Sep 21, 2023
Paul Kotrba, who was named CEO ad interim of luxury footwear brand Sergio Rossi a few months ago, has spoken to FashionNetwork.com about the relaunch strategy of the long-established Italian brand, owned since June 2021 by Lanvin Group, the Chinese group formerly known as Fosun Fashion Group. Sergio Rossi’s retail and wholesale strategy is geared towards the USA and the Middle East, but Europe will be the immediate focus.
“When I joined the company, I found an energetic team proud of its products and brand, full of great creative ideas,” said Austria-born Kotrba, formerly COO at Wolford. “Besides, I think the Lanvin Group, of which we have been part since 2021, excels in product development and corporate strategy, since it leaves plenty of freedom to its brands in terms of design, management and organisation. Plus, there are opportunities to tap many synergies at group level and to optimise logistics, legal affairs, human resources and real estate management. So, if the right balance can be found, great goals can be achieved,” he added.
“This was shown, for example, by the capsule collection we developed last year with Wolford, another Lanvin Group brand,” said Kotrba. “In the last two years, we have built a fantastic design team, revised our advertising approach and adopted a new, merchandising-based method, with a new executive, previously at Gucci, who liaises with the design studio [for new products] and incorporates the carry-over items we update seasonally. This approach has made Sergio Rossi’s product development and storytelling really consistent. We’re also working to introduce a new member of staff who will take charge of celebrities and brands ambassadors globally,” added Kotrba.
Brand image, product development, global expansion the key strategic pillars
The strategies deployed by the brand’s management are beginning to bear fruit: in H1 this year, Sergio Rossi’s sales increased by 22%, while its leading category, luxury footwear, grew by 15%. “After the pandemic, as everyone returned to a normal social life with parties, events, etc., we enjoyed two years of strong, sustained growth,” said Kotrba. In fiscal 2022, Sergio Rossi generated a revenue of €62 million. In H1 2023, it recorded a revenue of €33 million, well up on the €27 million generated in H1 2022. This has led Kotrba to expect annual revenue in fiscal 2023 to be much higher than the previous year.
Retail sales account for 50% of total revenue, the wholesale channel for 25%, direct-to-consumer sales for 16%, and the remainder comes from the company’s private-label business. Sergio Rossi generates 10% of its revenue online, “but three days ago we launched our new e-shop, which we have improved by deploying dedicated platforms for all our commercial regions except the USA, where we use a local platform on Shopify,” said Kotrba. “We want all the facets of our business to grow in balanced fashion, but we think that our e-shop in particular has much growth potential. Brand image, product development and global expansion are the three strategic pillars on which we’re focusing to grow Sergio Rossi in a healthy, sustainable way,” he added.
Europe accounts for 35% of Sergio Rossi’s revenue, followed by Japan with 28%, China and Hong Kong with 26%, and Brazil with 18%. Italy accounts for 14%, the USA for 3%, and the Middle East for 4%. “There’s no need to underline how crucial these last two markets are to achieve a strong international position. In our global expansion strategy, we will concentrate on growing strongly in the USA and the Middle East, especially Dubai, where I will travel to in a few days to meet potential partners, and start planning monobrand store openings in Abu Dhabi and Dubai itself,” said Kotrba.
Current focus the USA, Middle East, brand extension to follow
“The USA are a huge opportunity, being the world’s leading market for our key product category, luxury footwear, followed by China, Japan, Italy, and the UK, but at the same time they can be a risk,” noted Kotrba.
Sergio Rossi made a couple of attempts to enter the US market in the past, without much success. “I know how business works in the USA, where I lived for 20 years. It’s a market where you need to work regularly and persistently, and to always be active on the ground. US customers want [brands] to have a presence. This is why we need a team that lives there, someone who speaks the language and is always in touch with Italy. It’s also essential to rely on local partners for distribution, scalability, connections and platforms, to give [Sergio Rossi] a credible presence, with a physical retail and an e-tail component, and global collaborators and ambassadors. This will be our strategy for 2024-25. I believe it’s the winning formula for entering the USA and making a success of it,” he added.
Retail-wise, Sergio Rossi currently operates 63 monobrand stores in EMEA, Japan and China, but the number will soon grow. “We have 12 monobrand stores in Europe. We will open another three this year, and as many in 2024, in locations still to be defined,” said Kotrba. “One of them will surely be in the UK, where we’re no longer present, though we were in the past. We’d like to open a store on Regent Street,” said Kotrba.
Kotrba confirmed that Sergio Rossi is also assessing the possibility of broadening its range via brand extensions in a couple of categories, either managed in-house or via production and distribution licenses. “Our primary strategy is to boost our presence in regions where we’re doing little business, and to enter others where we aren’t present. Once we’ll have achieved this, we can consider expanding into other categories. It will take a couple of years before we’ll be able to start on this aspect of the business,” said Kotrba.
New collection includes iconic Mermaid line
Sergio Rossi’s new Spring/Summer 2024 collection hinges on the twin notions of ultra-glamour and femininity. It features a variety of models and designs whose style and colour palette tell the story of the brand’s eclectic aesthetic, a blend of classic Italian luxury and contemporary design. The new collection pays tribute first and foremost to the brand’s archives. The Mermaid, one of Sergio Rossi’s signature models, first introduced in 2010 and inspired by the opulent, maximalist night life of the 2000s, is making a major come-back. It has been reinterpreted in a more pared-down day-to-evening register, for modern, contemporary women busy with work, friends, and dinners out, and who, for each occasion, need shoes that are beautiful but comfortable, allowing them to always feel at ease.
Nappa leather, silk, suede and patent leather are the new season’s statement materials, alongside raffia and stretch fabrics. Crystals are back in force to enhance the Mermaid line, in clear, black and iridescent purple hues. The models’ colour palette is extensive and attractive, ranging from elegant, timeless hues like white, black and silver, to more full-bodied shades such as burgundy, light pink and purple.
Among the other lines, the new Seville range, featuring wedges, sandals and mules hand-covered in raffia. The Spongy line is instead distinctive for its bold, geometric design. The Jane line pays tribute to the brand’s heritage with sandals and pumps made in stretch materials, which the brand’s eponymous founder Sergio Rossi was among the first to adopt and introduce in the footwear sector. The Akida line is an elegant new take on the torchon shoe, with low-medium sandals and ultra-glam high-heels and wedges. The new collection also features a mini version of the brand’s signature ‘Twenty Buckle’, used on sophisticated ballerina flats and the Mary Jane line.
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