30 gennaio 2015

State of the Italian Luxury Industry and Catering to the Chinese Traveler

Courtesy:  Fortune Character Magazine, China, January 2015 issue, pgs. 58-59.
Despite a long-running political and economic crisis with negative repercussions on consumer confidence, Italy’s luxury goods industry has largely escaped the fate of the other consumer goods categories. The Italian luxury industry continues to see positive performance thanks to the sustained demand of tourists visiting the country, increased investments in flagship store development and a strong local manufacturing base characterized by a myriad of small and medium-sized entities. These facts have fueled the positive (although slowing) growth rates of brands like Giorgio Armani, Prada, Brunello Cucinelli and Tod’s. The overall breadwinner in Italy turned out to be the worldwide market leader in middle and high-end eyewear, Luxottica, owner of Ray Ban and Oakley sunglasses, among numerous other fashion brand licenses.
Although most people think of Italy only in terms of fashion and leather goods, the food & beverage and design (furniture and fixtures) industries have continuously and creatively introduced new high-end products to the international marketplace. Companies such as Cappellini, Kartell, Boffi, Poliform and Natuzzi are continually creating and introducing the Italian style into homes around the world. The world’s most important furniture and design exposition continues to be the annual springtime fete Salone del Mobile, uniting the worldwide design community not only in the exhibition but throughout the entire city of Milan. Increased attention on behalf of the Italian government, thanks to the 2015 Expo to be held in Milan (following the 2010 edition in Shanghai) and having food and the environment as its key themes, have also increased the importance of the overall country’s luxury industry.

Made in Italy continues to be an important theme driving the growth of quality-oriented companies. In fact, entering what many call a “new normal” phase of international business, characterized by diminished growth rates, shifting exchange rates and political turmoil, many Italian luxury brands have been reacting more quickly to mature market demand shifts and reassessing strategies in explosive development markets like China. The most attentive and fast moving brands among the pack have insisted on back-shoring its production from China (and other Far East countries), preferring the craftsmanship and creativity, as well as the manufacturing costs, provided by Italian workers. At the same time, other SouthEast Asia markets like Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand, are representing the latest wave of growing incomes seeking out to buy the most luxurious of products.
A quick walk about the top tourist destinations of Milan, Rome, Florence and Venice sees continued growth in the number of Chinese visitors, but at the same time an insufficient know-how in the level of services provided for them by Italian retail establishments and services. Italian brands and their stores are still second rate compared to the service levels of London, Paris and Zurich, for example, with regards to user-friendliness, experience and efficiency. Chinese speaking salespeople are still a rarity at most Italian luxury brands in Via Montenapoleone in Milan and Via Condotti in Rome while Italians still need to get to know its Chinese clientele better. A quick stop into Italy’s top department store, La Rinascente, shows only the top French brands such as Dior and Louis Vuitton having Chinese speaking salespeople. Italy, in general, also needs to promote its various regions and territories to visit, while increasing its relationships with the main Chinese tour operators which manage the growing number of visitors to Europe. The Italian luxury tourism industry needs to work harder in order to provide more satisfaction nd serenity during the stay of Chinese visitors in Italy, even moreso now that the Russian consumers are practically non-existant.

One city that has welcomed Chinese visitors in a unified and structured manner is Venice. Having one of the best university programs for studying Mandarin Chinese and thanks to its long-time ties to the Orient, Venice is the perfect example of how culture, food and shopping all come together in a harmonious way, even to the Chinese. No wonder that LVMH owned DFS Group, the operator of duty-free shops, is planning to open its first mall in Europe inside Venice’s 13th century building called Fondaco dei Tedeschi. This building will house 8,000 square meters of retail space, enclosing LVMH’s house brands, but also local artisans and promoting local and international art culture through exhibitions. Scheduled to open in 2016, this historic building in the Rialto bridge area of Venice will house on the ground floor Italian and international fashion & accessories, the second floor men’s fashion & accessories plus watches & jewellery, while on the third floor there will be a high-end shoe salon (the first of its type in the city) and a broad fragrances & cosmetics offer.  The target audience for the Fondaco is considered to be “the world traveller”, and should not have a singular focus on Asian or specifically Chinese travelers because Venice is a melting pot of visiting nationalities, from Europeans to Americans to Asians and Middle East visitors. DFS Group is planning to add a few more outlets in Europe during 2016 and is looking at France, Italy and Switzerland.
But the city of Milan has not backed down to this challenge and capitalizing on Expo 2015, beginning on May 1, Mr. Giorgio Armani has been named special ambassador to the opening of the Universal Exhibition. He will organize a special runway show to celebrate the 40th anniversary of his company and on the same night will inaugurate its new Armani/Silos. This art exhibition space will be located in a former Nestlé factory, facing the fashion company’s headquarters on Milan’s Via Borgognone. Here Armani will install a permanent exhibition of his fashion and drawings, plus provide space for upcoming designers to showcase their creations.

