Report by Rodney FITCH
Chairman and chief executive officer
esults from the FITCH network in 2007 were rather like the proverbial curate's egg – that's to say, good in parts. We have had a very mixed year of highs and lows, together with our share of triumphs and setbacks.
- After our best-ever year in 2006, our 2007 financial performance was disappointing, with flat revenues and decreased profitability. This was due to lower than expected performance in two of our major studios and increased costs across parts of the FITCH network.
A considerable amount of these costs resulted from our decision to make investments in our business; in people, in clients, in studio space, in new locations. Although costly, I am convinced these investments will prove important in underpinning our future success.
- The quality of our creative work continues to be exemplary – and acknowledged as such by our peers. In 2007 they honoured us with more awards than ever before, notable amongst which were three golds at the IVCA for FITCHLive's digital campaign, The Army on Everest, and the accolade of Best International Retail Interior for Courts in Singapore.
- We are moving steadily into emerging markets. Our presence in India, where we have grown to 25 people in Mumbai and Delhi, has attracted significant blue-chip clients in the growing organised retail sector, including Reliance, Tata, Godrej and Bharti Wal-Mart.
Equally exciting has been our work for the Russian retail market with clients such as Sistema, Detskymir and Incom; while in China we have started work for Unilever, P&G and BAT. During 2008 we will work hard to grow our activities in these markets while actively exploring opportunities to establish a FITCH presence in Brazil and elsewhere in South America.
- The Middle East is proving another positive emerging market for FITCH. As well as a studio in Doha, we are now in Kuwait and Dubai, where, having taken a majority interest in one of the leading brand consultancies, GSCS, FITCH is now one of the strongest design networks in the Gulf, with major projects for clients that include Dubai Holding Group, The Government of the UAE and Awan Newspapers.
- Senior appointments during the year included Eric Duchamp as MD of our Peclers Paris studio; Paul Cowan who merged his Clever Media business with FITCHLive and took on the role of MD in the London studio; and Tony LoGrande as MD of our New York studio.
As well as investing in people, we also invested in better studio and operational space in Paris, London, Singapore and, most notably, in Phoenix, where our new studio received many plaudits for its 'green' and 'sustainable' construction and fit-out.
- All this and much more made for a challenging year. But perhaps above all else in 2007 we challenged our vision to be the world's leading international multi-disciplinary design firm. In this goal we are truly winning. At year end, FITCH people represented 47 nationalities, speaking 31 languages.
From our studios in 11 countries we undertook projects in 53 countries. This wonderful mix of disciplines, locations and people creates a truly global studio and makes for a quite unique design firm, one that really does have the experience and attitude, resources and international reach, to partner with any local or global client.
- Managing these diverse cultures to deliver innovative and appropriate solutions for our broad mix of projects and clients is not easy, but it is the future. So, while watching the world shrink and centres of influence shift, this world view underpins our optimism. Our goals for 2008 are clear; be better at everything and best at most things. Our year has started well and we look to Fabergé rather than the curate for next year's egg!