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NeroGiardini footwear brand sees export growth also as a way of helping its quake-plagued region

by Giulia Crivelli

“Last year was a transitional one for our company and unfortunately, here in the Marche, we will mainly remember it because of the earthquake. Our company wasn't directly hit, but the situation is still critical in many parts of our region. I hope that reconstruction proceeds even quicker, in order to restore everyone’s faith—the young people, in particular.”

Enrico Bracalente, sole director of BAG (the company that founded the footwear brand NeroGiardini), has already done a great deal for the Fermo district’s economy and youth education and employment.

But, in 2017, he wants to speed up foreign expansion, the main impetus for stimulating growth “by at least one figure.” This would serve as a driving force for the local economy.”

CRIVELLI: Starting this year, you’re no longer taking part in MICAM shoe trade fair. What were the initial reactions?

BRACALENTE: We took this step because over the years our Milan showrooms, which are walking distance from central San Babila, have continued to grow larger and more functional, organized by product type and greatly appreciated by buyers since trade shows—though they are well-organized—are always a little chaotic. Wholesale clients and our own single-brand store managers have reacted very well, and we have already surpassed the quota of orders that we had established for ourselves.

CRIVELLI: In 2016, you also launched into distribution. What were the results?

BRACALENTE: We made a necessary selection of all our clients, and the percentage of unpaid debts has gone down from 27% to less than 10%. Our goal for 2017 is to apply the business model that we perfected in Italy to the European markets, offering entirely ‘Made in Italy’ men’s, women’s, and children’s footwear, with a unique quality-price relationship for our sector.

CRIVELLI: How much are your exports worth?

BRACALENTE: In 2016, around 24% of our sales, €210 million, came from abroad. Already by the end of this year, we’d like to hit 30% by focusing on the markets where we’re already present and that did well in 2017: in particular, Germany, France, and Spain, without forgetting about Russia who, over the past few years, produced €16 million in turnover for us (which then fell to €11 million, due to the crisis). I think that the drop in Italian consumption will halt in 2017, and in 2018 the internal market will resume growing.

CRIVELLI: Will the foreign expansion come through retail?

BRACALENTE: The showrooms are the most important thing, as they are reference points for representatives and wholesale clients. We already have one in Austria and two in Germany, and we are looking for the right locations in Paris and London.

CRIVELLI: You’ve always trusted in your district’s artisanal know-how. How is youth training coming along?

BRACALENTE: We’re in the sixth year of the footwear professional course, which is financed by BAG and run by Fermo’s “Artigianelli-Don Ricci” Center for Professional Training. We need generational replacements, and luckily young people have rediscovered the value of footwear work over the past few years.


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