A video montage of vintage clips of skiers cutting through snowy mountain trails set the stage for Moncler chairman and chief executive officer Remo Ruffini’s talk. It was an appropriate introduction — and not just because the French company Ruffini bought in 2003 is known for inventing the first waterproof down jacket. Ruffini spoke about concepts like consistency, flexibility, speed and commitment — values that resonate equally in the worlds of sport and retail.
“I feel that telling a story, my story — although it is an interesting one — is not enough. I’m asking you today to start thinking of style as if you were entering into a new dimension of time, the Moncler Beat,” he said.
The executive, who took 64-year-old Moncler public in 2013, said the company is pursuing a consumer-centric model that places an emphasis on retaining customers and boosting the sizes of their purchases. Stealing a page out of fast fashion’s playbook, Ruffini stressed the importance of having a “fast rotation” of merchandise in stores to spark consumers’ curiosity.
“My vision of the future is a company focused on flexibility and speed, adjusting our step day by day and with a careful presence in the world [that best expresses our brand values],” he said, explaining that his company is working to optimize its warehouse management and directly controlled supply chain to be as efficient as possible.
It’s a model that requires close communication with the client base and acting swiftly to respond to their needs, said the executive, whose company posted an 18 percent jump in first-quarter sales to 237.3 million euros, or $261 million at average exchange.
“Listening is the key. Never impose, but convince. Never push, but advise,” explained the executive, stressing the importance of an integrated consumer database. “We want a more direct and frequent contact with our clients.”
Intelligence is key, according to Ruffini. “Style means knowing the secrets of things and offers ideas that can be understood and loved.”
Once that knowledge has been gleaned, it’s important to invest in research to develop new products. For example, Moncler is expanding in areas like knitwear, shoes and soft accessories, although Ruffini stressed these new items need to be recognizable to consumers.
“Moncler is always new and yet it feels like going back home,” he said. “We want to continue producing special products with a specialist approach.”
Moncler, which used to suit up climbers of Mount McKinley in Alaska, as well as France’s Olympic ski team at the 1968 Winter Games in Grenoble, is also placing a big emphasis on China. Ruffini said the brand needs to “raise the bar” of its retail experience in China and introduce new product categories to the market. The Italian executive said Moncler is channeling its focus on growing business through its existing network of about 22 stores in Asia rather than new openings.
“We must sell Moncler here, not just a jacket. It’s a strong market for us,” he said. “It’s the future for our brand.”