Another intiative transforming the attractive style of Milan is the creation of a shopping street entirely dedicated to menswear.  Thus, to counter London’s Savile Row, famous for traditional menswear and bespoke tailoring, on January 17th Via Gesù in Milan will become the Via dell’Uomo (tr. Mens Street) and include brand flagship stores like Caruso, Brioni, Kiton, Luciano Barbera, Barba Napoli, Doriani Cashmere and Stefano Ricci. The project aims to promote the elegant street, home also to the headquarters of Versace and located right in the middle of the city’s fashion district, called Quadrilatero della Moda, as an unparalleled stopover for an international clientele of male shoppers. Shoemakers Barrett, Doucal’s and Silvano Lattanzi all sport flagship stores on the same street. In response, even top international fashion brands like Versace and Prada, better known by the general public for their womenswear collections and accessories, have joined the likes of Armani and Ermenegildo Zegna to increase their share of menswear sales.
Today’s definition of luxury has changed. There is an increased attention to individuals and their specific lives, as opposed to just hedonism and flaunting for the sake of appearance. People seek meaning to their lives and would like to find their reason for being in this complex and fast-paced world. Innovation, technology and design all help to make lives more meaningful, comfortable and simplified. Today’s Italian luxury brands are beginning to provide plaforms upon which the consumer can feel cared for with transparency and functionality.

To see the Mandarin Chinese version of the article, see the January 2015 issue, pgs. 58-59.

10 settembre 2014

PGDS Consulting in Fashion, Luxury and Education

Today Italy's top fashion news, business and trend publication Fashion Magazine released my latest research article on China's anticorruption campaign and how it is affecting the strategies in today's fashion, luxury and accessory brands (in Italian, see pgs. 34-36 of the sfogliabile edition online or read the article at the following link). It reports on the broad effects which not only clothing brands are encountering in China, but also how yachting, airline, wine and spirit, hotels, bars, jewelry and watche brands are altering their course to cater to both the old and new rich in Mainland China. The term gifting per se finds its place historically in Confucianism and is based on the three pillars of society: courtesy, respect and relationship building. That's the good gifting which can be also found in the western world. It should not be confused with the more "grey" side of gifting, utilized only for obtaining an advantage with respect to public or private officials. International brands need to be aware of how the vast majority of the 1.3 billion population adheres to their government's new austerity plan and thus adjust their marketing, retail and promotion strategies during this so-called new normal phase of development. Fashion Magazine will also be distributed during the Milano Unica and Linea Pelle trade exhibitions currently taking place in Milan.

I am quite pleased with the progress made by PGDS Consulting's professional advise to the fashion, luxury and education industries during 2014. I am positive about the future and the expected turnaround of business conditions in Europe during 2015-2016. Last May I was invited by the Turkish Clothing Manufacturer's Association to speak about how local brands can build long-term strategies to develop their businesses. My full presentation about "How to be a Brand" can be downloaded at the following link. Also, see my full interview in Turkish, following that of Alberta Ferretti and before London based designer Antonio Berardi, made by local and international top model Tülin Şahin's ile Moda program on StarTV at the following link (starting at 37min45sec).

During 2014 I also proudly taught several eMBA, MBA and undergraduate seminars and courses in the fields of Luxury Brand Management, China Luxury Market, Licensing, Fashion Marketing and International Marketing. I am particularly proud of my continued relationships (now counting 5-7 years!) with Fondazione CUOA (and Shanghai Jiao Tong University), Università di Padova (and University of Michigan-Dearborn) and the International University of Monaco, all of which have provided me with a platform upon which to grow as a person, researcher, educator and businessman.

