Mario Spezia, NAU!

Nau! is an Italian company specialized in design eyewear, the first one to have its own branded shop network. Europe Real Estate caught up with Mario Spezia, Board Member of NAU!, who shared the company’s goals as well as their plans for the future.

Describe the NAU! design eyewear brand. What does it stand for?

Nau! is the first Italian eyewear brand with its own branded shop network. The ingredients of our offer are Italian design, fashionable colored shapes, eco-friendly attitude and … smart prices. Our products are sold exclusively in NAU! outlets. Twice a month, we launch new models, always in limited editions. Someone said that we have done in optical business what Swatch and Zara did in their fields. The word NAU! has no real meaning in Italian. When we started, we chose it because it is short, easy to remember and phonetically it sounds like ‘now’ in English; it was our way of saying that the time had come for our customers to have a new experience. 

How has the shopping behavior changed in the last few years (eg. online shopping) and how has this influenced your brand?

Changes in shopping behavior in the last five years have been influenced by many factors. Some of them have worldwide impact, like those related to new technologies and social media; others have more to do with the country’s economic situation. In Italy, after several years of dropping consumption, customers have become more cautious when they buy, looking for real value for money, but without giving up the pleasure of shopping. NAU! is a seven-year old brand, young enough to cope with new trends and to meet financial restrictions thanks to our smart prices. 

For your expansion abroad, do you plan to open direct stores or you prefer to find local partners?

Since the presentation of our first recycled plastic collections at MIDO 2008, we received many requests from all over the world (for supplies of our products). At that time we were very small and this business could have been very profitable; nevertheless we decided that NAU! products should be sold only in a NAU! shop, in Italy as well as in the other countries.

Our strategy for our expansion abroad is based on the research of a local Master Franchisee, with a deep knowledge of the retail sector and preferably with some experience in the Franchising formula. We prefer to avoid potential partners coming from the traditional optical business, often unable to look at our concept with fresh eyes. At the moment we have signed an agreement with an Asian country and there are several negotiations going on with other European, Asian and American countries. We are also considering some flagship openings in targeted cities as well as a direct expansion in countries geographically close to Italy.

How do you select new locations (shopping centers, high streets) for your brand?

We usually open our shops either in shopping malls, with at least a triple B rating, or in high streets (i.e. Via del Corso in Rome). Since we treat NAU! products as fashion accessories, we want to be where our customers, mainly women, decide to allocate their budget for their weekly shopping. We consider the likes of Zara, Accessorize, Yamamay and Kiko our “natural neighbors”.

In your opinion, what will be the new trends in the retail industry in the coming years?

Many things have changed in the retail business in the last 20 years. New technologies are now available, new products and concepts have been developed, major changes have taken place in social behaviors; not to mention the differences in economic growth among different countries. All these factors have influenced and will continue to influence the development the retail sector worldwide. Some trends are global, others are just local. They will not stop in the future, probably they will move at a faster pace, but we must maintain our focus on our customers, who always come first!

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