Artigiano, by Royal Appointment

After weeks of top-secret preparations and a visit from the
police force’s Special Branch to ensure security was up to
standards, Isle of Wight-based Scala Collections Ltd, the parent
company of fashion cataloguer Artigiano, welcomed HRH The
Princess Royal to its distribution centre. The visit to
Artigiano’s facilities was part of a trip to the island that also
saw The Princess Royal call at St Mary’s Hospital and, as
colonel-in-chief of the Royal Logistic Corps, visit 165 Port
Regiment Royal Logistic Corps (Volunteers) at the Territorial
Army (TA) Centre in connection with the TA’s 100th anniversary.

Princess Anne was shown around Artigiano’s operations and viewed some of the spring/summer fashions. She spent most of the time in the company’s warehouse chatting with operations staff. Artigiano had even created an order for her to pick and pack so that she could see exactly how this part of the business functions. Princess Anne also spoke with cofounder Claire Locke and chief executive Dagmar Krafft about the company and how it has developed.

Founded 13 years ago by husband-and-wife team Claire and Glyn Locke, Scala Collections sells Italian-design apparel, shoes and accessories via Artigiano and sister title Spirito di Artigiano, which specialises in plus-size fashions. In December 2006 the business underwent a £28 million management buyout backed by Barclays Private Equity, which took a 65 per cent stake; management and the Lockes bought the remaining 35 per cent of the business. Krafft, then general manager, was promoted to chief executive and was joined by a newly appointed chairman, Michael Metcalf. Claire Locke, who with her husband retained a small share of the company, and Barclay director Steven Silvester became nonexecutive directors.

At the time of the buyout, turnover was £19.5 million, generating underlying operating profit of £3.3 million. Although no figures have been disclosed regarding turnover for the year ended January 2008, Artigiano had set a target of reaching £20 million.

“Over the last year or so we’ve been pursuing growth more aggressively,” Claire Locke told Catalogue/e-business. This included opening five shops and growing the customer base to nearly 250,000 women across the UK.

Going forward, customers can expect “more of the same,” Locke said. No “earth-shattering” objectives are planned, though the business will continue to focus on increasing market share and raising its profile.

Although Artigiano is often described as a “niche” brand, due to its focus on Italian-inspired design, Locke said it has a wide-reaching appeal: “We have a broad spectrum of customers, who may shop at Boden or a younger, quirky brand such as Toast or catalogues targeting an older demographic. Our database is of upmarket, educated and independently minded women.”

So has Locke been happy letting go of the reins? Would she consider divesting her share entirely?

“I have thoroughly enjoyed this past year, but one thing I now know for sure is that I want to get more involved in the business,” she said. “I am very committed to Artigiano and have no plans to leave.”


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