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Fri 21 Jun 2019 12:11 AM

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Clear vision: Safilo CEO Angelo Trocchia

Angelo Trocchia, the Group CEO of leading Italian eyewear manufacturer Safilo Group, talks about boosting Middle East sales by combining global and local strengths

Clear vision: Safilo CEO Angelo Trocchia

With his positive demeanour, typically Italian good looks and infectious personality, if Angelo Trocchia could ever be accused of looking at the world through rose-tinted glasses, then the chances are, his company probably made them.

The 56-year-old is Group CEO of Safilo, the second largest manufacturer of eyewear products worldwide in terms of turnover and a worldwide leader in the design, manufacturing and distribution of sunglasses, optical frames, sports eyewear and related products.

Plenty to be positive about. After all, that’s quite a share given the wholesale market for prescription frames and sunglasses was estimated to be worth around $20.15 billion in 2017, has grown by 4 percent in the last three years and is expected to continue growing at that pace for the foreseeable future.

Elie Saab is among the  high-profile fashion brands associated with Safilo Group

And as the summer sun arrives in the Middle East for another year, and people reach for their favourite pair of sunglasses, the forecast for Safilo in the region is to follow the global trend.

Trocchia tells Arabian Business: “I don’t think the market will dramatically grow here. We estimate the growth will be on average around 3-4 percent, maybe India will be a little bit higher. But I think we need to grow more than that because we have the right people here, the right focus and we will try to catch more from the customer and the consumer.”

Trocchia and his team will be hoping this is true given the somewhat disappointing results for the region in the company’s Q1 2019 Trading Update.

The Middle East is one of the regions where the expectation is to grow

Since he joined Safilo Group in April 2018, Trocchia has split the world into clusters – North America, South America, Asia, Europe and IMEA (India, Middle East and Africa). According to the update: “Performance in emerging markets was marked on the one hand by the good results of the Asia-Pacific region, up overall by 17.4 percent at constant exchange rates, and on the other by a weak business in the IMEA markets.”

Accessorising the Middle East

Still, Trocchia remains optimistic about the Middle East, which he describe as ‘the heart’ of the cluster, with a 40 percent share of IMEA business.

He says: “We need to grow. As Safilo, we need to grow in a sustainable way, but for me, the Middle East is one of the regions where the expectation is to grow. This region has got to give us the growth and to be honest I think it’s there.”

Safilo boasts an impressive portfolio. Its own core brands include, Carrera, Polaroid, Smith and Safilo. While licensed brands include, Dior, Dior Homme, Fendi, BOSS, Elie Saab, Fossil, Givenchy, Havaianas, HUGO, Jimmy Choo, Juicy Couture, Kate Spade New York, Love Moschino, Marc Jacobs, Max Mara, Max&Co, Moschino, Pierre Cardin, rag & bone and Tommy Hilfiger.

Safilo’s portfolio encompasses brands such as Carrera, Polaroid, Smith, Safilo and Oxydo

If that wasn’t enough, the company is celebrating something of a coup by signing a ten-year agreement for sunglasses and prescription glasses with former professional footballer and international icon David Beckham to design his own personal range, which is scheduled to hit the shops in January next year.

“Safilo has a long history of creating high quality eyewear brands. I wear sunglasses all the time and this is a category that I love. So, it’s important to me to work with a partner who cares as much about the design and craftsmanship of the product as I do,” Beckham said.

While Beckham will almost certainly have that star appeal, Trocchia refuses to rule out similar campaigns for each specific ‘cluster’, including the Middle East.

He says: “We wouldn’t be using them necessarily as licenses but what we’re doing  more and more is using local testimonials or brand ambassadors, local influencers and Instagrammers. This is more and more a strategy we are moving towards. We haven’t done it here (in the Middle East), but we have done it in other areas with huge success.”

Safilo operates an extensive wholly owned global distribution network in 40 countries worldwide

A prime example of this success is in Asia, where sales were up 23.8 percent from the previous year. When He Sui, a Chinese model and actress was pictured wearing Dior (model DiorStellaire1), the sales of that model rocketed by 300 percent.

“I hope we will have this phenomena here,” says Trocchia.

Beckham’s collection will be aimed at the premium segment, one step down from Safilo Group’s luxury brands, which may seem strange and even slightly risky, as Becks’ range is marketed in the Middle East – arguably the glitz and glamour capital of the world.

