MILAN — Over the past three years, Furla has doubled its sales and, in the first half of 2018, the Italian accessories company saw another uptick in revenues. In the six months ended June 30, revenues grew 5.8 percent to 252 million euros, compared with 238 million euros in the same period last year. At constant exchange, sales grew 10.6 percent.
All markets helped boost revenues, said chief executive officer Alberto Camerlengo in an interview at the luminous Furla offices in Milan overlooking the Duomo cathedral. With president Giovanna Furlanetto, Camerlengo underscored how being international also helped offset currency fluctuations. “We felt the impact of currency volatility, but we do hedging only on purchases as we want to be fair with our customers and have not changed our prices,” Camerlengo said.
Furlanetto emphasized how creativity and additional fashion elements have helped the brand grow despite an increasingly crowded and competitive marketplace. To further strengthen the brand’s identity, a new monogram inspired by the initial F and reminiscent of a coat-of-arms was created and presented with a capsule during Milan Fashion Week last month. “The coed format also helped the perception of a single brand, as our men’s division is also growing very well,” Furlanetto said. The company is strengthening its footwear category, while it continues to build its core handbags division by investing in the supply chain and the adoption of a technological system. “It’s a year of consolidation for us,” added Camerlengo, who pointed to the “speed of decision-making as an asset compared with bigger structures that need many levels of approval.” He also underscored the element of creativity. He contended that, while the arena is increasingly crowded with brands offering handbags, many are “focused on basics,” and also touted Furla’s research on best hides.
In January, Furla revealed the acquisition of Effeuno Srl, a longtime partner company specialized in manufacturing leather goods. Based in Tavarnelle Val di Pesa, a 40-minute drive from Florence, the 53,820-square-foot plant already exclusively produced Furla’s accessories, employing more than 100 workers and manufacturing 2 million pieces a year between bags and small leather goods. The takeover is part of the brand’s strategy to invest in Italy and aims to strengthen the group’s supply chain, boosting production.
Camerlengo said the brand’s Mughetto — or lily of the valley in English — Metropolis bag, which retails at 470 euros, was particularly successful — almost unexpectedly so, he admitted.
At constant exchange, the Asia-Pacific region grew 28.6 percent, accounting for 27 percent of total sales. The company has acquired total control of its retail distribution in China, Hong Kong and Macau. Japan was up 9.5 percent and represented 23 percent of the total.
Sales in the U.S. rose 24.2 percent, accounting for 7 percent of total.
Italy today accounts for 15 percent of total. Camerlengo said sales in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region, excluding Italy, were up “low-single digit” and accounted for 28 percent of total sales.
Furla leverages a network of 471 monobrand stores and is available in 100 countries through more than 1,200 points of sale. While the company is eyeing an opening in Paris, Camerlengo said Furla is not focused on expanding its store count, but rather on a more comprehensive product range in the same perimeter, lamenting “a drop in the attention” of shoppers, especially tourists and too many discounts — a practice Furla keeps a lid on to maintain the integrity of the brand. “We started opening stores early on and this is an important asset but now we are treading light in this sense,” Furlanetto said. “Rather, we are looking at a restyling with a new concept, new store formulas to be innovative, inviting and iconic — for this reason, it’s more of an effort.” That said, 36 additional stores were opened in the first half globally. In particular, Furla in June opened its first store in Florida at Aventura Mall in Miami. A pop-up store opened last spring at the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. A unit will open in December at South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa, Calif. Three additional stores will have opened in Germany by the end of the year, in Berlin, Düsseldorf and Frankfurt, and one in Prague.
Online sales were up 24.1 percent in the first half, accounting for between 7 and 8 percent of sales, following the change in the company’s e-commerce platform. The new site was first launched in Japan in March, followed by the U.S. in the summer and most recently in Europe. Year-to-date, sales on Furla’s own site were up 38 percent. “It’s so much easier to navigate and it’s more engaging now,” Furlanetto said.
Camerlengo said Furla is investing in marketing and communication with increasing attention to digital and social media. “We spent 5 million euros on industrial software and sustainability,” he said. The company now issues only sustainable shoppers and banned fur earlier this year. “We are raising the managerial element to create a common culture.” Furlanetto said the company is “more comprehensive, with vertical functions.”
The travel retail channel was also key, growing 23 percent in the period and representing 8 percent of sales. The company is present through this channel in 64 countries with a total of 298 points of sale.
In the period, employees grew to 2,514 compared with 2,362 at the end of December last year.
Asked about potential plans for an initial public offering, Camerlengo once again said it was “not on the agenda.” In May 2016, Furla set in motion plans to go public, inking an agreement with TIP Tamburi Investment Partners SpA, but the initial public offering was postponed last year.