Italy is a priority market for fashion and ready-to-wear brands, hence the dedicated Italy workshop that took place during the 2018 Traffic trade show. Here we give you an overview and top tips from Anne-Laure Druguet, Director of Projects at the Fédération Française de Prêt à Porter Féminin, and Claudio Milani, CEO of Webhelp Payment Services in Italy and Greece.
“Italy is France’s number 1 customer, followed by Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain and the United States,” says Anne-Laure Druguet, Director of Projects at the Fédération Française de Prêt à Porter Féminin, who specialises in helping French brands export.
In fact, the nature of the Italian market appears to make it an unmissable opportunity for France’s ready-to-wear brands:
- €66 billion annually, with a positive trend
- 10.5% of France’s exports in terms of value (up 7.1% on 2016)
- In 2016, Italian women spent 10 billion euros on clothes, with the Italian menswear sales volume approaching 7 billion euros.
- Distribution: mainly through franchises, chain stores and the retail sector (47%), followed chiefly by multi-brand stores (24%), department stores (13%), and online sales (5%).
- There are big differences between Italy’s regions, with the North being a more buoyant market.
1 – Make sure you have the right agent in Italy
Our assessment above focuses more on quantity, but Claudio Milani, CEO of Webhelp Payment Services in Italy and Greece, was more interested in talking about quality: “There are a huge number of stores in Italy, even in small towns and villages. With the odd exception, you can’t “sell on your own” in Italy; you have to go through one or more agents, at regional or national level. Contrastingly, committing to a retail network appears to be a risky business.”
But should your agent be single-brand or multi-brand? Claudio Milani says, “A small or medium-sized company would be ill-advised to take on a single-brand agent.”
And Anne-Laure Druguet adds, “It’s important you have the right fit with your agent and ensure you have the same objectives and development potential. You must also make sure you pin down your methods, such as reporting frequency, and agree a mutually binding commitment in writing.”
The Federation offers French brands help with drawing up agent contracts.
Claudio Milani hammers home the point with a quip: “You know who our best allies are? Agents. And our worst enemies? Agents.” Hence his advice: “Find the best possible fit between your brand, your products and your agent”.
2 – Choose the safest payment methods and conditions
Like any market, the Italian market has its own particular payment methods, conditions and practices.
Webhelp Payment Services takes care of customer collection management and trade receivable management and acts as an insurance intermediary in various countries, including Italy. This means that Webhelp Payment Services enables you to personalise your payment methods and conditions individually to each of your clients.
To find out more, and in particular for details of the payment methods and conditions best suited to the Italian market and the best way to protect yourself from non-payment, feel free to get in touch with Claudio Milani.
3 – Devise a strategy tailored to the Italian market
As Claudio Milani says, “It’s not enough to set yourself financial objectives in penetrating the Italian market. You have to devise, challenge and then implement your own specific strategy”.
This strategy must be consistent with your brand identity and culture. “But beware of imposing your own rules: think globally but act locally,” adds Claudio Milani.
4 – Find the balance between sales and finance
Claudio Milani’s last piece of advice: “If you focus solely on increasing sales, you’ll expose yourself to a lot of risks. And if you put too much emphasis on financial security, you’re in danger of missing some great opportunities. You have to strike the right balance to be successful!”
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