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More store openings are not for Bottega Veneta

Paris: Bottega Veneta, Kering’s No.2 luxury brand in terms of sales, is slowing down the pace of shop openings to preserve exclusivity, and plans to focus on enlarging and improving the performance of its existing stores.

The Italian brand famous for its “intrecciato”, a weaving of leather stripes that makes its bags supple, robust and recognisable, is one of Kering’s main growth engines, helping make up for slower growth at sister brand Gucci. Bottega Veneta is also a relatively logo-free brand, which means that it suffers less than Gucci or bigger rival Louis Vuitton, owned by LVMH, from consumers’ growing preference for more discreet labelling.

Gucci and Louis Vuitton have also been hit by excessive expansion and are now trying to regain their exclusivity by moving upmarket, offering more expensive leather bags and opening fewer shops. “We need to carefully balance retail expansion and exclusivity, which is one of the biggest topics in the luxury goods industry today,” Bottega Veneta chief executive Marco Bizzarri said. “The ubiquity risk, Bottega Veneta is dealing with it.”

Bottega Veneta saw sales soar to more than €1 billion last year from €402 million in 2009. Sales rose nearly 14 per cent on a like-for-like basis in 2013, while Gucci’s nudged only 2.2 per cent higher and were negative on a same-store basis.

When Kering bought the brand in 2001, it was loss-making and made revenue of €35 million. “Business trends are positive for Bottega Veneta,” Bizzarri said. “We see no slowing of demand, in China or elsewhere.”

Bottega Veneta recorded 25 net store openings in 2013. Bizzarri said it would open fewer boutiques this year.

He said Bottega Veneta would focus on enlarging existing spaces, mainly in top fashion capitals and where the brand could tap demand from emerging market tourists, the biggest buyers of luxury goods. He said he planned to reinforce its presence mainly in Europe as he believed the brand needed “to be strong where it comes from”.

Bigger shops would enable Bottega Veneta, often criticised by analysts as being too reliant on leather goods, to display and sell a wider variety of other products such as shoes and ready-to-wear, he added. The brand’s best-sellers include the Veneta woven leather bag, which starts at €1,800, the cabat version at €4,500 and the knot, which starts at €800. Leather goods make up 86 per cent of total sales.

“Growth will come from higher sales per square meter thanks to larger shops and a better shopping experience,” he said.

Bizzarri, who used to run Stella McCartney, another Kering brand, took over the helm of Bottega Veneta in 2008. The Italian brand has since nearly doubled its retail network to 221 stores. “We are far below the competition in terms of number of shops and we want to keep that,” Bizzarri said.

Bizzarri said, however, that he wanted to keep growing the average size of the brand’s shops, which has risen to 140 sq. metres from 112 when he started running it.