This is a story about over 60 years of business experience and many generations of workers in the Veneto area. This is a story that begins in Vicenza, but eventually reaches India and China via Bosnia. But then it also returns to where everything began. Stories such as this often slip under the radar because they are not filled with tales of heroes or revolutions that changed the world. No, it is simply a story of the genuine essence of Made in Italy, of building a company and a brand up to the test of time. And ultimately, it is about the creation of a firm that is a landmark for a community, a city and hundreds of families. This is the story of the Ferretto Group.
Let us go back to the only place to start this story: Giancarlo Ferretto and the 1930s. This was when the founder of a company originally known as Armes - only later Ferretto - was born. Much of Ferretto's youth was marked by the Second World War, and shortly after the end of this tragedy he was forced to abandon his studies. The post-war period was a trying time for the whole country as so much reconstruction was required. But it was also when the legend of the industrious north-east was born. Ferretto might have been forced to give up studying, but he didn't give up his ambition. Aged only 23, he joined forces with a partner and picked up what remained of a small local company that was floundering. This was his first step as an entrepreneur as he resurrected the firm and took only a few years to extend its product range, moving from only providing static shelving for the automotive industry to selling automatic systems.
In the early 1960s, he decided to purchase the 50% of the company owned by his partner, leaving him straddled with debt but at the helm of a firm with enormous potential that would enjoy a great future. He was never worried about the debt and, according to his biography, he even celebrated, opening a bottle of spumante and toasting the future with his family. That bottle can still be seen today - although it now has a date engraved on it to recall that great day - in the form of a lamp that would illuminate Ferretto's office for the rest of his life.
The economic boom in Italy coincided with the growth of what we now call the Ferretto Group. It was a time when, to grasp the plentiful opportunities around, Ferretto rolled up his sleeves and became a true embodiment of that pioneering spirit that made Italy great in those years. He would attend practically any trade fair in Italy. And as the business grew, he would make his way to events across Europe and eventually the globe. In the early 1980s, he had a vision of the enormous potential of automatic warehousing, and decided to embark on this road too.
The Ferretto Group is a superb example of what Made in Italy truly means. The founder, Giancarlo, his son Riccardo, and all the employees past and present that have worked at the company in Vicenza wanted to leave a mark on history. The success of the company, the family and even the local area were built on the backs of their commitment. Today, the Ferretto Group has plants in Italy, India and Bosnia, and - through a partnership agreement between Riccardo Ferretto and a Chinese company - it has even reached China. It is now an established firm on two continents, able to produce in excess of 24,000 tonnes of shelving a year. It has created over 150,000 systems around the world and over 1,700 automated vertical rotating storage systems.
Italy is an undoubted leader in this manufacturing industry. Many SMEs across the country work in this sector, but many of them only provide one step along the supply chain. This often places huge limitations when it comes to scaling up manufacturing. Being only a piece in the puzzle not only restrains quantity, but also innovation, efficiency and even the ability to customize solutions for customers. Pre and post-sales services are increasingly important in building an expanding client portfolio in new areas. The Ferretto Group's capacity to provide integrated solutions that include traditional shelving, automated warehouse systems, automated vertical storage and even the software for managing such equipment makes the Group incredibly competitive and really drives its international growth.
The company grew. And this growth was paralleled by the increasing importance of the Ferretto family to the Vicenza community. The company hired workers and office staff consistently, such that today it employs nearly 300 people at the headquarters alone. Ferretto was clearly a businessman, but he also had a deep-rooted social sense and always emphasised respect for his employees and their families. He was never late paying a salary or wages. Giancarlo Ferretto became the chair of the Italian Industrial Association in 1975, holding the post until 1983 (this was during a time a terrorist unrest in Italy, leading to more than one attempt on his life), and then he headed Confindustria Veneto from 1984 to 1990. Eventually, it came time to pass on the reins of power. Now it was the turn of his son, Riccardo, to stand up. For his part, Giancarlo Ferretto founded the San Bortolo Foundation, which collected funds to buy and donate equipment and resources to healthcare facilities across the region. This commitment has made the Ferretto family far more than a successful business family, and it turned the Ferretto Group into one of the pillars of the local community.
Today, the Ferretto Group remains a landmark for the community, but it has also become a true ally for many Made in Italy brands, including Salvagnini, Golden Lady, Gessi, Poltrona Frau, Parmalat, Max Mara, Contri Spumanti, Ferrero, San Benedetto and Ducati. Such names are, of course, only some of the companies that manage their warehouse storage using solutions from Vicenza. Turnover now exceeds €100 million in a market where growth is measured in double digits annually because of the incredibly powerful impact of Industry 4.0 in an export-driven market. But it is definitely not time for the Group to rest on its laurels. Indeed, it has a new business plan, but it is also working to boost efficiency and launch new products. Suddenly, though, Covid-19 changed the world and so the Group wanted a new partner to make sure it didn't stop moving forward. illimity was the perfect partner who appeared at the ideal time. illimity's capacity for in-depth analysis meant it could work rapidly with the Ferretto Group to arrange funding in next to no time, with a transaction worth €10 million.