Giovanni Zoppas, CEO of Marcolin, began his career in 1984 with Andersen Consulting and then joined the Benetton Group, where he remained for many years serving as financial coordinator and international business controller. General Manager of Nordica from 2003 to 2006, he subsequently held the positions of CFO and COO of Coin Group. Zoppas joined Marcolin in January 2012 when he was appointed CEO and general manager.
“The U.S. Market is the most important worldwide”
— Giovanni Zoppas
“The integration of viva was done in record time”
After many years in commercial management with Hewlett Packard since 1995, Fabrizio Gamberini was recruited in 2002 by Nike Inc., where he spent years as general manager for retail and the football category in the Americas. Recruited as CEO of Marcolin USA Eyewear Corp. (Americas) in early 2008, Gamberini has nearly doubled the Marcolin USA business in eight years.
JOHN SAILER: What sets Marcolin apart in the market?
GIOVANNI ZOPPAS: The heritage, the quality. Wider than simple manufacturing, it involves the way we interact with the brands, the way we design the products. On top of everything, we have the dedication we give to each single brand in an exclusive way. Whatever collection belonging to a brand is different from the others. It has to do with the DNA of the brands. This is highly recognized in the eyewear industry as a unique approach to designing, industrializing, manufacturing and distributing.
FABRIZIO GAMBERINI: Marcolin is known for the ability to inject the essence of the brand in the frame.
SAILER: What demographics and style trends are you addressing?
GAMBERINI: In the U.S. we work with a tiered, macromarket approach. We go with a specific brand in a specific distribution channel. While Tom Ford is clearly in a very select distribution mapping in the optical channel, a brand like Guess is placed in a much wider distribution. Trends we follow right now are the ones that are pretty strong in the U.S. Simplification is one, and zero base is another. We have light lenses, different colors, for example, in Tom Ford and Emilio Pucci.
SAILER: How has the acquisition of Viva impacted the company?
ZOPPAS: When I joined the company in 2012, turnover was $200 million. Viva’s turnover when we bought the company in 2015 was in the range of $130 million, which together make $330 million. In 2015, we exceeded $430 million. Over those years we organically improved by $100 million.
We are increasing geographically, homogeneously throughout the world. Many brands contributed by performing the same or better than the overall business. Last year we opened a new manufacturing facility 10 minutes from our headquarters. It’s devoted to Made in Italy production, and this is helping us be faster in manufacturing and closer to the market.
GAMBERINI: The integration of Viva was done in record time. In 16 months we completed a very complex integration because Viva was working under a different business model and methodology, with retail locations and insurance included.
SAILER: Where was the growth?
ZOPPAS: In all geographical areas. In the U.S., we grew our business and had a very good foundation through the different channels-department stores, retailing, the three Os. Then Asia Pacific, all the Middle East/Far Eastern area, very good growth through the Middle East and China as well.
We are benefiting from the fact that we started from a low to mid-market share in this area, so we didn’t suffer that much from the general economic situation. In Europe we posted a good result in 2015, specifically in areas like Italy, our domestic market; Spain, Portugal, south of Europe, where some lines perform very well, like our house brand Web or Timberland, for instance, or Guess or Tom Ford. It is a balanced situation, and we believe we can go along that way during 2016.
Some brands are over-performing, but that’s normal. Brands performing well are the most part of our portfolio. That means there is a balance inside your growth, and the more balanced you are, the less risky.
It’s the same in terms of geography. In our business today the breakdown by geography is reflecting the worldwide business for the industry. That means 42% for the Americas, 38% for the EMEA countries and 20% for Asia-Pacific.
Opportunity for growth is by segment because even if now we are at 51% ophthalmic, this segment represents 70% of the overall business. We still have a lot of room to grow, and the brands we have are versatile. They can be both sun and ophthalmic.
SAILER: Which channels in the U.S. are performing better?
GAMBERINI: Department stores are producing very good results for the past few years. Right now, the overall retail market is under retraction (election, lack of international business) and traffic is lighter for department stores. In the U.S. in the second half of 2015 we averaged double digit growth compared to the year before; double digit is big. Reasons? Department stores, clearly, and the optical channel, where the classic brands are, Tom Ford, Roberto Cavalli, Ermenegildo Zegna, Balenciaga.
As part of this double-digit growth we grew very well in some of the large chains. We are represented in some of the large boxes with two or three brands but in a very strong way.
In the U.S., the consumer is more technical. In the sun specialty store, a good 30% of sales come from polarized. The U.S. consumer is much more attentive to technical details than in Europe. In Europe, it’s more the design, the silhouette, the material; in the U.S., it’s more the technical aspect. Is it photochromic? Is it polarized?
SAILER: How does sunwear fit into the product mix?
ZOPPAS: We are recognized for our capability to interpret the equity of a brand and to be outstanding in design and quality, and we cross through the different ages. Brands like Timberland are more devoted to teens, and brands like Roberto Cavalli are more focused on females over 40. We were the first to mark sun lenses with the brand because the quality of the sun lenses we are using is outstanding. We started doing that with Tom Ford.
GAMBERINI: When we bought Viva International, the company was mainly focused on ophthalmics. In 2015, we started to see a big help coming from our expertise in sun. For example, Guess by Marciano sun did incredibly well last year. Many other brands inside the former portfolio, with Viva now integrated in Marcolin, ended up growing very strongly on the sun side because of our expertise.
SAILER: How will you address the U.S. market moving forward?
ZOPPAS: We strongly believe the U.S. market is the most important one worldwide, and that’s why we have been paying and will pay a lot of attention to the market, to the customers, both opticians and the finer customers.
GAMBERINI: And for this reason we have probably one of the largest directly employed salesforces to control the level of service that they give to the customer.