The Italian group is launching an interesting new category of comfortable, athletic-inspired outdoor shoes under the Tecnica brand, called the “Tecnica Rolling System.”

This one the first new initiatives undertaken by the Tecnica Group to achieve a corporate goal to take outdoor, in-line skating and other summer-based sports categories up from one-half to two-thirds or three-fourths of the total turnover, in order to make the company less dependent on snow sports. This ambitious project is led by Jean-Luc Diard, the French executive, hired a year ago by the group as vice president of business development, who had previously accomplished a similar feat as chief executive of Salomon.

Last year, Tecnica’s consolidated sales grew marginally to €383 million, with those of outdoor products remaining practically stable at around 30 percent of the total. The group delivered about 2.5 million pairs of outdoor shoes, and the lion’s share was taken by Lowa, which sold 1.82 million pairs.

Thanks to the high level of its know-how and its large sales apparatus, the management feels that it could push its total footwear sales up to three or four million pairs through the development of more original shoes, a clear market positioning and a broader distribution under its Tecnica and Dolomite brands.

Both brands will capitalize on the strong image of Italian design, but the older Dolomite brand is meant to go back to its roots and to be more associated with technical mountaineering and expedition pursuits.

Its new “Cougar HP” boot features an original double lacing system that ensures good fit for climbing and ice trekking. As a further evolution of its “Dolomite Anatomic System,” it provides a double damping mechanism in the sole that also makes it suitable for running.

As for the company’s new “Tecnica Rolling System,” it can be described as an evolution of a classical athletic shoe that targets a broader group of customers who resent the rigidity of the typical outdoor boot when they go hiking. It features a continuous sole design, similar to that of the wheel of a mountain-bike, that allows the wearer to maintain a natural stride, while offering good grip and propulsion.

Using a pool of designers from the U.S. and other countries, and borrowing technical ideas from running and basketball shoes, the new concept developed by Tecnica follows a market study showing that half of the people who go hiking don’t use any of the traditional hiking boots, but mostly athletic shoes or sneakers. This attitude is most common among women and younger people.

Tecnica’s new line includes specific models for women and is divided into three categories, one for light-speed hiking, one for a wider range of outdoor activities and another for short-distance walking and leisure, especially in warmer climates.

According to Tecnica officials, leading outdoor retailers around the world have already praised this new concept at recent presentations. In advance of the OutDoor show, the company has sent out a big e-mail blast with teasers of an advertising campaign for the spring/summer 2010 launch at retail around the tag-line “catch us if you canfor the outdoor athlete in you.” The consumer campaign will feature some creative sports marketing.