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GLENFIELD WANTS ITALIAN KNITWEAR TO IMPRESS THE WORLD
The name Glenfield is not only synonymous with high-quality Italian knitwear. This is also an enterprise that has successfully managed to make an impression on the world stage with its new fashion philosophy, which evokes a traditional country style but combines it with the best of modern trends. The brand, originally inspired by the old-fashioned English look, has evolved over time into a complete international way of dressing. However the company has not renounced its role as a traditional Italian entrepreneur.
We asked the president of the company, Stefano Verzoletto: Is your strong connection to the traditional expertise of your native region one of the factors that make you unique?
Undoubtedly. We wanted to keep the heart of the company in the municipality of Treviso, where Glenfield originated, because we knew that this very productive area of the Veneto has always had a culture of manufacturing. Even today, the design and development of our collections take place in our product development office, with the aid of local staff who have worked for the company for decades. Of course, we also use experts from outside the company when designing and developing our collections, but we would never sever relationships with our own skilled workers.
Is your production also in-house?
No, Glenfield is a brand which operates under a franchising system. To produce our collections we rely on a carefully-chosen group of suppliers, most of whom are Italian. We bring out two collections every year, involving nearly 500 new garment patterns.
Is the variety your product offers one of the keys to your success?
It is certainly true that a wide product range means that we can satisfy even the most demanding personal tastes. But before launching a lot of products onto the market, I think it is very important to decide on your market positioning. Our model client is a woman over 25 years old with average spending-power who is interested in fashion themes and trends and what the important designers are doing. Our production must be aimed at her.
Which are the principal overseas markets where you want to introduce you concept?
In the past, Germany was our primary overseas outlet. Staying with Central Europe, we also have quite a considerable presence in Switzerland and Austria. In the course of the last two seasons, we have started to consolidate our position in markets such as Eastern Europe, which were not completely covered. I am referring, for example, to Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, the Czech Republic and also Bulgaria, where we have had some initial contacts. These are all countries to which we had not previously introduced our single-brand concept.
What are the premises and objectives of your distribution strategy?
The idea is to make Italian fashion readily available, with sales outlets spread throughout the markets where we want to establish a presence. Our business model looks similar to traditional franchising, but Glenfield wants to achieve something different, a real partnership with those commercial operators who share our ideas about specialized knitwear and the importance of an extremely high standard of customer service.
How many Glenfield-brand shops are there worldwide?
Including all our outlets, our products are available at 320 sales points, of which 250 are mono-brand. Our turnover for 2008 is expected to be up 8%, with the export quota just on earnings from those shops under direct management predicted to be 18%. The remainder of our sales network consists of dedicated corners at the big distributors or multi-brand sales outlets. However, we are trying to minimize as far as possible our relationships with multi-brand distributors.
Why do you have less confidence in multi-brand distribution channels?
Non-dedicated distributors tend to buy from a variety of suppliers. Glenfield, on the other hand, offers a whole sheaf of fashion solutions in its collections, and the effect relies on the completeness of the range on display. The customer who is buying into the Glenfield concept must have the opportunity to acquire everything she wants at our shops, from hats to scarves, so to speak. We have now completed our evolution towards a total look: our Autumn/Winter 2010 collection will also include shoes for the first time.
Are your mono-brand shops under direct management or do you also trust to local business partners?
It depends on the country. Outside our traditional markets we only operate through franchise agents. Our Russian partner, for example, is responsible for managing business strategy in all the ex-Soviet republics. Over the last year and a half we have also been developing a project in China, together with our local agent. He has direct management of our present 16 active sales points and we aim to double this number in the next 18 months. We have big expectations of this market, which registered an increase in sales in 2008 running into double figures: up 10% in Russia and 12% in China. If we also count the volume of sales generated by Russian and Chinese agents, the export quota of our turnover rises quite considerably above the 18% achieved solely through direct channels.
So you have a lot of faith in the potential of China and Russia. But isn’t it risky to establish such ambitious objectives in the midst of a global recession which is threatening consumer confidence even in the emerging economies?
In a time like the present our first priority is to focus on defending our traditional markets. Before looking for new business outlets, we believe it should be possible to do very well in markets where we have had a longer-term presence. Besides, launching into new markets is demanding in terms of both costs and the human resources required to develop new collections. In a situation like the present it is important not to expend unnecessary energy. In this sense there are clear advantages to the approach we have adopted in China and Russia, where we have made use of agents instead of going in directly ourselves. We do, however, give them constant support in marketing, and overseeing the product and the collections, using a system to check any alterations or additions which our agents decide upon on site.