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Rosi Elli, president of Gruppo Feg: furniture with a common character
She is at the helm of the group borne out of the company founded in 1948 by Egidio and Ambrogio Elli. Rosi Elli is the President of Gruppo Feg, one of the leading Italian manufacturers of mid-range and high-end furnishing products, with an annual turnover of around 40 million euros, 200 employees and a 20% export quota. Founded as a craft-base enterprise, Gruppo Feg has assumed an industrial dimension in the Sixties when it started producing furniture in a series. In the last 20 years it expanded its product range by taking control of Salvarani, one of the historic brands of Italian kitchen makers.
Your company offers furnishing solutions for every domestic environment, from the kitchen to the rest of the house. So to what extent is it strategic for Gruppo Feg to be preside all furnishing niches in a household?
The extent of our product range allows us to maximise the emphasise the attractiveness of a common character in furniture. Therefore Gruppo Feg is able to recreate a concept of a common atmosphere, avoiding a feeling of differentiation between one room to the other. Besides, the modern way of conceiving a house is to open up the kitchen, with no separation between spaces. Placing furnishings in a coherent context, furthermore, gives added value to each item (tables, kitchen units, sofas, beds).
Is individuality the key?
The customisation that we offer is twofold: on one level, we take into account the size and the characteristics of the living area; on the other, we use special materials for our ‘tranciati’ – the slabs of wood with which furniture is finished – such as ebony, walnut and teak, which are usually not employed on an industrial basis. Our particular business model allows us to work on our ‘tranciati’ on an order by order basis: the added value consists in being able to reproduce the original veneer of wood on our furniture, something that is impossible for our competitors that manufacture on an industrial basis. Our craft-based know-how in the use of wood allows us to offer our clients a completely different effect. Thanks to the experience of our craftsmen we can assemble wood a proper way, working out a different composition technique for every single order.
Sounds like it is not easy to realize something like this outside Italy, right?
I would say it is impossible: only in Brianza (a region in Lombardy which has traditionally been the heartland of a flourishing furniture industry and where Gruppo Feg is also based) we can work in this way. The centuries-old wood culture of our workforce is one of the strong points of our firm. The skill and insight of our craftsmen is our best weapon against competitors from low-wage countries.
Does handling orders on a customised basis complicate the logistics for managing your stocks?
On the contrary, warehouse management becomes easier. Raw materials are on hand when the order comes in and once the client has decided which kind of wood he prefers, we can start matching ‘tranciati’ to the frame. Clearly, the level of personalisation in the manufacturing process has an impact on delivery times, which can run to six to eight weeks. But those who expect quality are prepared to wait longer.
How easy is it to express to your client base the added value of a craft-based and personalised manufacturing process, which, however, entails a lengthening of delivery times?
You should avoid into the trap of thinking that the only distinguishing characteristic of Gruppo Feg’s products is the craftsmanship involved in their manufacturing. Our firm is able to offer a mix, which to some extent is unique, between a personalised finish and an industrial manufacturing process. This, in fact, is the perfect balance that protects us from those competitors that simply copy our furnishing solutions.
Winning over clients, however, also requires a comprehensive structure of customer care, before, during and after the sale. How are your after-sales services organised?
They are handled directly by us or by a network of dealers, which is indispensable: a quality product sold by quality retailer is by itself a guarantee.
How much leeway is there for innovation within Gruppo Feg?
A lot. Salvarani has always distinguished for the originality of its products. Besides, Salvarani has made a name for itself in the kitchen sector by introducing some of the most important innovations in the industry, such as the modular kitchen finished with laminated plastics in the Sixties and, later when it launched ‘Top Firon’, which has been patented all over the world. In the following decades the firm continued to innovate, both in terms of style as well as technology. In more recent times the drive to find new solutions has moved on a more formal level, by concentrating, for example, on appliances with an emphasis on functionality and the objective to make a better use of space. Or by working out new design features, hiding appliances behind cabinets with sliding doors: an ideal solution when an open plan kitchen is fitted in a large hall. In the near future, anyhow, we will concentrate again on the ‘hardware’: I can’t give out details, but I can say that we are working on important innovations from a technological point of view.
What are your prime markets?
We consider Europe to be an extension of Italy. With the EU, Spain is certainly one the markets where our presence is strongest. At the same time we betting a lot on emerging markets, from Russia where we have been operating for years, to the Middle East, especially Dubai, and on the Central and South Eastern Asian markets, from India to Taiwan, including Korea. We have great expectations, for example, from India. In America, in the North (US) as well as in the South (Argentina) we prefer the building & contract approach: entering with a retail network would confine us to the replacement market. In the US or in Argentina the real estate market offers houses with fully fitted kitchens, and Italy has a strong card to play in the higher end of the sector, thanks to the quality of our design which is internationally recognised.