Kinnarps Premium Brands

“Times change. Our corporate customers now prefer to buy complete furnishing solutions rather than single items.That affects our way of thinking, and we naturally have every intention of competing at the forefront of this development.”

These words were spoken by Per-Arne Andersson, CEO of Kinnarps Marketing & Sales AB since September 1 – one of the two dominant pillars of the Kinnarps Group, the other one being Kinnarps Production AB. The sales company's operations include a large number of well-stocked showrooms around Sweden and Europe, known as "Furnishing Centres". For some time, these showrooms have also been selling furniture from manufacturers other than Kinnarps. And the parent company is now advancing on this front by incorporating three clearly design-oriented Swedish furniture companies – Materia, Skandiform and Klaessons – that together constitute Kinnarps Premium Brands. The idea is that Kinnarps will gain better overall control of the range displayed in its showrooms, while retaining its breadth and variation.With several distinctive brands up its sleeve, this approach will surely prove successful.

“Many people in the industry were surprised”, explains Lars Bülow, one of the founders of Materia and now CEO of Materia and Klaessons.

“The impression was that we were selling ourselves out. But the reality is quite different. Materia – like Klaessons and Skandiform – will continue to develop its strong and independent brand.The only difference is that we now have greater resources behind us and, thanks to Kinnarps' good sales channels and many showrooms, we have the opportunity to meet new customers, above all in the export markets.

Materia, Klaessons and Skandiform are all furniture companies with a high profile in Sweden. Materia has a prominent design profile - it was founded and managed by interior designers Lars Bülow and Kersti Sandin. Skandiform was founded by Erik Lundin in the 1960s and was subsequently run by his sons Leif and Jarl, the former still active in the company.With a focus on furniture for nursing and retirement homes as well as for business and public areas such as conference rooms and hotel lobbies, the company has also recently worked together with several of Sweden's most outstanding designers, such as architects Claesson Koivisto Rune, Mattias Ljunggren and Jonas Lindvall. Klaessons also mainly sells furniture for corporate and public premises, but has a more elegant, European image.The company's designers include Simo Heikkilä and Yrjö Wiherheimo from Finland, as well as the Danish duo Komplot.

The incorporation of Skandiform into the Kinnarps Group has so far not led to any changes, except that the company can start to focus on how to best develop its image and use the new sales channels, primarily the showrooms.The situation is rather different for Materia and Klaessons, as the two companies headed by Lars Bülow are planning joint offices and factories in Tranås, an ambitious building from an architectural perspective, designed by one of Sweden's leading architects Gert Wingårdh.

“This is a win-win-situation”, explains Per-Arne Andersson. “The changes also give us at Kinnarps access to additional qualified design competence, and we see that as a very positive development.And all three companies can simultaneously make use of our extensive resources.”

“It's a new and challenging situation for us”, says Lars Bülow. “We have the opportunity to develop both Materia and Klaessons to become even stronger design companies, which is an exciting task.We are currently recruiting several new designers to the company, which is a new experience for us.”

Magnus Gårdhed, CEO of Skandiform, also sees the closeness to Kinnarps in exclusively positive terms. Almost 30 percent of our furniture already goes for export”, he says.“We now have the opportunity to increase our international sales considerably. Our current aim is to reach 45 percent in three years time. So Kinnarps' ambition to strengthen its international position coincides with our plans for the future.”

Magnus Gårdhed and Lars Bülow as well as Per- Arne Andersson all stress that the increased cooperation does not mean that the three companies will work only with each other. To the contrary, the companies and their three brands can be expected to compete quite freely for customers – and even with each other:

“We will cooperate where we can, and compete where we must”, they conclude.

INGRID SOMMAR