Against a backdrop of little, if any, growth in the sporting goods business, Lotto Sport Italia has managed to rack up a 27 per cent gain in its direct gross sales in the first 6 months of this year to 63.5 million Euros.

Adding sales from the company's distributors and licensees brings total wholesale figures for Lotto brand products around the world to over 110 million Euros in the first half of 2001, compared to 85 million Euros at the same period in the year 2000.

According to Andrea Tomat, president and chief executive officer, these results indicate substantial market share gains, particularly in the company's core tennis business, in sport-inspired leisure products, and in its kid's footwear line.

"With increasing size has come more efficient operation," Tomat said, "and our gross margins improved significantly, from 42.2 per cent a year ago to 44.7 per cent this year. Another indicator of our increased efficiency is the fact that our head count increased by only 12 per cent in the first half of the year. These improvements have enabled us to increase our marketing spending as a percentage of sales and still maintain a very healthy 7 per cent profit before tax."

Looking ahead, the company's order book shows an 18 per cent gain compared to last year. This doesn't include forward orders for the new Juventus and Galatasaray apparel lines, which are said to have had a "tremendous" first response.