Riccardo Sciutto, "Covid-19 shouldn't stop luxury to invest in digital"

30 April 2020

CEO of luxury brand Sergio Rossi spoke about his vision for the company during this challenging period and beyond.

With the recent passing away of the iconic Sergio Rossi, the founder of the eponymous luxury store, the Covid emergency has been perhaps more personal for the brand than for others.

We spoke with company CEO, Riccardo Sciutto, to understand how he intends to take the company forward and what he expects the future to bring.

Having been General Manager, Direction of the jewelry brand Pomellato and Dodo and General Manager of Hogan - Tod's Group, Riccardo Sciutto is famed in the industry for his dedication to combining the power of digital with the unique soul and history of his brands. A thousand years ago, in 2019, he told the audience at the Netcomm Suisse Fashion Innovation Week about his motto “think heritage, play digital”.

“Well, in this period, my new motto is ‘Lose everything in your mind’” says Sciutto with a smile during an hour’s conversation with Netcomm Suisse President, Carlo Terreni on Tuesday, March 28th. “What that means is that, if you can lose everything – not the physical, but the things in your mind – then you’ll stand to gain something afterwards.” He refers of course to “after” the Covid-19 period has passed, which he expects to continue for around a year to a year and a half. What might that mean in practical terms? “If you can use this moment to do something extraordinary, something audacious: then you have a chance to win. If you make mistakes in this moment or you have to take drastic action, people understand, but for sure just doing the regular thing means you’ll be dead.”


How to survive the Covid crisis?

Talking of drastic actions, what is Sergio Rossi doing at the moment to survive in this black swan moment? “Well, of course I stopped all investment – aside from the crucial ones. Everything except digital and technology” said Sciutto. “Clearly, the industry is going to be smaller, who knows, 10, 20 30 percent smaller than before and companies will be too. But, if you’re able to be smaller, faster, more innovative, have more technology, then you are well positioned to restart.” He went on to talk about the Covid-response as a three-phase process. “The first thing is secure the company, do what you must to make sure you stay alive financially. After that, it’s about thinking for the restart: preparing everything now so that when you restart you can do it faster and better than your competitors.”

“Finally, one mustn’t forget about the long-term vision. What can I do now to transform my company in the future? Perhaps you look at vertical synergies with the production lines, or else acquisitions and investments: this might be a good moment to do that. While it’s true that nobody knows what’s going to happen, if you can see a prospective company to purchase, and you see its financials are sound, or at least surviving despite the current situation, then that could be a good starting point.”


How do you expect your customers to change after this?

Returning once more to Sciutto’s motto in the pre-Covid world, we asked about the heritage, especially as it relates to existing customers: how are they changing, what are their expectations right now and in the near future?

“When people come into our store afterwards, of course there will be a drop in numbers, but what they will immediately want is a safe space, a cup of tea, to feel relaxed and I’m engaging a lot with store managers about this. While people are at home right now I expect they will have more time to look at the brands they choose and be more selective, and perhaps when they come back the pace of engagement will be calmer. Before they ran in, grabbed the shoes and run out, but I suspect that this will change afterwards.” He then continued on the theme, explaining that everybody’s customers are feeling lost right now. If one is able to offer a new, comforting experience, it will mean a lot. Expect therefore that customer focus and clienteling with have a large prominence in the new world after. Sciutto also mentioned gaming as a way to engage customers more. “I love it!” he said, then underlined his previous points about investments, “Gaming and other new technologies will be a huge opportunity for luxury. In the past people were content with the work of a great designer, a flagship store, a testimonial or two in a magazine and the game was won. Now, if you tried that today you’d be finished after two days. Technology is accelerating, and it’s helping us stay connected to the customer.”


What technical companies will top luxury brands want to work with in future?

On that note, we were curious about exactly what kind of tech a big luxury business such as Sergio Rossi would be interested in working with. “It’s like a house” said Sciutto. “I want the main structure to be big, solid, dependable,” and here he mentioned Salesforce as an example of a company with whom the brand collaborates, “but then, once I’ve got that, I’m happy to go inside my house and find some small, dedicated unique pieces. And so for some things I prefer to work with a small passionate company.”

“If you think about how we work as a company, the relationship with some of our customers is really one to one, one to two, one to three, and this kind of personal approach and – above all – flexibility to adapt, this is in the DNA of small companies so it’s also a good opportunity for us.”


The interview with Riccardo Sciutto can be watched in full at our Youtube channel: https://youtu.be/opt97F4I3Kw

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