NEW YORK — Furla is embarking on a fresh creative direction and it’s starting with its new store on Madison Avenue here.
The Italian accessories company has just opened a sleek and airy 2,500-square-foot flagship on Madison and East 57th Street, and for spring it will launch its revamped product offerings featuring more feminine touches, soft leathers and bright colors.
“The store is our flagship for the U.S. and is part of a strategy to expand our presence in America,” Giovanna Furlanetto, Furla’s president and chief executive officer, said in a phone interview while on her way to visit Furla stores in China. “We think we have huge potential in the U.S. and we would like to continue to build our name here.”
Furla expects to achieve sales of about $106.2 million worldwide this year, with about $10 million coming from the U.S., according to Carol DiMaio-Lucas, co-managing director of Furla USA. She said plans call for the North American business to reach sales of about $50 million in 2006, as a result of growth at company-owned and franchised stores, and its wholesale business.
The firm has 161 stores worldwide, and its retail business in North America includes 20 units, split evenly between franchised and company-owned locations. There is another Furla unit on Madison and East 64th Street, while its third Manhattan store, located in SoHo, closed this year.
The flagship, located next to the new Montblanc store in the heart of Manhattan’s luxury district, features a new design concept for Furla that is transparent and light. The 1,000-square-foot selling space on the first floor features see-through Plexiglas shelves that are lit from within, as well as open fixtures in the middle of the floor that can be moved, creating a flexible space.
The walls are made of Italian marmorino plaster, which conveys a look of soft stone. At the back of the store is a large video screen that will project changing shows; it now has videos by artists Sabrina Mezzaqui and Eva Marisaldo.
“This is a fresh direction and a new point of view for Furla,” DiMaio-Lucas said last week as finishing touches were being put on the store.This is the third Furla store worldwide to feature the new design concept, after Milan and Vienna, and all new stores going forward will include this design, DiMaio-Lucas said. The upstairs area of the flagship now includes the company’s showroom and might eventually include other areas of the business. She projected that the store could reach about $5 million in first-year sales.
The flagship includes the full range of Furla products. Although the 76-year-old Bologna-based company is still best known for its handbags, it now has a wide selection of product categories including footwear, jewelry and watches, belts, scarves, eyewear and small leather goods, all of which are produced in-house except for eyewear, which is licensed to De Rigo.
In the flagship, products start at around $35 for a small key chain and range up to $475 for some of the larger leather totes. The bulk of Furla products retail for between $150 and $475.
To oversee its growth and new direction, the company has hired some new executives, including creative director Tonya Hawkes, who joined in 2002 after designing handbags for DKNY. In the U.S., two executives were named in the last year to run the business here. DiMaio-Lucas oversees marketing, wholesale and retail, while Bruce Pettibone, the other co-managing director, is responsible for finance, operations and franchising.
On the wholesale front, Furla’s handbags and other products are sold in chains including Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale’s. The firm is still run by members of the founding Furlanetto family out of a villa in Bologna. Furlanetto said footwear has been an area of key growth. Introduced in 2002, footwear started to be sold wholesale for spring 2003 and is now the third biggest category after handbags and small leather goods.
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