PARIS — It just might work — or it could be a mistake.
That summed up the views of financial analysts, who had a mixed reaction Wednesday to Pinault-Printemps-Redoute’s surprise appointment of Robert Polet as the new head of Gucci Group.
While some worried that Polet, a 48-year-old Dutch national with a reputation for increasing margins at the consumer goods giant, lacked experience in luxury and fashion, others said his outsider status could be an asset in the post-Dom and Tom era.
“Having someone not versed in the nitty-gritty of luxury brands may be good,” said one London-based analyst, who requested anonymity.
Analysts pointed to PPR’s reorganization of Gucci’s top management structure to allow its brand managers more decision-making leverage and clout in the running of their day-to-day businesses as setting the stage for the new Gucci chief executive officer. They said the appointment of Polet, who has wide experience in overseeing multiple brands, points to a ceo whose role will be focused largely on capital allocation, bolstering margins and cost-cutting at the group’s money-losing brands, such as Yves Saint Laurent and Boucheron, rather than on micromanaging the brands, as De Sole had done.
“The major challenge will be maintaining [the profitability] at Gucci while trimming back at the other brands in the portfolio,” commented a Paris-based analyst. “Polet’s arrival marks a shift at Gucci and is coherent with the strategy PPR has presented this far.”
The selection of Polet also is expected to signal a more laissez-faire attitude on the part of top management toward the design side of the luxury equation, after the strict image control wielded by Gucci’s departing creative director, Tom Ford.
“PPR seems to be saying that it wants a professional manager who will not have influence over the designers,” said another London-based analyst. “This might be a good change.”
The stock market greeted the news cautiously. PPR’s shares declined 1.27 percent to close at $102.84, or 85.70 euros, in trading on the Paris Bourse, as the CAC 40 index of French industrial companies fell .8 percent.
Analysts said Polet’s diverse background and cultural experience augurs well for his role at the international luxury firm. They said his facility with languages — including French, Italian, German and English — and his international background, having worked in Paris, Brussels, Milan and Hamburg, Germany, send a good message to investors.“It’s not negligible that he speaks Italian and French perfectly,” said a Paris-based analyst. “Gucci is staunchly Italian and PPR is resolutely French. That he’s Dutch is neutral. Some people at Gucci may not have appreciated the top man to be French and hence too close to PPR.”
They also said his credentials on an operational level were strong. “He has bags of experience when it comes to something like sourcing,” said one London analyst. “Polet will [however] have to get used to working in a high-margin top-end business, which is essentially the opposite of ice cream.”
Peter England, a Unilever veteran and former president and ceo of Elizabeth Arden, once a division of Unilever, called Polet strong on issues such as supply chain. “He can see the big picture,” said England. “His experience is also global.”
Meanwhile, analysts said Polet must quickly compensate for his lack of experience in retailing, which is vital to Gucci’s success and the bulk of its profitability. “He probably also has a lot of learning to do on the wholesale side of the business, which is built strongly on relationships with the department stores,” said a London-based analyst. “Domenico worked very hard to cultivate these.”
“Luxury is different than running a food business,” added Richard Hyman, chairman of Verdict Research, a London retail consultancy. “Then again, as the years go on, business is getting more challenging and you can’t necessarily run it from the pages of a manual. That’s why some companies are looking for managers who can bring a different perspective.”
In honor the @CFDA’s announcement of @iamnaomicampbell receiving the Fashion Icon Award at the 2018 #CFDAAwards, which will take place on June 4, here’s a #tbt of the supermodel on @michaelkors’ runway in 1991. #wwdfashion #wwdarchive (📷: George Chinsee)
“I was making the guacamole when my scout saw me,” says model @stuckinteenage on being discovered just six months ago while working at @chipotlemexicangrill. Since then Williams has signed with @dnamodels, walked in her first show at @calvinklein and landed on the cover of @vogueitalia – a high point of any model’s career. To read @lisajlockwood’s full interview with the model on her experiences thus far, head to WWD.com – link in bio. (📷: George Chinsee)
“I love the idea of dialogue, period. It’s where I’ve always gotten my inspiration from: hearing other women speak, their journeys and their paths,” said @hereisgina, who delivered the keynote speech during @sxsw for @createcultivate in partnership with @fossil. For her two panels, Rodriguez chose female empowering, female-led and female entrepreneurs to focus on. Head to WWD.com to read more about her thoughts on Time’s Up, growing up in a family of women and why we “need a girls’ club.” #wwdeye #sxsw (📷: @jgreenery)
Leading luxury brand are shaking things up to keep up with streetwear. Case in point: the arrival of @mrkimjones as artistic director of @diorhomme. Jones, who succeeds @Kris_Van_Assche, is seen as one of the handful of designers who can actually straddle the luxury and streetwear worlds — which could lead to even more changes at established brands. What could this mean for the rest of the menswear landscape? Head to WWD.com to find out what experts predict #wwdfashion (📷: @franckmura)
“It’s like buying groceries. You’re going to buy the best mango, the best mozzarella, the best things. You have to, or others are going to take it all,” said @gabrielahearst on why she uses only the finest fabrics. Last week, Hearst received her first @cfda nomination for Womenswear Designer of the Year, and earlier this month she opened a permanent showroom in Paris. To read @jessiredale’s interview with the designer and find out why this is shaping up to be a big year for her, head to WWD.com. #wwdfashion (📷: @francoisgoize)
“It’s an interesting thing, playing a younger version of your mother. It’s an interesting concept. I adore my mom and love her in every capacity, but it was just something that had never crossed my mind,” says @anniemstarke on playing a young Joan Castleman in “The Wife.” The same role will be played by her mother Glenn Close. Read more about her growing up in the film industry as the daughter of producer John H. Starke and Close and what she has planned for the future #wwdeye (📷: @nataliamantini)
@asics is launching a new streetwear sneaker inspired by its latest ambassador, @steveaoki. The Hyper-Kenzen x Aoki, which will launch at @footlocker stores exclusively tomorrow, is a slip-on style that incorporates the brand’s proprietary Gel technology through beads integrated into the midsole for comfort and endurance. Read the full story on WWD.com.