15 February 2023
Emerging from what Saﬁlo describes as a successful 2022, the Italian eyewear group enters 2023 with ambitions to continue building its licensed and core brands, while also “nurturing and and supporting” its customers, both in independent opticians and selected partners/stores, despite the macro-economic challenges. OT spoke to Saﬁlo country director, Oscar Cera, about the company and its aims for 2023 and beyond.
What impact did the pandemic have on business? And how did you respond?We are pleased with the development of our business in 2022. Our strategic objective to build a Saﬁlo with a strong and balanced portfolio of brands, geographies, products and channels is progressing well.
Throughout the pandemic, we accelerated our infrastructure-related eﬀorts to improve our systems, completed our digital investments, enhanced our service quality and saw a strong resilience in the optical sector. After the pandemic, we had the opportunity to implement these eﬀorts on the ﬁeld. The positive feedback we received motivated us even more. We were lucky to be in an industry that could operate throughout the pandemic. The sun category was negatively aﬀected due to the restrictions put in place on the global travel industry, which as a result slowed our business. The optical category, on the other hand, was resilient as consumers kept visiting their local optometrist when they needed a new prescription because health became a priority for all of us.
As a response, we closely partnered with our customers to ﬁnd solutions to keep the business running despite the restrictions. The needs and expectations of customers are at the centre of our organisation and are always at the heart of what we do. We are committed to putting our customers ﬁrst, and those who choose us are our trusted partners who value our choices and our way of doing business.
The needs and expectations of customers are at the centre of our organisation and are always at the heart of what we do
As we move through the pandemic and into a cost of living crisis, how is Saﬁlo managing the associated rising costs as a business?We strongly believe that despite the resilience that our market has shown in the past, we must be more price sensitive and keep oﬀering the best value for money solutions. Through licenses and acquisitions, we continuously aim at rebalancing our brand portfolio, with targeted additions that will allow us to gain a leading position in the various eyewear segments and reference markets.
How are you supporting customers in their businesses?We are leveraging on our diverse brand portfolio to enable customers to be more competitive across diﬀerent product segments. We are oﬀering better ﬂexibility, with trade terms enabling customers to eﬀectively manage stock levels in line with macro-economic inﬂuences.
Our ambition is to become the privileged and strategic partner of opticians, which means that we will never try to replace them by entering retail with large acquisitions. The goal is to enable independent opticians to compete on the market through the digital and innovative tools that Saﬁlo can provide.
We realise that sustainability is a journey, and we are committed to make it an important part of our business
Sustainability mattersSustainability is of pivotal importance for Saﬁlo. First and foremost it means, “protecting the environment and using renewable resources and materials, and greener production processes.” It can also be found in the company’s commitment to product design and production, as well as their impact on people.
What are Saﬁlo’s short-term sustainability goals?In line with our 2020–2024 plan, we started our sustainability journey and put in place a roadmap to guide our choices when it comes to planet, product and people. In 2022, Saﬁlo Group joined The Fashion Pact, a global coalition of companies committed to key environmental goals in three areas: stopping global warming, restoring biodiversity and protecting the oceans. In the short term, Saﬁlo Group is hoping to continue making positive changes when it comes to sourcing materials. We realise that sustainability is a journey, and we are committed to making it an important part of our business. Since 2021, we have been partners with Eastman and in 2022 we became the ﬁrst player in the market to use all Eastman Renew materials for eyewear in its portfolio.
What are Saﬁlo’s three sustainability pillars and how will they support the business through change?
In addition to the sustainable product choices we make, we wanted to build a holistic approach to sustainability by involving planet but also people. We added “people” not only because they are the heart of our business but because we also wanted to contribute to improving lives and supporting our ecosystems.
Since 2003, we have been proudly supporting Special Olympics, the international non-proﬁt organisation dedicated to transforming the lives of people with intellectual disabilities.
A changing market
What trends does Safilo predict in 2023?
The pandemic had a real impact in consumer preferences and trends. The more relaxed work-from-home pattern has increased demands for sporty, versatile styles as well as the tendency to shop more locally. The cost-of-living crisis has put a greater emphasis on value-for-money products as consumers are now more price-sensitive than ever before. With the restrictions relaxed, demand has increased for sporty styles as consumers are back to enjoying outdoor activities. This means that the market is looking for comfortable, versatile and stylish frames. In terms of consumer groups, we expect higher demands from the kids/teenager category requiring eyesight correcting solutions as a result of spending more time online.
Responding to change is key in business. How has Saﬁlo responded to digital advancements?
Sustainability is a key pillar of our 2020–2024 plan. The other equally important pillar is digital transformation, enabling us to reshape our business 360 degrees.
This encompasses developing B2B tools to enhance relationships with opticians and digitalising core business processes, including our B2B platform, You&Saﬁlo, our WhatsApp channel, and our own new upgraded Sales Force Automation, which we are rolling out progressively.
Can you tell us about Saﬁlo’s You&Saﬁlo platform?
You & Saﬁlo was established in 2020 as our one-stop-shop solution designed to help independent opticians to browse our portfolio of brands, place orders, manage spare parts/warranties and interact with our customer service 24/7. Since its launch, we have been gathering insights from our network and introducing improvements to make You&Saﬁlo an essential resource and help our opticians run their practices without the need for a physical interaction. We are proud to see that You&Saﬁlo has already enabled us to improve our relationships with customers in remote areas, oﬀering greater ﬂexibility for both our sales representatives and our opticians.