Three different managing directors have run the Alain Mikli International Group in the past few years, and the management turnover has not finished. A 51-year-old Italian manager with a strong track record, Antonio Bortuzzo, has now been appointed as Mikli's new chief executive, with an ambitious goal of tripling the company's growth over the next four years. Neo Capital, the venture capital firm that acquired a 47 percent stake in the French company from its eponymous ebullient designer two years ago, has endorsed the choice.
A former senior partner of Ernst & Young, Bortuzzo joined the Marcolin Group in September 2002, acting as general manager until he moved into a similar position at Allison in December 2008. He left that company last June. At both companies, he helped to improve the bottom line by rationalizing the brand portfolio, improving operations, reducing the staff and changing the sales structure.
Bortuzzo wants to do a similar job at Mikli. While capitzalizing on Mikli's high design skills and keeping the manufacture of most frames and Vuarnet's mineral sun lenses in France, he wants to improve logistics and after-sale service through a better organization of the work flow. He sees opportunities for development in Russia, the Middle East and Latin America, where the company will look for new distribution partners. Some of them may want to open Mikli stores, possibly on a joint venture basis, he said in a telephone interview.
At Mikli, Bortuzzo replaces Dominique Alba, the former top manager of Logo, who has been running Mikli since the beginning of 2009, reorganizing its strategy and operations and supervising the company's acquisition of Vuarnet's eyewear licensee. Alba will remain as a director and minority shareholder of Mikli, where he acquired 6 percent of the shares when he negotiated Neo Capital's investment in the company two years ago.
Aside from the target date, the sales objective is not very different from the one that Alba had laid out at the end of 2009. At the time, he projected a sales increase to €140 million by 2013, compared with €50 million for the financial year ended in August 2009 plus €10 million in revenues from Vuarnet sunglasses. The group was planning to reach that goal in part by boosting its sales of sunglasses to €80 million, including Vuarnet, and by expanding the number of Mikli stores from 24 to 80.
A recent report indicates that the target for the total number of stores by 2013 has been reduced to 50. The number of free-standing Mikli stores will continue to grow under the new management, especially in Asia and the U.S., says the company. Six boutiques were recently opened in Hong Kong, Taipei, Tokyo, Kyoto, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
At the end of 2009, Alba said he wanted to reach an operating margin (Ebit) of 15 percent on sales of €52 million for the financial year ending in August 2010, excluding Vuarnet. In the end, he managed to boost Mikli's sales by 8 percent for that year, less than previously communicated, and to achieve an Ebit margin of about 12 percent.
A statement released at the last Silmo show indicated that sales grew at a similar pace in the financial year ended in August 2011, with strong progress especially in France, the U.S. and China, and predicted a higher sales increase of 15 percent for the current financial year. Nothing has been said about Mikli's latest performance and its goals in terms of profitability.
A statement released by the company last week said that all the brands of the group, including the Alain Mikli and Starck Eyes brands, are projected to grow while keeping their identity and the originality of their design. Mikli by Mikli will be given a genuine brand identity, and the company's new Jean Paul Gaultier eyewear line will be launched in many new markets.
Gaultier previous worked with De Rigo as its licensee. Mikli's relationship with the French designer is similar to the one he has with Starck, which is based on sharing the financial results from the sale of their respective lines. Last September, Mikli launched a small collection of 20 rather punk models, signed Jean Paul Gaultier by Mikli, in its own stores, and was planning to expand the distribution through “partner stores” in October. It said at the time that it was going to add more styles at the beginning of 2012.