Girotto is by no means the first to try to turn the brand around. After plans for a public listing were called off in 1998, American private equity group TPG Capital acquired the company from its Swiss owners with the aim of turning the conservative Bally “into one of the hottest lifestyle brands”, Halpern said in that same interview. Ex-Gucci exec Marco Franchini and Scott Fellows were hired to do what Tom Ford had done for Gucci earlier in the decade, but customers didn’t like the flashy new products, and it took five years to return the company to profitability.
By the time JAB acquired it for US$596 million in 2008, Bally was generating a little over US$400 million in sales annually. Fifteen years later, and the brand is still bringing in roughly that amount every year — revenues in 2021 amounted to about SFr350mn (about US$380 million), and Girotto declines to say whether they have improved since.
Like much of the rest of the luxury industry, Bally has “observed a slowdown after a solid first half”, Girotto concedes. “But what gives me some hope is that the customer in this context is really looking back to the roots of what luxury is: quality, excellence, heritage. We are well positioned for that.”
He has no illusions about the obstacles he is up against. “[As a smaller brand], it’s a challenge to find space. You cannot compete with the same means, the same marketing money . . . These big conglomerates [also] have the capacity to grow through storms in an easier way than smaller brands,” he says. “Is there space for a smaller brand? I believe there is. Because customers are looking for novelty and there are many stories about successful independent brands. We don’t all need to be €10 billion to €20 billion brands to exist.”