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Talks with Roberto Omati, CEO of Expert Italy: Navigating Success, Innovation, and the Future of Retail

From Industry Passion to Phygital Innovation: A CEO’s Journey and Vision for Expert Italy

Join us as we delve into an exclusive interview with Roberto Omati, the visionary CEO of Expert Italy and a prominent member of the Board at Expert International GmbH. Roberto takes us on a captivating journey, sharing insights into his extensive experience in the industry and the remarkable path that led him to his current leadership role.

Take us through the journey that has led you to your current role.

It has been a long journey, always in the same industry, powered by a great passion for the product and from great commercial feeling by Technical Consumer Goods. In the beginning, my engagement was in sales but, a few years later, I had the opportunity to participate at the Auchan start-up in Italy, in the HQ, as responsible for the Technical Consumer Goods purchasing office.
These were eleven fantastic years, in which I received much knowledge, even at the human and professional experiences. This kind of experience allowed me to learn a lot and grow.

I joined Expert Italy, as commercial director of the Group, at the beginning of 2001. At that time the CEO of Expert in Italy was Carlo Alberto Lasagna. Together with him, I continued my professional growth; he has been a great master. In 2014 the board of directors of Expert Italy nominated me as CEO and on May 15th of the same year, I had the honor to be appointed as a board member of Expert International.

What is your overall philosophy for leading an organization such as Expert Italy?

In an associated group like Expert, the managerial model and approach is not hierarchical. The success of leading the group requires a lot of energy and commitment because, to obtain the best results, it is necessary to: aggregate the consensus of the members; create opportunities for participation; exchange their experiences; and celebrate the sense of appartnenance to the Group.

Very professional management contributes to raising the level of authority of the entire management group and making the bond of trust with the members more solid and strong. The CEO is a point of reference for everyone, partners and colleagues, in addition to his professionality, he is able to show his capacity to maintain harmony and good relations between the group members.

How is Expert Italy preparing for the future and for the major industry or company changes? In your opinion, do physical stores still bear importance with the rise of online shopping and eCommerce?

We have studied the consumer’s purchase styles and expectations in the actual and perspective scenarios. We are convinced that the strengths points of our retailer’s DNA, combined with the presence of the Expert store even closer to the consumer, give us a more convenient plus than e-commerce. Human relationships, expert advice, and being sure that each purchase is in line with the real needs of the consumer are much-appreciated factors by customers. E-commerce offers additional convenience, but is not able to do, in a sustainable way, what a local Expert store can do.

We have therefore created new store formats to develop the Expert stores diffusion in the urban proximity. So, all members and affiliated companies in Expert Italy may have the opportunity to develop with lower cost engagements for store plant and management. They may use the stock of local warehouses and the Group’s supply chain services. In addition to this, to increase fast digital convergency, we are now working with all resellers culture, to switch towards more common offer choices in their stores

Expert Link is a new store concept ready to take advantage of Group services capacity, using the integration between physical and digital displays.

Expert Italy has just opened the first Expert Link stores. Can you tell us a little about this new concept?

Expert Link is a new store concept ready to take advantage of Group services capacity, using the integration between physical and digital displays. So, our resellers have less working capital engagement need, and thanks to that they can increase the productivity of the store, and maintain wide specialist assortments in less space. No compromise about the level of consultancy and service by Expert store assistants, because it is identical to the other Expert stores. All mentioned above allow the resellers to have a much lower break-even point, giving them the possibility to open the stores very close to customers, even in small catching areas.

Our vision from the start considered, in modern TCG retail, the requirements to be competitive and show our convenience, pass from less financial costs and from our capacity to use digital instruments and technicality to be relevant and visible outside the store. Much more than past, we always need to focus our care on and measure, first, customer satisfaction and experience.
The business model and operational functioning of Expert Link are particularly suitable for enhancing the Group’s know-how and related services. With this kind of store concept, new entrepreneurs can also be involved, maybe the franchising formula, creating further and new developments for Expert.

The business model and operational functioning of Expert Link are particularly suitable for enhancing the Group’s know-how and related services.

Roberto also sheds light on Expert Italy’s distinctive qualities that set it apart from the competition and the efforts taken to communicate these differences to consumers. He addresses both the strengths and challenges faced by the company, emphasizing the importance of a more homogeneous commercial policy for a successful digital presence.

How does Expert Italy distinguish itself from the competition in this field of business? How are you communicating these differences to consumers? Are there any major threats or opportunities you foresee for this type of business?

Our sayings are: ‘We are experts ourselves’ and ‘Experts always with you’.

In our retail DNA, each shop has the owner and his family members very close to the store assistants and their customers. Those features allow craftsmanship, flexibility, and customization. This is the reason why Expert stores are different from lot of stores competitors. Since 2020 we have adopted advertising spots to advertise these particularity in the major national broadcasters media.
Coming to speak about main weakness but also destinate to became our great threat, let me say that we lack homogeneity commercial offer in the stores’ network and local warehouse too. This is a long history inside the buying group culture where individual and independent commerce approaches by each reseller will prevent the statement of one commercial policy strictly connected to the Expert sign.

In the internet and digital relationships era, the customer is starting to evaluate his purchases outside the store and Expert must have a more homogeneous commercial policy, to be able to increase its relevance in digital contact channels. The challenge is therefore to be a Group in the sales project and not just for purchases. Apply this sales and marketing strategy, calling all resellers to be every day together to sell, it doesn’t mean being standardized or losing entrepreneurship.

As the CEO of Expert Italy, what are your ultimate goals and plans for the future of the company?

Develop the physical Expert stores, adopting the predictions of the Phygital model (reducing working capital plant and operational costs too, increasing the store productivity) and proximity locations and values (warm welcome, human relations, competence, customized service and direct know by people part of the same community).
Drive all retailers and consequently the management of the procurement and warehousing organizations, to contribute to the affirmation of a single Expert commercial policy, with a more homogeneous and therefore more relevant offer in all digital touch points. This will be able to make the group’s running more effective and efficient, both in relations with customers as a first, but also with brand partners that are always more often ready to invest more for sellout projects. I believe that all this will give the Expert Group a successful future in Italy.

Author: Petra Marušić


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