MILAN — In the post-pandemic reality, Florence-based leather goods brand Il Bisonte is making cautious yet steady steps to scale its business, primarily by targeting the U.S.
“Throughout the COVID-19 years, we’ve never missed our financial goals….We managed to keep our financial position intact, which was very important to achieve mid-term targets of international penetration, especially in the U.S.,” said Il Bisonte chief executive officer Luigi Ceccon.
The country’s performance in 2022 doubled compared to a year earlier and tripled over 2020. Mapping out a dedicated strategy was key, the executive contended.
The brand — primarily retail-focused elsewhere, with 70 percent of its sales generated from that channel — is only wholesaled in the U.S. and carried at key department stores, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus.
Ceccon said the brand is looking to open its first flagship store Stateside by the end of 2023 or the first quarter of 2024 and is scouting locations on the West Coast.
He said this would mark the first seed for a more aggressive retail rollout there with key, second-tier cities also in the cards for longer-term developments.
“Opening a flagship store in the U.S. is about offering a touchpoint to the very same customers who buy Il Bisonte from department stores,” he said. “We see the move as supporting our wholesale partners in the region.”
“We’re investing a lot in digitalization,” the executive added, noting 16 percent of its global revenues come from e-commerce operations, “but I think that the in-store experience remains paramount.”
Simultaneously the company is looking to strengthen its footprint in Northern European countries including Germany. “It’s a moment of instability, the ongoing conflict in Europe requires us to be cautious as our primary goal is to grow organically without too much pressure on our financial stability,” he said. “Solidity allows you to grasp future opportunities light-heartedly.”
The same approach is reflected in its two-pronged strategy in the Asia Pacific region.
Il Bisonte’s parent company Look Holdings Inc. — its longtime distributor in Japan that acquired the leather-goods company in 2019 from former owner, private equity Palamon Capital Partners — has secured the brand strong exposure in Japan, where it operates 50 stores.
Look Holdings also spearheaded a joint venture between Il Bisonte and its South Korean partner, as part of which the accessories brand operates three stores in the country.
Asked about China, a strong driver for luxury players, Ceccon said the market is not in the cards for the time being. “We can’t keep up with everything, and as for our parent’s mandate, we’re being extremely cautious,” he offered.
As the company scales up its operations, its commitment to local manufacturing remains a key priority. The CEO stressed that its Made in Tuscany, when not Made in Florence, ethos has been strengthened further to ensure continuity to the network of small- and medium-sized enterprises and workshop manufacturing the brand’s artisanal handbag and leather goods collections.
In 2022 Il Bisonte’s revenues amounted to 71 million euros, up 2 percent versus 2021. Ceccon forecast a revenue jump of 6 percent this year to 75 million euros.