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Business EXCLUSIVE

Dirk Bikkembergs to focus on China after take-over

By Galina Utesheva

Aug 4, 2015

Chinese Canudilo group became the new owner of Belgian fashion brand Dirk Bikkembergs with the acquisition of a 51 percent stake last month. In an exclusive interview with FashionUnited Russia, Maurizio Pizzuti, President and CEO of ZeisExcelsa - owner of Dirk Bikkembergs since 2011 - talks about the large-scale expansion plans for the brand in China and the current situation in the European market.

FashionUnited: Let's start with the latest news; You've signed an agreement with the Chinese company Canudilo and sold 51 percent of Dirk Bikkembergs. What are the next steps?

Maurizio Pizzuti: Dirk Bikkembergs is already distributed in China and after the agreement with Canudilo we are planning an ambitious retail expansion in the main cities of greater China. First a large flagship store will open in Macau. Apart from China we're also thinking about the US market where we already have good sales results from our online store.



What is your strategy for Dirk Bikkembergs in general? What are your priorities?

Our current strategy is directly linked to the entry of Canudilo. They have pledged to invest 60 million euros in order to boost Dirk Bikkembergs' expansion in China, Hong Kong and Macao.

You have recently opened new stores in Russia and the CIS: a corner in the Atrium shopping mall in Moscow, Novosibirsk and outlets in Azerbaijan. What other openings are you planning this year?

Retail growth in Eastern Europe is very important for us. It increases visibility of the brand and generates results for our partners. With one of our long term partners we are about to open a second corner in Moscow and a third one by the end of this year. Two monobrand stores will be added to our portfolio by the end of 2015 as well: one in Dnepropetrovsk in Ukraine and one in Samara in Russia.

Tell me more about your Russian retail strategy and results. Are you planning to launch an online store in Russia?

Dirk Bikkembergs has a total of twenty monobrand stores in most of the larger Russian and Eastern European cities, from Moscow to Kiev and from Baku to Sofia. Our strategy is to open gradually in the key towns in order to grow visibility and distribution of all our different brand ranges. We work on maintaining close relationships with our wholesale clients all over Russia, supporting them and being supported in this moment of change. With Bikkembergs.com we've been selling in all Eastern European countries since the very beginning and we are satisfied with the results.

What are the key markets for Dirk Bikkembergs?

All markets are important and during development we take into account the needs of different regions. At the moment a bigger focus has been put on China, but we also keep an eye on possibilities in Eastern Europe and the Middle East as well.

What is the situation with Dirk Bikkembergs stores in Ukraine? Last year you were not afraid of the crisis in Ukraine and opened a store in Kiev.

We have a very solid partner in Kiev and he believes that from the most difficult situations new possibilities can be born. That is why he keeps investing in the brand and gaining good results. Especially if you compare it to the difficulties Ukraine is going through.

What can you tell me about the European fashion retail market? How do you deal with sales declines in Italy and other countries?

I think the worst is over. European consumers stay loyal to our brand. They may spend a little less or change the way they buy and where they buy, but they still buy. We've noticed that a lot of customers look for our brand online but we keep investing to increase our number of monobrand stores in key cities in Europe. This is not only to tackle to the European customer but also in order to attract the growing number of international tourists, especially those from mainland China.

Dirk Bikkembergs - is ...

Provocative, innovative and energetic. Tailored sportwear: Sport Couture. A made in Italy brand with Belgian roots and a strong Asian business partner.

Written by Galina Utesheva for FashionUnited.ru