MOSCOW — An Italian national who calls New York home, Riccardo Tortato personifies the new era at Tsum, which bills itself as a global shopping destination rather than a national retail banner.
As Tsum’s fashion director for men’s wear and e-commerce, Tortato is part of a new wave of international managers recruited to speed innovation and offer customers the most advanced services and latest brands. The executive expanded Tsum’s men’s area and introduced a “concept corner” called On_Tsum housing 60 hand-selected brands — 32 of them exclusive to the store.
He started his career as a designer at Gianfranco Férre, and he joined Tsum in in 2015. He is currently working on his first book about style and fashion.
In a wide-ranging conversation, Tortato spoke with WWD about how men’s now eclipses women’s at Tsum, the “urban luxury” juggernaut and the tourist wave that keeps its business humming:
WWD: How would you describe the economic backdrop in Russian, and Tsum’s health in this marketplace?
Riccardo Tortato: The business in the last year increased season by season due to our strong price policy: We offer European prices in Russia, a policy established for the first time here. Also, after huge research and investment, we could introduce new brands and offer a better proposal in terms of merchandise for any single brand. We focus a lot on buying limited and interesting products, runway pieces and we try to supply our customers with products that are hard to find around the world. So we have not been affected by any economic impact.
WWD: Can you share some recent sales data, and projections for the balance of the year?
R.T.: Yes, we are growing 30 to 40 percent per season. For this year we have set up a strategy with our board of directors: We have increased the quantity of the products, we are selling a lot and the performance of the store is positive. For us the important thing is to sell during the season, and at Tsum, as soon as the merchandise arrives, it starts selling.
Online is performing outstandingly. We have doubled the business, and each season we have a growth of 100 percent. The online store will become our second store in terms of importance and performance after Tsum.
WWD: How has the men’s business been evolving?
R.T.: This winter, the men’s business is bigger than the women’s business. In different areas of merchandise, we are more profitable and performing very, very well. We have a large variety of brands; we refreshed our customers in terms of targeting; and today we have younger customers, new customers. We also changed the way the men dress, leaning toward casualwear rather than formalwear. For instance, even for a brand like Brioni, half of our selection is more casual than formal.
WWD: What are the best-performing men’s brands and categories right now?
R.T.: Sneakers are performing amazingly. Because of the winter, outerwear is doing well. The new concept area is starting to perform like the rest of the floor. It’s a success as the density of the product in that area is higher than in the rest of the corner concessions. But also we are happy with brands like Loro Piana, so overall we are happy. Balenciaga and Off-White are excellent; Dsquared2 is doing great, Dolce & Gabbana, Lanvin etc. I personally monitor the selection of all the brands. I like when items are well done.
WWD: How much has the brand mix changed, and how does it reflect changing customer behaviors, preferences and dress codes?
R.T.: The customers are changing. The suit is not longer a fashion statement. It’s something you need if there is a dress code. Today is different. Urban luxury is taking over and becoming part of the day-to-day dress code. Sneakers as well are substituting classic shoes. This wave embraces everyone. Maybe a younger man buys something stronger, like Balenciaga or Yeezy or Off-White, while a classic man may stay with a brand like Loro Piana but he buys trainers from it.
WWD: How is e-commerce performing?
R.T.: E-commerce is doing fantastic. Tsum is not only a retail store, but an online store. My goal is to bring the same customers and customers experience to the online store with our exclusivity. For the Off-White X Nike collaboration, we received 9,000 applications in the first 10 minutes. We would like to provide a two-hour delivery system. We would like to cut the time of delivery for the regions.
WWD: What is Tsum doing to attract more tourist dollars, and which are top three nationalities?
R.T.: Chinese, Kazakstan and Uzbek. Also next summer we will have the World Cup, so I believe we will be sold out pretty much everywhere. Moreover we will have a lot of collaborations with brands. We are linked with FIFA, not officially but we will sell their merchandise.
WWD: How international is the business, in all senses?
R.T.: We employ buyers from France, the U.K. and Italy — so the company is very international. The revenue as well is coming 50 percent from Russian and the rest outside Russia. Nobody has the feeling to be in a department store in Russia, but mainly in an international department store, and that is the goal.
I never really feel like I am working in Russia, I feel as if I am working in the biggest fashion cities like Paris, London, or Milan. And here, a plus is that if I buy a jacket that retails for 35,000 euros, I know I will sell it.