Premax is an export Consortium of 35 SMEs located in Premana (LC), a small town in the mountains and a marshallian district producing scissors and knives.
Founded in 1974, Premax was mainly responsible for exportation. Until the late 1990s there were only two poles of scissors production in Europe: Premana and Solingen (D). With the advent of Asian competition, they lost a large market share:
- poor product with low added value;
- 80% of SMEs acted as subcontractors;
- no investments in R & D;
- very little communication and marketing activity.
Different strategies were implemented to react to the crisis.
- Product and process innovation. They re-established themselves on the market with high quality products for professional uses (textiles, beauty, etc.), thanks to a strong investment in R&D and patenting: special and sterilizable steels, improvement of cutting capacity and its durability over time (Ring Lock System®), ergonomic design and attention to the needs of particular consumers (disabled, left-handed). They also improved production processes to obtain ISO 9001 environmental certification.
- Brand policy. To counteract “made in Premana” fakes, in 2005 a process began which led to the "PREMANA Collective Brand of Quality” (owned by the Chamber of Commerce, given to companies for use) in 2010; it qualifies the production according to precise technical specifications, co-defined and verified by the Politecnico di Milano (Polo di Lecco); the mark is engraved on the blades.
- Commercial investments. To support the export-oriented nature of the district, the consortium has significantly increased investment in fairs a
The Consortium has received in the period 2016-2017-2018 for the development of its activities a total of 187,800 Euros of public contribution (call for funding, voucher, network contracts, tax credit, ...).
There was an increase of human resources in the same period equal to 8 new people hired.
Evidence of success
During the years global sales volume has increased progressively by 47%, having opened up to new emerging markets (South/East Asia, Eastern Europe, Russia, Arabian countries, South America): the 84% of the sales volume of the Consorzio derives by the exportation of its products in 58 countries. The 94% of the scissors produced in Italy are realized in Premana. The 68% of the sales volume of the Consorzio the last year is originated by products sold with the Premax brand (33,4% in 2001).
Premax is facing important challenges regarding environmental sustainability. Under the pressure of North European and American (in particular Californian) demand and recent regulations, it is investing: in R&D to improve paints and plastic materials of the handles; and ISO 14001 certification.
Potential for learning or transfer
Premax experience shows an evolutionary trajectory of a Marshallian district of a "poor product". It came out of the crisis not only because highly internationalized, but because it invested in product innovation (and therefore in R&D) and in strengthening local synergies between SMEs through a strong brand policy: the transition from the culture ofsubcontracting to culture of the territorial quality brand was the turning point. This process was supported by an excellent relationship with the Lecco Chamber of Commerce which provided training, experience exchange between companies and which acquired and manages PREMANA brand. Web marketing, e-commerce, product innovation and improvements of packaging have been supported by state, regional, Chamber of Commerce and INAIL funding. The collaboration with the Politecnico di Lecco Campus was fundamental in the establishment of the brand and continues in the field of conservation and valorisation of the Premana territory.