Caixin
Jan 12, 2012 01:07 PM

In a Retailer's Crisis, Hunting for the Real Knockoff

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Four Italian businessmen with hardened expressions anxiously waved passports and passed out name cards at a meeting in Beijing while pleading with reporters to believe their story – and not China Central Television.

They were successful, high-end furniture company executives – Stefano Vagelli, president of Riva; Tino Cappelletti, CEO of Cappelletti; Antonio Munafo, CEO of Jumbo; and Luca Baldi, chairman of Baldi – who had arranged the meeting in November with Caixin reporters.

They'd traveled from Italy to defend their companies' reputations and rally behind a major Chinese customer, the Singapore-based luxury retailer Da Vinci Furniture, whose China operations were teetering toward ruin after months of negative publicity.

Da Vinci's image as a furnisher of high-end homes had been blackened in July by a state-run CCTV investigative news report. The report claimed the retailer defrauded consumers by selling made-in-China knockoffs of quality Italian furniture.

But the four executives said the report itself was a fraud, and that Da Vinci had been seriously slandered. Then, so that no one could attack them as phonies hired by Da Vinci, the Italians pulled out their passports.

Munafo spoke for the group. "I reiterate," he snapped with conviction, "that the Italian brand furniture sold in China by Da Vinci is all designed, manufactured and packaged in Italy for export to China.

"Da Vinci has never manufactured or sold fakes of our furniture."

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