Chris Bosca's innovative practices have helped his family business survive.
What suggests Old World tradition more than a maker of leather goods? Chris Bosca—the CEO of the top-end leather company Bosca—doesn’t disagree. “The Bosca brand is over 100 years old now,” says Bosca, whose grandfather, Italian-born Hugo, founded the Springfield-based company as a maker of handbags in 1911. “A product like ours plays by a little bit different rules. There is this sort of attachment to the past and tradition.”
Under the leadership of the founder’s grandson, however, the company has been anything but stodgy. While remaining true to its roots, Bosca—who lives in Columbus, where he operates the company’s design studio—has expanded its product line to include wallets, backpacks, totes and other accessories. More significantly, the business has positioned itself on the cutting edge in how it reaches customers.
Evolving from its past reliance on large, multi-branded retailers, the company today concentrates on online sales via third-party retailers, like nordstrom.com, and its own website, bosca.com. “It’s down to a couple of department stores that are in existence and are appropriate for our brand,” Bosca says, pointing to Dillard’s, Nordstrom and Von Maur. Although those and other brick-and-mortar retailers—including luggage stores and men’s stores—remain important, the company prioritizes the web. “The only business that has been a big-growth business for us has been internet business,” Bosca says.
The son of Mario Bosca—who helped run the company following the death of Hugo—Chris grew up in the business. “When I was a little kid, on most Saturday mornings, I was down at the office with my dad, and I’d be out in the factory making something,” says Bosca, who kept a hand in day-to-day operations even while attending Wittenberg University. “I worked in the factory on the stitching line.”
Today, much of Bosca’s manufacturing has moved off-site, including to China, but one constant has been sourcing leather from Italy. Many products feature a hand-stained variety called Old Leather. “It’s all done in one little place right now, and I actually physically inspect,” Bosca says. “I go through, and I grade and select all of the hides, and then they’re shipped to wherever we need it to be.”
The most significant change Bosca has overseen has been the transition to a web-first distribution strategy. To assist in this effort, Bosca turned in 2012 to Adept Marketing, which oversaw an overhaul of bosca.com and utilizes strategies like search engine marketing. “In essence, using the search engine as a way when people were either looking for something like ‘Italian leather wallet,’ . . . that we were showing up where those consumers were looking,” says Adept Marketing’s Danielle Walton.
Including partners such as nordstrom.com, Bosca says that over 55 percent of its purchases now take place online. He also believes that in-store purchases are often preceded by online activity. “I think that almost all of our new customers discover us online,” he says. “Then they go to stores to find our product.”
Key to the strategy is effectively telling the company’s story. In years past, they relied on print advertising. “You could repeat it enough times, and it would work,” Bosca says. “Now I don’t think that people are seeing those things or lingering on them.”
Today, the company recounts its history, tradition and reputation online. On the website, a button reading “Why it’s worth the price” sits beside the purchase price of products. “I wanted for people, right in their pathway, to say, ‘Well, this looks interesting, but who are these people?’ ” Bosca says. “And for them to be able to—without getting too far away from the product—find out a little bit more about who we are.”
While maintaining its headquarters in Springfield, the company has long had a presence in Columbus; its current spot in Olde Towne East houses the online marketing creative department. “Not that there isn’t creativity in Springfield,” he says, but Columbus is home to the photography, web design and email production departments.
Bosca feels he is reaching a new demographic; in addition to its traditional baby-boomer clientele, 30-somethings are drawn to craftsmanship. “We’re looking for people that value something that is going to last, not something that is just inexpensive,” he says.