Marcolin’s CEO, Giovanni Zoppas understands that the bigger his company gets, the higher the expectations from the customers. In conversation with VisionPlus, he and Vanni Martignago, Head of Asia Pacific, share how they plan to exceed expectations
Someone once said, “To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone and a funny bone.” Giovanni Zoppas seems to possess all three. After taking over as Marcolin’s CEO in January 2012, his leadership qualities, backed by his unique sense of humour, have helped him lead the company to greater heights of success, and today Marcolin occupies an enviable market position with some of the best selling brands in their portfolio.
In an insightful and, may we add, delightful conversation with him and Vanni Martignago, Head of Asia Pacific, we uncover Marcolin’s plans for their brands and for the Southeast Asia region.
VisionPlus (VP): How has 2014 been for the eyewear industry and for Marcolin?
Giovanni Zoppas (GZ): 2014 has been positive for the eyewear industry, and this is true for Marcolin as well. We had a market growth of 5 per cent. Our heritage brands showed a double-digit growth, but our Viva brands did not perform at their potential because of the finalisation of the integration. This year we are confident of reaching double-digit growth and recovering the Viva brands.
I believe that in the last two years we have managed to develop the product offering in an appropriate way, both by brand and by country. Now we focus specifically on the requests coming in from certain areas of the world, such as the Asian fit. We have done a good job so far. But clearly the bigger you become, the more the expectations are from the company in terms of the magnitude of your offering. We have got an outstanding team in Asia. Vanni and his team are really providing a lot of support by understanding the market, understanding exactly the demand for shapes and colours and registering the fitting. We believe that our customers do not depend on us to fix everything in one shot. But they want to see improvements day by day and the team is focusing exactly on that. And as a step in that direction you would see that we now offer specialised Asian fittings across our brands.
VP: So all your brands from Southeast Asia have specialised Asian fittings?
GZ: No, not all of them. But for most of them we are offering this special feature. And it is not just Chinese fitting, but also Korean fitting, and from next year we will have Japanese fitting. We have got four Asian fittings – Japanese, Korean, Coastal China and Inner China.
Vanni Martignago (VM): The Asian fit is easily visible in the product display because we have a final ‘F’ defining the Asian fitting. For example, FT399 and FT399-F, with the latter being the Asian fitting version. We have a sticker on the demo lens of the frame where we clearly mention it to be ‘Asian fitting’. This way, we help our customers easily identify whether the eyewear is Asian fit or not and this inversely helps the sale of our product. It also helps raise awareness of our products and makes the customer understand that we have a very consistent line. Also, we really take care, especially from the luxury side, to be in the best of retail shops.
VP: Luxottica, Safilo and Marchon have already set-up base in Singapore. Does Marcolin plan to venture in this region?
GZ: We are lucky we don’t have to follow what the others are doing. We have been in the market long enough and are experienced enough so that we can do what we want to do. Today we are a sizeable company. This means we have changed the rules of the game for ourselves. We do what we want to do in such a way that it makes business sense.
We don’t think Singapore is an area we are interested in in this respect; it is very interesting for us in terms of business, but not for having a headquarter. We do have a beautiful showroom in Hong Kong, where we have the regional headquarters.
VP: Can you elaborate on the distribution aspect?
GZ: This year, apart from product, distribution is the other area we are focusing on. Under that we are focusing on two specific aspects – the country and the channel. A few brands are unsellable in some countries because the brand and co-brand are not known. Of course when we are producing an accessory that is a category of the main business, we cannot be the one breaking the ice. We cannot be the leader of such an introduction, we are the followers. So if the main brand is not present in the country, we cannot be there too, either.
