Tempt­ing big spenders with their own lan­guage

Lux­ury fash­ion brand’s new store in Lon­don caters to cus­tomers from China with more tai­lored ser­vices

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - Q&A WITH CEO - By WANG MINGJIE in Lon­don wang­mingjie@ mail.chi­nadai­lyuk.com

1997-on­wards: CEO, Ermenegildo Zegna Group,

1986-89: CEO, Italco SA (Spain)

1982-85: Pres­i­dent, Ermenegildo Zegna Cor­po­ra­tion (US) Ed­u­ca­tion: Har­vard Busi­ness School Uni­ver­sity of Lon­don Award: The “PremioLe­nardo 2015”, a pres­ti­gious award given to an Ital­ian per­son­al­ity who has acted in a sig­nif­i­cant way to pro­mote the im­age of Italy glob­ally Fam­ily: Mar­ried with two sons ... we are able to bring a com­fort­able shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence to our Chi­nese pa­trons. ” Ermenegildo Zegna, CEO of Ermenegildo Zegna Group

Ital­ian menswear de­signer Ermenegildo Zegna has taken Chi­nese cus­tomers to heart with sales­peo­ple speak­ing their own lan­guage at its new and largest store in Lon­don’s Bond Street.

The store, launched on Nov 9, has hired Chi­nese-speak­ing sales staff and is of­fer­ing the per­son­al­ized ser­vices of a Chi­nese con­sul­tant who can ex­plain the brand’s his­tory and cul­ture.

The lux­ury menswear brand’s CEO, Ermenegildo “Gildo” Zegna, said the move shows a strong fo­cus on Chi­nese shop­pers over­seas as a re­sult of soar­ing num­ber of Chi­nese tourists vis­it­ing the UK.

The fourth-gen­er­a­tion CEO of his fam­ily’s fash­ion house said: “Chi­nese cus­tomers are one of our big­gest clien­tele. By of­fer­ing na­tive speak­ing staff, who un­der­stand the cul­ture and the cus­tomers’ needs, we are able to bring a com­fort­able shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence to our Chi­nese pa­trons.”

The Ital­ian com­pany, which owns sheep farms in Aus­tralia that sup­ply wool to its Ital­ian mill, opened in China in 1991.

It was the first lux­ury ap­parel com­pany to launch in the Chi­nese mar­ket and China is now its big­gest sin­gle mar­ket, ac­count­ing for about a third of global sales of 1.26 bil­lion eu­ros ($1.34 bil­lion) in 2015.

“This would not have hap­pened if we hadn’t taken the mar­ket se­ri­ously by mak­ing an early en­try, build­ing the right store, cre­at­ing the right team and con­tin­u­ing to in­vest in new things,” Zegna said.

He be­lieves China is a mar­ket where re­tail­ers can­not stand still, be­cause cus­tomers keep ask­ing for more and the com­pe­ti­tion is fierce.

“To re­main a leader as a menswear lux­ury brand in China you have to keep re­new­ing your­self and rein­vest­ing in the brand to make sure that peo­ple are given su­pe­rior ser­vice and a con­stant in­no­va­tive brand propo­si­tion,” Zegna said.

He added that China’s key stores were a test­ing ground for new prod­ucts and new ideas as Chi­nese cus­tomers en­joyed look­ing for some­thing new.

Re­cently Zegna spoke to China Daily about his vi­sion and strat­egy and new op­por­tu­ni­ties for Zegna’s op­er­a­tions in China.

The fol­low­ing are edited ex­cerpts of the in­ter­view:

How would you de­scribe Zegna’s prospects in China in the cur­rent eco­nomic en­vi­ron­ment?

Our com­mit­ment to China has been demon­strated over many years. As you know, we have been dress­ing Chi­nese men for over 25 years dat­ing back to 1991, when we opened our first China bou­tique in Bei­jing.

Through­out this time we have been for­tu­nate to see the amaz­ing change and de­vel­op­ment that has made China what it is to­day.

We have of­fered the Chi­nese gen­tle­man un­par­al­leled crafts­man­ship and be­spoke style that is both mod­ern and highly rel­e­vant to their wardrobe needs.

When I look at China’s fu­ture, I be­lieve dig­i­tal is the key — ev­ery­one in China has a mo­bile phone.

We have to un­der­stand quickly how cus­tomers’ de­sires change and that’s why you need to be con­nected as a brand and tell your story via mo­bile.

This gen­er­a­tion has been rocked by dig­i­ti­za­tion, and the or­ganic in­te­gra­tion of on­line and off­line sales can of­fer a whole new de­vel­op­ment path for the Zegna brand in China and glob­ally.

