NEW YORK — How to build a global brand and create shareholder value were two main themes at financial seminars held earlier this week.
Investment banking firm Financo Inc. held its 17th annual Merchandising Industry Seminar on “Building the Global Brand Experience” here at the Harmonie Club on Monday evening. Earlier in the day, at the National Retail Federation convention, panelists discussed financial perspectives during the “Wall Street Watches Retail” seminar.
The Financo event was moderated by chairman Gilbert Harrison, and the participants included: Bernd Beetz, chief executive officer, Coty Inc.; Giovanna Furlanetto, president and managing director, Furla SpA; George Jones, chief executive officer and president, Borders Group Inc.; Matthew Rubel, ceo and president, Payless ShoeSource Inc.; Steve Sadove, ceo, Saks Inc., and Trudy Sullivan, president, Liz Claiborne Inc.
Harrison opened the discussion by explaining that “not all brands are easily transferred from one country to another.” The participants discussed what their strategies are in building a global brand.
For Beetz, where Coty has 50 percent of its sales from the U.S. in the prestige and mass markets, the key is “having a strong program where the focus is on the DNA of the brand. If the brand is iconic-like, where the DNA is so clearly entrenched, if you develop a strong program, it will hold steady in different parts of the world.” The company also follows through on an innovating product development pipeline so that the brand continuously “bonds with the consumer.”
Sullivan said there’s really no magic formula for bringing a brand to the global front but emphasized that what matters is ensuring that the “DNA and soul must be the same all over the world wherever you bring the brand.” She also noted that the company is committed to fostering talent and allowing interns to work at meaningful assignments, knowing that mistakes will be made as part of the learning process.
“When we bring in the brand to a new market, we study the new market to understand the local customer, but we don’t differentiate our markets. It is the same worldwide,” Furlanetto said. She said the first store in a new country is “carefully selected,” although the same advertising firm is used all over the world to keep the brand message consistent.
For Saks, Sadove said the key isn’t just about expanding into new territories but about the Saks experience. “At our core are the luxury brands that the customer has to recognize as [a part of] Saks. We will augment them with local brands that represent luxury and the brands that consumers want, but it really is about building an awareness of what Saks is, the Saks experience and the brands that represent the Saks global experience,” he said.
But Sadove also cautioned that the country must be a locale where the brands are willing to have a presence. “Where is there an opportunity for another luxury retailer if one is there already? It is about the distribution of core luxury brands. Can we get the brands there? If we can’t get the brands to go [to a new locale] and represent Saks there, then maybe we don’t go there,” Sadove said.
Rubel said his firm first tries to understand the marketplace and consumer behavior in a new locale, even if it means Payless merchants move to live in the market for awhile. Rubel said a company has to make sure that the organization understands the opportunities at a new location and that it not be a distraction, otherwise the expansion can’t be leveraged in the proper way.
Rubel and Harrison also spoke during the NRF seminar, which was sponsored by Oracle and included Robert Buchanan, analyst for the consumer discretionary, consumer staples sector at A.G. Edwards. He told attendees that “demand forecasting” is a new trend to watch, particularly because it helps retailers better tailor their assortments based on certain demographic traits. And he said retailers who can leverage technology would likely see their stock prices benefit.