The walks in the mountains with leather on his feet, says Alberto Zanatta, have physically polished him. For his Tecnica Group, in a certain sense, these months of hard work have produced the same effect. “First Covid, then the problems related to logistics, then again the war, the increases in energy and raw material prices, now inflation: there were many, the disruptive, breaking and difficult moments”, says the president of the multinational ski boots and sportswear, headquarters in Giavera del Montello. Despite the obstacles, Tecnica Group is preparing to cross the 500 million euro turnover mark this year, up from 466 in 2021.
Zanatta, what moment is it?
«This moment is the photograph of a film that began 24 months ago with Covid, a film by a director with a lot of imagination: you never know where the end is, it is a continuous improvisation due to the great global uncertainties. Now inflation is also taking place, first there was Covid, the logistics problems, the restart, then comes the war, also strong from an emotional point of view, we in Ukraine have a factory and we experienced it first person”.
What scenario do you see?
«Today we are starting to talk about a recession, we see gray clouds in the sky even if it hasn’t started raining yet. The cost increases are structural, there aren’t just the energy ones. In Europe there is real inflation, linked to the increase in costs, while in the USA the economy has been “doped” by too much money that has been introduced for the revival. But that is almost good inflation, consumption is on the move, we are more afraid of Europe facing a structural problem. Albeit with different situations: in Italy, despite everything, people struggle, it is difficult to give up the restaurant or skiing in the mountains, the Germans, for example, instead lock themselves at home and don’t spend when it comes to recession».
Recession expected for 2023.
«Yes, at least in the first two quarters. I was at the fair in Munich a few days ago, an opportunity after three years to have the pulse of the sector. I must say that the shops are working, both Italian and foreign. It is mostly selling in the higher price range. A shopkeeper confided in me: I struggle to sell shoes for 99 euros, but I sold all the designer overalls for 450 euros. They are less, for heaven’s sake, but they generate turnover».
A trend towards the top of the range that also infects the companies of the Treviso Sportsystem?
«We are not capable of doing ugly or economic things in the Sportsystem district. It’s in our philosophy, in our DNA, it’s the Leonardo in us. The sales graph, rather than a pyramid, now resembles an hourglass or almost, or rather the high-end range is widening: the market share is growing, this trend exists in part. Speaking of our industry, going skiing has never been cheap. But the problem now is not the boot that costs 50 euros more, or the ski pass that increases by ten percent: there is also the hotel that increases and everything revolves around it».
Zanatta: “Two very tough years, but now our companies are coming out stronger”
Expectations for the start of the season?
«By making incantations, there is a great desire to go skiing, the mountains are preferred to long journeys abroad, towards which there is still a little distrust: in Asiago, for example, everything is packed. The lockdown was a huge commercial for our world, it made us rediscover the pleasure of the mountains. And the thing is remaining, also making us discover different activities, such as walking with skins ».
The supply of raw materials has been the problem of problems, for many sectors, in recent months. For you too?
«Yes, one of the things that drive an entrepreneur crazy is not being in control of things. This is what has happened in these 18 months, with continuous disruptions along the supply chains. First there was a lack of carbon, then aluminum, then again wood for skis. At one point we had shoes coming out of the factory but there were no cardboard boxes to put them in. Having a supply chain under your control allows you to react. At one point one of our suppliers told us: I’m closing in a month, I can’t take it anymore. What about the orders in the pipeline?, we asked him. Eh, find another solution, he replied ».
And how does it come out?
“Take the car and go. From the parquet installer in Friuli to Slovenia and Ukraine to try to intervene, and you will find a solution. And maybe better than before. In emergency situations we know how to give our best».
Does this situation, beyond the emergency solutions, change your model?
«Yes, you have to do a completely different risk management than in the past, you can’t rely on single suppliers: you need to have more options. Today there is war in Ukraine, maybe in six years something will stop in China, what do you do? You have to play a little early, think about the “what if” in time».
Another problem: the lack of manpower. We note the tendency of companies to take the subject of personnel training into their own hands.
