Gucci set to restart work making prototypes at Italian site

Fashion brand says just 10 per cent of employees at its ArtLab site near Florence will return from Monday

TOKYO, JAPAN - APRIL 08: A Gucci store is seen with their products emptied out due to being closed temporarily for the time being after a state of emergency was announced, on April 08, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan. Japan's Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, has announced that the government intends to declare a state of emergency that will cover 7 of Japans 47 prefectures, including Tokyo and Osaka, as the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak continues to spread in the country. The move will allow affected prefectures to take measures including expropriating private land and buildings and requisitioning medical supplies and food from companies that refuse to sell them.  (Photo by Christopher Jue/Getty Images)

Fashion powerhouse Gucci plans to reopen prototype activities at one of its main Italian sites next week after reaching a deal with unions on health and safety measures for workers, it said on Saturday.

Most businesses and production sites have been shut across Italy under a lockdown imposed by the government in March due to the coronavirus emergency.

Tough restrictions on movement and the closure of many economic activities will remain in place until at least May 3, but there is not yet any clear plan over to what extent, or how gradually, they will then be relaxed.

Gucci, one of the world's biggest luxury labels by sales, said in a statement a small group of workers will resume making prototypes for leather goods and shoe designs at its ArtLab site near Florence from April 20.

A spokesman said around 10 per cent of the site's 1,000-strong workforce will go back to work at this stage.

"This will allow us to lay the foundations for a wider reopening of our manufacturing sites and of the Made in Italy production chain once it will be permitted," Gucci's chairman and chief executive Marco Bizzarri said in a statement.

Research and development are among the activities allowed by the government during the lockdown.

The safety measures agreed with unions in view of the partial reopening include staggering shifts, testing workers' temperatures, providing face masks and gloves as well as giving employees a company car if they don't have their own.

Italy's fashion leaders this week called on the government to allow them to resume some production before the end of April, warning that a prolonged lockdown risked irreparably damaging the sector.

Gucci is owned by French luxury goods giant Kering, which said last month it expected like-for-like sales to fall by around 15 per cent in the first three months of 2020 as the coronavirus outbreak forced it to close stores first in China and then in Europe and the United States.

Kering will publish first-quarter revenues on April 21.