One on One with Henri Blomqvist: Safilo focuses its brand-led and design-inspired philosophy on Travel Retail

Safilo Group is continuing to build its Global Travel Retail business, following the establishment of a new dedicated division to handle the channel on a world-wide basis in 2014. The appointment of Marc Schulte in May to head up the division was another step to strengthen the division and meet the company’s goals to secure Safilo’s continued success, commented Henri Blomqvist, Global Commercial Director, in the announcement.

Henri Blomqvist, Safilo Global Commercial Director

Henri Blomqvist, Safilo Global Commercial Director

Schulte comes to Safilo with 14 years of professional experience at the L’Oréal Group, where he mastered several retail channels globally, including as General Manager L’Oréal Luxe in Mexico since 2008. In Mexico, Schulte oversaw significant turnaround and best practices.

In his new role Schulte will be based in Italy at Safilo Group Headquarters, coordinating worldwide areas with specific focus on strengthening Safilo’s market leading position in Asia, while continuing to accelerate growth in EMEA and the Americas.

Blomqvist, speaking with TMI at the Duty Free Show of the Americas in Orlando, says that the appointment of Marc Schulte as new Head of Global Travel Retail is an indication of how Safilo is dedicated to building global travel retail in line with the company’s commercial pur-pose, which is to deliver quality sales and quality distribution in a very targeted and meaningful way.

“Mark Schulte has the right leadership capabilities, values, and experience to deliver this for us. And of course, he will make sure that we accelerate our growth in the Americas and in MEA while strengthening our market leading position in Asia. That’s the aspiration, obviously long term for the Americas, and in Europe, Middle East and Africa,” says Blomqvist.

Creates dedicated Global TR organization

“The first step for the group was to create the Global Travel Retail organization, which we did at the end of last year. Now we have a dedicated global organization responsible for this business, and the head of global travel retail reports directly to me.

Marc Schulte, Head of Global Travel Retail

Marc Schulte, Head of Global Travel Retail

“Global Travel Retail is a separate channel from the other regions that we have in the world, because we want to make sure we have those unique capabilities specifically needed for this channel. The Travel Retail operation is unique, the customers are unique, and the retail is about building capabilities, having an organization that is designed for global travel retail. That was really the first step in terms of our goal to market capabilities,” he says.

The products are the same in all channels, even as the logistical, support, and sales structure have been modified to meet the specific challenges of travel retail, says Blomqvist.

“We have a great organization and Marc is a prime example of the talent that we have in the organization. Now we need to make sure that the leadership that we have can take the business to the next level.

Proprietary brands — Carrera, Polaroid and Smith — propel growth

“Travel retail is a crucial part of the total group, an important business for us. Our recently presented 2020 plans, which call for Safilo to reach plus 40% total line growth versus 2014, means that in six years GTR is expected to grow fairly aggressively within that total plan. And obviously, because the sun eyewear always leads the brands and the optical portfolio, we see travel retail as a trend-setting channel for us. Starting from this year, the biggest product initiatives will focus on our propriety brand Carrera, and a whole new product collection.

“We are also looking to continue the incredible momentum of Polaroid. Since we acquired the brand [in early 2012], the business has grown very rapidly and is probably the fastest growing sun eyewear brand in Europe at the moment. In the Americas travel retail market, Polaroid and Carrera are well-developed brands. In our Latin American business [not global travel retail] our propriety brands represent 40% of Safilo sales.”

The third pillar among Safilo’s propriety brands is Smith, which will now take on a more global role in the company.

“This outdoor sports brand is the US market leader in ski goggles and ski helmets. The eyewear is now being expanded globally, under a more lifestyle approach,” says Blomqvist. “Directly linked to this initiative, Safilo is opening a design studio in Portland, Oregon, which will be responsible for designing Smith eyewear to the world.

“We are planning to design not just for North America from this location, but to the world. We want to be where trends are born, and outdoor trends are born on the West Coast of the US. They are not born in Italy. A lot of things are born in Italy, but not these trends, so we are very proud of what we are doing here.”

Fashion licenses lead the way
Safilo will also devote significant attention to its licensed brands portfolio.
“Of course, we expect the licensed brands to continue to grow in a very healthy way. Dior is the benchmark of the quality of the product, of the execution, the distribution quality; we are very proud of our longstanding partnership with Dior.

“Then we have other important brands, Hugo Boss, Max Mara, Kate Spade, Marc Jacobs, and Tommy Hilfiger. I’d like to mention also Fendi, Jimmy Choo, and Celine for the group, the higher end brands that are growing very fast.”

Looking ahead, Blomqvist expects to complement the licensed brand portfolio with partnerships with fashion houses that share the same values as Safilo. He cites the 2014 license renewals/extensions for Tommy Hilfiger and Jimmy Choo, and the signing in March of this year of a new license with Givenchy.

“Fashion partnerships bring something that complements our total portfolio offering,” he comments.
“It’s obviously very important for us to have this strong brand portfolio because we are brand-led and design-inspired.

“That’s how we characterize ourselves as an eyewear creator. It all starts from the product, the quality of the product, and it goes to the quality of our distribution and how the brands really come to live in front of the consumer.

“And with our customers — in this case, the duty free travel retail customers — we want to work in a win-win partnership and our first measure is customer sell-through. This is what we measure, what we want to measure, and what we want to drive. We are not interested in the ‘sell in.’ The consumer centered business model really is about sell-through and market share, and customer category sales. We have several solutions when it comes to category management to really take that to the next level.
“Long term, we want to grow the proprietary brands from the 25% that it represents today to 40% by 2020, while continuing the long term partnerships with fashion houses that very importantly share the same values as Safilo does, and with whom the partnership is so much more than manufacturing a product and distributing it. We are very, very proud to have many of the most prestigious brands in the world given to our care.”

*Note. Safilo also represents Gucci eyewear until the end of December 2016 when the license transfers over to brand owner Kering’s eyewear division, at which time Safilo will continue as the contract manufacturer for the next four years.