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A notebook which travels the world:The success story of Moleskine
The idea of creating a notebook that was a bit special led to a stock exchange listing and a presence on international markets. The journey of Moleskine, which began back in 1997, is as fascinating as the idea that led to the birth of the company. Moleskine now has about 100 employees, plus an extensive network of partners and collaborators. The main office is in Milan, but the company network, established at the end of 2011, extends to New York and Hong Kong. We asked the Managing Director, Arrigo Berni, to explain the reasons for this success, and to outline the company's goals for the near future.
Moleskine originated in France but is growing in Italy. What does Italian identity mean for your company?
The Moleskine brand was created in the mid-1990s, the brain-child of a small Milanese publisher (Modo & Modo SpA). The firm was certain there was a business opportunity in creating a brand that represented intangible values of a cultural nature, using objects which embodied those values as a result of their history.
The legendary, iconic notebook was an ideal object in this respect. Used by great artists and thinkers over the past two centuries, such as Picasso, Chatwin, or Hemingway, it contained sketches, notes, stories, and ideas that would later become famous paintings or pages in books. By the mid-1980s, however, this sort of notebook had become unobtainable thanks to the closure of the last manufacturers. So, in 1995, Modo & Modo SpA decided to resurrect it and begin production again, registering the Moleskine brand in Italy and at EU level.
Moleskine therefore has its roots in the history it represents, and Italy is an important country for the company, for its cultural affinity with the values on which the firm is based. It is also the "homeland" of the Moleskine industrial project, which has made the iconic notebook into a successful brand and business.
For this reason we opened - in 2014 - our first Italian single-brand store in a historic centre, right in the heart of Milan: to stress the importance of our Italian spirit and tradition, and our openness to the world.
The company has enjoyed sustained growth in recent years, thanks to a strong presence on international markets. What distinctive features do you offer customers abroad?
Moleskine became a global brand because it appeals to a global audience, or rather to those creative classes who live and work in large cities, and who use both analogue and digital means in their daily lives. These people are the ideal target for objects that offer open platforms for self-expression: objects such as Moleskine which embody special values, and which support their users in the creative process and more generally in information management. Therefore, by taking its cue from the iconic notebook, Moleskine has become a brand that aims to offer special solutions to the evolving needs of a well-defined global target.
For your operations abroad, you have opened dedicated stores, but you also depend on distributors. What are the advantages and disadvantages of these two channels for a medium-sized company like yours?
We are fulfilling the aim stated in our Strategic Plan for 2014-2016, namely a growth in the business thanks to improved accessibility to our products / services via the development of a multi-channel platform.
At the moment, we mainly reach our customers through the wholesale channel: selling our product to the end client by means of retail chains such as Feltrinelli in Italy, Fnac in France or Barnes and Noble in the USA. To date, we have built up about 28,000 outlets worldwide by use of this channel, a level of ubiquity that is unmatched in our industry.
Since 2012, we have begun to develop a direct retail network, currently numbering about 57 outlets. This strategic decision sprang from a wish to be closer to our customers, and the obvious limitations of the wholesale channel in presenting the full range of our offers. Indeed, we are developing an increasing number of non-paper products in the area of personal accessories (e.g. bags, pens, covers for digital devices, etc.).
In recent years, the business has moved from diaries to a wide range of products. Has this choice proved to be rewarding?
One of the distinguishing characteristics of Moleskine has always been our ability to anticipate the emerging needs of our target market.
Our three-year strategic plan is based on specific features, such as the extension of our product range through an on-going process of innovation. This is focused both on the continuous development of paper-based products, and also of non-paper products, such as bags, pens, and other accessories for carrying around the city.
Moreover, a growing number of our innovations involve so-called hybrid products: notebooks such as those developed with Adobe or Evernote, which integrate physical and digital use in a smooth and simple way.
The results from this process of expansion are very positive, and we intend to continue developing in this direction. We are also supported by an on-going dialogue with our fans, who are a great source of inspiration for the design of new products.
How do you see Moleskine in three years' time?
From a strictly financial point of view, Moleskine is following a path of development based on our three-year strategic plan for 2014-2016, presented to the financial community on March 10th 2014 with predictions for a double-digit growth in business.
The underlying strategic objectives of the plan are focused on an increased awareness of the brand, on its accessibility through the continuous development of a multi-channel platform, and on the increased supply of products and services which reflect the core values of the brand and the changing needs of our target market.