Furla is on an expansion tear. The privately held, 88-year-old Italian leather goods company — which, like Mulberry, specializes in leather bags in the "accessible luxury" price category — has seen its sales increase in the double digits for four consecutive years; in the first half of 2015, sales were up a full 30 percent to €151.5 million (about $162 million). Much, but not all, of this growth has been driven by an aggressive retail expansion strategy: The company opened 39 new stores in the first half of the year, bringing its total to 437. Like-for-like sales, meanwhile, were up 22 percent.
Japan is Furla's most lucrative market, but this year, the company is turning its focus to the US. Within the past few weeks, Furla opened the doors to its new New York City flagship just north of St. Patrick's Cathedral at 645 Fifth Avenue, and appointed former C.Wonder retail exec Scott Link as its new CEO of the Americas and Francis Sango as its new vice president of wholesale.
"It's now very, very important for us to focus on the American market," Furla Creative Director Fabio Fusi said when wet met him at the brightly lit flagship late Tuesday morning, where the brand's many-hued handbags were on display below swathes of LED screens. "We started with this shop [and] the reorganization of our offices here in New York. Now we have to work on the American market."
Right now, Furla's global best seller is the Metropolis bag — a miniature cross-body that comes in a range of attractive colors, prints and materials, ranging in price from $278 (for solid leather) to $478 (for versions in multicolored leather and fur).
But like many leather goods labels, Furla has ambitions of becoming a full lifestyle brand, and has added women's shoes and men's leather goods to its offering over the past decade. Fusi said the men's categories in particular are seeing a lot of growth, noting that though Furla continues to add more styles, there are no plans to introduce any new categories in the short-term.
With the surge of store openings, Fusi has been kept busy on the road. "In the last two months I was in India, Dubai, Paris, London, Tokyo and obviously Italy, and now I'm here in New York," he recounted, somewhat dazzled. Fusi said it's "very important" for him to observe the look of customers coming into the store, as well as what women are wearing on the street.
The Furla customer, he said, "is a real woman, she's very smart, she works, she studies, so she's very practical. At the same time she's curious, and she's a woman who probably likes art and architecture." Furla will certainly have no problem finding that kind of woman on Fifth Avenue.