Kering named luxury couture and leather goods division head Marco Bizzarri as the new chief executive of Gucci from January as it seeks to reverse declining sales at the Italian fashion brand.

He will replace Patrizio di Marco, who has led the brand for almost six years. Gucci Creative Director Frida Giannini will also leave her post at the end of February after eight years, with a replacement to be appointed later, Kering said.

“Bizzarri will support Gucci’s brand elevation strategy to continue to strengthen the brand’s international growth,” Kering said in a statement on Friday. “This leadership transition will not result in any change in the organization of Kering luxury activities.”

Kering Chairman and CEO Francois-Henri Pinault will take the interim as head of the luxury couture and leather goods division until a new executive is appointed, the company added.

“The departure of the CEO was expected, the past year has been operationally challenging at Gucci with organic growth turning negative about 6 months ago,” a Paris-based trader said.

Gucci sales fell 3.5% in the first nine months of the year to €2.53 billion, contributing just over half of revenue at Kering’s luxury brands. This compared with 12% growth at Bottega Veneta and 26% at Yves Saint Laurent.

Kering said in October that sales trends at the 93-year-old Florentine brand showed signs of turning the corner in the third quarter, particularly in major markets such as western Europe and China, despite remaining negative.

Every major luxury goods maker has been hit by the worst spending slump in five years as concerns about economic growth and conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine hampered demand from the Chinese, Russians and Europeans.

Big brands have also been suffering from consumers’ growing appetite for smaller, less widely distributed labels. Based on sales performance, some such as Louis Vuitton and Hermes appear to have done a better job than Gucci at rebuilding or supporting their exclusive image.

Analysts and investors say Gucci got rid of too many accessible items and on average, raised prices too much. They also mention lack of innovation, which affects brand desirability and ultimately investor sentiment and growth prospects.

Bizzarri joined Kering in 2005 as CEO of Stella McCartney and was appointed CEO of Bottega Veneta in January 2009. During his tenure, sales and profit at the fashion house “increased dramatically”, Kering said. He has led Kering’s luxury couture and leather goods division since April.

Source: Reuters