O’Neill announces its cooperation with Itochu Corporation for an exclusive, long-term licensing and distribution partnership in Japan.

Itochu Corporation is a leading trade company that specializes in developing and launching well-recognized American and European brands throughout Japan and Asia. To act as operational partner of O’Neill, Itochu brought in sub-licensee Nikki, a leading action sports company in Japan. O’Neill is excited about its new relationship with Itochu Corporation and Nikki, and believes the combination of a strong operations team with industry experts in the fields of snow, surf, and sports lifestyle, will lead to the brand’s progression in that region.

Itochu Corporation will be the primary licensee for men’s and women’s swimwear, apparel and accessories; Nikki will manufacture and distribute these segments via its key retailers. Design direction for both menswear and womenswear will be sourced from global design inspirations. The first collection is set to hit stores in December, and will include a limited number of outerwear jackets and pants from O’Neill snowboarder Jeremy Jones’ global outerwear line.

Harry Suzuki will be head of the O’Neill operations for Itochu Corporation. Suzuki has been with Itochu for 13 years, and has experience managing numerous footwear and apparel brands including Converse, Airwalk, ProKeds, Keds, and Saucony.

Joining Itochu, is sub-licensee Nikki, which will be led by Katsushi Miwa. Miwa has over 27 years of experience within the action sports industry, and led Nikki’s OP (Ocean Pacific) business to become one of the major brands within the industry in Japan.

O’Neill will be available across Japan specifically in major cities like Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya, and can be found at key retailers like Murasaki Sports, Marui, Alpen, and Xebio, just to name a few. Itochu also plans to open two O’Neill retail stores in 2011 and hopes to help the brand growing and to have 15 retail stores by 2015.