Optician: Northern Italy was one of the worst-affected areas at the beginning of the pandemic. What was the impact on the Marcolin Group?

Matteo Blandi: In terms of financial results, as most of the companies worldwide, the first half of 2020 was affected greatly. Public authorities adopted highly restrictive containment measures that were negatively impacting eyewear demand worldwide.

However, our business started to deteriorate more rapidly in the second half of March due to the complete lockdowns across Europe, the US and many other markets. A gradual recovery started in May and June, with a full recovery in July.

Covid-19 persists in many parts of the world, so it’s difficult to accurately predict the full impact of Covid-19 on the global 2020 year.

We’re seeing an acceleration of existing trends. On the business side, there is a huge digitisation not only of shopping and ordering, but in business management. We updated our B2B portal to allow accounts to have more resources and we are promoting existing capabilities like virtual training, marketing materials, account management and other administrative capabilities that allow customers to manage remotely and on their own schedules.

O: In what ways did the company have to adapt to meet design and production requirements and to maintain high level of service to its customers?

MB: Marcolin Group’s aim remains to offer the best service to our customers. Through a new web-based training and resource initiative, we’re helping customers in adapting to the current environment, navigating industry and economic developments, and planning for recovery with free resources, training and digital marketing content.

As a Group with a worldwide brand portfolio and with a strong international positioning, we are able to compensate in the different areas. In the next months and particularly in 2021, we expect increasing brand concentration within our industry. We think that in addition to the leading players, smaller companies will focus on brands able to compete in this challenging period.

Marcolin Group remains focused on its core business related to the design and production of sunglasses and eyeglasses frames for personal use, developing styles addressed to perfectly respond to the consumer’s need. For example, our adidas Sport collection offers anti-fog designs with effective but discreet ventilation. This is something that is included not only on the technical performance styles, but also the lifestyle designs. Our partner labs and optical practices have existing capabilities to include an anti-fog treatment on prescription lenses.

O: Are there any areas in which the business and wider industry have been changed forever?

MB: In recent months, the area most affected by deep change is travel retail, where the lack of tourism has strongly affected the turnover of our partners. On the other hand, there has been strong growth, especially focused on the sunglass segment, both for B2B and B2C online sales. We believe the forced acceleration of the digital evolution seen in recent months will be stable and long-lasting, defining a new way of business within the eyewear industry.

O: What are Marcolin’s key brand stories for 2021?

MB: Aside from a continued focus on Tom Ford, Guess and Swarovski, and the powerful partnership between Marcolin and Barton Perreira, you can expect to see and hear a great deal this year about newly released adidas eyewear. Early feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, and we see a great deal of potential in both the brand and our eyewear product stories. Our efforts will also be on further development of Max Mara Fashion Group brands in our portfolio.

O: While the world is reeling from the Covid-19 pandemic, there is optimism for 2021. What are Marcolin’s UK plans for the ‘new normal’?

MB: We’re very much focused on better leveraging these new ways of working. While 2020 of course put an enormous strain on our team and conventional ways of working, Marcolin was able to adapt incredibly quickly.

From the very first day of the initial lockdown in our UK and Nordic markets, we were able to mobilise our entire customer service team to work at full capacity entirely remotely, and throughout the course of the year, we’ve found better and better ways of doing things.

We’ve also learned that working entirely remotely for long periods of time isn’t fully effective, but with better tools, and with a focus on core hours together, we’re convinced we can work flexibly, engage and retain our teams for longer and with even better results.

The strong need to physically present our products to our customers hasn’t changed, but the range of tools at our disposal to do so in a way which is more convenient, efficient and effective for our customers is growing and improving every day. It’s important that we keep pace with this change and constantly challenge ourselves to find better ways of doing things.

We feel every reason to be optimistic about the year ahead and the opportunities it brings and would like to take the opportunity to thank all our partners, customers and colleagues for working by our side.