20 QUESTIONS WITH DAVIDE RETTORE

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David Rettore, CEO North America at Marcolin since September of 2017, after a previous stint with the company from 2011 until 2014, brings additional eyewear and fashion background from his experience at Kering Eyewear and Benetton Group. Find out what his “Next Play”
is in this interview with VCPN’s John Sailer.

1. How would you describe your overall philosophy toward your business life and how does that inform your management philosophy? The two most important factors for success for a company are people and culture. When I rejoined Marcolin Group, we worked on a new philosophy called “Next Play,” inspired by Coach K of the Duke Blue Devils. This concept emphasizes the fact that the most important frame of the business on which we should always focus is the next one. In our rapidly changing environment, Next Play means to stay ahead and see opportunities where others see problems.

2. What is your background, and how did you end up in eyewear? After graduating from Ca’ Foscari University in Venice in marketing and communication, I spent my first nine years in the Benetton Group, in the media, communication, licensing and merchandising departments, where I had the chance to understand and manage the dynamics of apparel and accessories. It was a dream come true because I was born in Treviso, close to Venice. The Benetton Group is based in Treviso.

I really like marketing, and I am fascinated by the power that creativity and fashion can exploit. Eyewear strikes the right balance between these two worlds. On the other hand, the Veneto region is one of the most important districts for eyewear. It was the perfect combination of my passion and the ability to work in the Veneto region.

3. What have you been able to apply to eyewear from your experience with Benetton? Product is at the center of everything we do at Marcolin Group. The opportunity to start in the apparel business helped me apply the logic of merchandising in terms of big data analysis, understanding consumer needs, and how the product development process is structured. I learned how quickly to apply this specific logic in eyewear in terms of merchandising, editing the collection, and supporting the product department in creating and developing a collection based on mood boards, themes and families in the collection.

4. You’ve been marketing eyewear for many years. What changes have you observed? Eyewear is a very old industry that is rapidly changing due to some major factors – consolidation, the digital transformation impacting the channels of distribution and the consumer, and the growing relevance of consumer understanding and the ability to create and tell seasonal brand and product stories.

5. What advice do you have for ECPs about stocking their frame boards? Understand the specific needs of your consumer base, and select the brand and product assortment based on these needs rather than based on stylistic direction. Each brand and each product must have a specific role in the assortment for each customer.

6. How do you encourage ECPs to get consumers into luxury frames? In the luxury segment, consumers are becoming more opinionated. With digital, they have access to more information than in the past. They are willing to pay a premium for innovation and superior quality. Our role is to provide the eyecare professional with the tools to be able to communicate to the final consumer.

For example, we just launched Tom Ford “Blue Block,” frames ready to wear with special lenses that reduce the risks of blue light and increase visual comfort during long exposure to digital devices. It’s a new selling opportunity for our customers to enlarge their consumer base. We are the first high-luxury brand to offer this feature.

7. What advice do you have to help independent ECPs compete? Independent professionals will play a crucial role in the future of the industry in their ability to create more custom made service and experience for the consumer. They have the opportunity to have a more intimate relationship with the final consumer, and this is a key competitive advantage that will remain in the future.

8. What makes the Marcolin Group unique? We are the only pure global wholesale player. We don’t have managed care. We don’t have retail. We don’t compete with our customers. We would like to develop entertaining experiences for the consumer. We are aiming to be the preferred partner for each of our customers. Our company is completely dedicated and focused on the design, manufacturing and distribution through our partners of the eyewear collections we develop. We offer our consumers unique and exclusive products, representing the heritage of each brand.

9. Now that you are CEO of Marcolin USA, what are your plans? Our mission is to become the most trusted customer-friendly company. We envision Marcolin to be the second player in the market by 2020. With a powerful and balanced portfolio of complementary brands, best-in-class service and our ability to create seasonal product stories combined with an innovative attitude, I’m totally confident that we can succeed in our mission and our vision and be the preferred partner for all our customers.

10. You have eyewear in different levels of the marketplace, value, luxury, etc. How do you organize those different levels as far as sales and marketing? One of the first cross-functional projects that we approached when I joined Marcolin Group was to create a clear and compelling portfolio strategy. As I was saying, we have a wide portfolio, but each brand must have a specific role in the customer assortment. And we created clear priorities across the different channels. All of the organization works seamlessly to execute this strategy.