Without the support and openness of professional associations like Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana, Altagamma, Pitti Immagine Uomo or Fortune Character Institute in Beijing, I certainly would not have been able to learn from or meet so many of the distinguished managers in the Italian and international luxury fashion industry, such as Mario Boselli, Paolo Panerai, Paolo and Benedetta Zegna, Armando Branchini, Filippo Cavalli, Brunello Cucinelli, Umberto Angeloni, Annalisa Tarquini, Tina Zhou, Paolo Bellamoli and Romano Cappellari. Thanks to these persons' professional time and commitment, I am able to be an integral and fundamental part of the Italian and international luxury fashion system.

Since 2008 these stepping stones have brought me to be accepted on the faculty of Italy's top financial daily Il Sole 24 Ore and their International Master in Luxury Management. It's their Business School's first full-time English program which begins in November and where I will be presenting a seminar in Luxury Fashion Licensing. Other faculty members already on board include Bain & Co., BCG, Bulgari, Brioni, Ferragamo, Diesel and Maserati. Challenging company to be a part of, but my experience and confidence tell me that it will be a pleasure to share my know-how with students and the future business class.

Looking forward to an exciting Autumn 2014 season! See you on the street, at work and at the shows.

09 maggio 2014

How to Be a Brand: from Manufacturer to Luxury

On May 8th the Turkish Clothing Manufacturers Association organized their 7th Annual Istanbul Fashion Conference at the ShangriLa Bosphorus Hotel in Istanbul, Turkey. It was an honor and pleasure for me to participate as guest speaker in front of so many positive and forward-thinking local entrepreneurs seeking to expand their brands, not only locally and regionally, but internationally.

In recognition of the superior efforts and organization by TGSD's President, Mr. Cem Negrin, I am pleased to make available my presentation How to be a Brand. I am grateful to have been able to discover this great city and country, and look forward to further dialogue with the participants and members of the Association. Best of luck to you in the future! PGDS


27 marzo 2014

Branding at the Istanbul Fashion Conference, May 8-9

Where is the globalization of the fashion and luxury branding heading? Local brands from Europe strongly desire to be present in developing Asian markets, yet the big luxury conglomerates are currently sustaining moderate growth in those same areas. At the same time, the so-called "superbrands" like LV, Prada and Gucci are paving the way for less abundant, niche brands to find success in the Asian consumer mindsets.
How is the increasingly well-travelled middle class consumer from the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) being compared to the high growth potential of the CIVETS markets (Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey and South Africa)?
What role is price, brand awareness and brand personality playing between these different regions, including the USA?
How can brands, manufacturers and suppliers take advantage of the existing opportunities in a most challenging business climate?
These are just some of the issues and themes I will be presenting during the Branding session at the 7th Istanbul Fashion Conference, organized by the Turkish Clothing Manufacturers Association and held at the Shangri-La Bosphorus Hotel on May 8-9.
Attached below are some of the promotional brochures made available by the organizers.

21 febbraio 2014

India and The New Global Consumer

Did you know that there will be nearly one billion middle-class consumers in China and India within the next ten years?
More than 135 Million Chinese and Indians will graduate from college, bringing many new households into the middle and upper classes.

Like happened to me in China, there was first a calling for education, then strategy and finally business development and relationship building. I started teaching Luxury Brand Management courses at Jiao Tong University in Shanghai (thanks to Fondazione CUOA), thereafter bringing new EU brands to fashion trade exhibitions at Novomania and CHIC, communicating luxury and fashion brand values through Fortune Character Magazine, organizing the Luxury in China Summit in Shanghai, all while putting companies together for long-term commitments.

Now after 5 years working successfully in China, India is calling me in a similar way. And I am answering the call here too with an investigative and research mission to Mumbai from February 24-March 2. I am curious to see the contrasts between high and low end, while at the same time feeling the people's need to enthousiastically improve oneself and connect with the rest of the world.

Interestingly, one of my recent keynote speeches in China, at the IAF Conference in Kunshan, was published in the new print edition of India's fashion trade publication Fibre2fashion Magazine, November 2013 issue. Thank you very much India, I like you already! See article below.