Gruppo Coin S.p.A. History

Address:
Via Terraglio, 17
30174 Mestre
Venezia
Italy

Telephone: (+39) 41-239-8000
Fax: (+39) 41-982-722

Website:
Public Company
Incorporated:1934 as SACMA SpA
Sales: L 2.36 trillion ($1.18 billion)
Stock Exchanges: Italy
Ticker Symbol: GC
NAIC: 452110 Department Stores

Key Dates:

1916:
Vittoria Coin gains license as a pushcart vendor.
1926:
Coin opens first retail store.
1929:
Second store opened in Dolo.
1933:
Store opened in Venezia-Mestre.
1934:
Company is incorporated as SACMA SpA.
1946:
Alfonso Coin becomes president.
1950:
Company changes name to Coin SpA, and moves headquarters to Trieste.
1957:
Company acquires Ohler department stores.
1965:
5,000-square-meter flagship built in Milan.
1972:
Odiesse brand is launched.
1980:
Headquarters transferred to Venice.
1986:
New Coin flagship is established in Venice.
1995:
Coin and Odiesse are combined into Gruppo Coin SPCA.
1998:
La Standa department store division is acquired.
1999:
Company is listed on Italian stock exchange; joint-venture agreement created with Pinault-Printemps-Redoute.
2000:
Franchise agreement created with Magazine zum Globus (Switzerland).
2001:
Kaufhalle department stores (Germany) are taken over.

Company History:

Based in Italy, Gruppo Coin S.p.A. is buying its way into the top ten of European department store retailers. At the beginning of the 21st century, the company claimed the leading share--5.65 percent--of Italy's highly competitive and highly fragmented retail department store market. Coin operates department stores and specialty stores throughout Italy under several brand names, each targeting a specific market. The company's flagship 'Coin' department store chain targets the Italian upscale market with more than 80 company-owned and franchised stores. The company's discount clothing and home furnishing chain, 'Oviesse,' is located throughout Italy with nearly 130 stores and is being developed by Gruppo Coin into the company's international spearhead. Gruppo Coin also operates a 129-store chain of mid-priced department stores under the 'La Standa' name, which were acquired in 1998. Coin, however, is making steady inroads toward converting the La Standa stores into the Odiesse and Coin formats, while also selling off some other properties, including 12 stores to the Benetton group in 2000. At the same time, the company is also building two other brands, 'Bimbus' and 'Kids Planet,' both of which target the children's market. In 1999, Gruppo Coin also joined with France's Pinault-Printemps-Redoute to open 'Fnac' book, record and electronics stores in Italy. Listed since 1999 on the Italian stock exchange, Gruppo Coin continues to be controlled at more than 74 percent by the founding Coin family, now in its third generation under the leadership of Piergiorgio Coin.

Pushcarts in World War I Times

Gruppo Coin developed an international retail empire from a single pushcart in less than a century. In 1916, patriarch Vittoria Coin was granted an itinerant merchant's license and began selling clothing and other apparel (such as hats and traditional head-coverings) from a pushcart in the countryside around his home in the Pianiga, Venice region. Coin quickly showed a flair for more modern sales techniques, and was soon joined by his sons Alfonso, Aristide, and Gionvanni in opening his first retail store in Mirano in 1926.

The new Coin family store not only featured clothing and other apparel, but also offered home furnishings. Over the next decade, Coin developed his retail format into a broader department store concept, while also retaining an upscale, high-quality reputation. Coin and his sons soon began opening new retail stores; the second Coin store opened in Dolo in 1929, and a third in Venezia-Mestre in 1933.

In 1934, Coin and his sons incorporated their growing business under the name of SACMA SpA--for the Societa Associativa Commercio Manifatture e Affini--highlighting not only the company's growing retail network, but also its entry into the manufacturing of clothing and other goods for its stores. By the outbreak of World War II, the company operated seven stores in the Venice region.

Trying Times and Expansion Following World War II

At the end of World War II, all of the Coin family's stores had been destroyed. Leadership of the company was turned over to Alfonso, who, with brothers Giovanni and Aristide, began rebuilding the company's stores. After reopening its Venice store first, and then its store in San Gionvanni Grisotomo, the company slowly opened stores in Mirano, Dolo, Mestre and Padova by 1947. Alfonso also helped steer the family's operations in a new direction, adding ready-to-wear fashions to the stores. In 1950, the company adopted a new name, Coin SpA, and opened a new warehouse and shifted its headquarters to Trieste.

1957 marked the company's first step toward building a full-fledged retail empire, when it acquired the Italian stores of Austrian retail chain Ohler. A year later, Coin expanded beyond its Venice province home base to establish a new 1,400-square-meter flagship store in Bologna.

Diversification in the 1960s and 1970s

The next generation of Coins joined the company at the beginning of the 1960s, as Aristide Coin's sons Piergiorgio and Vittorio Coin prepared to take over the family company's lead. The company now began to expand its retail format into a larger department store format, adding departments for items such as sporting goods, luggage, appliances, and the like. The company opened six new stores in the early 1960s, culminating with the opening of a new 5,000-square-meter flagship store in Milan. In 1966 Alfonso Coin died, and his brother Aristide took on the company presidency.

