By  on September 20, 2011

MILAN — The opening of a new shop-in-shop at Saks Fifth Avenue is only the first step in Emilio Pucci’s expansion in the U.S.

“The U.S. market is excellent for Pucci, one of the markets that is growing the most, as it showed 20 percent gains year-to-date,” said Alessandra Carra, who joined the company in March as its new chief executive officer. “We didn’t used to have shop-in-shops in department stores, as it was a conscious decision in the past to focus on building our boutiques, but we thought that with Saks, it was the right moment to change our strategy.”

Carra highlighted the symbolism of the decision, since Saks was the first American department store to carry Pucci in the late Sixties.

The ceo said Pucci plans to replicate the shop-in-shop in other department stores. The brand, controlled by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, operates eight stores in the U.S. and is sold at department stores such as Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom.

Sales through its own stores account for 50 percent of global revenues, and Carra noted that Pucci doesn’t plan to change that percentage while mapping out a strategy to develop its wholesale division in the future. “Department stores are very important for us and a strong vehicle for growth,” she said.

Carra underscored how the U.S. is “very strategic and very important for Pucci,” despite a general slowdown in consumer spending in the area. “Luxury is not often influenced by this factor, and the American market has picked up after a couple of difficult years, although it remains hard to forecast the future,” said Carra.

Capitalizing on strong brand awareness, Pucci is enjoying growth because of the work of creative director Peter Dundas, who has rejuvenated the brand while respecting its past. “The market is responding to his designs, which evoke Italian style and glamour,” said Carra, pointing to celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow, who wore a black, midriff-baring Pucci look to the Emmy Awards.

She said there were two major projects in the pipeline in the U.S., but declined to provide details. “We have big plans to grow,” she said. The U.S. accounts for 20 percent of wholesale sales and 25 percent of retail sales, added Carra. As per company policy, she declined to reveal sales figures.

Pucci recently opened its first boutique in Lebanon, in Beirut, in a partnership with Aishti Group, as the Middle East is seen as an opportunity for growth for the company. “Beirut is a sophisticated, glamorous city, which maintains its joie de vivre even in difficult moments,” said Carra. Pucci is also looking at expanding in the Arabian Peninsula with a series of openings over the next 18 months.

There are 48 Pucci stores, mainly directly operated, and the label is available at 350 multibrand stores.

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