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Versace to Re-Enter Japan

The luxury brand has tapped Hiroshi Saito to spearhead its development in the region.

MILAN — Versace is reentering the Japanese market and, to spearhead its development in the region, has tapped Hiroshi Saito as chief executive officer of Versace Japan.

This story first appeared in the January 12, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Gian Giacomo Ferraris, ceo of Milan-based Versace SpA, said he was excited about the appointment, adding he had worked with Saito in the past. Between 2007 and 2010, Saito was president of Jil Sander Japan. Ferraris joined Jil Sander from Gucci in 2004, when the German fashion house was still owned by the Prada Group, and left in 2009.

“He is one of the best managers in the Japanese luxury business, and he understands Italian fashion brands better than anyone else,” said Ferraris. Saito, 60, has worked for more than 30 years in the Japanese luxury fashion market, for companies such as Ermenegildo Zegna, Gucci, Giorgio Armani, Prada and Donna Karan.

Versace exited Japan in summer 2009, shuttering four freestanding stores. “Japan is a key market for our industry, and it wouldn’t make sense for a global brand such as Versace not to be part of it. In 2009, our exit was determined by a presence that was not in line with the brand’s criteria,” said Ferraris. “But our goal was to return soon and to play a protagonist role, with a presence in the best department stores, with appropriate collections, with the right product, and a distinctive and consistent positioning.”

The Versace, Versace Collection and Versace Jeans lines will be available in select luxury department stores in Tokyo and Osaka starting with the fall 2011 season.

Ferraris forecast “a significant growth in retail and wholesale sales, as well as a return to profitability” for the group overall in 2011.

In October — a year after launching an extensive reorganization plan; streamlining operations, production and logistics, and cutting about 25 percent of Versace’s workforce — Ferraris said he expected sales in 2010 to reach more than 280 million euros, or $390 million, up from 268 million euros, or $373.1 million, in 2009. The 2010 revenues would exceed his target of 270 million euros, or $376 million. Dollar figures are converted at current exchange rates.