Best Managed Companies

Artitalia Group: Canada’s Best Managed Companies 2019

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Canada’s Best Managed Companies

Artitalia Group’s client list reads like the directory at your local mall: Wal-Mart, SportChek, Sephora, Moores and Forever 21. It also works with huge U.S. retailers like Target, Macy’s and JCPenney. And don’t forget the whopper it landed in 2018: Amazon. 

The Montreal-based company is in the business of helping retailers. It designs, manufactures and installs custom display fixtures, warehouse carts and postal equipment used by both brick-and-mortar and e-commerce retailers. It also offers custom furniture for restaurant and hotel chains. 

The company was founded in 1976 by four brothers from Italy in a 1,650-sq.-foot warehouse. Today, CEO Tony Vardaro, his two brothers and their father (one of the original founders) own the company. It owns a million square feet of warehouse and manufacturing space and has offices in New Jersey and Xiamen, China. Last year alone, Artitalia’s revenue grew 45%. 

The company’s recent success has come largely from its ability to attract clients whose fortunes are aided—not harmed—by online shopping. Chains like Target have found that customers are as loyal as ever to the retail brand, but not necessarily the in-store experience. “A lot of retailers have had a bad time recently because of e-commerce,” says Vardaro. “We were fortunate enough to be dealing with retailers that grew so much on their e-commerce sites.”

For example, as chains have had to alter their operations to be friendlier to online purchases—in some cases, renaming stores as “fulfillment centres”—Artitalia was there to provide things like warehouse fixtures. “Not only do we design for our clients’ needs,” says Vardaro, “but we’re also good at seeing what’s going on in the industry and coming up with products that will solve potential problems.”

One solution is the Addobox, an automated parcel locker designed and manufactured by Artitalia. Installed outside stores and accessed using a PIN or QR code, the Addobox gives shoppers the ability to pick up deliveries any time while avoiding theft of parcels left on the steps or porches of their homes. If the store is open, customers can try on a product, exchange it if needed and maybe pick up dinner in the grocery aisles. 

Another is the Audimac, a merchandising fixture designed for controlled substances. Many Canadian provinces prohibit the display of tobacco products in convenience stores. It can take cashiers minutes to find a specific brand; while his or her back is turned to hunt for a pack, lineups and theft increase. At a typical corner store, employees can spend up to 21 hours per week inventorying cigarettes. 

Audimac replaces a wall of flaps with digital display space that stores can use to advertise in-store products. A Samsung tablet connected to the system allows the clerk to dispense a pack in as little as two seconds without turning around. The locked machine guards against theft and automatically tallies inventory. Vardaro says the company is aggressively marketing the product in 2019. Convenience store chain Circle K is already using the Audimac in its Quebec stores.

Artitalia’s focus on solving its clients’ problems before they see them is clearly worth the effort; company profits were up five per cent in 2018.

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