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How Italian luxury brand Furla plans to take off running post lockdown

By Isabella Naef

24 Mar 2021

Milan - How to overcome the pandemic and build a winning strategy able to seize the first signs of recovery in markets that have overcome the worst phase of the Coronavirus thanks to vaccines? How to rethink retail in order to exploit the important results recorded by online sales? These are some of the questions that FashionUnited asked Mauro Sabatini, CEO of one of Italy's historic brands (founded in 1927) and well-known abroad: Furla. Appointed at the end of January, Sabatini has been with the company for 18 years as a strategic industrial partner and has strong experience in the supply chain and in-depth knowledge of international markets. Omnichannelity, shopping experience, a further push on the footwear segment are just some of the milestones of the near future for the Furla Group, a company that had closed 2019 with a consolidated turnover of 502 million euros.

How was the year we just left behind? What are the forecasts for 2021 and which countries are already experiencing a recovery?

The year that recently ended was certainly disruptive: all brands suffered from the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent measures taken by countries to contain the spread of the virus. In the last four or five years we were 'retail oriented' which, of course, in this situation has led to a two-figure reduction in turnover over the last year, I would say in line with other realities of the fashion industry. The sector has been strongly affected by the pandemic, which has accelerated the difference between winners and losers. 2021 will be a year of transition, with the trend for the coming quarters closely linked to the spread of vaccines. At the moment there are markets, like China, for example, where we are recovering, but basically I can say that we are on the starting blocks to be able to run in 2022. Now everyone will have to build their own operating model. As far as we are concerned, we have a very Italian DNA, we are a company that has innovated and continues to do so and that operates with flexibility and agility.

Ecommerce is also experiencing exponential growth in the fashion segment: how is this channel performing for you?

Digital, which scored +36 percent in 2020 over 2019, with a very strong last quarter at +54 percent, is one of the pillars of our strategy. Numbers in hand, Emea, which represents 49 per cent of global ecommerce, had the strongest increase: +60 percent in 2019, doubling turnover in the last quarter (+99 percent on the previous year). Against this it must be said that retail must evolve but it will not disappear, we need to create "engagement" and ensure the so-called customer experience, position ourselves in key areas and do so with the right shop size and taking logistics into account. Currently the size of our shops is right.

Which are the most profitable markets?

In percentage terms, EMEA accounts for 40.5 percent, Japan for 24.9 percent and Asia Pacific for 27.6 percent. The United States is a marginal market for now, with 7 percent of turnover.

There is a lot of talk about environmental and social sustainability. What is the company's approach on this front?

For Furla sustainability is a value, since 2017 we have started a path on the supply chain. For us it is a central theme that is part of the all-round social responsibility of companies. In this direction we have made an investment in Italy for Italy: it is the Furla's new hub for design, research, production and training. Located in the heart of Chianti, in Tavarnelle Val di Pesa, in the province of Florence, Furla Progetto Italia is a celebration of the company's Italian roots and of Italy's important heritage and excellence in manufacturing.

The production hub will allow us to enhance the processes of creativity, product research and guarantee the highest level of innovation and quality.

This article was originally published on FashionUnited.IT, translated and edited to English.

Photo: Mauro Sabatini; a Furla shop, from the Furla press office