Shoemaker
Category: Entrepreneurs By : Justin Doebele Read : 86 Date : Thursday, December 07, 2017 - 08:55:03




Ahmad Zamroni / Forbes Indonesia

Italian Mario Moretti Polegato, 65, is the founder of Italy-based shoemaker Geox, which are known for their patented “breathable shoe” technology. The son of winemakers, he initially worked in the family wine business after graduation. But in 1989, his feet got hot and sticky while walking in Nevada, and he cut holes in his shoes to let them breath, sparking an idea to invent a shoe membrane that let in air but blocked out dirt and water. After much trial and error, he launched Geox in 1995, offering shoes that were stylish, comfortable and breathable. In less than a decade, the company grew enough for Mario to take Geox public in 2004 in Italy. Based on the success of Geox, Mario and his family are now worth about $2 billion (and among the 50 richest people in Italy). Last year, the company had revenues of €900 million, about 90% from shoes and the rest from apparel. In Indonesia, Mario is a partner with Chairul Tanjung’s CT group to retail Geox, as well as using Indonesia as a production base for his shoes. During a recent visit to Jakarta, Mario gave his overview of his business.

Forbes Indonesia: How are you adopting Geox to e-commerce?

Mario Polegato: About 50% of total retail sales are through the website. We are selling through e-commerce, but it depends on the country. For example, in the Middle East, the majority of sales are still in-store retail, but in Europe and other countries, we balance it 50/50. We are very satisfied with online sales, as they grew more than 30% from the year before. 

FI: Geox stock has done very well this year, but for the last few years has stagnated. What changed?

Mp: There’s a logical answer. For many years, Geox grew at about 30% a year. We had no problem with the product or the technology, but with the company’s organization. Therefore, I have reorganized the organization—in my country of Italy, there are many good brands, but few Italian brands become a global company. Geox is a unique brand because we offer Italian fashion but we had to have an American mentality for the organization to be global.

FI: Can you give us an example of this organizational mindset?

Mp: We have a number of factories around the world. Yet we have 100% quality control and it is recognized as an Italian brand. The design is Italian, our technology is Italian, and the raw material, especially the leather, is Italian—our leather comes from Florence. Yet we assemble it worldwide, and must get shoes to arrive in time for the change of seasons, in every place.

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