But the figures show it’s a risk worth taking. While globally, the real luxury segment is worth $4.48bn, premium luxury is valued at almost $6.71bn. And it’s a similar story here.

The idea is to catch the trends, to catch the local needs and be really close to where the trends are born

“In this region the luxury is the biggest market and it’s very important but I think more and more we will see a growth in premium contemporary, which I would say is a sort of affordable luxury. I think premium contemporary is an area we are seeing growth everywhere and we’re definitely seeing the first sign of growth here,” says Trocchia.

Safilo Group's manufacturing legacy dates back to 1878 and now the company is based in Padua in the north-east of Italy, employing around 1,000 workers. The group has seven directly owned plants, four in Italy and one each in Slovenia, US and China. Its wholly owned global distribution network encompasses some 40 countries throughout North and Latin America, Europe, Middle East and Africa and China with distribution to nearly 100,000 stores across the world.

In terms of the Middle East, specifically, the company has had a presence in the UAE for 40 years and runs its regional operations from an office in Dubai Airport Free Zone (DAFZA). And it is this local presence Trocchia is counting on as he sets his sights on the future.

Safilo is set to create a global male brand in the premium segment with David Beckham

He says: “In our organisation we have what we call the global product design and product development, which will remain global because I think this is the competitive edge of Safilo. I think the products we develop are among the best in the world. That function is going to be run globally from Padua, but what we’ve done is we created locally developed hubs to track the main trends. The idea is to catch the trends, to catch the local needs and be really close to where the trends are born.”

A perfect example of this is the Ramadan collection. The limited edition sunglasses model ALINE was developed for leading fashion brand Jimmy Choo and is exclusively available in department stores, selected opticians and Jimmy Choo boutiques in the UAE, Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. A similar collection is being planned for Diwali.

Jimmy Choo eyewear is part of the licensed brands under the Safilo Group

Trocchia says: “We have started this idea to develop what I call local executions. This is a concrete sign that we are going to invest. We have the office and we have the people and we’re going to push on our brands and licensed brands but, more importantly, we are going to push what is really needed in this region.”

Last month, Safilo Group announced the sale of US retail chain Solstice to Fairway LLC, a US limited liability company, with the transaction expected to be completed within the third quarter of this year. The sale followed news in April this year of a joint venture agreement in South Korea with Parma International to distribute their collections and increase their reach in the country.

Safilo expects future growth in the affordable luxury sector in the GCC

While Trocchia admits there was no desire for such agreements to be struck in the Middle East, he throws down the gauntlet to local staff on the ground, saying any expansion plans were entirely in their hands.

He says: “We’ve been doing a business review. The growth of the team is strictly related to the growth of the business. If the local team will be able to grow three times the 4 percent I was referring to then we have a plan to grow the team.

“It’s up to the local team to show what we’ve been writing on paper will be materialising in numbers.”

The future of the global eyewear sector

Transparency Market Research (TMR) projects the global eyewear market to reach $265.4bn by the end of 2025

High level of fragmentation on account of the presence of a plethora of companies is expected to shape the competitive contours of the global eyewear market, according to Transparency Market Research (TMR). Some of the predominant players in the global eyewear market are Bausch & Lomb, Essilor International, Luxottica Group SpA, Zeiss International, Marchon Eyewear, Safilo Group and Johnson & Johnson Vision Care. Major players in the market are increasingly focussing on product innovation and acquisitions along with partnerships to expand their business.

The global eyewear market is expected to reach $265.4bn by 2025, an upward growth compared with $132.7bn in 2016. During the forecast period from 2017 to 2025, the global eyewear market is predicted to expand at a compound average growth rate (CAGR) of 8.30 percent. Geographically, the global eyewear market is segmented into five major regions, namely North America, Asia-Pacific, Europe, South America and the Middle East and Africa. North America currently holds the lead in the global eyewear market. In the future, the regional market is anticipated to rise at steady pace due to rising disposable income.

Fashion trends drive growth

The ongoing fashion trend of wearing designer eyewear has emerged as an unconventional driver of the global eyewear market. The trend is due to the changing lifestyle of fashion consumers and the rise of their disposable income. (From Transparency Market Research)

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