Cortina/Leomil Group

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As a global leader in the development of brand, character and entertainment footwear and apparel, Leomil Group sees a wealth of opportunities for the future by partnering with the right licensors. “The future of licensing is about having the right partners,” CEO Albert Milhado says. “Look at the success of Frozen; every girl fights for that pair of shoes or that dress. Every day there are new opportunities and the world of licensing is a great opportunity for the future.”

Milhado founded the Leomil Group and merged with the Oudenaarde, Belgium-based Cortina Group in 2007. Milhado will put his succession plans in motion this year. The change in leadership will be announced at the Licensing Expo 2015. “I will still be available when they need me, but my children are taking over all the main positions,” Milhado says. 

Cortina/Leomil Group will remain a family owned, full-service footwear and fashion source for major retailers and brands in Europe, North America, Latin America, the Middle East and Russia. “The company is a very successful global company,” Milhado says. “Our collections are offered to companies around the world.”

Its design expertise is applied to all footwear categories, including athletics, boots, sandals, sport, casual, dress, slippers, rain, and cold-weather boots. The company’s apparel collections include infant, toddler and kids’ sportswear, tees, sleepwear, underwear, swim and outerwear. For adults and teens, Cortina Leomil produces t-shirts and sleepwear collections. 

Licensed footwear and its own brands – including Sprox, Safety Jogger, Oxypas and Quiva – constitute the majority of the company, and licensed apparel completes the concept. Leomil Group’s partners include The Walt Disney Co., Universal, Warner Bros. Entertainment, SanRio, Mattel, Nickelodeon and DreamWorks Studios. “We work with the major players in the world,” Milhado notes. 

Innovative Technology

Leomil Group developed an online customer portal that allows retailers to select the shoe collections they want to feature in their stores with a click of their computer mouse. “Our B2B project gives large, medium and smaller retailers the ability to select their own colors, fashions or whatever they want behind their desk,” Milhado adds. “We are the only ones offering it in our industry and this is very important to us.” 

The company launched the online program about one year ago in many different countries, and Milhado says it has been positively received. “This gives us a larger reach to retailers we didn’t know before,” he adds. “With the Internet, it’s very easy to reach more people and we see a huge future of possibilities with this program.”

Leomil Group recently added more IT personnel to stay current on the latest technology. The company works with first-class factories and operates a state-of-the-art laboratory in Dongguan, China where it tests shoes and materials. To increase efficiency and improve logistics, the company’s warehouse is equipped with an automated robot system that works 24 hours a day to organize merchandise into one of 65,000 baskets. “It’s very impressive,” Milhado adds.

Expanded Reach

In 2012, Cortina Leomil formed a North American partnership with Rich Footwear Group, which led to the company securing a partnership with Angry Birds and beginning marketing in the United States. “We had never worked in the U.S. because it’s a separate market on its own, but we were asked by the Angry Birds licensor to launch these products in the U.S.A.,” Milhado explains. 

Today, Leomil Group prides itself on the extensive footwear experience it brings to the North American market. Cortina Leomil is making headway in the market based on Cortina’s and Rich’s reputations. “There was no question about what we could deliver as a team,” says Paul Shapiro, USA head of sales. “We are slowly but surely trying to pick the right partners. As Albert said before, the future of licensing is all about having the right partners.” 

Cortina Leomil successfully secured a relationship with One Direction and its products will be on permanent end-cap displays in Kohl’s locations this summer. “That is fabulous and we are proud of our accomplishments for Leomil,” says Maureen Duffy, USA head of licensing. “We are recognized for our global fashions and our ability to deliver the unexpected. We license products well, but beyond that we are delivering looks and fashions our competitors are not.” 

For example, the company has been successful at reaching the difficult “tween” or young teen girl market in terms of clothing sizes, designs and new fashions. “This is the girl who is in women’s sizes but is still a younger girl,” Duffy explains. “We have broken through that and it is a great accomplishment. We are finding that other brands are watching us to see how we have done it.” 

Moving forward, the company has secured relationships with Jurassic World, a film by Steven Spielberg, and DC Super Hero Girls, a comic launched by DC Entertainment and Warner Bros that it will be releasing products for soon in the United States. “We are their strategic partners moving forward,” Duffy notes. “That will be our focus over the next 18 months that we are proud of and know it will be extremely successful.” 

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