Boasting high-end international brands like Prada, Balenciaga, Sergio Rossi, Fendi, Versace, Furla, Armani, Valentino and Salvatore Ferragamo, Managing Director Maurizio Lupi has not held back on luxury at Florentia Village stores.
The Italian real estate entity RDM Asia launched its first luxury designer retail outlet in China in 2011, on the back of a retail outlet boom in the country. Florentia Village carries more than 200 renowned brands from Europe, the US and Asia at year-round discounted prices. The Village boasts China’s largest Prada outlet as well as the first Balenciaga outlet.
Now with six outlet stores across Greater China, the Florentia Village concept has flourished into the Chinese market with its success in Hong Kong, Tianjin, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Wuhan and Chengdu.
With their distinctive Italian architecture, the outlets paint a picture of shopping in Florence, mirroring its piazzas and fountains, offering what Maurizio labels “a luxury shopping experience” which attracts more than 13 million visitors annually.
“We are creating spaces where people can enjoy shopping but have a greater experience around it,” Maurizio explains. “Since we are an Italian company, we develop every structure with an Italian touch, which attracts people. We go above and beyond to create a space where people can explore and entertain themselves.”
Florentia Village leverages off RDM’s extensive portfolio and network of retail contacts – which has been developing outlets for more than 20 years, and has five major centres in Italy. To date, Florentia Village has achieved a combined total leasing of 1,200 shops covering 300,000 square metres, leased to the most prestigious global luxury fashion brands.
Maurizio is in charge of supervising the design, construction, leasing, marketing and day-to-day operations of the Florentia Village designer outlets throughout the major cities of China.
Naming himself a “passionate guy”, the Italian MD is determined to make his mark on the country he has grown to love. “China has become a second home for me. It has been an amazing voyage through a different culture. I’ve learned how to understand it and work well with its people.”
The company strives to meet the high-quality standards of excellence set in China in all its operations which, Maurizio says, differentiate the local and international operators. It’s all in the details, he explains. “We need to be precise and attentive. As I say to my team, details distinguish us from our competitors.”
The team is built on “an open-minded culture”, with a diverse pool of international experience, Maurizio notes. “We allow people to share new ideas and we have a strong sense of teamwork. We believe in working together, and that every person should have the opportunity to create,” he says.
“The problem of one is the problem of everyone, and the success of one is everyone’s success. As a team of people from around the world, we respect every person, every culture, and listen to different perspectives.”
While it’s a brick-and-mortar business, the company is aware of the need to connect with the digital world, lifting its game in e-commerce and in its engagement with customers on social media.
“With more than one million loyal customers and WeChat followers, along with a 30% year-on-year growth in footfall at Florentia Village outlet malls, we are continually exploring ways to better connect with our customers,” he says.
“We now have WeChat mini-programs, an e-gift card platform and virtual pop-ups to enhance consumer connectivity and experience. China is a place where the technological and digital world is influencing all industries, including ours.”
The country is, without a doubt, a competitive market and the company has faced daily challenges to push harder and act faster to stand out against the competition. “We always need to be better than others, and to innovate to give people a new experience almost every day,” he explains. “It is important to be tuned into people’s new habits.”
A customer relationship department keeps up with customer behaviours and ensures customers are satisfied. The department surveys at least 5,000 people quarterly, tuning into their needs.
“We want to hear complaints or requests,” he assures. “Every centre has a customer service department where people can provide feedback. We have reached more than one million members, proof that the department is succeeding and people want to return to our centres.”
If there’s one piece of advice Maurizio would give someone pursuing business in China, it’s to never compromise on quality. Giving customers a good experience means giving them an excellent environment, experience and goods. “To be honest, it’s challenging. But every day is exciting because China is a country that is growing so fast.”