China’s Fosun Fashion Group has acquired Sergio Rossi for an undisclosed sum, the luxury Italian shoemaker said Thursday.
The deal is the latest signal of Fosun’s international fashion ambitions. Its portfolio already includes Lanvin, St Johns, Tom Tailor and Wolford. In 2019 Bloomberg reported the company was raising $100 million with an eye to further its fashion and lifestyle investments.
Fosun acquires the Sergio Rossi brand from a subsidiary of investment group Investindustrial, which has been working on relaunching the brand since taking over from French luxury goods group Kering in 2015. Last year the brand reported revenues of €60 million ($73 million) down from €66.5 million ($80.87 million) in 2019, according to a Reuters report citing data filed with the local chamber of commerce in the Emilia Romagna region, where the company is based.
In China, chief executive Riccardo Sciutto has cut ties with poorly-performing franchises and concentrated on expanding the brand’s own store network and online presence over the last five years.
Fosun’s acquisition gives the brand a powerful new backer in the booming Chinese market, where Sergio Rossi has been gaining ground in recent years. Sergio Rossi gives Fosun a foothold in the luxury footwear market, which has outperformed other luxury categories over the pandemic period.
Though Fosun’s portfolio of fashion brands is diverse in terms of categories and price points, they are tied by their strong heritage credentials and their arguably under-developed exposure to China, the world’s largest fashion and luxury market.
“The most direct synergy we can foresee is the product development and production for shoe products of Lanvin and St. John by utilising Sergio Rossi’s state-of-the-art manufacturing plant,” Fosun Fashion Group chairman, Joann Cheng, told BoF.
“We can also foresee interesting collaborations between the brands,” she added, describing Sergio Rossi, Lanvin, St. John and Wolford as sharing a “dedication to the feminism, elegance and confidence of contemporary women, with a strong focus on craftsmanship.”
Fosun’s journey with Lanvin might offer some clues as to its plans for Sergio Rossi.
“New short and long term strategies are yet to be developed as we just have finished the transaction, but certain priorities would be similar to the strategy of Lanvin,” Cheng confirmed.
One of France’s oldest couture houses, Lanvin was struggling from both a management and creative perspective when Fosun stepped in to buy it in 2018. Though the management part of Lanvin’s equation has remained rocky, with former CEO Jean-Philippe Hecquet leaving last April after only 18 months in the job, the creative side of Lanvin has steadied under the creative direction of Bruno Sialelli.
Lanvin remains unprofitable, but there are signs that the brand is improving in China, where it has strengthened its local team (concurrently downsizing its Paris team and consolidating its flagship stores there) and hosted major events, including a much talked-about fashion show in Shanghai’s historic Yu Gardens and an exhibition covering the brand’s 130-year history.
Fosun is in a good position to strengthen Sergio Rossi’s local China team and operations, and oversee the brand expand its footprint in China and Asia more broadly.
“We believe Sergio Rossi has a solid grounding for exponential growth in the coming phase,” Cheng said.
Fosun has taken a slow and steady approach with Lanvin, but in many ways, the project of reinvigorating Sergio Rossi will be an easier one. For one thing, it has already begun its turnaround, especially in the China market, which Sciutto describes as one of its largest.
For another, high-end shoes as a category have shown impressive resilience throughout the pandemic period. According to the Worldwide Luxury Market Monitor released last November by Bain & Co. and Fondazione Altagamma, shoes were the best-performing category in 2020, taking less of a hit than watches and apparel, with sales declining 12 percent last year to €19 billion ($23.1 billion).
Footwear also has considerable room to grow as a category in China. Euromonitor International estimates the total value of footwear sales in mainland China in 2019 at 435.2 billion yuan ($68.1 billion), with the market set to grow to 563.2 billion yuan ($88.1 billion) by 2024.
Sergio Rossi already has a flagship on Alibaba’s Tmall platform, but being brought into the Fosun Fashion Group fold is likely to help the brand boost its online performance, too.
Earlier this year, Fosun signed a strategic partnership with Baozun, one of China’s top e-commerce service providers, and Activation, one of China’s premier luxury marketers. The ecosystem provided by the Fosun, Baozun, Activation triumvirate is likely to provide a considerable push for a brand like Sergio Rossi, which is well respected but remains under-exposed in China.
The deal was first reported by WWD.