Giovanni Anzani, CEO of high-end Italian furniture and kitchen designer and manufacturer Poliform, explains the global success of the company that is now in 90 countries and has 75 monobrand stores. Plus, with its new showroom opening on Madison Avenue in September, Poliform is contributing to the emergence of New York’s up-and-coming design district.
Could you please share with us some key facts and figures regarding Poliform’s performance?
The success we had in 2015, which resulted in a 20% revenue increase, is a sign that tells us to continue down this road. Certain markets, such as in the US, have recorded significant increases in sales. Also thanks to the appreciation of the US dollar, we were able to increase our sales by 78%.
After years of a stagnant real estate market, we have been able to build in New York, Miami, and even Los Angeles, where we are the market leader when it comes to wardrobes, kitchens, and bathrooms. Our figures demonstrate that we have grown increasingly globalized. We do business in 90 countries with 75 ‘monobrand’ stores ranging from 300 to 1,400 square meters of exhibition space, where people may personally touch our high-quality products.
Our highly versatile and tailor-made products allow us to have a wide range of products. Another great advantage for us is that we are able to supply kitchens for low prices, where our customers do not get the feeling of a mass-made product.
We have to follow up on our various products; really all that needs to happen is to get the word out and advertise them. Hence why we heavily invested in the Poliform Lab. In fact, last year we had over 6,600 visitors who got to personally see and touch our products. They were able to see the quality and elegance of our products.
Speaking of the Poliform Lab, what are your main investments in R&D and innovation?
Italian culture is rich and unique, particularly when you think back to the Renaissance period and the great artists that dominated that period, such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Raffaello and Michelangelo, who were great artists and sculptors. Italians are so surrounded by such beauty that it is simply unthinkable for us to create ugly things.
We have impressive products that are truly high quality – the only thing that we were missing was the communication aspect of the business. We resolved this issue with hefty investments in labs, such as the Poliform Lab, where a lot of the training and development activities take place. Additionally, we set up a photography room and a space exclusively dedicated to styling. Everything we need and the client needs is right there.
We have 3,500 meters worth of showrooms to illustrate our pieces. The thousands of people who visit our Poliform Lab every year can closely observe and touch the entirety of our merchandise. It was a costly investment, but without a doubt a winning one. Clients typically visit us with various other staff members, which normally include their architects and other support staff. The results are truly incredible.
I found a very interesting quote from one of your recent interviews: “Today it is crucial to communicate not only the product, but also the company’s brand. In these years of strong expansion in markets outside of Europe, our goal has always been not to adapt to the taste of the local population, but to bring our lifestyle and culture of Made in Italy.” What is your personal interpretation of Made in Italy?
Poliform is strongly connected to Milan, which is a renowned design capital and has helped us to expand worldwide ever since we opened our first shop in 1937. The 80s brought a strong Eastern-Europe expansion; while during the 90s we grew across the world – a trend that continued in the last decade as we reached our current peak of 80 countries.
When it comes to selling products, Poliform also sells its culture and tradition. We even go further than the basic designs and progressively innovate and improve them. Our Italian furniture has consistently impressed audiences worldwide at Salone del Mobile in Milan. Statistics show that 67% of visitors to Milan come from abroad, which tells you the scale and how globalized this event is.
The fact that Italy has managed to retain this ‘excellence factor’ has certainly boosted our company. This is not limited to furniture. Made in Italy includes the famous Italian lifestyle, food, decorations, fashion and design. The strong image of Made in Italy has aided our expansion in China, where we currently have eight showrooms. I would argue that we are great Made in Italy ambassadors.
How does Poliform strike a balance between custom design and industrial vocation?
Our highly skilled collaborators manage to come up with extremely classy and timeless designs. We are on a continuous search for innovative materials that when combined with the skills of our artists, they create truly exceptional designs. The details are absolutely essential. Our culture is based on the concept of doing things well that are beautiful, durable, and innovative.
What is the role of the US market in Poliform’s future growth strategy?
The American market is of strategic importance for us. Increasing our presence in the American market is certainly one of our major goals. Our American branch is currently managed by my daughter, Laura, and it has about 50 employees. We are present in New York with a 1,600-meter design building; in Miami with 1,200 meters, and Los Angeles with 1,400 meters.
In September we will open our Madison showroom with a 1,200-meter space. Madison Avenue is quickly becoming a design district, which will work out very well for us. We even have subsidiaries spread out across other states, for instance in Washington D.C., San Francisco (California), and Houston (Texas).
One of the challenges we have come across in the US is that in a large number of cases, the houses already include kitchens and walk-in closets; very different from Italy. The housing bubble has also been an issue, but luckily we managed to get through the crisis as well with the help of a strong dollar in 2014-2015.
As previously mentioned, you said that Poliform is one of the ambassadors of ‘Made in Italy’ abroad. What do you think can be done to align the perception of the country abroad with the image of Italy’s excellences?
We can start by placing a limit on Italian politicians, in terms of years served in office. We need a change in mentality. Unfortunately, Italy tends to tell two different stories, namely one belonging to the public and the other to the private sector. We have truly a fantastic country, which has been mismanaged for decades.
Prime Minister Renzi needs to assemble the “winning team” and solve some of these issues that plague our great country. Our wealth isn’t only monetary – Italians that go abroad usually become great leaders and get top level positions all around the world. This demonstrates that Italians are particularly skilled and intelligent.
I really believe in Italy’s potential. On a more personal note, after 46 years in business, I still have the same energy and the same inner drive to get things done and expand. A lot of Italians think this way and have a mentality quite similar to mine; I believe we can do it.