Ron Shemesh: ‘We’re on a quest to reinvent luxury retail’

Ron Shemesh is the CEO of Lux Group Holdings, the parent company of the ultra-luxurious Smallbone of Devizes and Mark Wilkinson Furniture brands. He explains to Rebecca Nottingham his plans for the future of these iconic brands and what selling luxury really means in the context of the KBB sector.

Ron Shemesh, CEO, Lux Group Holdings
Ron Shemesh, CEO, Lux Group Holdings

For a company behind some of the KBB sector’s most luxurious and prestigious brands, it’s fitting that the Lux Group’s offices are located in Knightsbridge, a stone’s throw away from one of the World’s most famous luxury stores, Harrods. It’s here we get to meet Lux Group’s CEO Ron Shemesh.

Ron Shemesh is a true entrepreneur. Since the age of 16 he has been identifying needs in the market and creating businesses and solutions to fulfil those needs.  

His biggest achievements to date have been in developing packaging solutions for food and other groceries. These include the invention of certain types of packaging that helps extend the shelf life of food and bags for steaming vegetables. 

So, how exactly does a packaging tycoon end up as the custodian of some of the most iconic kitchen and furniture brands in the world?

Over the last ten years, Shemesh has been primarily involved in luxury real estate in Manhattan and NYC’s billionaire’s row, developing thousands of apartments in collaboration with high-end developer Extell and Smallbone. And, with Lux Group, Shemesh – who describes himself as a visionary – is on a quest to reinvent luxury retail by focusing on experience and immersive environments, with exceptional service and products.

Q: As an entrepreneur can you describe your approach to management?

A: I’m a self-made entrepreneur with a focus on first principles and a keen focus on boiling down a process to its basic elements and empowering my team to self-manage. A big part of my success has been assembling great teams of people. The team and culture of a business are fundamental to the strategy. 

One of the secrets of first principles is that no matter what you do, you must always be thinking about being excellent at what you do. You could be a photographer, you could be an entrepreneur, you could be a kitchen retailer, it doesn’t matter what business you’re in, but if you pay attention to the detail, adhere to the first principles and you lead your team well, it works. Elon Musk is one of those guys who believes in first principles, look at how successful he is. 

Q: What made you want to own the Smallbone of Devizes and Mark Wilkinson brands? 

A: I’d bought and owned a Smallbone kitchen myself, as had my business partner, Gary Barnett. It’s simple, really, we fell in love with the Smallbone and Mark Wilkinson brands. I’ve always had a passion for innovative design and property development and, with Lux Group, I’m able to combine those interests. 

Over 45 years, these brands have revolutionised the world of kitchen design. They transformed what was a humble room into the prestigious focal point of the home.

Charlie Smallbone and Mark Wilkinson figured out how to take the kitchen from a utilitarian necessity to something that captures the heart and mind.

Q: Luxury is a term that is bandied about frequently in the KBB industry. But what do you think it really means? 

A: Luxury is often used casually but it takes more than words to convey a sense for the end user. A confluence of attributes defines luxury brands – most importantly exquisite quality and inno­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­vative design. These factors evoke a desire to be part of an exclusive club. For instance, over its 45-year history, various global heads of state, royalty, the über-wealthy, such as Oprah Winfrey and Elton John, and those who appreciate the finer things in life, have declared Smallbone to be the ultimate luxurious brand of kitchen furniture. 

Q: How much of the luxury market is about creating desirable brands and how much is about quality? 

A: There are different levels of luxury – it’s what you, as an individual, perceive to be luxury. The more money you have, the more your definition of what you need changes. Yes, there’s exorbitant luxury but there’s also this simple understanding of the finer things in life. 

I wasn’t born into a wealthy family, but as I’ve become successful and had more disposable income my needs have changed but also my perception of quality and the products or brands I want to own. 

These brands have transformed what was a humble room into the prestigious focal point of the home.

Ron Shemesh, CEO, Lux Group Holdings

Q: A huge element of your initial plan to reinvent luxury retail involved the multimillion-pound Knightsbridge you had to vacate last year after a dispute with the landlord. Do you have an update on plans for a new showroom? 

A: We still very much think having an immersive, gallery-style space, like Brompton Road, featuring other luxury goods, is the way forward for the brand and are looking to open up another flagship, immersive experience store elsewhere. We are also well on the way to opening a new showroom Wigmore Street. The plans have been drawn up and the signing of the lease is imminent.  

Q: What can independent KBB retailers learn from you about selling luxury goods? 

A: It comes down to experience too. You might not be selling the most luxurious product but, as a retailer, you might be offering luxury in the experience and the service you offer. 

I think the middle market needs to find a balance between what national retailers like Wren are doing and what Smallbone are doing. They have to find their niche and they have to do a great job. There’s room for everyone. 

If you walk up and down Wigmore Street – the heartland of the kitchen sector – you can get a sense of each retailer’s definition of luxury. 

Q: How’s business right now for are Smallbone and Mark Wilkinson Furniture? 

A: The brand is doing moderately well. However, Covid, supply chain issues and high interest rates have had an effect on UK demand. Despite the headwinds, we have a very large international backlog of projects and we have also just completed work on an extremely high-profile, luxurious development – The Old War Office project – in London. We are also in the midst of a major development project in Manhattan so there are lots of positive avenues for us. 

My career


Since the age of 16, Ron Shemesh has been developing innovative packaging solutions and building multimillion-pound businesses worldwide. During that period, he won The Queen’s Award for Enterprise for his ‘pioneering’ steam technology and supplied innovative packaging solutions to some of the biggest names in grocery and retail, including McDonald’s, Burger King Sainsbury’s, Birds Eye, Huggies and Kimberley Clark.

In 2019 he became president and chief value creation officer of, and a major shareholder in, Lux Group Holdings, the parent company of Smallbone of Devizes and Mark Wilkinson Furniture. Using his vast experience of luxury property development, his ambition is to reinvent luxury retail.

Q: What’s your take on the kitchen market? 

A: The high-end kitchen market is vibrant world-wide and demand in the Middle East and USA is quite strong. The kitchen remains as the heart of the home and in this world of social media and mobile phones it has become a family haven. 

As buyers move up the income scale, they tend to covet a well-designed kitchen that also serves as a primary avenue for families to bond and enjoy comforting food. 

The UK market is challenging but for those of us at the upper end of the market, most of our clients are relatively immune to economic difficulties.  Overall, the first quarter of 2024 has been tough, but it will start to let up towards the end of the year. This year will be about sustaining position, but 2025 looks set to be a year for growth for the industry.  

Q: What are you looking to achieve with the Smallbone and Mark Wilkinson brands? 

A: My ambition is to build Lux Group Holdings into a luxury powerhouse, presenting multiple luxury brands each of which represent the very best in terms of design, innovation, technology, craftsmanship and quality.

We’re planning further acquisitions of luxury home offerings so that we can give our clients that end-to-end experience. We have a backlog of projects that exceeds £40 million and that is going to grow.

Can I see it becoming a £200m business? Yes.

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