Enzo Fusco, president of FGF Industry, the Italian company behind sportswear brand Blauer USA, explains his plans for growing in Asia, after the opening of the first shop-in-shop in Tokyo and two pop-ups in Osaka and Yokohama.
You have just opened the first Blauer USA shop-in-shop in Tokyo. What are your next aims?
I want to grow internationally. I have many plans to expand in the US, Eastern Europe and Australia, but first I want to concentrate on Japan and hopefully, after that, expand in Asia by growing in Korea and Asia. Japan is considered like a sort of shop window by China and Korea: when a brand is successful in Japan, then Korean and Chinese consumers are attracted to it too.
I have just opened this first 50-sq.-meter shop-in-shop in Japan, in Tokyo, at Takashimaya Times Square, Shibuya City. Not only I am happy to collaborate with a prestigious partner as Takashimaya operating through its about 70 stores in this country, but also because this department store is inside a vast commercial complex near the south exit of Shinjuku, one of most important railways stations of the country counting the highest number of daily users.
We have also recently inaugurated two more pop-up stores–one in Osaka one in Yokohama. By fall/winter 2019-20 we will also open another shop-in-shop and two pop-up stores in Hankyu–Osaka. We are also defining where we will open our first Japanese flagship store–hopefully between August and September 2019.
Will this new flagship be characterized by any special feature or concept?
All of our stores have to be recognizable and, in a way resemble each other–be them in Milan, Cortina, Genoa, Padua or Prague. Though we would like this store to recall attention and remind of the Italian origins of the company behind this brand. For this reason we would like it to host a café, offer aperitifs or selected wines along with some Italian snacks like ham or mozzarella.
How is Japan performing?
Japanese consumers are appreciating Blauer USA as it is an authentic brand founded in 1936. We are satisfied with the results we achieved so far as we already closed our first two seasons (s/s 2019 and f/w 2019-20) and registered about €700,000 in revenues. We hope we can reach about €5 million to €6 million in three years.
What about the other markets where you want to grow?
Blauer USA is sold worldwide in 2,000 multibrand stores. In 2018 about 30% of the brand’s sales were from foreign markets, while the remaining 70% from Italy. Our aim is to reach 60% sales from foreign markets. Though, after our f/w 2019-20 campaign foreign markets count for 40% with a 15% growth from foreign markets and 20% from Italy. The most successful countries are Germany, Spain, Czech Republic, the Netherlands and Belgium.
We are now focused on growing, for instance, in Eastern Europe. Six months ago we opened a flagship store in Prague. We are registering such good results that we have started working also in other nearby countries, in addition to Czech Republic.
We also want to expand in the US, though that market must be approached very carefully as 60% of sales in the US are from online, therefore, one has to work with the financially solid and trustworthy partners. We want to start in the US probably between 2020 and 2021.
How important is e-commerce?
So far it counts for 5% of our sales, though we strongly believe it is indispensable increasing our results here. As the key channels for a brand’s growth that are multibrand, monbrand and, obviously, e-commerce, we have invested in social network engagement and activities. Though, while many operate through online and outlets for registering higher results we don’t sell through outlets. We rather believe in selling through full-price stores only and online interacting with consumers.
For this reason we have also recently entirely redesigned our website. Its image is now very fluid, rich with immersive contents and mobile-friendly. This restyling aims at stimulating users in an immediate and engaging way. Through the extensive use of full screen images and video we want to draw consumers close to the products, the stories, the identity of the brand and the players behind it. It also features immersive browsing and a GPS store locator bringing users a seamless experience between online and offline.
How is the brand performing?
We are very happy of the results we are reaching. We closed 2018 registering €52 million (€60 million if we include licenses), about 20% more than in 2017. Also very good was our 2018 EBITDA counting 18%. By end of 2019 we might reach about €55 million to €60 million in sales (€65 million to €70 million if we also count licenses). Such results are very good considering that three years ago I sold C.P. Company to Tristate Holdings and lost the €15 million sales from that brand, though I could get back those sales while increasing revenues.