The war in Ukraine disrupts the listing plans for Design Holding, the group controlled (50-50) by Investindustrial and Carlyle, which brings together 8 high-end furniture design brands (B&B Italia, Flos, Louis Poulsen, Arclinea, Max Alto, Azucena and Fendi Casa, as well as the US digital platform YDesign). With the July window closed, the group, backed by sponsor Unicredit and advisers Lazard, Jp Morgan and BofA, is now aiming to land on Piazza Affari in 2022. The two controlling shareholders, albeit with a diluted share, would remain shareholders. Therefore, in October 2021, they called Daniel Lalonde, 58, Canadian, to the top management of the farm in Milan to drive growth, especially abroad.
With a degree in mathematics and an MBA from Insead, Lalonde has built his entire career in luxury, starting with Nespresso, where he arrived in 1994, and helped transform a startup into a global brand, first in the role of CEO of North America, then as global chief operations officer. I wanted to make Nespresso for the coffee Louis Vuitton, in my office I even had a coffee machine “dressed” with the Louis Vuitton logo. At Lvmh, Lalonde arrived in earnest in 2002, to handle the US expansion of the group’s watches, including Tag Heuer, and then became global number one of Mot & Chandon and Dom Perignon. The next step took him in 2012 to Ralph Lauren International, whom he left after two years for Smcp, a French group of available luxuries that Lalonde listed on Euronext Paris in 2017.
My primary ambition at Design Holding? Creating strong, global, iconic, desired brands, says the manager without hiding the goal of becoming a leader in high-end design. Its strategy includes a closer and direct relationship with consumers, both offline and online, with the growth of e-commerce; by focusing on geographical expansion, starting with the markets in Asia and North America, which are still underdeveloped, it evaluates the Lalonde, which imagines that it will win over Chinese Millennials, with strong purchasing power and very attracted to Made in Italy. Without neglecting to strengthen the architecture and design channel, which includes hotels (from Paris to Dubai), luxury shops and homes.
Last year, we acquired YDesign, the first designer lighting platform in the United States, under the YLighting and Lumens brands. Now we must embark on the digital “journey” for each brand in the group, with the aim of using a single platform in the future, announces Lalonde, who predicts that the group is converging on Salesforce.com and that in 2023 it will land at T. -Mall, Alibaba’s online marketplace, China.
At the same time, Design Holding also plans to open stores and showrooms, mostly in franchising. Stores are still important. But we are moving forward slowly and prefer to focus on single-brand stores, the manager explains. The pandemic has caused e-commerce to explode, but Lalonde calls herself an agnostic to the sales channel. People still have to see a sofa, sit on it, touch it, he explains. Thus, the first Fendi Casa opens in the center of Milan.
If this is the strategy, it all starts with innovative, high-quality products, thanks to production at our own factories in Italy, Spain and Denmark. For sustainability: The entire gi group is CO2-neutral. We manufacture products that last a lifetime.
With these premises, Lalonde calculates that the group can grow in double digits, in a sector that has advanced with the wind in its sails in the last two years, with an average increase of 5/6% both in 2020, the hardest year of the pandemic, which in 2021. Design Holding has done much better. In the first three quarters of 2021, revenue grew by 34% to around 500 million euros compared to the same period in 2020 and by 25% compared to 2019 with an organic growth of 28% and 19% respectively compared to an EBITDA of 25%. With good news for our country, where Design Holding employs the majority of around 1800 employees: Italy did really well in 2021, which was one of the best markets in Europe.
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