In the last three years, Moncler has gone from the slopes to the streets.
Remo Ruffini bought the 50-plus-year-old brand in 2003 and "changed completely the strategy" — in product, segmentation and distribution — to reposition Moncler from a pricy active line to a status-symbol outerwear collection.
And his plan appears to be working. Since Ruffini acquired the brand from Fin.part, a multilabel manufacturer, for an undisclosed sum, the Milan company's volume has almost tripled, to about 100 million euros, or $135 million, wholesale, from 35 million euros, or $47 million at current exchange.
"I don't care so much about the quantity and the amount — if you work well, the quantity comes," Ruffini said. "Good quality and good stores are most important."
He began with the product, cutting out everything from the line that was not down-filled.
"When I came to Moncler, it was a complete collection with T-shirts and everything, and I kept only the down jacket," Ruffini said. "I prefer to make the best down jacket in the world, rather than have a collection like many in the market. My dream is for people when they see a puffy jacket to think Moncler, to link the two names: down jacket and Moncler."
He also segmented the line, adding higher-end, designer and archive collections to the traditional "sport chic" fare. Today, the 10-piece pure ski collection makes up only a fraction of sales.
With the changes in product, the price points increased. An outfit from the sport chic line, which makes up 45 percent of Moncler's apparel sales, wholesales for around $600. The archive jackets, which take their inspiration from bestsellers of the Fifties and Sixties and feature the famous Moncler patches on the arms, wholesale for $300 to $400 and account for about half of sales. At the top end, Ruffini added a designer red-label line and hired former Gucci women's ready-to-wear designer Alessandra Facchinetti to design it. Two years after its 2006 launch, the Gamma Rouge line, which wholesales from $900 to $2,500, makes up just more than 5 percent of sales.
Moncler is also adding accessories to the lineup — and the down-filled bags and shoes toe the company's must-have-down line. The company started making down bags with Fendi for fall 2006, and its own bags and shoes, starting in July, will be in 100 stores, including Barneys New York and Collette. "It's important to show only in the best stores in the world," said Ruffini. The accessories wholesale for around $1,000. Ruffini wants to focus solely on handbags and shoes for the next three years, then add other accessories. Ultimately, he thinks accessories sales can make up 20 to 30 percent of Moncler's sales.Moncler's higher-end designer products have found a new home.
"One of the biggest keys to our success is our distribution," Ruffini said. "Moncler was really strong on the sports point of view, and it was distributed in the sporting good stores before, but we changed the distribution to change the perception of the brand. I want to grow up in the same stores, not grow the distribution."
Moncler began targeting Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys New York, Saks Fifth Avenue and a host of smaller specialty stores like Searle, more than 2,000 doors worldwide. In addition to the specialty stores, Moncler can still be found in 200-plus high-end active retailers, like Paragon in New York.
Moncler also has six of its own stores in Europe's high-end ski resorts. The company is adding one or two stores every season at key resorts, particularly in the Alps, and Ruffini's ultimate goal is to have 30 to 35 proprietary stores in all the world's top ski spots. By 2009, he hopes to open Moncler's first U.S. store in Aspen, Colo.
Ruffini, 45, began his career at his father's company, Gianfranco Ruffini Ltd., which handled the designing and marketing of several clothing lines as a licensee, and founded a company called New England in 1984 that originally specialized in men's shirts and then expanded into all sportswear. In 1998, he left his father's company and became creative director of the Moncler, Henry Cotton and Marina Yachting brands, all owned by Fin.part. Since buying Moncler, Ruffini has been chairman and creative director of the brand.
He splits his time between his home in Como, Italy, and Milan, headquarters of the 100 percent made-in-Europe brand.
Despite the company's rapid growth and prime positioning as a high-margin luxury brand, Ruffini said he was not looking to flip his investment.
"Never say never, but I am not interested in selling right now," he said. "History was the reason to buy Moncler, and it's why I want to keep it."
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