What good is a CFO with solid supply chain credentials?

That’s exactly what you need if you’re a company that, like fashion retailer Benetton, finds itself faltering, described by one analyst as unable to “tap into trendiness” while competitors’ pushed products to market on well-greased supply chains.

An interesting article from CFO Europe Magazine tells how Emilio Foà, the formerly of Burberry, is helping to turn Benetton around.

At Benetton, much of Foà’s attention focuses on such supply chain issues as accelerating lead times and moving from local (Italian) suppliers to offshore facilities and outsourcers in low-cost countries.

But that second change is not without its challenges. “You definitely have benefits in terms of lower costs and being closer to markets, but by the same token you are buying higher risk—country risk and currency risk,” says Foà. “And you are getting into a more complex and more costly flow of merchandise around the world.”

Foà developed his supply chain skills at Burberry as head of Project Atlas, a five-year IT and supply chain transformation effort. Even so, Foa says, “I'm not a supply-chain expert by any means…. But I do have the right level of knowledge to raise the right questions.”

Things seem to be heading in the right direction. Last week, Benetton reorted a 9 percent rise in first-quarter core profit.

Read the article, too, for the sidebar in which Foà draws a useful distinction between financial data and financial information.

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