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For over a century Ferrino has been a «must» for outdoor gear
Ferrino is one of the few companies that can boast of having been, for over 130 years, a reference point for trekkers, explorers, climbers and special military corps. Ferrino tents, backpacks and sleeping bags are the perfect synthesis of technical research and expert craftsmanship. This Italian brand - always true to itself - has developed, in the course of the years, brilliant, highly technical and stylish solutions, with a particular eye for ease of use.
We ask Anna Ferrino, a member of the company’s board, how Ferrino manages to remain competitive in a sector seized upon by competitors with lower labour costs, while safeguarding its Made in Italy brand.
There are two competitive factors in a sector with large international groups: price and outsourcing. These are the only planes on which to compete while defending our position as well as our design, innovation and technology. It is impossible, in a market geared towards the general public, to deliver of a product which is 100% Made in Italy, from the beginning to the end of the manufacturing process including design and planning. This does not stop us from making a few select super-technical items in Italy, but the vast majority of our turnover comes from selling products conceived “at home” but produced abroad.
How many years ago did the need to outsource become necessary to avoid failure? Has it been a phenomenon of the last few years?
I would not say so. Ferrino operates in a sector which has embraced outsourcing before any other. For more than three decades, large European manufacturers have been making camping tents abroad. Ferrino, in particular, began producing outside of Italy in the mid Seventies, and not by choice: market pressures forced us.
You have previously referred to highly specialised items as examples of Ferrino products still 100% Made in Italy. Can you elaborate?
Equipment for special corps, from Italy and abroad, are made entirely in Italy. Ferrino’s client portfolio includes the UN and the Red Cross. In this area we don’t simply supply large tents, but also all the necessary items for the set-up of emergency shelters in any environment. Along with the tents we also provide cots, indoor air conditioning or heating systems as well as lighting. Our kits also contain, besides freeze-dried food, other personal care items such as sun lotions for the desert or lip balm to protect against chapping in cold and windy climates. In this high added value product niche, it is still possible to do small-scale work in Italy.
Let’s stay on the “small” numbers: the recent Ferrino 1870 project also demonstrates the will to remain true to tradition, but with an eye on the future by diversifying into new niche sectors. What is it about?
It’s our latest range, which presented exclusively in January 2008 at the 73rd edition of Pitti Immagine Uomo: it is a tribute to historic Ferrino items, reinterpreted and modernised by designer Moreno Ferrari. I wanted to give our brand a new angle for a long time, making it appealing to different types of consumers and markets. In Moreno Ferrari I spotted someone who was able to work horizontally on form and function, stylistic research and design, with the potential to do something truly innovative linking our expertise with his anthropological vision. Ferrino 1870 is an entirely Italian project.
Even if you are counting on the Ferrino 1870 collection to update and diversify your product range, it’s not hard to imagine that in the future a large portion of your profits will come from your core business in outdoor clothing and gear: tents, backpacks and sleeping bags. After all, these are the products that make you a brand of “excellence”.
Absolutely, In this area I cannot not say we are global leaders, although we are very close: I will simply state, without fear of being contradicted, that in terms of camping tents we are one of the brands with the greatest selection. Our brand’s broad offering is one of our strong points, because we can be present in all the market segments and reach figures which allow us to offer products with a competitive price/quality ratio. This is especially true for outdoor tents. We are also successful abroad: in terms of outdoor items, our turnover abroad is about 35% of the total (18 million euros in 2007, of which 10-11 derive solely from the Outdoor business unit).
Operating in increasingly global markets obliges you, I would suppose, to have a widespread distribution network that can communicate the value of your products. Does Ferrino also operate own-brand stores?
Not yet, but we are working towards that option. The problem would be maintaining a constant stream of business all year round with a range of products that are not as seasonal as our outdoor range, for which sales are concentrated in spring and summer. In terms of clothing, an area on which I am working on myself, we are making our first steps towards broadening our offer to make it more competitive.
This is your plan for the future. But how do you currently reach out to your customers?
In Italy we rely on one-brand and multi-brand representatives, for the majority of which Ferrino is the main client. We sell in approximately 1,000 sporting goods stores all over Italy. We consolidated our business relationship with our most faithful retailers by setting up displays in dedicated areas of the store. Abroad, on the other hand, we rely on large distributors, on average about one per country, with a few exceptions such as Russia, whose geographical mass requires two distributors. 2008 started with two market debuts: United States and Japan. Overall, Ferrino has 35 distributors worldwide. Our main markets are in Western Europe: Spain and France are our established markets, while Eastern Europe – where we have been present for six years – has the potential to deliver the greatest satisfaction.