MILAN — “We call 2015 the year of Furla 3.0. It’s the end of one journey and the beginning of another,” said Eraldo Poletto, chief executive officer of the Bologna-based accessories company, mapping out the changes going forward. These include the relaunches of a women’s footwear line, and of bags and small leather goods for men for fall 2015, with new, dedicated business units.
Aiming for a new perception of the brand, Furla has tapped Mario Testino for a marketing and advertising campaign. “The time has come to raise our voice a notch, to communicate with a more daring tone and an updated image,” said Poletto, referring to the brand’s past understated approach. This will help support projects such as the new men’s collection at the trade show Pitti Uomo in Florence in January and its women’s footwear line for fall 2015. Furla is eyeing the Asian customer with the men’s collection, which will be presented with an evening event on Jan. 14 at the Leopolda venue in Florence. The line will comprise small leather goods and bags and the emphasis will be on “branding,” said Poletto.
In addition, in March, Furla will take over five floors and 32,400 square feet of space in a historical 19th-century building a few steps from the luxury shopping arcade Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan, after four years of restoration. The location will consolidate the brand’s offices and showroom, previously spread out over several spaces in Milan. Running March 5 to April 12, Fondazione Furla will also hold a retrospective exhibition at the Royal Palace in the city to celebrate 15 years of art award Premio Furla.
“We want to be present in a significant way in the city of fashion, as part of a system we are proud of,” explained Poletto.
The company has invested in a new handbag studio near Florence for the development of prototypes. “We only use 100 percent Italian leather, this helps shorten the supply chain and create innovation,” said Poletto. In a market where designer brands are increasingly raising their luxury content, Poletto believes Furla has the opportunity to stand out in the premium luxury category. “There is room for Furla. We are the only Italian brand with such an international audience and a wide range of accessories collections in the premium luxury segment,” claimed Poletto. “We just need to be more aggressive and invest more in marketing.”
Italy and Japan are the brand’s main markets, respectively accounting for 23 and 22 percent of total sales.
The U.S. accounts for 9 percent of revenues, and the company is investing in the development of that market. After a new showroom in New York, a flagship will open on Fifth Avenue in the first half of 2015. The brand is also available at department stores including Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom.
The Asia-Pacific area accounts for 14 percent of revenues. The brand has 149 doors in the region and plans to open 21 more units in 2015. Furla launched in Australia in 2014, opening flagships in Sydney and Melbourne. Two more units in Sydney and three in Melbourne are expected to open between spring 2015 and summer 2016. In the second half of 2016, the company also plans to start developing other cities such as Brisbane and Perth, as well as Auckland in New Zealand.
The group ended 2013 with sales of 228 million euros, or $300.9 million at average exchange, and expects 2014 revenues to be in line with a double-digit gain, said Poletto. In the 2010 to 2013 period, Furla’s compound annual growth rate was 15 percent.
The number of Furla employees has grown to 1,185 from 846 in 2010 and the company has strengthened its merchandising and design department under creative director Fabio Fusi. “The designs are more contemporary, there is more attention to style and trends, color, quality and construction,” said Poletto.
The ceo sees Furla reaching sales of 400 million euros, or $498 million at current exchange rate, by the end of 2017 — a growth he expects to achieve through the expansion of its retail network, which now counts 350 stores, and new categories. The company has also implemented a new team on licenses. Poletto noted that the eyewear line produced and distributed by De Rigo is performing “very well,” as is travel retail and e-commerce, which currently accounts for 2 percent of total sales. Online revenues have grown 230 percent in the past two years. Furla is working on a new look for its digital store, which is already available in the U.S., Europe and Japan, and which will be launched in China in the first half of 2015 and in Russia in the second half of next year.
Poletto said the company worked with Bain & Co. on an assessment of the brand to further raise its visibility. Hence the arrival of Testino for the spring ad campaign. Poletto said Furla will triple its investments in communications in 2015.
Poletto agreed with Testino’s vision of Furla, with the two men pointing to what the ceo described as its “freshness, self-confident personality, joy of life. It’s how foreigners see Italians.” The images will bow in January. “This is one of the most important moments for Furla,” said Poletto.
The executive reiterated that the company, which is owned by the Furlanetto family, has the liquidity to grow on its own and that an initial public offering is not on the table. “My commitment is to allow shareholders to one day decide [if eventually to go public],” said Poletto.