Marco Gobbetti is in the hot seat at Burberry — make that a scorcher. The new chief executive officer, who took over from Christopher Bailey in July, has much to prove in the coming months as the company saw sales and profits shrink in the 2016-17 fiscal year.
A star executive at LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton where he was most recently ceo of Céline, Gobbetti is taking on a leaner, more cost-conscious Burberry that is virtually unrecognizable from the one that Bailey began managing in 2014.
His tasks are many and include overseeing Burberry’s repositioning in the U.S. (one reason why Ron Frasch has recently been brought onto the board of directors); focusing on making online and existing brick-and-mortar stores more profitable, and ensuring that the new see-now-buy-now strategy drives sales.
Another big task is ensuring the smooth transition of Burberry’s in-house beauty business to Coty Inc. The deal will bring Burberry cash payments of 180 million pounds in the second half and ongoing royalties as of October.
Judging from Gobbetti’s brief remarks at the annual general meeting in July, he’s going to be a risk-taker. The company, he said, “must evolve and try new things. We have to experiment, to create. We have to ask ourselves tough questions, and be bold in all areas of the business in order to create a new energy and positivity.”
Back in July, Gobbetti said his first task was to listen to shareholders and customers, meet the teams worldwide and “concentrate on consumer, brand, product and retail operations.” He’s already made two trips to the U.S., where Burberry has been streamlining and upgrading the way it does business.
Gobbetti also plans to work hand-in-glove with Bailey, whose title is president and chief creative officer.
“Christopher is one of the reasons I came to this company,” said Gobbetti on the sidelines of the AGM. “We each have our own responsibilities, but the dialogue is constant. We know how to talk” to each other.
While his new seat may be sizzling, Gobbetti knows how to take the heat. He engineered a swift rejuvenation and overhaul of Céline and prior to that he orchestrated a turnaround at Givenchy, recruiting then-unknown Italian designer Riccardo Tisci as its new couturier.
Burberry may be the first publicly listed company that he’s managed, but he said he’s up for it. “Managing the cycles and the characteristics of the fashion business, and the cycles of the financial markets and the shareholders — in the short-term and the long-term — will be fascinating, and interesting,” he said.