Notebook brand Moleskine seeking partner for global expansion of cafes
The Italian company opened its first cafe in Milan last year
Moleskine, famed for its iconic notebooks and diaries, has been in talks with potential business partners in London over the global expansion of its eponymous cafe that first opened its doors in Milan last year.
Chairman Arrigo Berni told the Press Association that the Italian company has yet to find a good fit for its plans, but is confident that the Moleskine Cafe will soon make its way to Britain and further afield.
“We’ve been having a number of conversations regarding locations in the UK over these past few months,” he said.
“We would love to find someone that would be able to help us on a global basis but until now we haven’t found them, and we’re having conversations with local groups in different areas of the world,” Mr Berni added.
After German-speaking countries, the UK is the brand’s second largest market in Europe, the chairman said, making it an attractive location for its expansion.
“The UK is an important market for us and is certainly one of the major metropolitan areas in the world and it continues to be like that even in the case of Brexit,” he said.
“It’s not a matter of ‘if’ – it’s only a matter of ‘when’ we’ll be there with a Moleskine Cafe.”
The company launched in 1997, resurrecting the design of a black notebook made by a family-owned French-bindery and made famous by well-known users such as Picasso, Hemingway and Matisse.
It has since branched out and diversified its revenue streams, introducing a range of bags, wallets, laptop, iPhone and tablet cases alongside its classic planners and notebooks.
Added to that is its Milan cafe, which opened in June 2016 as a test site for further locations, and more technologically advanced products such as a Smart Pen that syncs a “smart” physical planner with online schedulers like iCal and Google Calendar.
Moleskine – which was delisted from the Milan stock exchange following takeover by Belgium’s luxury car importer and services firm D’Ieteren last year – reported a 13% rise in sales to 145.2 million euro (£128.2 million) last year – though pre-tax profits dropped from 27.1 million euro (£23.9 million) to 23.3 million euro (£20.6 million ).
Mr Berni said the company is continuing to explore its digital future, pointing to its planning app and aspirational design with tech companies.
He said: “Given the positive reaction that the market had to our digital application… that we introduced a couple of years ago, we’re seeing a clear opportunity to expand the Moleskine brand in the purely digital space with other applications. People seem to appreciate the novelty of the approach we’re taking from an aesthetic point of view.
“Aesthetic is one of the areas where technology companies very often seem to be at a little bit of a loss. They seem to, understandably… (focus) on creating things that push the boundaries in terms of technology, and they have a little bit less appreciation for the aesthetics of them.”
Moleskine has already partnered with the likes of tech firms including Evernote, Adobe and even Microsoft.
“Some of our best and greatest clients are to be found in Silicon Valley and technology companies,” Mr Berni said.
The brand is also expanding towards non-profit work, launching the Moleskine Foundation last month, which aims to encourage critical thinking and creative skills in socially and culturally deprived communities, with a focus on Africa and its diaspora.
Moleskine has committed to funding its operations on an annual basis, leaving donations to go directly to its projects.
Mr Berni said that the Moleskine Foundation is set to build on the good work in areas like literacy which is already being done by the likes of the Gates Foundation.
“We feel there is space and opportunity and a need for unconventional educational activities that can then leverage basic literary skills to help young people in particular to develop creative thinking and critical thinking skills that are really important for social change,” he said.