Samsonite is betting on footwear to transform the company into one of the world’s most powerful lifestyle accessories brands. As a result, the company, founded in 1910 and led by CEO Marcello Bottoli, is about to undergo a series of significant changes and upgrade its overall offer.

Bottoli’s most recent move was to create a separate Samsonite Footwear Division and appoint Velimir Soskic Footwear Division General Manager.

“Since we consider ourselves an affordable luxury brand, our aim is to become leaders in casual lifestyle footwear and among the 20 most significant footwear brands of the world,” said Soskic, who spent eight years at Geox, four of which were spent expanding Geox in the US.

“I like to work on new startup initiatives,” he added. “When I worked for Geox I saw its turnover increase to €150 million. I also started their new business in the US from nothing and brought it to €35 million.”

Accordingly, Samsonite footwear is expected to become a new strategic worldwide business. Launched about ten years ago in Italy, it is now gearing up to become a globally renowned footwear brand. The aim of the operation is to reach a turnover of about €100 million in roughly six years, or 7% of the group’s €1.3 billion global turnover (at present about 60% of turnover comes from Samsonite luggage, 20% from other luggage brands such as American Traveller and Lambertson Truex, and the rest from licensed bag collections including Lacoste and Timberland). Competitors of the new Samsonite footwear brand could include Geox, Stonefly, Mephisto and Cole Haan, also similar in price points (€90-130 for Italy/Europe and $100-170 for the US).

Soskic has also appointed a 35-person R&D footwear division team which began redesigning the collection for S/S 2009. The primary focus is on brand awareness, particularly in Italy where the brand is sold through 400 stores. By 2012 the footwear could reach 2,000 doors in Italy and be distributed across Europe. Overseas distribution could soon follow, particularly in the US.

Bottoli, formerly CEO at Louis Vuitton, has been President and CEO of Samsonite since 2004. Since his arrival, he and his team have been working on a strategy to position the Samsonite label in the luxury market segment. Part of Samsonite’s future plans include additional brand extensions including eyewear, watches and kids’ footwear.