(Adds analyst comment)
By Astrid Wendlandt
PARIS, Sept 29 French luxury and sports group
Kering has appointed former Hugo Boss Chief Executive
Claus-Dietrich Lahrs as the new head of its Italian leather
goods maker Bottega Veneta, it said on Thursday, confirming an
earlier Reuters report.
Lahrs, who left Hugo Boss in February after eight
years at the German fashion brand, joins Bottega Veneta after a
year when the Italian brand's sales have dropped continuously,
partly due to markdowns and weaker demand from Chinese buyers,
its biggest customer base.
Lahrs is one of the luxury goods industry's best-known
Bottega Veneta is now Kering's top problem after the group
succeeded in turning around Gucci much faster than many expected
under the leadership of Marco Bizzarri, who was Bottega Veneta's
boss for five years until 2014.
In the quarter to June, Bottega Veneta's sales in its own
shops were down 11 percent. The brand is Kering's second biggest
in terms of revenue behind Gucci. In 2015, it generated nearly
1.3 billion euros ($1.5 billion) in sales.
"Now that Gucci is doing better, pressure in the group has
come down but Bottega Veneta remains a problem," the source
Lahrs, 53, earned a strong reputation for developing Hugo
Boss's digital drive and retail network and spearheaded its
global expansion in countries such as China.
He also drafted in designer Jason Wu to develop Hugo Boss's
The German executive brought Hugo Boss more upmarket but in
recent years, the brand was hit hard by the luxury goods
downturn and Lahrs left on the back of a profit warning due to
weak sales in the United States and China.
He worked for several years at Richemont's Cartier
and for fashion brands at LVMH including Louis Vuitton
and at Dior where he was in charge of haute couture.
He faces a difficult task. Bottega Veneta has been a one
product brand for too many years, analysts say, having relied
excessively on its weaved leather technique called intrecciato,
a story which now appears to have run its course.
Several industry observers also say the brand may need a
creative reboot because competition from more smaller, more
innovative and exclusive leather brands is fierce and demand for
luxury goods generally more subdued.
"There was an urgent need to do something at Bottega Veneta,
as the brand sales are falling fast. The issue is down to a lack
of product innovation: Intrecciato is still most of what you
see, however it has now become boring... you need powerful new
product ideas at Bottega Veneta," said Luca Solca, luxury goods
analyst at Exane BNP Paribas.
"Maybe the new CEO will be able to bring execution and
operations discipline to Bottega Veneta. He is certainly in for
a challenge," he added.
"The big question right now is the future of Tomas Maier,"
the source said of the German designer who has been working for
Bottega Veneta for more than 15 years.
Bottega Veneta will also have to clarify its market
positioning: most of its handbags cost at least 1,500 euros at
its shops but buyers can find them with major discounts at
outlets in Italy and elsewhere.
($1 = 0.8909 euros)
(Editing by Alexandra Hudson and Ruth Pitchford)