Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Mondetta's relaunch of flag line a smash

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IT has been a gold-medal month for Mondetta Clothing.

The Winnipeg-based company has received a double dose of good news after the successful relaunch of its world concept line -- zippered sweat tops and hoodies emblazoned with the flags of eight countries, including Canada -- two months ago in Costco stores.

The "roadshows" went to a pair of its 80 locations at a time for two-week stints before moving on to two more. On Friday, Mondetta finalized plans to set up shop in Costco's downtown Vancouver store for four weeks before, during and after the 2010 Winter Olympics.

"Costco asked us to go heavy on the stock," said Tony Lavilla, Mondetta's director of branding. "It was kind of unexpected. We just got confirmation on it. We're just buzzing on it around here."

Mondetta is not an official sponsor of the Olympics but its flag-based clothing is a natural marketing fit with what will be one of the biggest international events, sporting or otherwise, of all time, Lavilla said.

Mondetta will be given its own space in the Vancouver store -- Lavilla calls it an "island" -- which will feature signage, custom draping and mannequins standing on an Olympic-style podium wearing the clothing.

Costco's downtown location is in the heart of where most of the Olympic activity will be, including the Olympic Village, B.C. Place (where the opening and closing ceremonies will take place) and GM Place (which will be renamed Canada Hockey Place when it hosts the all-important hockey tournament).

"You could throw a stone from the Costco and hit B.C. Place," he said.

If that wasn't enough, following the success of the world concept in Canada, Mondetta recently agreed to provide similar clothing to Costco USA and its network of 405 stores.

The roadshow plan this time is eight stores at once for two-week intervals, which translates into a nearly two-year commitment to cover every store.

"I think it's the biggest opportunity we've ever had. We've never been in this store. It's a mega-chain in a mega-market," he said. "If the program has legs and momentum, it can keep us going for awhile. If we're doing really well with our eight stores (at a time), they'll expand that to see how much we can handle."

John Winter, a Toronto-based retail analyst, said Mondetta has scored quite a coup by partnering with an international retailing giant. The downside, he said, is Costco's clientele are bargain-hunters.

"Mondetta is guaranteed great sales but they would have to move a lot of the stuff in the various stores (to turn a significant profit)," he said.

Because flags aren't copyrighted, Winter said there's nothing preventing another clothier from coming in with a similar flag concept at a lower price.

"The design can be copied easily so they could get some competitor jumping into the market with great ease," he said.

Lavilla said Mondetta is hoping the Costco relationship on both sides of the border will be a springboard to launch other lines of clothing in the big-box warehouser and the world concept in more traditional retailers.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 26, 2009 B2

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