end articles. As for the assembly, finishing and quality control phases, regardless of the brand we are supplying or of the type of shoe, we are used to rely on the same attention and judgment parameters.”
Given the growing competition in the safety sector, how difficult is it to get into market?
“Right from the beginning, we have exercised caution, without taking unnecessary risks: a feasible endeavour precisely because, by making sports shoes, we can branch out our business without too much anxiety, maybe waiting for the push of some significant production. Our attendance as exhibitors at the Düsseldorf fair bears witness to our willingness to foster a project we strongly believe in. We have chosen to manufacture dual-density outsoles for the whole range of articles, using hi-tech machines that guarantee top-notch quality standards. We would like to avoid what happens in the fashion industry, that is, the price war. The goal is to place our models in the mid- to high-end segment.”
Active and passive safety are two essential factors for work footwear: how have you managed to meet this demand?
“It is a pivotal prerogative. Many customers and partners have confirmed that, even though ours is “young” firm, we have chosen a top-notch safety concept. It is no coincidence that our enterprise boasts five EN ISO European certifications, those referring specifically to work or professional footwear. Another flagship lies in the UNI 11583:2015 certification that outlines the requirements for safety and protective shoes for professional use for work on inclined roofs.”
As for your brands, what are your strategies market-wise? And what about your sales network?
“With regard to OBAK, currently we are not targeting the domestic market, while we are focusing on European countries including France; we are in talks to get into the German market. At least in the beginning, our idea is to turn to large-sized distributors, who will help us foster planned investment projects. Our entrepreneurial philosophy aims at repeating what is happening in the fashion world, that is, to “modernize” the concept of safety, without upsetting everything, obviously. Work shoes are often traditional models and one of our purposes is to improve them aesthetically too. Our designers and our family had previously worked in the fashion sector: therefore, we have what it takes to provide stylish solutions, while putting in the limelight comfort and technical features. In this context, OBAK is the ideal brand.”
OBAK – www.obak.it
Michele Ricco, owner, with his son Giuseppe,in charge of the prototype and sample department