MILAN — The Salvatore Ferragamo Group is seeing changes in the Americas, as Donald Kohler will be exiting the company, WWD has learned.
Kohler joined Ferragamo as chief executive officer of the Americas region and chief retail officer of the worldwide group in September 2017. The latter was a new position.
Asked to comment, Ferragamo confirmed Kohler was leaving to pursue another professional experience at the end of his contract, but did not provide a specific time frame, while adding that the company has given a mandate to an executive search firm to seek a successor. The Florence-based group CEO Micaela le Divelec Lemmi will take on Kohler’s role ad interim.
Kohler was hired by former CEO Eraldo Poletto, who left Ferragamo in March 2018.
Kohler started his career in 1990 at Macy’s, in the executive training program, working both in stores and in the buying office. In 1993, he joined Gap in San Francisco, rising to the role of vice president merchandise planning for the international division. After his 11-year experience at Gap, he moved on to Williams-Sonoma, and in 2008 joined Burberry Group in London as corporate vice president of planning, progressing to chief merchandising operations officer. In 2015, he was appointed president of Burberry Americas.
Last year, North America represented 21 percent of Ferragamo revenues, down from 23 percent in 2019, dented by the impact of the pandemic. Central and South America accounted for 5.8 percent of sales, compared with 6 percent in 2019.
Changes are also expected at the company’s headquarters, according to sources. As reported, Ferragamo Finanziaria SpA, which controls Salvatore Ferragamo, revealed in January it was cutting back the number of family members on the board of Salvatore Ferragamo and increasing the number of independent directors, tapping an executive search firm to complete the process.
WWD reported that market sources believe executive vice chairman Michele Norsa, whose contract is said to expire at the time of the annual meeting next month, will exit Ferragamo, as will le Divelec Lemmi, who was appointed CEO at the end of July 2018. Rumors have also been swirling around the future of creative director Paul Andrew.
Ferragamo’s general shareholders meeting will approve a new board on April 22, selecting the chairman and CEO, Norsa observed during a call with analysts earlier this month, commenting on year-end profitability and revenues. “This is the normal process, going on in continuity and harmony, that is what we can say now,” he noted then. He also pointed to “a positive mood,” expressing his hope the evolution of the board will reinforce the company.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic hurt the company in 2020, but Ferragamo is seeing improvements, reporting a positive performance of the brand’s stores in the first nine weeks of 2021, topped by solid growth in China and South Korea and an 85.6 percent gain in the digital channel.
In the 12 months ended Dec. 31, revenues fell 33.5 percent to 916 million euros, compared with 1.37 billion euros in 2020, but Ferragamo reported a progressive improvement in the second half.
Analysts are taking a wait-and-see approach, as visibility on the future remains low. Case in point, Jefferies’ research on March 9, called “The Waiting Game,” pointed to the “most sensible” comments on footprint outlook, as Ferragamo looks to increase its presence in mainland China, reduce Europe and travel retail, but stated: “Metrics matter less than strategy here. With a very significant BoD reshuffle coming, it must be difficult to plan ahead in detail at this time and this is what our key takeaway from the call was: still poor visibility on many fronts.”
In its study, Kepler Cheuvreux stated that, although “there was no guidance on 2021, which started well in China, is now improving in North America, and is still weak in Europe,” Norsa gave an overall confident message. The last quarter was “overall better than expected thanks to lower financial charges…and operating profit was ahead of consensus.
“The focus on e-commerce and cost-cutting will continue. Visibility is low but Asia is still strong and North America is improving.…The company is considered to be potential prey in the luxury sector, given its valuable brand heritage and the increasingly fragmented family shareholding structure (still concentrated in a holding company).”