Industry 4.0 Fund

Maria Pompilio
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EPI acquires 100% of Calcioshop to shape a prime hub for sports e-commerce and retail

EPI, the Italian leader in online and store-based sports merchandise, has bought Free Time Management Group, the helm to Calcioshop ‒ the portal specialized in soccer kits, equipment and apparel

EPI, the ‘brick & click’ leader in online and retail sports merchandising sales, today finalized its acquisition of 100% of Free Time Management Group S.r.l., the Italian company owning Calcioshop, an e-shop specialized in the sale of football equipment and clothing.

The transaction stands as the fifth investment by Industry 4.0 Fund, the private equity fund supported and managed by Quadrivio Group to invest in technological innovation and the digital transition for Italian SMEs; EPI has already featured in the Fund’s portfolio since 2020.

Founded in Barzago (near Lecco) in 1985, Free Time Management Group has been supplying team-sport apparel and equipment for over 35 years, and for the last 16 has been heading Calcioshop, Italy’s most visited e-commerce site pivoting on the soccer world. Today Calcioshop is a trusted partner and authorized dealer for names such as Nike, Adidas and Puma and offers a selection of the best international brands, so that it stands as a point of reference for fans and enthusiasts as well as for amateur and professional footballers. The portal now has a customer base of over 300,000 registered and profiled users and manages 3 Calcioshop stores, in Milan, Bergamo and Barzago.

Calcioshop’s focus is distinctly complementary to EPI’s core business. In fact, EPI intends to use this operation as a vehicle to strengthen its market leadership in sports merchandising, to create a large group that is internationally active, both in e-commerce and through sports retail stores.

EPI closed its accounts in June 2021 with a turnover of 28 million euros and growth 30% up on the previous year. Today its other figures include 150 employees, over 700,000 orders dispatched annually and 8 shops, also thanks to the store recently opened inside San Siro Stadium in Milan.

The Calcioshop takeover will also encourage new partnerships and the launch of a new brand, to be presented in February 2022. The company’s investment policy backing technology, marketing and logistics while also bolstering the management structure means that EPI can realistically aim to soon reach a yearly turnover of 50 million euros.

"Its Calcioshop acquisition further boosts growth for EPI in its aim to expand the range of products it offers, to cater to all those people with a passion for sports: fans, teams and amateur and professional players alike. Setting out from the soccer world, this transaction is the first step along a path resulting in creation of a great European competitor in the realm of sports e-commerce and retail stores," stated Lorenzo Forte, founder and CEO of EPI.

Giorgio Despota and Mauro Sala, both Partners at Free Time Management, also showed their keenness for the deal: “We’re very happy and enthusiastic to be part of the EPI group, since we feel certain it will bring significant impetus to the internationalization drive that today’s market requires, also of companies consolidated on a national level, such as ours. The demand for products connected with the football world is constantly on the rise and the need to create a single reference brand to cater to fans, players and soccer enthusiasts is becoming ever more evident.”

For Pietro Paparoni, Investment Director at Quadrivio Group, “The Calcioshop acquisition is an operation fully in line with the business plan by EPI, a company that has taken its turnover into double figures, overcoming the many difficulties of these two years of Covid and the restrictions limiting play and spectator participation in the world of soccer. This transaction takes the Quadrivio team to confirm its ability to encourage dialogue and interaction between enterprisers and SMEs, contributing to the creation of leading entities on niche markets and boosting the digitalization of its portfolio companies.”

Roberto Crapelli, Managing Partner at Industry 4.0 Fund, commented on the acquisition: “Standing before EPI and Calcioshop is an opportunity for growth thanks to the use of digital technologies on a market worth 500 million euros in Italy and 800 million in Germany. Industry 4.0 Fund once again confirms its investment strategy, which will speed up growth in value through the use of new technologies.”

Transaction advisor to EPI in operation structuring and negotiation was T8P Consulting (Cataldo Tedone); financial and tax due diligence was provided by Mac Lab (Marco Spingardi), and employment law due diligence by Geco & Associati (Nicola Pezone); the legal aspects were managed by the law office Andersen in Italy (Francesco Inturri).