The channels are required because depending on the brands there is a different kind of selection that you have to make. For brands like Timberland, there are the big chains. You can even work on exclusivity basis and you can go through the chains and easily sell a specific production with them sometimes. For brands like Balenciaga, you cannot start through a chain. Though it is a known brand, it is not as popular in terms of brand awareness as, say, Tom Ford is because Balenciaga is a niche brand and needs to be treated differently. So in that case you start with a selective number of shops and based on that you start going in-depth, creating confidence for the brands and enlarging your distribution. This is an exercise that we are doing for the Asia region.
VP: Marcolin has recently acquired licenses for Emilio Pucci and Ermenegildo Zegna. What are your plans for these brands?
GZ: We have good business plans with Emilio Pucci as everyone has recognised our capability to understand the DNA of the brand, that is using the pattern of the brand without overstating it.
Ermenegildo Zegna is really one of the few superbrands that the eyewear world has got in the male segment. We have got a chance to make a segmentation of the offering: Ermenegildo Zegna and Ermenegildo Zegna Couture. The design and execution of both is great and the styles perfectly embody the aesthetic principles of the brand, exalting its pursuit of excellence and innovative spirit. Ermenegildo Zegna Couture models are made from premium quality materials and feature details inspired by the sartorial excellence typical of Made in Italy, in line with the new vision of men’s fashion brought by Stefano Pilati. A distinctive mark is the iconic “XXX” logo made by hand in vicuña colour cotton thread and placed inside the tips or the near ends of the temples.
VP: Has the price point changed with the brands coming into Marcolin?
VM: No, we haven’t changed the price point. We have simply enriched the quality at the same price.
VP: How have the market dynamics changed for Marcolin post the acquisition of Viva which has a strong presence, especially with a brand like GUESS included in its portfolio?
GZ: I will say there are two facts that changed the market dynamics. The first one is the US market because we now have a sales force of 270 people so we can really go through, and the second one is the addition of the fashion diffusion segment. If you look at our portfolio, before and after, you can see that the range is broadened considerably and this way we can enhance our presence. Currently, 45 per cent of the business is concentrated in North America, 30 per cent in Europe and 25 percent in the rest of the world. We have balanced our brands’ licensing portfolio, in terms of luxury and diffusion brands, and the ratio between sun/optical segments.
VM: The overall performance of Marcolin is extremely balanced. We now have a good share of luxury and diffusion lines, so we believe that it will help in improving our performance across the globe. Also, this is balanced by our strong presence geographically – in America, Europe and Asia.
VP: Where do you see more growth – in Luxury or Fashion?
GZ: If you look at our portfolio brands it is clear that today we have got two pillars – Tom Ford is luxury and GUESS is fashion diffusion. What we are doing is improve our growth by leveraging on these two main brands. So I see opportunities in both the segments. I don’t see one prevailing over the other. We are devoting the same kind of attention to the two segments.
Tom Ford has got all the means that we need in order to succeed and we are already succeeding. GUESS did decently, but not as good as we think it can do. GUESS is a typical US brand with its own style and colours. We trust in the potential of this brand, at the moment it’s not performing fully as good as it can do. We aim to be able to leverage this.
VP: Cat-eye, Aviators, Wayfarers, Browline, Mirrored Lenses… what are the trends that you see for 2015?
VM: Given the range of brands we have, we have the right design for each individual. The design not only depends on the shape of the head, but also on the taste of each individual. So we really have all of these different shapes, and we keep working with new materials and colours. It’s all about details, in terms of particular materials, treatments and new textures. With Diesel #DENIMEYE, we merged denim with acetate through a patented, cold welding process. Another example regarding Ermenegildo Zegna and Ermenegildo Zegna Couture: the collections are characterised by precious materials like leather, wood, or horn. Some Tom Ford sunglasses styles in our last collection are realised using exclusive high-tech Barberini lenses that guarantee maximum UV protection. About Emilio Pucci, we realised sunglasses and optical frames embellished with the typical iconic fashion prints that distinguish the Maison. We always keep exploring and coming up with new trends.
VP: Thank you, Giovanni and Vanni, for your valuable time. All the very best for your future endeavours.