MILAN — The future of Made in Italy took center stage at the yearly Pambianco conference here Friday, aptly called “Made in Italy without Italy?”
David Pambianco, vice president of Milan-based consultancy Pambianco Strategie d’Impresa, argued that as foreign groups take control of an increasing number of Italian brands, the latter rely on a strong international network and significant resources, creating employment and development, but business direction and profits are channeled outside Italy. “Italy is becoming the China of luxury. In the medium and long term, there is a risk that international customers will attribute more importance to the brand and less to the production, shifting from ‘Made in’ to ‘Made by,’ leading to a diminished production in Italy,” warned Pambianco. “It is fundamental for small and medium firms to find new resources, from letting private equity funds in, to a public listing or a partnership with international distributors.”
He pointed to foreign acquisitions in Italy from 1999 to 2012 for a value of 9.22 billion euros, or $12.42 billion at current exchange.
Brunello Cucinelli, president of his namesake company, and Lapo Elkann, president of Italia Independent Group, remarked on the benefits derived by the recent successful listing of their firms. Michele Norsa, chief executive officer of Salvatore Ferragamo, also an example of a strong listing, said “it’s not always true that the biggest wins, while it is true the fastest does.”
Norsa conceded “that there are advantages in real estate or communication” for big groups, but insisted that monobrand companies also grow well and can still lead, citing Michael Kors.
Furla ceo Eraldo Poletto acknowledged the real estate issue and said “you must be big to compete, the challenge is in terms of store locations.” While rumors periodically surface about a possible Furla initial public offering, Poletto said the company is evaluating potential avenues for growth, and not necessarily looking at the stock exchange.
“One must be organized to go public. We don’t have any debt and we are self-financed. Many go public because they have no choice,” he said.
Andrea Guerra, ceo of the publicly traded Luxottica Group, noted that “people have developed a new relationship with eyewear, one in which emotions have been introduced,” in an expanded and more complex world. “There are wonderful new markets, there are three billion new consumers in Asia, but it’s difficult and it is necessary to plan ahead. Either we have time to chart a course, or it is crazy.”
In a video presentation, Renzo Rosso, president of Diesel, Marni, Viktor & Rolf and Maison Martin Margiela parent group OTB, who has often expressed his desire to build a relevant fashion group, said that he was “very much in favor of acquisitions around the world” and that he was evaluating “realities in Japan and the U.S.”
Addressing the evergreen issue of Italy’s lack of fashion groups, Carlo Pambianco, founder of the consultancy, said, “Italian entrepreneurs have big personalities, they are difficult to regroup. Technically it is possible, but concretely it’s difficult.”
Gregorio De Felice, chief economist of Intesa Sanpaolo, said the summer showed “encouraging signs of a pickup in the euro zone and an acceleration of the global economy.” For the first time in the past 10 years, established markets led world growth, and over the next few months, the U.S., Japan and the euro zone “will show an acceleration of imports propelling international trade.”
Intesa Sanpaolo expects 3.1 percent gross domestic product growth in the U.S. in 2014, compared with an estimated 1.6 percent in 2013, and 1 percent growth in the euro zone compared with an expected 0.3 percent decrease this year.
Worldwide, 3.5 percent growth is expected in 2014 compared with 3.1 percent growth in 2013.