Global Travel Retail Director, FURLA & Board member of APTRA
Gerry has been in the duty free industry since 1986. Her career started in the travel agency business. She then spent some time as air crew before entering into travel retail in 1986. Since then she has always been in the fashion sector. Gerry was invited to join Furla in 2011 as Head of Travel Retail with the remit of re-launching the brand into Travel retail globally and in November 2012 she was promoted to Global Travel Retail Director.
Born in the UK, Gerry has been married for 30 years and has lived in Spain for the last 10 years. When she is not travelling the world to build Furla’s travel retail business, her favorite past times are reading and cooking. Gerry spends approximately 30 weeks of the year travelling, quite a hectic schedule she admits. She is at the company headquarters in Bologna at least once a month and for longer around the key selling seasons in February and July.
The company, in brief
An Italian label that spans a heritage of more than 80 years, Furla is recognized globally for its value-for-quality leather goods and wide range of accessories. Commenting on the brand’s USP, Gerry says “The beauty of Furla designs captivates the imagination of the contemporary woman with its witty mix of classic elegance, stylish functionality and chic details.”
Furla has designed, manufactured and distributed handbags, wallets/purses, small leather goods, shoes and accessories of outstanding artisan quality since 1927.
Today Furla is present in 91 countries with five subsidiaries in France, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea and the United States. 80% of distribution is retail, with 328 mono-brand stores (153 Furla boutiques and 175 authorised retailers), and 20% via wholesale through around 1300 select multi-brand and department stores. Last year Furla reported a global turnover of €212 million, an 18% increase on 2011.
The company has been present in travel retail for many years but it is only in the past two years that the brand has given the category significant focus. The growth has been quite phenomenal, increasing by 93% from 2011 to 2012 with the number of doors up from 57 to 120.
Q&A: Which are the key markets in duty free & travel retail for Furla? What specific marketing and product developments have you undertaken that are specific to the industry and have they been successful?
The Furla brand is very successful globally; however Asia is a vitally important market for the brand representing 40% of our total (travel retail 15%) business in 2012. Sales on the domestic market continue to grow quite astonishingly and this certainly is reflecting on our ‘desirability’ in airports. China is also a rapidly growing market for us and we’re planning on opening 100 new stores in the next four years with our J.V. partner Fung Group. That will, and indeed already is, reflecting on our travel retail business.
In terms of marketing and development within the channel, Furla invests significantly in the trade media both through advertising and editorial to support the brand; this investment is carried through into the airport where we invest heavily in store merchandising and brand fixtures. We also spend a great deal of time and effort on staff training as we believe product knowledge and understanding is absolutely vital. In terms of special development, last year we introduced an exclusive inflight collection which has been well received.
What are your ambitions for Furla in duty free & travel retail?
We have very ambitious plans for Furla within travel retail, with major expansion over the next three years. The company has always undertaken new challenges, advancing towards the future with confidence and great commitment. The new direction in the travel retail segment marks a crucial step for the brand’s expansion in the geographical areas with greatest potential of growth. In terms of future growth we are now very selective when considering new partnerships worldwide and, above all, when choosing locations that best represent Furla as a Premium Lifestyle Brand, in terms of positioning, personalized furniture and brand adjacencies.
What do you perceive to be the key challenges to the industry today ? Are there any specific challenges to the fashion/accessory category?
Obviously there are real challenges in specific categories such as tobacco where the repercussions could have a serious affect on the business as a whole – we all know that tobacco is one of the key drivers of penetration into duty free shops. Otherwise, I think the challenges are more general and are faced by all sectors and brands – eg. those influences which affect travel patterns – such as global recession, natural disasters, health issues, politics etc. For fashion/accessories the main challenge is space in what can be limited retail areas. There are many different categories now in travel retail and we are all vying for space. For Furla the main challenge is securing the right space in the right location and where we can be sure that the brand is merchandised in a way that befits its image.
How can brand owners help address these challenges?
Well some are out of our control, of course. I think where the challenges are political, eg the tobacco issue or any other general ‘anti duty free’ campaign, we brand representatives must support and be part of the associations which fight and campaign on our behalf – such as APTRA.
When it comes to fashion issues – I think we all need to work to make sure that retailers give our category the best possible space and merchandise our brands in the right and appropriate way.
What other services to the industry do you think APTRA and the industry trade associations can provide to further develop and protect the interests of the industry, beyond advocacy, training, research and conferences?
It is not so much other services. All the associations work and protect the trade in the best way possible, but we all have to pull or push together in one direction and this is applies to all topics. This way all the associations that represent the trade will win and overcome difficulties that the trade is sometimes facing.
As a member of WIT, how do you get involved? How important is CSR for you and for the company?
I have been involved with WIT for the last few years and do believe the power of women in this business is quite awesome. Collectively we have raised a huge amount for charities across the globe but, apart from this, the organisation provides fantastic networking opportunities for women at all levels of the business. For newcomers to the industry it’s a great way to make contacts and friends.
Finally, how do you see your role as a board member of APTRA? What are your ambitions for the association?
I am very honoured to be a board member of APTRA and feel it gives me a unique opportunity to represent the interests of the fashion and accessories category within the Asia Pacific and to support this very vibrant and important region in helping make things happen.