Coin then entered into a new expansionist period, opening 'Grandi Magazzini Coin' stores in Brescia, Vicenza, Varese, Pordenone, Vigevano, Mantova, Genova, Livorno, Udine, Piacenza, Napoli, Taranto and Ferrara between 1966 and 1974. In 1974, Aristide turned over the company's presidency to Piergiorgio Coin, who was aided by brother Vitorrio.

By then, the company had also begun developing a second retail store format, Odiesse, which had been introduced as a subsidiary operation in 1972. The Odiesse brand, offering a discount pricing formula, was first opened in Padova and grew quickly, operating branches in Milan, Carpi, Valdagn, Villafranca and Legnago by 1974. The chain continued to grow through the end of the century, later totaling nearly 130 branches in Italy before becoming the company's spearhead brand for its international growth.

International Expansion at the End of the 20th Century

By the 1980s, Coin was fast on its way to becoming one of Italy's leading department store groups. In the early 1980s the company returned to Venice when it transferred its headquarters to that city. The company also opened a new Venice flagship store in 1986. At the same time, Coin began to adopt the 'store-in-store' concept that had become fashionable among the world's department stores, adding branded in-store boutiques to its floors.

The 1990s marked a period of transition for the company, which had grown not only into one of Italy's top retail companies, but which was also quickly climbing the ranks of European leaders as well. Coin had long been operated as a typical family-owned company, but began to restructure and streamline its management and organization into a single chain of command. The company also restructured its operations, combining Coin SPCA and Odiesse SPCA into a single entity, Gruppo Coin SPCA.

The reorganization of the company resulted in clearly defined brand and market concepts, with the Coin department stores dedicated to the upscale market, and the fast-growing Odiesse brand committed to the discount-price market. Coin also began rolling out a new flagship store concept for the Coin brand, opening new stores in Milan and Genoa in 1998, and in Catania and Rome in 1999.

By then, the company had taken on an entirely new size when it completed a L 9 billion acquisition of the department store division of rival Italian company La Standa. Coin then began a program to convert the 129 La Standa stores into the Coin and Odiesse concepts. When the conversion program proved successful--with both the Odiesse and Coin brands boosting the new stores' per-square-meter sales--Coin stepped up its conversion drive. At the same time, Coin also sought to sell off a number of the less profitable La Standa properties. This move was completed in November 2000 when Coin agreed to sell 12 stores to Gescom, which was part of the Benetton group. Meanwhile, Coin was also introducing new retail store concepts, including two children's formats--Bimbus and Kid's Planet.

Coin Enters the New Millennium as a Public Entity

The now streamlined and growing Coin group went public in 1999, listing slightly more than 25 percent of its shares on the Italian stock exchange. The Coin family's nearly 75 percent of shares kept the retail empire firm in their hands, however. Soon after the public offering, Coin announced it had signed an agreement with French retail and luxury goods group Pinault-Printemps-Redoute to form a joint venture in order to introduce the Fnac retail store brand to the Italian market. As part of the agreement, Coin agreed to turn over 12 of its La Standa stores to be converted into Fnac's book, music and electronics formula. The first Coin/Fnac stores were expected to open soon after the turn of the century.

Having established a strong national presence--Coin claimed nearly 6 percent of the total Italian retail market, which was enough to give it the leading position--Coin now looked forward to developing an international presence for the 21st century. The company, now led by President Vittorio Coin, made a bold move to establish itself on the international scene. In January 2001, the company announced that it had acquired Germany's Kaufhalle department store chain, giving it nearly 100 stores in Europe's largest single retail market. Coin immediately began converting the Kaufhalle stores to its Odiesse format, chosen as the company's international spearhead. Coin pledged an investment of some L 300 million toward the conversion effort, which was expected to take some three years to complete.

The Kaufhalle acquisition helped propel Coin into the European big leagues, where it now claimed the number nine spot among leading retailers. Coin's move into Germany was also expected to be accompanied by an extension into Switzerland. In September 2000, the company reached an agreement with Swiss group Magazine zum Globus--which operated stores under the names Au Bon Marché, Globus and Heren Globus, Interio, Office World, Globe and other names&mdashø introduce an Odiesse franchise concept in Switzerland. The initial agreement called for two stores to open in Zug and Lancy by the end of 2000, and for two new stores to be opened in the first half of 2001, with an extension to as many as 40 stores throughout the Swiss market starting from 2002. Given Coin's success at empire-building in its Italian home, the company looked forward to developing a truly international presence before the end of its first century in existence.

Principal Subsidiaries: Manifatture di Fara; Sirema.

Principal Competitors: La Rinascenta S.p.A.; Benetton Group S.p.A.; Metro AG; Rinascente S.p.A.

Further Reading:

  • 'Coin spinge sulla conversione Standa,' Il Sole 24 Ore, December 3, 1999.
  • 'Il prossimo traguardo fissato e quello di superare I 3 mila miliardi di fatturato,' La Repubblica, February 26, 2001.
  • 'Vola dopo il blitz tedesco,' Il Sole 24 Ore, August 30, 2000.

Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 41. St. James Press, 2001.

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