fashion

Save the Duck sets sights on IPO – a conversation with CEO Nicolas Bargi


Save the Duck has big plans. The Italian outerwear brand known for its jackets filled with a down alternative is expanding after securing new investors this year.

“In the next two to three years, you will see the company invest,” chief executive officer Nicolas Bargi said during an interview. “We will open many shops, and we will grow our digital, online direct business.”

Save the Duck generates 85 percent of its revenue via wholesale channels and 15 percent by selling directly to consumers – 8 percent of which comes through e-commerce. In the future, a higher percentage of turnover – as much as 30 percent – might come from direct sales to consumers, Bargi said at menswear fair Pitti Uomo in Florence in June.

New owners, new stores

At present, the brand operates five stores – two in Milan, and one each in Venice, St. Moritz, and Hong Kong. Soon, a second shop will open in Hong Kong, and two more in Bologna and New York.

The store in Spring Street, in the Soho neighbourhood of New York, might become the global flagship for the brand, Bargi said. For now, it will be tested for six months and, if successful, a lease for up to five years will be signed.

Nicolas Bargi, managing director of Save the Duck. Image: Save the Duck

Save the Duck has also already set its sights on two other cities: Paris and Rome. The stores could be confirmed in the following months, Bargi said. The metropolitan locations are intended to raise awareness of the brand. “In the medium and long term this will accelerate growth and the brand identity and awareness around the world,” he added.

The CEO holds a 20-percent stake in the company while the remaining 80 percent changed owners in April when Italian private equity firm Progressio SGR, which invested in 2018 as a minority owner, sold its stake. In return, Austrian billionaire and chair of cosmetic group L’Occitane, Reinold Geiger, as well as André Hoffmann, the company’s CEO, acquired an 80 percent stake.

They were co-investors of Progressio SGR and so were already familiar with Save the Duck, according to Bargi. He worked closely with Hoffmann to develop the business of the outerwear brand in the Asia-Pacific region. The new strategic investors shall help the brand with 2,000 points of sales in 42 countries to grow further.

“I am super happy with the change because the brand needs to become a global brand now,” said Bargi, who created Save the Duck in 2012. “We have a very big opportunity to become one of the big brands.”

Flying growth

The new owners are also striving for an initial public offering, according to Bargi. He estimates that the company has to achieve 150 million euros of revenues and 30 million euros of earnings before interest, taxes and amortisation before an IPO.

“The aim is to go to this kind of turnover and Ebitda in three to five years,” he said. “We will push and we can see what we achieve, the sooner the better.”

The Milan store on Via Solferino. Image: Save the Duck

The company was growing fast before the pandemic, but annual sales fell 6 percent after the outbreak of the coronavirus and rose by 35 percent and 45 percent in the two following years.

“The company is flying”, said Bargi. Last year, revenues totalled 47 million euros and are expected to grow to 64 million euros this year. “And we will continue to fly for 2023, even though the SS23 campaign is not an easy campaign.”

During the pandemic, Save the Duck invested in its inventory planning system and staff. This paid off when markets opened as Covid-19 measures eased, according to the CEO. The company doubled its workforce in the past three years and still seeks to hire new talent,such as retail and online store managers and IT professionals. Save the Duck is also looking to bring its e-commerce in house.

Green credibility

Apparel brands with a business model based on sustainability have enjoyed a rise in popularity as consumer awareness for greener choices increased in recent years. A prominent example of this trend has been the sustainable sneaker company Allbirds, which raised nearly 303 million US-dollars with its IPO last year.

Save the Duck is known for its jackets that keep warm with a down alternative and is branding itself as an animal- and cruelty-free fashion label. The company has also been certified as a B Corp – for its social and environmental performance – since 2019, and currently holds an impact score of 95. Bargi hopes to achieve better scores in this year’s re-rating. Allbirds currently has a B Corp score of 89.4, while US outdoor brand Patagonia scored 151.4.

The SS23 collection. Image: Save the Duck

Save the Duck being founded as a brand with sustainability at its core is an asset that the consumers of tomorrow will appreciate even more, Bargi believes.

“In the next ten years, the company can grow well because of this,” he said.

He has also worked to expand the collections of the outerwear brand to an all-year-round offering. Half of the garments are no longer jackets as they once were.. There’s now a smart leisure collection with pieces made from stretch nylon that can be worn at home, or at work, while an athleisure collection offers casual and sporty styles. Save the Duck also recently launched beachwear for men and might develop a similar offer for women next year.

“My dream is that the duck can become the Red Bull of sustainability,” said Bargi. “It is a lifestyle equity brand, it’s not only about a collection.”



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