Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=184921
Story Retrieval Date: 6/19/2013 5:59:23 AM CST
Growing demand for designer goods in emerging markets has many luxury brands turning to the equity market to fund retail expansion.
In particular, speculation is growing that Salvatore Ferragamo SpA will soon join Prada SpA and Italian outerwear brand Moncler SpA in going public.
Luxury goods consultants point to the growing number of high-end consumers in Latin America and China as the impetus for pushing companies to raise equity now after waffling on the subject of going public.
Despite the recession and concerns about rising commodity prices; strong sales in early 2011 have increased confidence that this is the right moment. Luxury retailers led March chain store sales with Saks Inc. and Neiman Marcus Inc. posting strong results.
“The luxury marketplace has picked up significant steam,” said Mickey Klein, a partner in the Astor Group, a global consulting firm. “As the luxury consumer continues to come back to the marketplace, luxury companies continue to have increased opportunity to expand and grow.”
As the worldwide economy recovers, companies that had put expansion plans on hold see the strengthening luxury market as an indicator that demand has returned.
Prada has more than 250 eponymous boutiques worldwide, including one in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood. Ferragamo operates 46 stores in the U.S., including one on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, as well as locations throughout Europe, Africa and Latin America.
Financing an increased retail presence in markets removed from existing sales and distribution networks requires a huge capital investment. For many luxury companies, turning to the market represents a dramatic shift in thinking.
“Companies are torn; it means giving up family ownership and history,” said Philip Guarino, an international business consultant with Elementi Consulting in Boston.
Prada has toyed around with an IPO for years only to withdraw at the last minute. The alternative to going public has been to sell out to a large conglomerate like PPR. This often results in culture shock for both parties.
In 1999 Prada purchased the controlling stake in German-based women’s wear designer Jil Sander’s eponymous label. Less than a year later, founder and designer Sander left the company, reportedly due to differences with Prada CEO Patrizio Bertelli.
Turning to the equity market allows companies to maintain more control over brand image and direction.
Analysts don’t expect a rush of other luxury brands to enter the market, although they will be closely watching.
Encouraging the luxury companies is the recent success of other initial public offerings. Cambridge, Mass.-based Zipcar, a car-share company, debuted on the Nasdaq Wednesday trading at $30 a share, nearly double the analyst estimate of $14-$16.