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FERRAGAMO FETES SOHO SHOP AS U.S. STRATEGY TAKES SHAPE

NEW YORK -- France may have prematurely crashed out of the World Cup soccer tournament, and Italy's prospects are questionable, but the team headed by Massimo Ferragamo and Jean-Marc Gallot hopes to score with its new game plan.<P>On Monday,...

NEW YORK — France may have prematurely crashed out of the World Cup soccer tournament, and Italy’s prospects are questionable, but the team headed by Massimo Ferragamo and Jean-Marc Gallot hopes to score with its new game plan.

This story first appeared in the June 13, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

On Monday, Ferragamo USA’s soccer-fanatic Italian chairman and French president and regional director, respectively, hosted a party that started at the company’s 5,000-square-foot Spring Street boutique here followed by a dinner event themed La Dolce Vita — complete with Fellini-esque jugglers — at a furniture showroom on Crosby Street.

The event did not just celebrate the SoHo unit, which opened last October amid the aftermath of Sept. 11, but it also marked a new chapter for the U.S. arm of the Florence, Italy-based luxury goods firm.

Last month, Gallot was promoted to president of the American operation, a post that was previously held by Massimo Ferragamo, Salvatore Ferragamo’s youngest son, who is now the chairman. Gallot joined the company in May 2001 as executive vice president and U.S. regional director, and before that was president of Christofle Silver Inc. in the U.S.

“Jean-Marc gets to run it, I get to see if he does a good job,” quipped Ferragamo at the company’s Fifth Avenue showroom on Monday.

In the past few seasons, Ferragamo has been building on its classic approach with a rounder, more coordinated strategy to better link its ready-to-wear with accessories and shoes.

“In the past few years, Ferragamo has achieved a lot internally,” Gallot said. “We are at a turning point where we’d like to express this externally, too.”

He added that while sales for the first six months are on track with the previous year, the company projects double-digit increases for the second half, based on new stores, products and increased marketing efforts. The company’s current U.S. volume is $200 million.

He added that Ferragamo strengthened its design team, particularly the women’s category, with some key hirings, including Graeme Black, the former senior designer of women’s wear at Giorgio Armani, for ready-to-wear. Black replaced Marc Audibet, who exited when his two-year contract expired last year. Black’s first complete collection will be introduced in spring 2003.

In addition, Ferragamo has zeroed in on niche opportunities with special collections associated with sporting events. Last month, it introduced a World Cup-inspired collection for the soccer championship, which consists of vintage-looking soccer balls, performance-oriented and recreational soccer shoes, a canvas bag and silk ties imprinted with soccer balls and gold cups.

The company also introduced a collection of sports bags, shoes and accessories inspired by Nautor’s Swan Yachts. This September, Ferragamo will launch Salvatore, its newest handbag group consisting of a double-handle doctor’s bag with zipper side pockets inspired by an original Fifties Ferragamo design. Salvatore will be available in nylon, brushed black calf or black or brown pony skin and will retail from $455 to $1,050.

“We are trying to bring back the heart and soul of what Ferragamo is, working with the best materials and most functional styles,” said Ferragamo.

Gallot added: “Too often in the past, we were into too many things in handbags. We believe it’s time to focus on a few strong groups in handbags and the Salvatore is a good example of our new focus.”

Ferragamo is also building its retail presence in the U.S. There are 15 stores nationwide and three more are scheduled to open in the next 12 months: a 3,000-square-foot unit at the Americana shopping center in Manhasset, N.Y. this August; a 1,500-square-foot shop at Lenox Mall in Atlanta next February, and a 3,000-square-foot store at Santana Row mall in San Jose, Calif., in August 2003.

Ferragamo is on plan with the opening of its 20,000-square-foot flagship on the northeast corner of Fifth Avenue and 52nd Street in Manhattan next March. Its 2,500-square-foot men’s unit at Trump Tower will wind down by the end of the year and relocate to the new location. As reported, British luxury firm Asprey has taken that space.

The flagship’s design will be be similar to the SoHo store, but also feature a gallery space to exhibit pieces from Ferragamo’s Florence archives. Ferragamo’s original design concept was created by architect Michael Gabellini, and for the flagship, it’s being evolved by New York architecture firm Janson Goldstein.

Besides its own stores, Ferragamo is sold in some 100 doors, consisting of mostly upscale department and specialty stores, including Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom.

The company, for the first time, also ventured into the trunk show business. Gallot said a recent show at the Fifth Avenue store brought in about $250,000 in one day — with 30 Salvatore bags presold — and the plan is to go on the road with 10 more trunk shows nationwide next month.

“The old recipe is not working anymore,” said Gallot. “Trunk shows allow us to talk to our customer directly. Today, there is room for talking directly to the customer.”

This includes in-store marketing events that would be tied in with a local charity, such as Monday’s La Dolce Vita party, which was tied in with Naked Angels, the New York and Los Angeles theater production company.

The company is also bolstering its advertising plan by adding pre-spring placements for November and December books to its calendars and is finalizing a deal for a new ad campaign with a New York-based agency, though Ferragamo declined to give further details.