Gifts Today magazine

BHS tabletop group shows double-digit growth

From supplying the Winter Olympics in Sochi, to successful sales collaborations with cutlery and glass manufacturers, the BHS tabletop group manages to increase its sales

The BHS tabletop group, the world market leader for professional porcelain, increased its sales in the past financial year by 10.7 per cent to Euro 91.1 million (preceding year: Euro 82.3 million). And the operating result also showed a positive pattern.

The company, with sites at Selb, Schönwald and Weiden, further increased its operating result from Euro 2.9 million to 3.7 million and therewith by more than 25 per cent. Based upon the data of the “Verband der Keramischen Industrie” (ceramic industry association), BHS saw a much better pattern than the industry as a whole and increased its market share by quite a wide margin.

This success is embodied by some exciting references. For example, BHS supplied the Confederations Cup in Brazil with porcelain and Bauscher, Schönwald and Tafelstern were also found at the Winter Olympics in Sochi. Quite a number of luxury hotels have opted for quality china from Upper Franconia and the Upper Palatinate.

In addition, business in the US saw a disproportionally good market development. CEO Christian Strootmann expects to see further momentum there, given BHS’s collaboration with the Hepp and WMF Hotel cutlery brands. Also in the US, and in Canada and the Caribbean, BHS sells high-quality glass produced by the Italian manufacturer Luigi Bormioli. “We reinforced our global sales power and our position as a provider of integrated tabletop and logistics solutions. Given our service packages and supply dependability, the international catering sector increasingly views us as a provider for all issues concerning the set table,“ Strootmann said. He wants to further intensify the company’s sales expansion. In 2013, in a difficult market environment, BHS’s strategy had once again turned out to be right and reliable: “In a market showing excess capacities and cut-throat price competition, our 200-year-young company successfully developed its robust business model further.“

In order to expand its position as the technology leader in the international porcelain industry, in 2013 BHS invested more than Euro 5 million, just as it had in the year before. These investments flowed primarily into production automation, IT systems and resource-friendly measures. The Schönwald-and Weiden-based production with robots and the latest firing technology is considered the most modern porcelain production technology worldwide. In Weiden, the company commissioned a new production-line for mugs, pushing the automation of production by using more robots.

In terms of environmental and energy management, BHS also plays an internationally pioneering role, as it is the first porcelain-production company worldwide to have been certified in accordance with the strict European DIN EN ISO 14001 and 50001 standards in both areas.

For its Tafelstern brand, the company developed a new online shop and launched it at the end of 2013. This smart information platform and shop is setting standards in the business-customer segment: It sort of thinks for you, provides customers with tailor-made suggestions, provides maximum transparency and information, documents prices as well as previous orders and delivery dates – a huge advantage for customers from the hotel, catering and large-scale catering segments. The multi-channel sales strategy is to be expanded over the next few years.

BHS is currently expanding its capacities at its Schönwald site. In spring, a new, additional four-fold high-pressure casting machine will be commissioned which can produce another 700,000 items of special crockery.

BHS is also working upon its own energy supply. The company’s own CHP plant has supplied the decoration and logistics centre at Selb with electricity and heat since December 2013. The generator also produces electricity fed into the public grid. Against the backdrop of an uncertain development of energy costs, the company wants to check if other sites should also be equipped with CHPs if this pilot plant turns out to be economically viable.

The BHS brand Bauscher is going to present a global first at the forthcoming Internorga, the leading catering and food service trade fair, in Hamburg in March. “The newly developed product line, based upon an innovative porcelain body, once again documents that we always re-invent ourselves. This permanent readiness to change, on the part of both the company and its staff, is one of the factor of our success, especially now when the market comprises more and more international brands and low-budget providers. This is how we prove that a traditional company can be profitable on a sustained basis even in a difficult sector and in a high-wage country like Germany,“ Strootmann said. The company immensely benefited from its skilled workers and their ideas. Within the framework of the company’s structured CIP, every member of staff on average submits one suggestion per year of how to improve processes and the products’ quality and save on resources. At the same time, in FY 2013, 19 commercial and technical apprenticeships were created, so that BHS has now 51 apprentices. As of December 31, 2013, the company employed 1,103 people (preceding year: 1,054).

“All the good news notwithstanding, in some sales markets the situation remains difficult. Countries in Southern and Eastern Europe are still suffering from the impact of the economic and financial crisis of 2008/2009 and the more recent euro and fiscal crisis. This also affects private consumption and travel,” Strootmann said. But the new sales structures in North America and successes in other markets had more than offset the losses in Southern Europe: “We see ourselves as modern provider of solutions, as a service provider for service providers, and not so much as a porcelain manufacturer in a sector that is under immense international price and competitive pressure. Therefore, we not only have to provide quality, functionality and a first-class design but also advanced logistics and an excellent service.”

BHS’s financial and liquidity situation is still sound; its equity ratio stands at 40 per cent (preceding year: 38.3%). The company thus is well prepared for further investments into markets and processes. For this financial year, Strootmann was optimistic and forecast another slight increase in sales and the operating result. The new year had started promising, he said; the number of BHS’s orders on hand was even higher than in the previous year, which had already been very gratifying at any rate.

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