Benetton looks to Nguyen to put colour back into the brand

Alessandro Benetton, head of the family firm, is banking on Italy's giant retailer becoming as famous again as it was during the 1980s and lasting another 40 years.

In Ponzana last week, Mr Benetton launched his new strategy with the appointment of You Nguyen, the former vice president of Levi Strauss, in the new role of head of designer and merchandising – in charge of everything from fashion to store architecture.

Speaking to The Independent on Sunday after the launch, Mr Benetton said: "You's appointment is the first phase of our work in pushing forward the business after a difficult few years of global economic crisis.

"We are still a fashion house with strong ethical values and you will see many changes. There will be more new projects, especially in social media (Benetton already invites customers to send in photos to become models) which involve our customers with the brand.

"You is a cosmopolitan and international designer who will be able to take us to the new chapter. The rise of disposable fashion – and many new competitors in an overcrowded market – has meant we have had to evolve further. This is a new chapter for the 46-year-old company – but the book is the same."

As Mr Nguyen said, who would ever have thought that luxury designers such as Karl Lagerfeld would design ranges for H&M, totally upsetting the market. Instead, he said his vision for Benetton was not fashion per se, but for classic and timeless pieces.

The shares seemed to like the news, rising more than 2 per cent on the week to €5.3, valuing the group, with its 4,000 shops in 120 countries, at just under €1bn. But they still have a long way to go. Over the past decade the shares have fallen sharply – back in 2000 they rose to a high of €20 but have languished at around €6 for the past year despite big investment in the stores, such as the redesign of London's Oxford Street shop, and in emerging markets such as China, India and even Mongolia.

Luckily, the Benetton family still owns 71 per cent of the Milan-listed firm and has been able to ride out the past few years of tougher trading. He said the family is happy with the ownership structure as it is, but is still determined to show outside investors that this new strategy will improve results and the company's valuation.

To spread the word, Mr Benetton was out on road shows in Geneva and Zurich last week telling investors how the group was preparing to tackle increased competition in the retail market.

With luxury fashion houses enjoying a boom in emerging markets, analysts say Benetton needs to catch up quickly to show where it fits into the market. The latest move comes at just the right time as merger and acquisition fever has been heating up in Italy and France recently. Companies such as Prada, Moncler and Salvatore Ferragamo are preparing for listings, while Jimmy Choo sold recently for £500m.

But Mr Benetton said the firm has been in markets such as China, India – where it has 400 stores – and Russia for years and that the brand has built up a serious presence in these countries. "I'm not sure investors fully appreciate how deep our presence is in these markets and the growth that we have seen." Nearly a quarter of sales last year were in China and India.

It helps that the 47-year-old heir to the firm, started by his father Luciano in 1965, knows a thing or two about finance: with an MBA from Harvard, he worked in global finance as an M&A analyst at Goldman Sachs, before going on to set up a private equity fund, 21 Investimenti SpA, and joining the family business in 2005.

But it hasn't been the easiest of rides. He said: "When the business was under-capitalised in the 1980s, investors weren't happy. Today when we are well capitalised, they are still unhappy."

Investor short-termism is one of Mr Benetton's favourite hobby horses. He dislikes the demand for immediate results and quarterly reports, suggesting instead that shareholders take a long-term view for society generally, even more so after the financial crisis.

In a recent speech at Harvard, he said: "Throughout the world – here, in the UK, France, Belgium, Italy – slogans ring out and, unfortunately, not just against managers, bankers, entrepreneurs, who are considered, rightly or wrongly, principally responsible for the crisis.

"It's time for a new alliance between capital and work, between responsibility and democracy, to prevent the crisis from becoming a real lack of equality and hence a social problem."

He's certainly always colourful.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Saunders stars as Miss Windsor, Dennis's hysterical French teacher
filmJennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress
Life and Style
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Jimmy Mubenga died after being restrained on an aircraft by G4S escorts
voicesJonathan Cox: Tragedy of Jimmy Mubenga highlights lack of dignity shown to migrants
Life and Style
Sebastian Siemiatkowski is the 33-year-old co-founder and CEO of Klarna, which provides a simple way for people to buy things online
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Direct Marketing Manager - B2C, Financial Services - Slough

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity h...

Carlton Senior Appointments: Sr Wealth Manager - San Francisco - Inv AdvisoryFirm

$125 - $175 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: Senior Wealth Manager – In...

Carlton Senior Appointments: Private Banking Manager - Intl Bank - Los Angeles

$200 - $350 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: Managing Producer – Office...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum