When Carlos Alberini joined Guess Inc. in December 2000 as president, chief operating officer and director, he had already accumulated more than a dozen years as a top financial executive at retailers Bon-Ton and Footstar. He had a business degree from the University of Buenos Aires in his native Argentina and had been a chartered accountant at the former Price Waterhouse, and his expertise helped guide the jeans firm in its transition from wholesaler to retailer.
Guess currently operates 323 stores in the U.S. and Canada and 386 stores in 57 foreign countries through international licensees and distributors. It is readying for its next phase of growth: global expansion. Since 2004, its European operations have grown more than fourfold, making up 21 percent of total revenue in 2006. Guess also has 21 domestic and international licensees for eyewear, watches, handbags and fragrance, and runs warehouse and distribution centers in Louisville, Ky., Montreal and Los Angeles. Freshly rejuvenated following an Easter vacation with his family in Beaver Creek, Colo., Alberini, 51, discussed his tenure at Guess and what’s in store.
How did your past experience prepare you for your current job at Guess?
The areas of responsibility at Guess were significant. Besides many operating areas, I had responsibility for sales, the wholesale and retail businesses. And I felt that this was a good fit. I have an extensive financial background. I felt I could bring a lot of those disciplines to this company, [and that] the company could use more structure for forecasting, business strategy planning and so forth. I felt this was an amazing brand with a global reach and a great customer segment. Most importantly, I found instant chemistry with the Marcianos. We got along great from day one. They had so much passion for the business and company. That was one thing I want to share: to be part of an entrepreneurial company.
What was Guess like when you joined in 2000, and how does it look today?
In 2000, the company was very wholesale-centric. Now it’s retail-driven. We went from a single-brand company to a portfolio of brands — Guess by Marciano, Marciano and G by Guess. We were very U.S.-focused in 2000. Things were happening internationally, but they were not the areas that we were focusing our efforts on. Now, we have a very global focus. In 2001, our biggest acquisition was that of our licensee in Canada. That operation went from losing money that year to being one of our most profitable divisions now. That showed looking outside of the U.S. was a great opportunity for us. We had a brand that was recognized, but not all that power was being optimized. We looked at other opportunities, and [made] more acquisitions. Europe was next, and now we’re going into the Asian markets.
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