Vision Monday


Safilo Group's New Senior Leadership Execs Bring North America into Focus

By Marge Axelrad

Monday, September 24, 2018 12:05 AM

Steve Wright (L) and Angelo Trochhia.
NEW YORK—With one of the longest histories in the eyewear business, as a frame maker, designer and marketer, Safilo Group S.p.A.’s new executive leadership has embarked on a different path this year, looking to swiftly readjust Safilo’s service focus for all current and potential optical accounts, amp up support to its sales teams and fine-tune responsiveness to consumer trends. This involves re-emphasizing the global company’s historic strength in product design and development, among its own brands and licensed brands, as well as redirecting its resources to such strategically important markets as North America, where new initiatives will be more “customer-centric and approachable,” executives said.

In an exclusive interview with Vision Monday recently at Safilo’s showroom and offices here, the Group’s new CEO, Angelo Trocchia was joined by Steve Wright, chief commercial officer of North America, in a wide-ranging discussion. Their new energy together builds on Safilo’s heritage and employs modern thinking about a changing consumer and the company’s diverse accounts’ needs.

Trocchia , an experienced international executive, most recently the head of Unilever-Italy, officially joined Safilo in April of this year following a period of major change and reorganization, as VMAIL reported. As the company looks to move forward from several challenging years and explore new financing later this fall, Trocchia and new executives, including North America’s Wright and others, is wasting no time in taking an active stance to restore a customer service orientation as priority one.

Trocchia is the first to say he has no eyewear-specific background. After an MBA at the STOA'/MIT in Naples and a PHD in aeronautical engineering at the University La Sapienza in Rome, he began an international career in 1991 at Unilever, where he held various roles of increasing responsibility in supply chain and sales. He was named chairman and CEO of Unilever Israel and since 2013 was chairman and CEO of Unilever Italia. Since his arrival at Safilo he has been speaking to employees throughout Safilo’s Padua headquarters, visiting factories and traveling to key markets to learn about customers and the competitive climate in the eyewear business.

Trocchia said, “It’s important to try to get a feel of the DNA of the company and, on that, it’s fair to say that in terms of our product, quality, design and passionate history, we have a unique competitive edge. This company breathes product and I’m convinced it’s our huge asset. I also see that for many years, the company was very much in love with the product and felt confident that if it was placed with accounts, it was so good it would sell itself. The company didn’t pay enough attention to the rest… It seems we need to turn this equation. We will be a customer-centric company, we need to be what they, our customers, need, to achieve that flexibility and balance.”

“The concentration and consolidation of business, among customers and suppliers, is happening in many markets, as well as in eyewear. The consumer has changed dramatically and, in fact, even the word ‘consumer’ is an older term. Today, people don’t want to be treated as a ‘consumer’ but as a person, with goals, and experiences top of mind. Customized to their needs. This is where we need to be.”

Trocchia noted, “We’ll have more focus by geography, by market. The idea of a ‘global’ approach is a little off. We need to understand what works in the U.S. and that it can be different from what works in Northern or Southern Europe, or Brazil, or wherever. That’s one reason we asked Steve Wright to join us. We need people who know the realities of a place, of a market. And yes, we could cut some costs here and there but that’s not we’re about now. Our focus is the top line. In North America, if you try to manage with a European mindset, you fail. North America's wholesale represents 30 percent of our top line. Historically, America and Italy are the heart of Safilo. In our strategic plan, it’s the first priority.”

Wright joined Safilo’s N.A. business in May of this year, as VMAIL reported. The former, longtime VSP Global executive recalled, “My initial priorities were to ask, what do we have, what are we missing? We want to be less silo’d as a team, and more integrated to be more effective. Safilo had been concentrating a lot on changing itself internationally but we took our eye off the North American market in many ways. So now we’re looking to ask if we have the right people, the right leadership here.

“We’re working with an experienced U.S. sales leader, Ricardo Cadorin, who’s bringing his perspective to bear in creating a new support structure for our sales reps and giving them the best tools they need to take care of accounts. Those accounts will include key accounts and we’re putting together a team to address their particular needs. But our ongoing priority is to the 3 Os, many of whom have great faith in us and just need us to be even more responsive to their own product and service requirements,” Wright said.

The U.S. market will start to see new changes soon, including a more robust data program to give more real-time feedback throughout the company here and internationally. At the upcoming Vision Expo West this week, Safilo will be showing its collections in two Suites, including a preview of the new Rebecca Minkoff collection. It will also do something new on the main show floor in Las Vegas, where an interactive pop-up booth will spotlight Safilo’s Polaroid, Carrera and Rebecca Minkoff.

Wright observed, “We are planning for the long term, but keeping our eyes on the near term. There’s a great chemistry among the new top leadership of this company. It’s not aspirational, but driven, active and action-oriented. How can we immediately make a difference to our customers?”

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