FRANCESCO TOMBOLINI – IL SOLE 24 ORE

“CBI MULTIBRANDS STORES ARE THE THIRD EUROPEAN PLAYER IN FASHION RETAIL” 

For Francesco Tombolini, President of Camera Buyer Italia (CBI), quality shops they have been able to renew themselves and are looking for profiles with hybrid physical and digital skills. Not all the economic indicators of our country are good, to say the least. Trade in particular has suffered in recent years, affected perhaps more than other sectors by the digital revolution. For this – underlines Francesco Tombolini, president of Camera Buyer Italia (CBI) for a little over a year – it is useful to recall the good performance of independent and high quality Italian multi-brand stores. “But it is not only the economic value that I would like to underline – says Tombolini -. The social one is perhaps even more important: without independent shops, cities and communities risk bending over themselves, closing themselves to change, denying themselves opportunities ”.

Camera Buyer Italia is an association known in the fashion world, perhaps less to the general public. Let’s start with economic data, to understand its value. 

The numbers are important: CBI’s associated multibrands are over than one hundred and in 2018 sales reached 2.2 billion euros. As Camera Buyer, in the last year we developed studies and data, to give new tools to store owners. Comparing the leading European fashion players working in a wholesale logic, that is, multi-brand, in first place, in 2017, there was Harrods, with 2.32 billion in sales attributable to fashion. In second place is Selfridges, the only competitor, in London and then in the United Kingdom, of the historic Harrods. In third place we were there: the 2017 figure was just over two billion. After Camera Buyer came Net-a-porter, Farfetch, Yoox and Rinascente.

So in the studies don’t you make a difference between classic retailers, that are physical, and digital platforms?

Camera Buyer has more than 50 years, our associates were all born in a world where the internet did not exist. But they knew how to embrace this new channel. To date, there are 78 e-commerce sites directly linked to CBI’s physical boutiques, around 80% of the total; the followers on Facebook of the pages linked to the associates in 2018 have exceeded 3.3 million, those on Instagram are about 2.4 million. We are in the era of omnichannelism, so it is right to consider fashion multi-brands without distinguishing between pure physical stores and digital native stores, so to speak.

However, you are a great supporter of the social function of retail. In this case we talk about physical retail, right?

Yes, but it should be emphasized that the internet, if we want to see a very positive side of it, can create a great sense of community. It connects people who might not otherwise know each other or would talk. With that being said, nothing can replace human contact, the pleasure of having a chat while looking into the eyes and getting advice from a person in the flesh and not from a digital stylist. And back to the numbers: the members of Camera Buyer employ thousands of people and invest a lot in training: 80% of store sales staff speak English well and 15% speak Chinese. No one stands still: every year at least 30 sales points are renewed, a fact much appreciated by the fashion and luxury brands (about 2 thousand) with whom we work.

A curiosity: how sales are divided, compared to product categories, given that by definition in a multi-brand you can buy a total look and make a healthy mix & match?

56% of sales are attributable to clothing, the rest to bags and shoes, which absorb 30 and 24 percent respectively.

Given youth unemployment, what opportunities does the sector offer?

So many: those who have direct relationships with the customer must be able to offer them a shopping experience and for this reason they have all kinds of soft skills, not just languages. Then there is all the new digital part, which needs figures software, hardware, logistics and digital marketing experts.

Giulia Crivelli, Il Sole 24 Ore