Within the fashion system, Schmid never aimed to be a simple supplier, but an indispensable partner to guarantee its customers, collection after collection and season after season, that quality and innovation that, combined with a personalised service, only made in Italy knows how to ensure.
Who knows if Walter Schmid, when he founded the homonymous company in 1942, imagined that even after 80 years he would remain a leader in the supply of fabrics and materials designed and manufactured for the footwear and leather goods sector?
Today the company, headquartered in S. Giuliano Milanese (Milan), is wholly owned by three private shareholders who, thanks to their professional features, guarantee an even balance between managerial skills and entrepreneurial spirit. We met the 3 partners who control Schmid S.p.A. to tell us about the relaunch of a company that represents one of the best excellences of the Italian and international supply chain.
The word goes to Cav. Lav. Mario Boselli, lawyer Giorgio Iacobone and general manager Valerio Baiardo.
All entrepreneurs are on the defensive right now. You, instead, moved onto the offensive. What made you act this way?
“We found ourselves at the beginning of a pandemic in 2020 and after a critical couple of years we had to decide which path to follow.
Knowing the potential of the company and the incredible level of professionalism that characterises people who work at Schmid, we did not hesitate for a single moment, believing that, both in moral and general terms, we should do everything possible to ensure a future to the company, even different from the recent past that we had experienced.
The first step was to secure the company financially. On two occasions, we thus infused a significant capital increase (from 50,000 euro to 1,200,000 euro). Having absorbed the large debt that weighed on the shoulders of the company, we were also able to inject fresh resources thanks to the further contribution of a financial institution that believed in Schmid, in its tradition, in its staff and in the new corporate structure.
To provide the company with a new organisational structure that would allow it to change pace, we sought and found a person like Valerio Baiardo, with a long and consolidated commercial experience in the sector, who could take over the reins of the work group (Baiardo among other things, joined Schmid as third shareholder, ed). The intent was to reform the corporate spirit, previously entrusted to a more administrative figure, to better focus on commercial strategies and objectives.
The company is now definitely safe and ready to look to the future with optimism”.
Having settled the past, what do you expect from the future?
“We have drawn up a serious and potential three-year work plan, because we firmly believe in the people who work at Schmid's and, given the first results, I would say that we can only expect excellent and positive surprises.
We believe that the virtuous subcontracting chain of the great luxury brands is unique in Italy. Our country boasts a leadership in this respect also compared to other renowned realities. It is no coincidence that we are subcontractors of the most important French luxury brands. We actually are the factory of the high-end world, just as much as China is the factory of the world of commodities.
Schmid is nothing more than one of the most brilliant examples in this respect, one of those companies that can define themselves as direct and indirect exporters. Direct because we export to customers across Europe, and indirect given our position as suppliers of brands that place 70, 80 and even 90% of their production abroad.
Such a context, which benefits from the excellent international reputation of the most important fashion brands, can only make us optimistic about Schmid’s prospects for growth”.
What are your strategies to refresh Schmid’s market presence?
“One of the first moves was bringing back an important product man like Silvio La Cava to Schmid, who allowed us to refresh the collections and rediscover that innovative inspiration for which Schmid has always been famous.
Having found the balance between the company’s reputation and the actual product proposal, results were immediately visible: despite the pandemic, in the first 4 months of this year we registered significant order increases in terms of footage (almost 50% more), also improving the turnover performance compared to 2020. Bed bases, satins, technical materials and those with sustainable features are among the most requested products. The second strategic step was to equip ourselves with a wider range of products, including technical references in the catalogue such as, for example, a new range of reinforcing sheets and other basic products that do not suffer from the ups and downs related to fashion trends.
By maintaining close relationships with all the most important Italian and international fashion houses, it is important being able to offer them our care and attention in selecting and creating quality materials not just in the field of textiles, but also in the proposal of other components consistent with our offer. Among other things, recovering an habitus already in vogue in the past: once Schmid was not just known for fabrics, but also for other product categories in the footwear and leather goods sector.
Expanding our business abroad is our last important goal. Not, however, in a sporadic and casual way, but following a precise and defined plan that leads us to open branches that act as a support point for the markets we want to enter. China, which would allow us to supply the United States in the best possible way. And the Iberian Peninsula, to support the good growth we are seeing in Spain and Portugal”.
You mentioned sustainable products in your catalogue. How are you approaching the issue?
“We look at the world of recycling and reuse. We are very careful to provide materials that are actually coherent and serious with respect to the green theme, because we absolutely do not want our commitment to sustainability to be just a marketing and facade tool. This obviously means offering products that have a slightly different performance from the traditional catalogue. Which do not hide the specific inaccuracies of recycled products and which are not yet understood and accepted by the whole market. Not to mention the costs: it is unthinkable to pay real recycled products less or like traditional ones, since the costs of these materials are higher. Just think of the certifications to be obtained, the adaptation of production processes, or the difficulty of finding the raw material”.
How do you imagine the evolution of the fashion sector in light of the events of the last two years?
“The big fashion names present on all international markets do not have and will not have major repercussions on their business. When Europe was still in a deep pandemic crisis, China had already restarted giving rise to the explosive phenomenon of revenge shopping and, therefore, providing good cash flows to the brands. The US recovery is now joining the Chinese recovery, followed by the European one. These companies cater to a clientele that has retained its purchasing power and that has slowed down shopping only due to the lack of opportunities to use fashion products.
On the other side, small and medium-sized finished product companies, which do not have such a widespread distribution, will struggle as they are related to less growing markets. Moreover, many of the sales focused on Europe have now moved to China, due to the decline in tourism. A trend from which there is probably no coming back given the recent policies implemented by Asian countries. This will entail suffering for the Italian mono and multi-brand retail. The mid-range will undoubtedly be more penalised also due to the transformation of the company’s pyramidal structure, now transformed into an hourglass due to the impoverishment of middle class consumers.
As far as supply is concerned, there are several challenges to be faced.
The cost increase of raw materials, due to their difficult supplying and the surge in transport costs. Another criticality is represented by the companies that start again in a much more fragmented way compared to the past. This implies, on our part, the need to be increasingly more flexible and reactive in order to better accompany the recovery”.