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Rivoli Group CEO on distributing luxury

January 26, 2014 11:22 am

Since 1988, luxury lifestyle retail conglomerate, Rivoli Group, has been a strong player in the distribution of luxury goods in the UAE and across the GCC.

While it’s been heavily associated with Swiss watch brands, with 80-85 per cent of its turnover coming from distributing the likes of Omega, Jaquet Droz, Carl F.Bucherer and Glashutte. Rivoli’s operations are not limited to watches, but include an array of products targeting consumers across the Gulf.

However, Rivoli is now eyeing eyewear to further grow its business. Through a deal with Italian luxury eyewear brand, Marcolin, the group is looking to increase its retail and distribution offerings in the market, and slightly detach from the strict association with watches in the future.

“Our watch business makes up approximately 80-85 percent of our turnover,” Ramesh Prabhakar, CEO of Rivoli Group tells Aficionado.

“A clear focus for us is further growth of all aspects behind our eyewear business, it is the second one that we need to grow considerably, and that is where we’ll be recognised as a key player,” adds Prabhakar.

Marcolin represents a number of eyewear brands. Since inception, it has been able to join Italian craftsmanship in its designs while maintaining the DNA of its brands, such as Roberto Cavalli, Tom Ford and Ermenegildo Zegna.

Rivoli has been representing Marcolin in the region for years, a relationship which showed to be fruitful for both parties.

“To us, the partnership means having someone in an area that is very important to our global business, someone who knows the market very well, and is able to give us all the feedback that we need in order to comply with the needs of the shoppers,” Giovanni Zoppas, CEO of Marcolin Group tells Aficionado.

While eyewear may be considered more of an accessible luxury than fine watches, Rivoli is looking to shake that up in the region.

“If you look at the eyewear business, in some way it is following the same criteria; they are trying to differentiate luxury from the more affordable,” Prabhakar says, adding that higher-end brands such as Cartier, Tom Ford and Cavalli are distributed differently, through offering bespoke fittings and other personalising touches, in order to reflect the exclusivity of each brand, despite being placed in multibrand settings.

This reflects a shift in consumer trends from a few years ago, according to the CEOs.

“Today, there is a lot of demand for quality, regardless of the design, consumers are more quality conscious. Two years ago, everybody was lining up to buy Chanel, today, and for many reasons, there are many people still lining up to buy Chanel but the line is half what it was two years ago, as others started entering Balenciaga stores, they started looking at other brands, that are, for the time being, small, but [growing],” explains Zoppas.

Besides shifts in consumer behaviours, Phabhakar points out the external factors affecting retailers and sales, such as the drop seen in tourists’ influx from Russia and China, two major buyers, to the region.

This drop casts challenges upon luxury retailers, who heavily rely on these generally big spenders, but Phabhakar looks at it as an opportunity, noting that “clearly, brands that are Russian-centric are struggling and being challenged, and the premium [products usually] bought by the Chinese [are facing] challenges, but the number of people visiting Dubai has increased.”

With the decline in the numbers of foreign buyers, Prabhakar is looking forward to getting to know the local buyer: “We’re actually deploying greater resources in order to make sure that every touch point is actually more refined and much better,” he notes. “Everything is being looked at far more closely now than at the beginning of 2014 or 2013… the cake is getting smaller, we have got to convert everybody that lands on our turf.”

By aficionado