Moncler Aims for Steady Growth

Moncler reports 50 percent increase in sales last year despite the tough economy.

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MILAN — Moncler may be riding high with a 50 percent increase in sales last year despite the tough economy; an 85 percent sell-through of its fall collections, and an initial public offering in the works. But that doesn’t mean the brand is about to abandon its strategy of controlled growth.

This story first appeared in the February 26, 2010 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“Our strategy is to expand the Moncler brand in the most concentrated manner possible, with the highest image and with a healthy growth,” said president and creative director Remo Ruffini, who acquired the brand in 2003. Moncler last year had sales of 220 million euros, or $300 million.

Marco De Benedetti, managing director of buyout at The Carlyle Group’s Italian division, expressed a similar strategy. The private equity firm has a 48 percent stake in Moncler. “There could be the temptation to further exploit Moncler’s success, but the long-term strategy is controlled growth aimed at further evaluating the brand, its image and its positioning,” noted De Benedetti. “We’re not chasing growth at all costs.”

De Benedetti confirmed an IPO is a medium-term objective once the company has reached a certain size, which he declined to specify. “It’s definitely an alternative though we have no specific plan,” he said.

Under Ruffini, Moncler has refocused the collections and distribution, limiting the availability of some products and eliminating some underperforming doors in favor of stronger ones. The brand now has 23 freestanding stores worldwide, as well as five branch offices in Italy, France, Germany, the U.S. and Japan that handle distribution. These replaced the former gaggle of agents.

In July, Moncler will open its first flagship in New York, a 3,000-square-foot space on Prince Street opposite Prada. The store will carry Moncler’s complete product line for women, men and children. To help build buzz for the store, Moncler showed the fall collection of its technical ski range Moncler Grenoble in New York earlier this month in a dramatic presentation at the golf range at the Chelsea Piers. Models illuminated by spotlights stood on tiers of scaffolding with the Hudson River and the New Jersey skyline as a backdrop in the setting sun.

This year, Moncler is scheduled to open about a dozen stores worldwide, divided among chic resorts and cities. Ruffini cited South Korea and China as two fast-growing markets for the brand and three stores opened in China last year alone. He is also looking to make inroads in Russia.

Moncler recently brought its children’s wear line, Moncler Enfant, in-house, formerly licensed to Altana, and at the same time acquired control of its Japanese distributor.

Product wise, down jackets in all shapes and forms continue to form the core of the brand.

“Our strategy has been to always focus on the down jacket instead of generating a total look with logoed shirts and skirts that ultimately would have inflated the brand,” said Ruffini.

Moncler was founded in Grenoble, France, in 1952 and the jackets are still filled with premium French goose feathers. Thanks to ultralight quilted jackets, the spring-summer season now accounts for 35 percent of total sales.

For the time being, brand extensions aren’t on Ruffini’s agenda, but Moncler is a pioneer when it comes to collaborations with other designers and celebrities. In the past the brand has teamed with the likes of Nicolas Ghesquière, Junya Watanabe and Pharrell Williams. Over the years, Moncler also has introduced niche collections, starting with Gamme Rouge designed by Alessandra Facchinetti in 2007. That line is now under the creative direction of Giambattista Valli, while the Thom Browne- designed Gamme Bleu for men made its debut in 2008.

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