What is your com­pany’s big­gest achieve­ment here since 1991, when Zegna en­tered this mar­ket?

As you know, we are a fourth-gen­er­a­tion fam­ily busi­ness, which I am sure you will agree is al­ready a great achieve­ment in it­self.

I be­lieve it is the huge fol­low­ing we have de­vel­oped with our Chi­nese cus­tomers.

Over the past 25 years, we’ve been of­fer­ing con­sis­tent ex­cel­lence in qual­ity, fab­rics, ser­vice and in­no­va­tion. This has re­sulted in Zegna hav­ing an ex­tremely loyal Chi­nese cus­tomer base.

I am glad to say that thanks to our ded­i­ca­tion and pas­sion, we are still able to de­liver to our global cus­tomers of all ages and back­grounds —and to Chi­nese gen­tle­men even af­ter such a long time in the mar­ket — a con­tem­po­rary im­age and es­thetic.

Chi­nese con­sumers have be­come a driv­ing force for global in­no­va­tion and this is es­pe­cially true in fash­ion.

We see our Chi­nese cus­tomers as some of the most dis­cern­ing cus­tomers Zegna has, and I know our new Cre­ative Di­rec­tor, Alessan­dro Sar­tori, is very much look­ing for­ward to get­ting to know our cus­tomers on the Chi­nese main­land.

In your view, what is the se­cret of Zegna’s suc­cess in China?

We em­brace our fourth-gen­er­a­tion fam­ily her­itage, with a re­lent­less fo­cus on qual­ity and ser­vice. We have al­ways been able to adapt and move for­ward with in­no­va­tion.

We have to move quickly in terms of prod­uct in­no­va­tion and need to cre­ate con­tin­u­ous ex­cite­ment in our stores, which we can do also thanks to our sup­ply chain.

We also place crit­i­cal im­por- tance on un­der­stand­ing the cul­ture of each of our mar­kets glob­ally. We strive to un­der­stand lo­cal tra­di­tions as much as pos­si­ble.

Other than see­ing the world from a global per­spec­tive, you have to see it from a more lo­cal point of view.

We love in­ter­pret­ing lo­cal de­sires by an­tic­i­pat­ing new trends and to do that, you need to spend qual­ity time with cus­tomers. With this “lo­cal vi­sion”, we will con­tinue to place great im­por­tance in the Chi­nese mar­ket.

I be­lieve our cus­tomers in China feel this, and re­spond ac­cord­ingly by be­ing very loyal to the Zegna brand.

What do you think is the com­pet­i­tive edge of your brand in China?

I think China is still at the fore­front of lux­ury in Asia. Com­pe­ti­tion for lux­ury brands is fierce and we need to in­vest a lot of our­selves in terms of bud­get, en­ergy, ideas and time to make sure to be com­pet­i­tive.

Sto­ry­telling is cru­cial since you need to con­vey an emo­tion through the prod­uct. Nev­er­the­less, we will con­tinue to of­fer the hall­marks of the Zegna brand — lux­ury, style, qual­ity, crafts­man­ship and of course in­no­va­tion in ev­ery area.

What es­sen­tial lead­er­ship qual­i­ties do you con­sider most im­por­tant when lead­ing your team to growth in the Chi­nese mar­ket?

You must strive to find a good way to com­mu­ni­cate with the team, and keep an open mind.

You also have to look into the long-term fu­ture but at the same time must not for­get about the orig­i­nal val­ues and tra­di­tions.

How do you han­dle the chal­lenges your team has en­coun­tered in China, if any?

I think it is the same with ev­ery mar­ket. You fig­ure out what works and you con­stantly flex your busi­ness strat­egy to meet the de­mands of a mar­ket.

he fan­tas­tic thing about be­ing a fam­ily com­pany is our abil­ity to move quickly. This has be­come so crit­i­cal in this world, where cus­tomer pref­er­ences and the re­tail land­scape have shifted so quickly.

What are the dreams you have for your com­pany in China?

I am in awe of the progress China has made in the 25 years I have been op­er­at­ing in the Chi­nese mar­ket.

When you look at the ab­so­lute growth, the num­bers in China year-on-year are as­tound­ing. I want us to con­tinue to share our her­itage with this fas­ci­nat­ing coun­try and cul­ture.

What are your hob­bies? How do you spend your time out­side of work when you are in China?

I like to play tennis on the week­end, ski­ing in the winter time and walk­ing in the coun­try­side.

I am also pas­sion­ate about vin­tage car races.

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