Andrea Panconesi, CEO of luxury retailer LuisaViaRoma, on US expansion strategy
The culturally rich city at the heart of Western civilization, Florence, is also home to several outposts of prestigious American universities. This fact is not forgotten by Italian luxury retail icon LuisaViaRoma, founded there in 1930. According to CEO Andrea Panconesi, the grandson of Luisa Jaquin who opened a hat shop in via Roma there at 91, some of their best and first clients were well-off American students studying abroad in Florence. Since then LuisaViaRoma has grown into a leader in the online luxury market with Luisaviaroma.com. Now, Panconesi aims to win back that original American customer with unique content, philanthropy and innovation strategy that the multi-brand market is known for. According to Panconesi, one of the reasons for this surge was the success of Luisaviaroma.com during the pandemic. “Our global market growth was 35% during the pandemic, with our Italian customer reaching 66%. We want the United States to grow as much as Italy did in the first four years, to repeat this experience.”
LVR Magazine launch
To achieve these goals, Panconesi enlisted the help of Kate Davidson Hudson, a digital content expert formerly of Editorialist.com and She magazine, as editor of the next launch LVR Magazine, a quarterly digital magazine with plans for special print issues. Davidson Hudson brings with his vision and expertise to drive sales via compelling content with a keen eye for the US market. “LuisaViaRoma occupies a unique space in the market, offering exclusives on emerging brands and exploiting what is relevant and compelling; I considered them to have privileged access to the latest luxury fashion brands. Despite intending to take a hiatus from her last venture, the former editor and co-founder of Editoriliast.com was constrained by the value proposition of engaging an American audience to add to the 120 million monthly unique views between. the application and the website. “Their reach and conversion rate are healthy; it’s an engaged audience, ”she notes, adding:“ Luxury is alive and well in the United States, and the opportunity is there to increase the current market penetration by 12% in the United States. and in Canada. ”
The first issue will launch digitally in September with the approach that “compelling original content drives sales”. In addition, to meet the desire of US based customers for excellent customer service, speed and online experience. The editorial content will present brands and products not marketed on the Italian e-comm site; for example, a featured Chanel bag can be clicked to find out where to find it. To improve this, Luisaviaroma.com will offer an elevated chat feature with personal buyers that could help the reader locate a non-exclusive item on the platform. “Luxury customers don’t want to go to five different sites; they want a single point of contact. By extending customer service to personal shopping, we are delivering personalized 2.0 content because every reader can access the item.”
On a personal and professional level, Panconesi believes in doing good with his fortune. (LuisaViaRoma would have achieved a turnover of more than 165 million euros in 2019.). So one of the most notable manifestations of this was the LUISAVIAROMA X UNICEF fundraising and gala launched in 2018. “It was my daughter who said she wanted to do something to help the children”, Panconesi said. He suggested that they take a partner as charity fundraising was not the family’s expertise. After two years in Porto Cervo, Sardinia, the event moved to Capri, Italy last year despite the pandemic, and raised eight million euros in the first three years, a fact of which Panconesi is proud since it was mainly raised by Italians who do not benefit from tax deductions for charitable donations. “As a private label, we can do whatever we want with our money; we invest our money where we think it can make a difference in a good way. “
This year, the event held its second Capri edition a few days before this interview. It starred headliners and presenters Katy Perry, John Legend, Orlando Bloom, Heidi Klum, Vanessa Hudgens, Karolina Kurkova and more. (Perry, Bloom, and Klum are all UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors.) This event donated Steve McQueen’s 1961 Cooper race car, Elvis Presley’s 1971 Harley Davidson
As impressive as the scale of the event, which draws attention to this Italian institution, Panconesi maintains even less than what its hedge fund-backed competitors are spending on marketing efforts for Google.
His unwavering belief is that to help spur the US market thrust, he and his team are already planning another UNICEF event in St. Barts for the end of December, where Dua Lipa will perform. Another cause dear to the CEO of the family business is the environment. The website stores a significant portion of items qualified as “sustainable” under the LVRSustainable label. Additionally, this year marks their official fashion partnership with Extreme E, a new off-road electric SUV car race that takes place in the five areas most affected by climate change with the aim of highlighting the issue. The Panconesi team recruited two award-winning photographers, Luca Locatelli and Gabriele Galimberti, and journalist Raffaele Panizza. The latter document journeys on e-comm channels with the #MyEIB campaign, or My Earth Is Beating.
Ninety-five percent of LuisaViaRoma the business is derived from the website, with a single physical location. Currently, there are no plans to expand to open permanent physical stores. With a single retail location, they were the first to adopt an electronic communications presence and a digitized wholesale purchasing and inventory platform. (Panconesi remembers coworkers desperately trying to figure out his first inventory management system that he used on his laptop on market dates because, until recently, so much of retail still used manual methods.) “Twenty years ago I hired two engineers from the University of Pisa to help translate the manual program I started 35 years ago to organize purchasing and inventory .
Since they only had one flagship store, the integration of both physical location and electronic communication has always been symbiotic. In contrast, other retailers are still enjoying a fully integrated physical and digital shopping experience for the consumer. Ultimately, this leads to greater consumer satisfaction when the desired product can be obtained no matter where it is located.
Next are gaming applications. Together with his digital marketing manager Marco Ritratti and a team of professionals from LuisaViaRoma, he created the Avawear company, further promoting the coexistence of the real and virtual worlds through technology. Their first project is MOD4, which combines real-world shopping experiences and virtual interactive games, which recorded over 200,000 downloads in the first six months. Recently, a partnership was announced with DRESSX, the new digital clothing platform launched in July 2020 by Daria Shapovalova and Natalia Modenova, which generates zero waste, carbon footprint or chemicals in their production.
Curiosity may be the reason Panconesi is drawn to innovation, but MOD4 is also strategic. “My dream was to merge the physical and visual worlds, especially since the virtual represents the future. Mom has the real Gucci bag, but the daughter can play with the digital version of the bag on the avatar.” This technology allows it to engage the next generation of buyers.
Just because Panconesi isn’t clamoring to open more Florentine luxury boutique outposts doesn’t mean he doesn’t see the need for physical spaces. He attributes the sensibility of Italian style to multi-brand stores in the 200 other small towns in Italy. “A store would educate several generations on the latest styles and quality; dressing well is part of well-being here in Italy, ”he said. But a physical space can do more than provide a wardrobe. The CEO envisions a meeting place for the younger generations. “My dream is to create a place for young people to come together; they can’t do it anymore. It would be a place to eat and work and maybe buy something,” he said, confirming that this wouldn’t be a place to buy the entire LuisaViaRoma inventory, but rather a curated selection. Ideally, he sees this in suburban areas, places where “it’s as easy to be successful as in 5e Street.”
It is these 5e The buyers of the avenue who will be conspicuously the American customer of Luisaviaroma.com. With luxury on the rise and the market hungry for innovation and personalized service, now is the perfect time to pursue these US market goals. One of the issues with the consumer culture of envy now is that their warehouses are in Florence, Italy, which means at least two days of shipping time to the United States. But Panconesi covers that with increased engagement, whether through content, experience, or engagement via corporate giving values, the wait will be worth it.