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Maurizio Merenda: «I’m going to town with my jewels»

First he won the leadership of chain store distribution. Now the Stroili group plans to open stores in the heart of the big cities. Not just in Italy.

Maurizio Merenda: «I’m going to town with my jewels»

This is Italy Team

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The next to open will be a new store in Milan, in September. This time the setting will be Corso Vittorio Emanuele, perhaps less exclusive and more popular than Milan's fashion triangle, but certainly more accessible for the target Stroili Oro has its eye on. The intention of the group, based in the Friuli Region, is just to increase its visibility in the Italian city centers so as not to remain confined to the logic of the big malls, where it is the leader in Italy with a share of over 50%, and attract the attention of a more varied clientele. Plans are to open another 200 stores in the next three years, with an estimated investment of 50 million euros. At the same time, the group's strategy, as is inevitably the case for many of the top Italian fashion brands, is to expand toward developing economies like China and Russia.

«We want to be immediately recognizable and thus become the first brand of jewelry that comes to mind when people think of an easy buy from the economic standpoint, and a trendy one from that of taste», Maurizio Merenda, managing director of the company tells Panorama Economy. The company currently has a turnover of around 190 million euros, up 11% from 2009 (when it grew by 6% after the annus horribilis of 2008). It is specialized in direct retail and has 1,500 employees. Stroili Oro accounts for 65% of the turnover, and its gross operating margin continues to grow. Merenda was called in 2008 to relaunch a brand that had lost some of its sparkle, and make it more visible and more international. He has an important professional background, coming from several of the main companies in the business of making and selling watches (among other things) like Breil, Sector, Swatch Group (where he was managing director for seven years) and Sea (where he developed the retail chains of stores at Malpensa and Linate airports).

The company was originally founded in Tolmezzo, in Udine province, in 1996 as a family business. Later, it acquired Franco Gioielli in 2004, and is now 65% owned by funds like Investindustrial, 21 Investimenti, Banca Intesa and Wise Venture and 35% by L Capital (the private equity group sponsored by the Lvmh group) and Ergon capital (the private equity fund sponsored by Arcom Ventures, Gruppo Ing and Groupe Bruxelles Lambert). «For the current year, the goals start from three fundamental strategic lines: consolidation of the core business represented by the stores in the malls, new openings in the inner cities and gradual internationalization. In addition, we have invested heavily in the brand and in advertising, featuring Ilary Blasi in the current television and press campaign» sais Merenda.

As regards the distribution chain, the first opening in accordance with the new strategy (that plans to put the brand on the most prestigious shopping streets in Italy and the world) was last September with the Roman store on via del Corso.

Until now, the Stroili brand has grouped about 100 sales points, between Franco Gioielli and Exx, the other two brands controlled by the chain, that now has 350 jewelers, when added to the 240 under the Stroili banner: all have been given a new look from the standpoint of graphics. The group already controls six direct sales points in China (including Shanghai, Shenyang, Wuxi, Chengdu) and has initiated contacts in Russia that will develop into new shops very soon.

In China, the goal is even more ambitious: almost ninety stores are scheduled to open over a period of 35 years. What gives the brand its extraordinary appeal «is also the team of creatives and designers, as well as the use of materials. We go from gold to silver, from steel to stones, with jewelry and timepieces of the highest quality. We are developing new collections, a new style of product, more attentive to the fashion trends. We like to describe our jewelry as fast trendy jewelry, combining glamour with accessible prices. In our stores you can spend 5 euro or 3 thousand» boasts Merenda.

The house of precious things (that Merenda defines with logical parallelism "the Zara or Intimissimi of jewelry" when it comes to marketing the products, level of services offered and availability) also sells other brands like Guess, Armani, Fossil, D&G, Citizens, Breil, Hello Kitty, Just Cavalli, Brosway, Calvin Klein and Salvini. «Alongside our future goals, however, is also that of consolidating what we have built so far. Our approach is to do things in a rational way and with the proper timing. For that reason India, which is a very interesting market for us, is already in our pipeline. But we don't plan to do anything about it for the time being" he concludes.

by Francesca Vercesi

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