Business model

How eyewear major Safilo transformed its business model in the Middle East

Give us a business overview of Safilo’s operations.
The Safilo group began in Italy in 1878 with its first factory producing glasses and optical frames. Today, we are one of the major players in the design, production and distribution of sunglasses, optical frames and sports glasses.

Our brand portfolio consists of iconic eyewear brands such as Carrera, Polaroid, Smith owned by Safilo, as well as licensed brands such as BOSS, Carolina Herrera, David Beckham, Dsquared2, Isabel Marant, Jimmy Choo, Kate Spade New York , Levi’s, Marc Jacobs, Missoni, Moschino, Tommy Hilfiger and Under Armour.

Safilo has been present in this region with its brands for decades, working with local partners and retailers. In 2014, we located our Middle East mall in Dubai and opened a wholly-owned subsidiary with a state-of-the-art showroom to be close to our customers in the region and supply the full range of our latest news. collections.

Last year was a solid year for us in the region, not only in terms of numbers (revenue and net income exceeded 2019), but also in terms of relationships and projects. For example, we launched a special edition Carrera for Dubai and Jimmy Choo Middle East capsule collection; we have also launched a special collaboration with Carrera as the official eyewear partner of the 1000Miglia race which will take place in 2022 in the UAE.

Has your approach to business changed in the last two decades you have worked in Dubai?
It has been 22 years since I arrived in Dubai. It may sound like a cliché, but my approach has always been to work in partnership with our clients. However, building long-term alliances is not so easy and successfully managing 15-20 year relationships requires more than just “doing business”. It takes mutual respect and passion to build the business together. For me, the ultimate realization is actually looking back and seeing the result of such a journey, both professionally and personally.

How has the eyewear distribution model evolved and where is it going?
The eyewear industry is quite unique. We make two categories: sunglasses and optical frames. They look pretty much the same, but they’re very different. Sunglasses are not only functional for protection from the sun but are also fashion accessories dictated by fashion trends, while optical frames are clearly more functional with more medical/technical services involved (such as testing oculars and the prescription of glasses, for example). In the early years in this region, I remember the focus was on novelty and big brands, as 80% of the market was driven by sunglasses reflecting the trends seen in the fashion industry.

Novelty and big names are always very present in the solar category. However, over the past few years, optical frames have been the leading growth category. Attention to eye well-being and a generally wider acceptance of optical frames is certainly giving this category a strong boost.

Today, this region is unquestionably the international leader in terms of commercial offer. We are one of the finest optical stores in the world thanks to investments by local distribution groups. All major eyewear and lens manufacturers now have a direct presence in Dubai with local offices and teams. Clearly this has raised the bar for the entire industry, with the consumer benefiting.

Consumers, especially the younger generation, are now turning to mid-priced products. Today it is essential to have a balanced offer and Safilo does this with brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, Carrera, Levi’s and Under Armour, to name but a few.

Tell us about the Carrera collection recently created for Dubai.
The Carrera Special Edition for Dubai is a very important project for me – it honors the city and the people of Dubai. This is a project that we are very proud and honored to have launched in partnership with Dubai Tourism. This is a special edition collection, featuring one of our signature styles, the Safari 65, with Carrera for Dubai co-branding on the lens and temple.

What will be the place of e-commerce in the Safilo model?
When we talk about online sales, we are mainly talking about sunglasses (even if the online market for optical glasses is growing). The question is not “if” but “how” to develop the retail offer while integrating digital tools. I believe consumers will always pay a premium if the physical retail offering remains relevant and offers a valuable service proposition. We need to evolve with an omnichannel approach – digital tools can help us improve our service, allowing us to work in synergy with our customers and consumers around the world, online and offline.

What are the main objectives you have set for this year?
In 2022, we are aiming for another strong year focusing on our Carrera and Polaroid collections, our main licenses as well as the launch of four new brands (Carolina Herrera, Under Armour, Dsquared2, Chiara Ferragni Collection). We will continue to develop our optical offers by providing an assortment in line with the needs of our customers. The key objective is to support our partners with a clear schedule of activations for our brands in the region, as well as focus on service levels and aftersales. In 2022, we will increase our focus and investments on our new B2B online platform.