MILAN — Gianni Versace SpA is edging toward an initial public offering — but there’s still no firm time frame.
“Nothing has changed,” Gian Giacomo Ferraris, Versace’s chief executive officer, told WWD after the fashion house reported double-digit growth in profits and sales for 2015. “The process has started, the company is working on the compliance and integration of systems, with incredible investments and preparation to be found ready when the time comes.”
He reiterated the three- to five-year time frame first cited in 2014, highlighting the two main elements to take into account: The shareholders — led by the Versace family and Blackstone Group, which owns 20 percent — and the market, “which has frozen even the more vigorous.”
In November, Ferraris said that, in another move to prepare for the Bourse, Versace is developing its corporate social responsibility, and has set up an in-house legal team flanked by external collaborators. Ferraris has said in the past that the firm would look seriously at an initial public offering only once it reached revenues of 800 million euros, or more than $972.4 million at current exchange.
The company is investing heavily in its own stores in order to reach that sales level. The ceo said the company plans to invest 50 million euros, or $55 million, in 2016 in store openings and refurbishments, including Versace’s Fifth Avenue flagship in New York and its Milan flagship on Via Montenapoleone, as well as in its e-commerce business.
“We are updating both our Web and our e-commerce sites, making them more mobile-friendly,” for example, Ferraris told WWD in an interview. At the end of April, the company will open a Web site in China for communication and marketing reasons. It is also expanding its online presence in Europe this spring.
With 120 stores, “the market is not saturated,” compared with the company’s competitors, said Ferraris, pointing to “well-focused new openings” in strategic locations going forward.
Versace’s own stores are increasingly becoming the engine behind the brand’s growth, as shown by its performance last year. In the 12 months ended Dec. 31, earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization rose 19.9 percent to 81 million euros, or $89.1 million, compared with 67.6 million euros, or $89.2 million, in 2014.
The Milan-based group saw revenues increase 17.5 percent to 645 million euros, or $709.5 million, compared with 548.7 million euros, or $724.3 million. At constant exchange rates, sales rose 8.6 percent.
Retail sales were up 28.9 percent to 400.7 million euros, or $440.7 million, while Versace’s wholesale business was almost flat, totaling 194.9 million euros, or $214.4 million, from 195.7 million euros, or $258.3 million, in 2014.
Dollar figures were converted from the euro at average exchange rates for the periods in question.
Ferraris said Versace “had an outstanding year in 2015, showing resilience in the face of a tough environment for the global luxury industry.”
Praising Donatella Versace’s creative leadership and “unique point of view in fashion,” a high-quality product and growing engagement with a younger generation, the executive said: “Looking ahead, we are cautiously optimistic for 2016 and we stand by our objective of continued growth in revenues despite choppy conditions in the first quarter of the year and increasing uncertainties on a global scale.”
He concluded: “We believe we have significant growth opportunities long-term, and we will continue to focus on our development strategies.”
Ferraris noted there were “no shades or clouds” in the first part of 2015, which was also lifted by the international Expo in Milan, driving business in Versace’s flagships in cities such as Rome and Venice. Despite the “dramatic fall” of the Chinese stock market last summer and the anticorruption measures in that region, which dimmed the outlook for the rest of the year, the executive said China continued to “perform very well” for Versace, which counts 30 stores there. China’s issues, however, dented business in Hong Kong and Macau. That said, the company is investing in a new flagship in Hong Kong’s Central district due to open by June or July and expected to draw local customers.
In terms of foreign exchange rates, Ferraris said the situation has been completely overturned compared with last year, with currencies generally weighing less on costs.
In 2015, royalties rose 17 percent to 49.4 million euros, or $54.3 million. The e-commerce channel posted a 31.2 percent increase.
Sales in Europe, the group’s main market, were up 33 percent. The region performed “very well,” said Ferraris, despite issues connected to the Russian market. Last year, units opened in Madrid, Barcelona, Düsseldorf and Berlin and the company will continue to invest in the area. The Europe, Middle East and Africa area represented 42 percent of total sales.
China posted a 36.6 percent increase. The gain was 16.4 percent at constant currency. Revenues in Asia were up 26.7 percent growth, or 8.1 percent at constant currency. Asia, excluding Japan, accounted for 37 percent of sales.
After closing its four stores in the country and pulling out of the market in 2009, Versace last year opened three stores in Tokyo: Versus Versace in April, Versace Home in July, and a three-story flagship for its main line in November in the Ginza neighborhood. Ferraris characterized Japan as a “green field,” open with possibilities, compared with Versace’s competitors, and also pointed to Korea as a top priority.
Sales in North America rose 27 percent, or 6.5 percent at constant currency, accounting for 17 percent of the total. The strength of the dollar hurt tourism from China and Brazil, pointed out Ferraris, but he highlighted brisk business in Canada.
In Australia, where Versace bought back its network of stores, the company will open a new boutique in Melbourne in the second half of the year.
The Versace signature line grew 23.6 percent, also lifted by “a particularly strong performance” of the accessories category for both men and women, which represented 50 percent of retail sales. Versus Versace, which has been evolved as a nonseasonal digital project, had an “outstanding year” with sales from boutiques more than doubling the previous year’s business, while wholesale revenues advanced 21.4 percent.
Ferraris was pleased with the performance of Versace’s licensed products, which posted double-digit growth, citing a strong fragrance, eyewear and interior design business.
Last year, Versace’s second luxury hotel project opened in Dubai. The Palazzo Versace Hotel was realized with Dubai-based developer Enshaa Group and includes 215 rooms, of which 65 are suites. Earlier this month, Versace said it was collaborating on a new real estate project in India’s Mumbai with luxury real estate developer Abil Group to design the interiors of Abil Mansion, a 32-story skyscraper, which will feature nine exclusive duplexes and one simplex, all spanning over two levels. Versace is also working on the Aykon Nine Elms project in London, which is expected to be completed in 2020. Versace Home also conceived the interior design of the Milano Residences in Manila, Al Jawharah Residences in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and Beirut’s Damac Tower.