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ITALIAN-MADE HOUSEHOLD ARTICLES: A COMBINATION OF QUALITY AND DESIGN
In the production of cutlery, pans, knives and other metal utensils for household use, Italian manufacturers offer superior quality in terms of both design and good taste. “Our selling point is the Italian product, together with a strong and well-recognized brand-name”, explained Roberto Boiocchi of FIAC, the Italian Association of cutlery, flatware, hollowware and cookware manufacturers. “All this”, he added, “allows the companies to respond to the demands of the market, even in times of crisis”. One should also not forget the ability of this sector to offer customized products and solutions. This is a characteristic which, according to Boiocchi, is “intrinsic to the business practice of Italian manufacturers”.
In this way, thanks to their flexibility and the high style content of their products, Italian manufacturers continue to make an impact on the world scene. The market studies office at Anima, the Federation of Italian Associations of Mechanical and Engineering Industries which also includes FIAC, estimates that the sector will register a new increase in exports in 2009 (+2.7% to 580 million Euros), with an export quota on turnover expected to rise from 63% in 2008 to 64% this year. As Boiocchi explained, “Each company has an approach to the international markets inspired by a business policy which is strongly export-directed”. Because of this, the principal trade fairs for the sector are considered extremely important, especially in regions where Italian-made products hold a strong appeal.
“The producers”, Boiocchi continued, “are prepared to face every sort of market, including the latest type, online shopping, which is predominantly B2C. The Web is the new frontier for long-range markets”. Boiocchi predicted that it will also “soon become an instrument for traditional markets to reorganize their B2B logistics. At the same time our industry has the ability to consistently improve sales to the large distribution chains, making an impact with Italian brands and products”. In parallel with this, the sector is constantly consolidating its direct distribution channels, setting up own-brand stores, not just in large shopping malls, but also in historic city centres.
We have mentioned the business strategies, but what type of business organizations are these Italian producers of cutlery, pans and other household articles? It is clear that they are predominantly small- to medium-sized businesses, and they are concentrated in the two traditional areas of Italian household-goods manufacture: Brescia and the province of Verbano-Cusio-Ossola. Boiocchi commented: “It is true that the model of the SME is intrinsic to Italian manufacturing. But it is also time for these firms to consider uniting and collaborating, in order to compete better on the world markets. They can do this while still maintaining their independence”.
To support a strategy of increasing internationalization, the trade association can play an important role in protecting businesses, serving as intermediary and, most importantly, acting against counterfeiting. As Boiochi explained: “FIAC is proactive in defending design and creative intelligence, the added value which distinguishes the Italian product”. Additionally, the association can give support in the field of innovation. “Research,” Boiocchi concluded, “can later become the basis for designing products with an eye to both aesthetic originality and innovative practicality”. In this way the association can act to promote agreements with laboratories able to provide advice about new uses or materials, and the aim of representing producers as a group is to obtain extremely competitive prices.