Select language

Four things to consider when expanding into Italy

Having spent more than 10 years working in the construction sector on a pan-European level, our Italian country head, Maria Luisa Daglia, has extensive experience of delivering design and build projects and complex fit outs across the commercial office and retail sectors.

In this blog, she takes a closer look at some of the things companies choosing to relocate to – or complement their existing portfolio with a base in – one of Italy’s many vibrant cities, must first consider.

  1. It may take time to find the perfect location.

It may sound obvious but finding the right property is key and it could be harder than you might imagine in Italy. From a UK or US retailer’s point of view, for example, there is often a challenge around acquiring a building which has all the elements to accommodate – quite literally – your needs.

International franchises – such as our clients Five Guys, Fred Perry, and JD Sports – have standardised requirements when it comes to outlets, which can be hard to satisfy in the historic streets of Italian cities.

A combination of the right footprint, ceiling heights, stockroom space and compliance with H&S regulations can be hard to come by in a country which has previously retailed through smaller, cosy units. That’s not to say expansion is impossible – quite the opposite.

While it may be a challenge, local knowledge and an expansion manager with the right connections can often help to save you time and money – but be sure to consider such factors when commencing negotiations with a lender.

  1. Don’t discount out-of-town.

While the draw of a city or town location is unavoidable, there are new opportunities to be had away from the hustle and bustle of the centre. Although such areas are yet to truly take hold in Italy – as they have in the UK and USA – there are vast opportunities here.

In Milan, for example, the CityLife shopping district – close to the ‘MiCo’ convention centre – has seen a vast increase in popularity, with office spaces, grocery stores, restaurants and medical centres opening nearby.

What’s more, with the area – which opened in 2016 – already undergoing refurbishment, the site is looking to build a university campus and laboratory, which will require residential space too. So, it’s important not to overlook the sometimes ‘less obvious’ choices.

  1. Respect the relationship between time and budget.

When drafting an expansion plan, a business owner should always consider the marriage between the proposed budget, expectations for the site, and the proposed – or required – timescales.

It’s then the job of the general contractor to ensure such parameters are met, and such third-party firms exist to drive the process and delivery from beginning to end – taking complete responsibility and allowing the client to sleep at night!

The right skills are vital here, as it’s not simply a matter of understanding the appropriate regulations but being in a position to comprehend the complexity of a structure and adapting ‘the plan’ where needed – be it in terms of permits, design, administration, or value engineering, to name just a few.

The budget and schedule has been agreed for a reason – therefore it’s the general contractor’s role to understand and respect that.

  1. Think beyond bricks and mortar.

While finding the correct location and contractor is vital, as is looking at the ‘bigger picture’. Considering everything from accounting and finance to legal is key, because in Italy there are vast amounts of paperwork to complete.

In truth, the country lags others in terms of digital processes for such procedures, but the pandemic has accelerated the shift towards more of an online way of working – although, it won’t happen overnight.

Having someone ‘on the ground’ to help you understand the process is therefore a key consideration when planning and budgeting.

One thing is for certain, Italy is an attractive place in which to expand your firm – and the people working and living here are incredibly passional about what they do. To find out more about how Agilité might be able to help, get in touch today.


We work with:
Tiffany & Co.
BMI Group
Deutsche Börse Group
Fred Perry
Skin Laundry
Five Guys
JD Sports
Kirkland & Ellis LLP
Sollers Consulting
Hauser & Wirth
Saatchi Gallery
Instant Group
Singapore Airlines