To his credit he has a book dedicated to “the passion of a lifetime” (TH – The story of Tottenham Hotspur (ed. Urbone), a family that he loves to involve in the activities in which he most recognizes himself – “traveling, playing sports, cooking and eating pizza and dedicating “harmonic” moments to music are my comfort zones that I share with my wife and children” – and a job that, from Prato, made him fly around the world. Matteo Grazzini, journalist of” La Spola – the weekly textile and clothing “, is addicted to the textile supply chain and warps&wefts have no secrets for him. With his punctual pen he tells the news of a sector that, if in the first year of the pandemic had to run for cover sometimes also rethinking its own productions, in the recovery phase must take advantage of what it has learned to start again with new strength.
After the annus horribilis 2020 and the physiological acceleration of 2021, how has the post-pandemic Italian spinning world changed?
It has certainly changed in numbers, both positively and negatively. The positive aspects concern above all the hand-knitting sector which has been able to give voice to the desire to engage in manual work within the walls of the house during the various lockdowns. The negative ones, on the other hand, concern the inevitable problems related to Covid: limitation of direct contacts with customers, reduction in the work of research offices and a heavy slowdown in the economy, slowed down at all levels. In a nutshell: fewer sales and more downward bills. 2021 brought almost everything back into balance, at least for companies with well-stocked warehouses.
Although 2021 marked a strong recovery, 2022 presented new difficulties. What are the major criticalities that Italian companies in the sector have found themselves having to face?
The price increases for electricity and gas, but also the shortage of raw materials have caused prices to skyrocket with inevitable repercussions such as, for example, the retouching of price lists, both by suppliers and third-party workers, and towards the customer. Certainly this is not a virtuous escalation and it risks damaging everyone.
Furthermore, let us not forget that, unlike European companies that can count on state aid already provided, Italian companies find themselves facing the high bills themselves.
In proactive terms, however, what good has the pandemic taught them?
The blockade to which we have all been forced has led us to clearly understand that, even if the world were to repeat itself, today we have all the tools that would allow us to remain active both on international markets and in the company. Technology and digitalization have changed the perception of distance and the pandemic has accelerated a process that had already been underway for some years.
Despite the merits of digitization, is there any sector that has set the pace most?
The yarn sector, where the touch of the product and the real perception of color are essential, paid the greatest price for the distancing imposed. Despite the pluses offered by digitization, there is no Internet connection or digital documents that can replace a sample. The network, however, had the merit of facilitating the maintenance of contacts with employees during lockdowns and of shortening the distance with customers, especially in the last 2 years.
Can we say that “the links have tightened” during the pandemic?
Not only that: this long and difficult period has made clearly that, to paraphrase a film from a few years ago, “nobody saves himself alone” and “teaming up” is essential. The pandemic could have triggered the hunt for the big fish to the smaller one, but, instead, no one waged war to grab market shares by taking advantage of the virus. The sector proved to be quite cohesive.
The need to contain the proliferation of the virus was one of the causes of the constant cancellation or postponement of fairs and exhibitions. To address this void, companies have moved the presentations of their collections to online platforms. Do you think they have the same effectiveness?
The effectiveness cannot be the same due to the absence of contact, but a presentation, perhaps entrusted to an emotional video or a series of interactive links, can still be spectacular and engaging. Personally I believe that the internet can be a beautiful frame and an almost complete trace on canvas, but the painting must be finished at the fair or, in any case, in the presence of the customer.
So what is the future of trade fairs in light of the tools that companies have learned to use?
Certainly different from what they had until the early 2000s or in the first decade of the new millennium. Some crunches had already appeared before the pandemic, but now that the salons could have a definitive go-ahead as early as June we are all curious to see how buyers and visitors will react. Having to draw a perspective, I imagine that the fairs will continue in a hybrid version, with the Internet that will help to prepare the visit to the stands, to select the most interesting products in advance and to know the news with ample notice. But it will be necessary to go to the stand, perhaps optimizing times and reducing travel days. Let us also remember that not everyone has the tools available to replace a stand, and that no one can afford to punch a prominent event, if only to avoid rumors and not to send customers in the mouth of the competition.
Pandemic & communication: has the strategy of companies changed?
Communication in textile industry is still quite immature: although companies are making progress on the social side, still few are those that have a press office or regular communication throughout the year. The sharing of information tends to be concentrated only during trade fair periods. Paradoxically, however, investments in advertising have returned even by those who, pre Covid, had not shown themselves interested in this channel. Precisely during these two years, with “La Spola” we have developed new contacts: these are interlocutors who in previous years had not responded positively to our commercial proposals or simply with whom we had not established a relationship. On our site as well as on the newsletter, there are new banners, a good sign of the health of the supply chain.