David Nicholls, sales and marketing director for the Dornbracht and Alape brands in the UK and Ireland (pictured), admitted that the brands were “under pressure” in the UK like all its competitors and that 2019 looked like it was going to be a “tough” year.
Speaking to kbbreview at the family-owned bathroom group’s stand at ISH 2019 in Frankfurt earlier this week, Nicholls said that while the premium brand was “holding up globally”, in the UK he admitted that the market for the brands had been slower since the referendum vote in 2016.
He also said that the rise in property taxes over the past few years, including stamp duty for second homes, had depressed overseas property investment in high-end hotspots in London and the surrounding areas and that this was also affecting demand.
Despite the sober mood, the Dornbracht stand was awash with colour as the firm presented a range of new finishes, including pale green and pink, and a fresh slimline design concept for its Meta brassware collection.
On the topic of Brexit, Nicholls, who has been in his post since September 2016, said: “I think it is a challenge for everybody, considering all the things that may or may not happen.
“As an organisation, we are working on all logistical possibilities to endeavour to keep our products freely available for the consumers via our retailers when required.”
He told kbbreview that the group did not hold product in the UK, but reassured dealers, of which he said there are about 400, that Dornbracht was “as prepared for Brexit as it can be” and suggested that, while some of their retailers had increased inventory, most hadn’t.
“It’s all about trying to understand what’s really going to happen. It’s difficult to plan when you don’t know what the outcome is going to be.”
He said there had been extensive consultation with customers about managing expectations in a worst-case scenario of port disruption, as well as detailed discussions with logistics partners, although he would not go into details.
“In the UK, we are heading for a very tough year. Residential developments in our end of the market have slowed down as property developers re-evaluate how much money they are prepared to invest.”
During the show, the world’s largest event for the water, energy and sanitation industries, the Dornbracht group, founded in 1950, took the opportunity to introduce the fourth generation of the family-owned business to the market, suggesting that structured succession planning is in place.
Matthias and Andreas Dornbracht’s two sons, Konstantin and Alexander, will assume initial responsibility in managerial positions.
“We were both extremely lucky to experience a smooth transition from the second to the third generation,” Andreas and Matthias said.
“Our father was extremely conscientious and started the whole process early on, first ensuring that we had the necessary qualifications and then letting us get to know the company”, they explained.
“This experience showed us that the transfer of entrepreneurial responsibility is a process that takes several years, which makes us all the happier that the fourth generation is already interested in actively participating in the company.”
Konstantin is 32 years old and completed his Bachelor of Engineering training in 2012. Since 2017, he has worked at the Iserlohn headquarters of the family company, firstly as plating shop manager and then as purchasing manager.
He has held his current position of responsibility for the entire operations division since March 1. Integral process control for production at the Iserlohn site is his focus.
Alexander, 33, has a Bachelor of Science in Customer Relationship Management and Marketing and an MBA in International Marketing and Supply Chain Management from the University of San Diego. He has worked for Dornbracht since September last year as vice-president, marketing, in the Dornbracht Americas branch office in Atlanta and will focus on the digitalisation process in the Dornbracht group and performance marketing.
The firm said that the young brothers will eventually take over as managing directors, while Andreas and Matthias will stay in the business, working on pet projects and special assignments.