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Surkana: Entering New Markets

16 July, 2012


Surkana now has over a decade as a fashion and accessories brand. Its entrée into the world of clothing design and manufacturing started, as the people behind it say, thanks to a ‘trip’.

Family firm Franco Austral, specialists in importing gift and decorative objects, decided to branch out into its own fashion design line 11 years ago. The company’s head of marketing and communications, Salvador Cayuela, and head of design, Mireia Marcos, form part of this adventure into a new competitive sector that is as cut-throat as fashion.

The goal was to achieve a “product with its own personality, fruit of a global inspiration and highly recognisable,” they say. “Today we signify vitality, authenticity and proximity,” says Cayuela, while Marcos adds, “We do all of the design ourselves, both the graphics and the patterns, so if there is anything similar on the market, it’s because they’ve copied us”.

It’s true that Surkana patterns are a distinctive feature. It may be that, or it could also be, as Cayuela says, because the company has learnt to explain its products, why foreign markets clearly identify the label with “southern fashion”. “Customers come in search of this image associated with the countries of southern Europe,” explains Marcos. The firm bears trends in mind but “we don’t follow them slavishly and only use them in so far as they work for us,” she says. In terms of production, Surkana manufactures part of its goods in China and another part in India.

Organising growth

When asked about the most important project on the table right now, Cayuela and Marcos reply that is to take the company global. The firm has made a strong commitment to expanding on international markets. It first launched abroad around four years ago in Italy and is now working on moving into countries including Russia and Australia. It is also focusing strongly on the German, Belgian and Swiss markets. “We think we are ready to present Surkana in different countries,” Cayuela says. He says that when contemplating a process of internationalisation as Surkana is doing “you have to really know the situation and be able to gauge your chances of delivering on demand”.

The company enjoys taking its evolution “step by step”, neither rushing headlong into new fields but not letting the grass grow under its feet, either. Today Surkana has two fully owned sales points in Barcelona. The entire brand concept has been rolled out in the store on carrer València.

Does that mean there won’t be any more openings? “Retail expansion is on the cards, although we aren’t actively looking for premises,” Cayuela says. “Organic growth is our first priority. We have to be aware of and keep in line with the market situation and where our customers are at. Of course it’s also important to grab opportunities should they come up”.

Regardless of whether the firm opens more own stores in the short term, they are clear that “multi-channels are a positive factor for any company”. Cayuela says: “For anyone who can invest in their own stores, there’s no doubt that retail chains are valuable, whether it’s to complement an area where you already have multi-brand customers or to cover zones that you’re not in”.

A team of 40 people work at the company. With central offices in Barcelona and a logistics centre in Parets del Vallès, Surkana has a sales force distributed in various countries, as well as a showroom in the Catalan capital and a further 10 around Spain. A few weeks ago the Barcelona showroom welcomed the company’s representatives from around Europe at an event to present the new collection and as the starting signal for a raft of visits the managers have recently embarked on to promote the firm’s internationalisation at trade fairs including France’s Who’s Next and Bread&Butter in Germany.

In short, efforts are clearly focused on developing the company abroad but always, as Cayuela and Marcos say, “growing in a controlled fashion and getting behind new opportunities when we are ready for them”. This, they say, makes it possible to “adapt the business structure to new demands”.

Although the company is in full international-expansion mode and is optimistic about the process, the financial crisis hasn’t left Surkana untouched. “If your customer has problems selling your goods, it’s going to impact you and that’s a fact of life we are experiencing,” they pair says, in reference to the multi-brand stores. “The financial situation in Europe makes you more modest regarding growth forecasts. Today you have to do more to have the same, and you have to do it with less,” the managers conclude.

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