Barbara Borra: “Pessimism is a self-fulfilling prophecy”
It’s been a year since we last spoke to Barbara Borra, president of Franke Home Solutions, as the kbbreview interview in our January 2023 issue. So, one year on, George Dean asks what’s changed at Franke, and has the company lived up to the promises she set out at the time?
Q: A year ago, you said that Franke’s primary goal was to grow its presence in markets where you felt it had become less prominent, such as the UK. Is that still your goal a year on?
A: Normally, I am consistently boring [she laughs], because I change my mind sometimes, but not too often. In a growing market where we have a significant market share, you have to introduce new products, or else you resort to things like starting price wars. So, in a market where we are under-indexed, of course we still want to grow. In particular, we are dependant today on roughly 70% of our business from Europe. So our challenge has been to grow outside of the European continent. We moved the needle this year, because countries outside of Europe have suffered less from market contraction, but we certainly are not at the end of our journey.
Q: When kbbreview last spoke to you, Franke had not long re-entered the appliance sector with the Mythos range. What’s the reception been like to that?
A: The reception has been very good for us! Of course, that contraction of the market hit us, so our expectation of the results fell short slightly. But across the market, and in the UK as well, our contraction was much more moderated than in the wider market, so we’ve been able to successfully defend our fortress.
Q: You previously warned about the dangers of pessimism when times are tough. What’s your advice to retailers or suppliers who are struggling at the moment?
A: Pessimism doesn’t bring you anything – It’s not productive. If we look back to the Reagan years around the end of the 80s, the underlying economy of the US and Germany was the same. The difference was that that Reagan was saying “today’s pink and tomorrow’s pinker”, and in Germany, Schröder was saying “today’s bad and tomorrow will be worse”. The US saw some of its best economic years ever, and Germany ended up in a terrible recession. So, I believe pessimism is a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’m convinced that we cannot worry about things we can’t control.
I control with whom I do business, with how many people I do business, and what product I put on the market, and I think there is quite a lot of value you can extract in making the right choices within these three dimensions. We have been sharpening our commercial approach these last few years, but this year it was very important to keep the key relationship with retail partners alive and kicking, making sure they grow stronger, and really sustaining them.
Q: Following the launch of your Mythos, Maris and Smart ranges in 2023, what’s next for the Franke Home Solutions brand?
A: The product that we are really counting on is the multi-functional tap. We call it a tap, but in reality it’s an appliance. You have a refrigerator to produce the chill, you have a boiler to produce the hot water, and you have a CO2 cartridge to supply the sparkling water, so it’s a complex animal. It’s a really compelling product that adds significant value for the consumer.
Q: Finally, what do you believe is the biggest opportunity for growth for UK retailers this year?
A: For retailers, I think making sure they invest in an innovative and distinctive product is always their safest bet because it helps to avoid price competition. Again, I have lots of expectations for the new multifunctional tap because there’s still a relatively low level of penetration within the UK, which is one of our key markets. Of course, I also think retailers should be trying to push consumers towards those products that have a proven dimension of cost and energy saving.