RETTORE REVEALS ‘NEXT PLAY’
AT NATIONAL SALES MEETING

“Next Play” was the overarching theme at Marcolin Group’s U.S. national sales meeting in Los Angeles in April, where the company hosted 225 members from its U.S. sales teams, marketing, brand, product and design teams, as well as executives from both the U.S. and global offices. Davide Rettore welcomed everyone to the meeting and shared his vision of the company’s goals and the concept of “Next Play.” Special guest Tom Ford held a Q&A session.

11. Some of those brands are exclusive to the U.S. What makes them particularly appealing to this market? We are clearly an Italian company rooted in the American culture. The business potential in the U.S. market is huge, and there are some specific needs that we are not able to cover with our international brands. So we are trying to fully exploit the potential through what I call “local jewels,” brands that may have a limited awareness internationally but are extremely relevant locally. Also, by including U.S.-based brands that we are currently managing directly from here, we are able to cover some specific niches of the market like eco-friendly, managed care and value. For example, with managed care, you have to target some specific price markets, so we support the independent practice with competitive offerings.

12. Are you planning to add to your eyewear lines either through acquisition, licensing or starting them organically? We are always looking for new opportunities. We are exploring a few opportunities that make sense for our strategy, but we still have to fully exploit the potential that we have with our current portfolio, which has opportunity to grow. We also have a strong and solid partnership with all our partner brands, especially with Swarovski, Guess and Tom Ford.

We renewed Swarovski until 2023, Guess until 2025, and Tom Ford until 2029. This is extremely important because it allows us as well as our customers to invest in the long term. Frequent changes in the licensing model disrupt the market, especially for the final customer, so we tell our customers that these are long term partnerships and they can be confident to invest in these brands in their stores.

13. How much do you rely on licensing for your portfolio? We focus mainly on licensing. We do have our own brands, and one among them has international distribution, Web Eyewear, which is booming. We are growing at a fast rate with Web Eyewear, but at the moment in North America it’s mainly a sun business, so we distribute it mainly through sun specialty stores. Also extremely important for the U.S. market are our house brands Marcolin and Viva that cover the specific needs of managed care.

14. You personally moved from Italy to the U.S. What differences and similarities have you observed between working in these countries? The U.S. is very well organized with clear processes and all of the organization working in the same direction, while in Italy, horizontal approaches and brainstorming meetings are more diffused.

15. What about communication? In terms of style of communication, the U.S. tends to have more formal communication. Sometimes it misses the one-to-one communication in favor of sharing a lot of emails. In Italy, we have this approach, but face to face meetings are common and scheduled with tight frequencies.

16. How does the U.S. eyewear market specifically differ from other countries? The U.S. market is the widest market worldwide for eyewear in both value and volume. So it’s a big opportunity, but it’s the most complex because you have a truly multi-channel approach with totally different go-to market strategies between sun and optical. This is unique of the U.S. market.

17. So are you going to unite the sun and the optical markets? No. That you cannot change, but you need to have a clear strategy to approach the different parts of the U.S. market.

18. What would you say are the strengths and weaknesses of the U.S. eyewear market, and where is it headed? The U.S. market is very wide with a lot of opportunities in terms of demographics and a lot of technical expertise that you don’t have in other markets. But, the fact that almost 70% of purchasing is driven by managed care doesn’t allow the industry to push for innovation and for a more consumer-driven approach. For the future I see consolidation and positive collateralization of the industry, and for sure, digital will play a crucial role.

But I stress the fact that independent practices will continue to play a crucial role in this industry in their ability to create a different, unique, tailor-made experience for the final consumer.

19. What would you say is the greatest need in the U.S. market? What is needed is to create a unique role for each brand, seasonal brand and product stories relevant to the final consumer, and more of an experience at the point of sale.

20. What’s next for Davide Rettore? My Next Play is to fully embrace the American culture as part of this new journey experience with my family and to work hard with a lot of passion to fully establish the reputation of Marcolin Group in the North American market.

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