Book Of The Week: Family fortune's rise and fall
Wednesday 28 April 1999
by Jonathan Mantle
(Little Brown, pounds 17.99)
BENETTON the book is a bit like Benetton the brand. It starts with colour, freshness, and is full of interest. It grows into something comprehensive, international, vibrant, stimulating and challenging. It finishes as something slightly confused, losing authority and leaving lots of questions unanswered.
What really happened to sales volumes, year on year, and country by country, as the brand lost its way, and allowed Gap and others to take the high ground of added value, mass market fashion? To judge from the book there was little change in the inexorable growth of business on a global scale. The closing of stores and the bankruptcy of franchisees is presented as a temporary adjustment. It is justified, in a phrase that is unfortunate in the light of recent developments, as "cleaning the system".
The supply chain innovations - dyeing whole garments after they had been made - and the realtime Electronic Point of Sale systems developed by the in-house IT maestro, Professor Zuccaro, are covered with insight and plenty of background colour. This is the pioneering period for Benetton, when their two seasons a year, with the ability to react quickly with flash orders, were revolutionising the clothing industry.
Once Gap arrive on the scene the book is muted on the company's response.
The book is very good on the family origins, and the evolution and development of the brand. The story of Leone - the father who bravely left for Albania to secure the family's future - to return home broken in health with malaria, and unable to provide as he would have wished for his family, is touchingly told.
Luciano Benetton, the oldest of the four children, took up the mantle, at the age of 10, of the family's chief breadwinner. His younger sister, Giuliana, even then extremely talented in clothing design and make-up, made nearly all the clothes for the family.
Luciano left school early, worked in a clothing store, and began to sell the colourful and original sweaters that Giuliana had produced in her spare time. The sales grew and grew, work was sub- contracted, and stores selling their goods exclusively were eventually opened. The Benetton franchise system was unusual, but in the early and major growth stages at least, highly effective.
The book also deals well with the development of Edizione, the totally family-owned holding company that diversified into other areas, and became a big player in Italian business. In addition, some of the darker sides of business development are handled well, including the sometimes breathtaking shenanigans that went on in Benetton Formula One motor racing (particularly those involving Michael Schumacher).
Overall, Benetton is a book that is both engaging and illuminating. For full satisfaction, it is perhaps best to approach it as an excellent holiday read, with business side benefits, rather than a must-read piece of business education.
Tim Drake co-founded Cobra Sports in 1979, and sold it in 1992, when it was turning over pounds 17m. He is now a retail strategy consultant and an author
- 1 Rihanna 'nude pictures' claims emerge on 4Chan as hacking scandal continues
- 2 Kim Kardashian 'nude photos' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence scandal
- 3 'F*ck it, I quit': KTVA reporter Charlo Greene quits live on air in spectacular fashion
- 4 Free U2 album: How the most generous giveaway in music history turned PR disaster
- 5 Scotland could still declare independence – even without referendum, says Alex Salmond
Rihanna 'nude pictures' claims emerge on 4Chan as hacking scandal continues
Tesco in crisis: UK managing director among four executives suspended after exposure of accounting scandal
Kim Kardashian 'nude photos' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence scandal
'F*ck it, I quit': KTVA reporter Charlo Greene quits live on air in spectacular fashion
Alicia Keys leaks own nude photo 'to create a kinder and more peaceful world'
Scotland could still declare independence – even without referendum, says Alex Salmond
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Plebgate MP Andrew Mitchell called officer a 'little s**t', claim court documents 'exposing ex-Chief Whip's 'record of abusing police'
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God
iJobs Money & Business
£65000 Per Annum Benefits + bonus: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: If you are...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 ...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40000: SThree: As a Recruitment Consultant, y...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...