“In Germany they have been doing it for thirty years. The school must lay the foundations, create fertile ground. Then you have to put the plants by choosing what the boy wants to do when he grows up. We as companies have to give the right seeds, and the closer you are to the world of work, the easier it becomes. We took a course for hemmers with the Sportsystem district: filled everything up, and those who follow it find the job right away. In the past, companies often complained without doing anything, but today they act. I strongly believe in the union with Its, the name also needs to be changed because it looks like Itis, we need a more captivating one, it’s also a question of image to attract young people: you specialize, find a profession and get good money”.
Tecnica Group has been 40% owned by Italmobiliare since 2017. What does a partner of this kind bring?
«The first shareholder other than the family joined us as early as 1992 with the acquisition of Lowa. Then there were various evolutions, from the Vaccari family to the Benettons up to Veneto Banca, we had many minority shareholders: every time you have a discussion with a partner who has a different vision it is positive, put different opinions on the plate that give an incentive to do something different, whether it’s more structured governance, attention to potential acquisitions or a more long-term business plan. It’s like putting on different glasses. Of course, you also need to choose the right partners: there were also sharks around us in times of difficulty. The journey with Italmobiliare has been going on for five years and I’m very happy, I’d do it again: not because they teach you how to make boots, but because they give you best practices to follow».
Optimism shines through from his vision.
«Ayrton Senna said: you overtake ten cars when it rains, not when the track is dry».
Tecnica Group has just presented its first sustainability report, which is not just a “philosophical” topic, on the contrary. The American market explains why well. «We are doing very well in the USA and Canada, today we generate almost a third of our total turnover in that area. The winter implement is strong, we have done well not only thanks to the product, it is precisely the “machine” that we have set up that works, we opened the branch in New Hampshire already in 1978. There you win in providing the service, after-sales, collaboration with the shopkeeper. And now there is also the issue of sustainability, which here we experience as a purely environmental issue, whereas there more social, it is a matter of inclusion. In addition to the team based in Giavera, we have a person dedicated only to these issues in the American branch».
What does he do? «It gives all the reports, analyzes the attention on hiring, training, balances, gender equality, social initiatives. He is a sort of “sustainability specialist”, indeed, his precise role is “social environmental impact guide”. There consumers are also interested in how you treat your collaborators. In particular, those who are dedicated to the outdoors are attentive, a more “real” world, linked to values. You have to be true too, with them, otherwise they’ll punish you. You have to understand that it is an important issue, perceive it in time. Consumers there have sustainability inside, for them the playground is nature».
Specifically, Tecnica launched the “Recycle your boots” project in 2021, which involves the recovery and recycling of ski boots: in the first year, the Treviso-based group collected over four thousand pairs of used boots in seven key countries, and the the goal is to reach twenty thousand in the next three years, also involving the Nordica brand and entering other countries such as Great Britain, Belgium, Holland and the Czech Republic. Furthermore, with Lowa mountain boots, there is a program to give them new life by refurbishing used products: another important step towards sustainability.
«The Olympics in Milan and Cortina are certainly an opportunity – says Alberto Zanatta – we are talking about the most important sporting event in the world, a moment of great attention not only on the event itself, but on the territory and its ability to attract and promotion. Then the opportunity must be exploited well. I hope that something will arrive in terms of infrastructure, to fix the hotels, give the valley an opportunity to resettle itself”. Could something more have been done? «Nì: let’s look at the glass half full. For companies, I don’t believe in an immediate turnover effect, but we work with the Chambers of Commerce to give an overall view of what lies between Venice and Cortina. A major events committee has been created in Confindustria, there is potentially a control room».
Sinergy and lobbying
Speaking of Confindustria: the merger that gives life to Veneto Est? «A very great thing, a truly important reality has been born, which brings together different experiences as a common factor: Treviso and Padua are closer as an entrepreneurial fabric, and expanding to Venice, which thrives on large companies and tourism, gives you a different vision – he underlines Zanatta, who is vice president and coordinator of the territorial delegations of Assindustria Venetocentro – It is a great thing to put these experiences together, it does not only apply to the services offered to companies or to the ability to lobby. That the latter must move to Brussels rather than Rome, where it is almost easy to change the finances, for example. The match is in Brussels, we were there in May with Leopoldo Destro and Giuseppe Milan, president and director, we met various delegations: they are very open but you have to be there, have an office, put some of our people there. We see these days the theme of packaging, and how the cards on the table are changing: we must be there to make our voices heard. However, at the same time, as our associates ask us, without losing an eye on the territory».