PONZANO VENETO, Italy — Benetton will celebrate its 40th anniversary this year with an improved performance and image, as well as festivities in Paris.
"We are more competitive today due to a chemical blend of factors: products that work well, a close relationship with our retail partners and timely deliveries," said chairman Luciano Benetton after a shareholders' meeting at company headquarters on Tuesday. "Also, we've maintained our prices, which was one of our priorities."
Benetton, who was flanked by his son Alessandro Benetton, vice chairman, and Silvano Cassano, managing director, said, "Consumers are rewarding us and I am optimistic about 2007."
The executive said that added fashion content helped the company's performance, starting with the fall-winter 2006 collections.
The meeting confirmed 2005 net profits of 112 million euros, or $139.4 million, up 6.3 percent from 109 million euros, or $135.5 million, the previous year. All figures were converted at average exchange rates for the period to which they refer. Consolidated sales climbed 3.6 percent to 1.77 billion euros, or $2.2 billion.
Shareholders also appointed Robert Singer, chief executive officer of Barilla Holding SpA, new independent director of the board. Singer was previously president and chief operating officer of Abercrombie & Fitch and had been executive vice president and chief financial officer of Gucci Group.
To mark the 40th anniversary, Benetton said the company plans an exhibition with Fabrica, the brand's communications research center, at the Centre Beaubourg (George Pompidou) in Paris, followed by a party on Oct. 10.
"It will be spectacular and exciting," Benetton said. "I've always considered Paris the capital of fashion and we've been inspired by this city again and again over the years. Paris has always given us a lot of satisfaction."
The company next year plans to further expand its sales outside Italy, which account for 52 percent of revenues. Benetton said he wants to "grow everywhere, especially in Europe," and also in countries which are strong at the moment, such as those with oil-based economies.
In addition, the company in the next three years plans to add 100 stores to the 50 in India, where the company has production plants. "We have a good image in India, a market which has grown very quickly," Benetton said. "We have beautiful stores with a new, fresh look and we plan to reach all of the country, not only the richer, northern part of it."Alessandro Benetton, who was appointed vice chairman last year with a mandate to develop Asia, noted "the incredible strength of the brand" around the world, "recognizable even in those countries which we have not fully penetrated."
Luciano Benetton said China, which is also a production center for the company, will grow less quickly than India. There are 70 Benetton stores in China.
As for outsourcing, which Benetton has been developing, Luciano Benetton said the company was "ahead of plans." In addition to a new production plant in Tunisia, Benetton has expanded its production in Romania.
"We have three production legs: in Tunisia, in Eastern Europe and Asia — India and China," Cassano said. "Bangladesh and Macao are also good alternatives, depending on the needs. Flexibility is a must."
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