Luciano Benetton, the eldest of four children was a 20 year old salesman in Treviso in 1955. When he realised that there was a gap in the market for colourful clothes, he sold his younger brother’s bicycle in order to buy his first second-hand knitting machine. His initial small collection of sweaters received a positive response in local stores in the Veneto region and soon after he asked his sister and two younger brothers, Gilberto and Carlo, to join him. In 1965, the entity known as the “Benetton Group” is formed.
The Benettons opened their first store in Belluno in 1968, and the year after in Paris with Luciano as chairman, his brother Gilberto in charge of administration, their younger brother Carlo running production and Giuliana as a chief designer. Soon afterwards Luciano met Flavio Briatore who was working at the Italian stock exchange at the time. Briatore led the company’s assault on the US market, they started with 5 stores in 1979 but reached 800 within 10 years by franchising aggressively.
Clothing lines remain the core business of the company.
- United Colors of Benetton – casual clothing line for men, women and children.
- Sisley – more fashion-orientated.
- Playlife – leisurewear
- Killer Loop – streetwear.
Their products include womenswear, menswear, childrenswear and underwear and they have recently expanded into toiletries, perfumes, exclusive watches and items for the home such as kitchen accessories and baby products.
Product lines vary from region to region; for instance, most stores in North America stock little, if any, of their men’s and children’s collections. To protect franchisees, the company does not sell online, using its websites solely for marketing purposes without listing prices. By the year 2000, the group was selling approximately 160 million garments worldwide each year in over 5000 stores.