Italian Trade Commissioner and Executive Director, USA
Italian Trade Commission
Aniello Musella is the Italian Trade Commissioner and Executive Director for the USA. Despite the treacherous economy, he is guiding numerous promotions and programs designed to spur sales of Italian products and investment in the United States. A renowned promoter of some of the world’s best food, fashion, wine, jewelry, cars and yachts, recently Elite Traveler Editor-in-Chief Douglas Gollan met with the Commissioner at his New York office to talk about what’s in store for 2010 and potential opportunities for elite travelers as well as elite investors.
ET: Can you give us an overview of the Trade Commission’s mission?
Aniello Musella: The Commission has the main task of promoting trade and investment between Italy and the world. We do this activity mainly through events, trade shows and seminars. We organize events with retailers, media campaigns to promote Italian products, and educational conferences promoting investment opportunities in Italy. We have 110 offices in 86 countries, and in the United States we have six offices, with New York coordinating all activities for the U.S., along with our offices in Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Houston and Miami.
ET: How are your offices organized?
Aniello Musella: New York is focused on fashion, food and wine, and ceramic tiles. Also an Investment Desk and an Environment Desk focus on renewable energies and technology to promote Italian technology to the U.S. For each segment, the office that handles the segment has responsibility for the entire United States, but we then support each other’s efforts. So when we organize a fashion promotion, the offices in Chicago, Miami and Los Angeles help us execute it.
ET: You recently did promotions in the yachting area?
Aniello Musella: Yes, our office in Miami put together a promotion during the Ft. Lauderdale Boat Show and Miami Boat Show, and will also be doing a promotion at the Palm Beach Boat Show.
ET: What are some of the promotions and programs in 2010 that will be of interest for elite travelers?
Aniello Musella: We are currently running a promotion, “If you speak fashion, you speak Italian,” that started in October and will go through May. It includes 10 major in-store events starting in January with Bergdorf Goodman.
We are also starting a program promoting Italian luxury fashion items with 150 independent retailers that have substantial business with Italy and at least three Italian luxury brands nationwide addressed to consumers, with trunk shows, special offers, etc. in March and April. We think as a Trade Commission, especially now that consumer demand for the high-end segment is not picking up the way we expected, this type of investment by us will help. The promotion will go up in all 150 independent retailers and last two weeks time. We teamed up with Hearst Group for communications for the promotion so we are working to try and do a partnership between the Italian companies, the retailers and the media to put together interesting experiences. An example would be Mitchell’s and Richard’s. Having 150 retailers all at the same time will be very big news.
On a completely different note: From February 2nd to 6th we are having an Italian Wine Week here in New York. There will be a great variety of small and medium companies. We will have a number of trade seminars, and in this case we will invite over 200 buyers from across the country who will stay in New York for four days. We will have wine experts educating these buyers on the different wine regions so they can take this knowledge back to their markets, and then back to the consumer. In New York during this week we will have consumer wine tastings and dine-arounds in many prestigious Italian restaurants.
ET: Are you doing anything to promote Italian jewelry?
Aniello Musella: We are participating in the jewelry fairs in Las Vegas and New York. It is a sector having challenges with the economic crisis and we are trying to support these companies. We have organized at Vicenza in January a delegation of 25 independent retailers from the U.S. to come and see the new collections to try to increase business. Our office in Los Angeles is going to be organizing jewelry promotions for consumers with retailers in 2010.
ET: How does the investment arm work?
Aniello Musella: The Italian Trade Commission has two investment desks in Los Angeles and in New York. The main objective is to attract investment from venture capital to businesses in Italy. We organize seminars and participate in big conferences, such as Bio for Biotech. In Italy we have quite a few start-ups in biotech so we try to help find investors. The investment desk really works as a link between opportunities in Italy and potential investors. There are some good opportunities in terms of turnarounds, also in the machinery category.
ET: Do you do any promotions in the auto sector?
Aniello Musella: Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini, these are brands that really don’t need our support. They go by themselves, but when we have “Made in Italy” promotions—for example our current Italy on Madison Avenue promotion—it includes Vespa.
ET: Are there any relevant statistics to share?
Aniello Musella: We have many types of statistics so we can see trends. In the first 10 months of 2009, Italian fashion was $4 billion dollars. But at the same time, the number one export category is machinery, which had over $5 billion—mainly machine tools, textile, packaging, woodworking machinery. Italian companies have a reputation for being able to make customized machinery for customer needs.
ET: Does the Trade Commission also work to promote tourism?
Aniello Musella: Tourism is separate, but of course when we promote wine and food, this is a promotion of tourism to Italy so there are some sectors that are interconnected. When we promote Italian fashion, consumers want to go to Milan. And still, we invited a lot of buyers to trade shows in Italy, and of course we don’t close them into the trade show, so they are also enjoying their stay in Italy and extending their trips.
ET: And of course Italy is well know for its furniture and home design.
Aniello Musella: We have worked a lot in the past in this sector. We have organized at ICFF an Italian salon here in New York. Most of these companies have their own showrooms and they are very well known.
ET: Any other points you would like to touch on?
Aniello Musella: Our target is the up-market consumer who understands value added. Italy is a different way of life. It is the lifestyle of Italy that sets Italy apart. A man’s suit that is custom made gives you a special feeling. The up-market consumers are very much in love with Italy and appreciate this different feeling, so we are looking for a consumer that appreciates that and is willing to pay for the unique aspects of Italy.
We work on a wide range of sectors and we are very much committed to the U.S. The U.S. is the first market for Italy after the European Union, and we don’t think the U.S. can be substituted by China or India. In luxury over 70 percent of exports are to the U.S. so we are committed. We would welcome any readers of Elite Traveler who think we could help them with investments or information in promoting Italy.