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Eager for Polet’s Plan: YSL, Exec Talent Drain Top Analysts’ Concerns

Analysts dissect Gucci Group’s strategic plan in advance of ceo Robert Polet’s delivery on Dec. 14.

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PARIS — When will the red ink stop flowing at Yves Saint Laurent? And how will the Gucci brand ensure that its long winning streak endures?

Those are among the key questions luxury and retail analysts expect to be answered come Dec. 14, when industry newcomer Robert Polet, chief executive officer of Gucci Group, presents his long-awaited strategic plan at the British Museum in London.

While analysts don’t expect major strategic changes or dramatic announcements from the world’s third-largest luxury group, they characterized Polet’s first major address as vital to gain the confidence of the market, and to perhaps goose the stock of Gucci parent Pinault-Printemps-Redoute, the French retail giant.

They also are looking for reassurances that Polet can stem a worrisome drain of executive talent — and that the former frozen-foods honcho from Unilever is up to speed on the world of hot handbags and cool frocks.

“I think what the financial markets would like to hear is a refocus on profitability,” said Antoine Belge, luxury analyst at HSBC in Paris. He said that could come from reduced investments in advertising and retail for recently acquired fashion brands, or from the divestment of one or two loss makers, such as Boucheron or Balenciaga.

“My main expectation would be a thorough review by Polet of each of the brands in the group’s portfolio, followed by a clear assessment of their respective potential and distinctive positioning,” Belge said, adding that, “in some cases, it would be probably more sensible to invest even more behind brands, provided they have interesting prospects.”

“I think that the market is eager to get a sense from him that they will focus resources and management talent on Gucci as opposed to the smaller brands,” said Jacques-Franck Dossin, luxury analyst at Goldman Sachs in London. “I also expect to get some sense of where they want to take the smaller brands and a time frame for break-even target.”

HSBC’s Belge characterized Polet’s brief tenure as a “transition period,” still mostly influenced by past decisions made by former ceo Domenico De Sole and creative director Tom Ford, but benefiting from better market conditions.
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