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Distribution in the name of innovation

Berliner Fliesenmarkt focuses on consultancy and product quality

by Alessandra Ferretti

Jörg Wigger, you are manager and partner at Berliner Fliesenmarkt: will you briefly illustrate the story of the company?
Berliner Fliesenmarkt was founded in 1953 by Peter Stocklöw. It was the postwar period, demand for goods was high, and tile stoves were being produced. Ceramics was starting to be seen as a natural material, easy to clean. Since then the company has grown, turning from a tile distributor into one of the main ceramic stores in Berlin, with a wide selection of products.

Jörg Wigger, amministratore delegato di Berliner Fliesenmarkt

Jörg Wigger

What does the company look like today?
The company, today as in the past, mainly focuses on the ceramic sector. It has been the first to import tiles from Spain and Italy. The showroom and warehouse share a single space. The 25 employees are always ready to offer tailor-made consultancy to our clientele. That means, for instance, that even our accountant, if necessary, may take part in the sales. Total turnover amounts to 4-5 million euros, all generated by trading tiles of all kinds: outdoor and indoor tiles, tile flooring and wall coverings.

How did the company develop, and how is it conceived today?
Berliner Fliesenmarkt started out as a wholesale company but soon converted into a retail store. The company so developed that it is now the main reference point in Berlin for tile retailing, with almost total availability in the warehouse. It is not by chance that today we are best known for innovation and our audacity to launch new trends. The company sees itself indeed as a trendsetter, and not as a mere traditional distributor of coating materials.

BerlinerFliesenmarkt

What is your clientele?
Our clientele is mostly made up of private customers (60%). As for the rest, we also acknowledge installers, retailers, and architects.

What is the intended use of the ceramics you sell?
We provide indoor and outdoor tiling, the latter are frost resistant.

What does the store look like?
We have large premises in the City, in West Berlin, with an exhibition area of over 2,000 square metres, a large parking space and  easy connection to the motorway.

BerlinerFliesenmarktShowroom

How do you think the clientele has changed compared to the past, and what is therefore your approach to customers?
Today companies compete to get themselves customers far more than they used to. Advisory tends to be more detailed and tailor-made; on the other hand, customers expect ready-made solutions. In the past there was not as much transparency as there is today. Today transparency is secured by the internet, but internet has its pros and cons. It often is the case that customers come to the store for a consultancy, and then buy the product online. Further efforts are needed to avoid this: for instance manufacturers could make products not available to customers, thus avoiding the comparison on the net.
Also, while in the past people used to install tiles themselves, today they ask for a qualified installer.
A wide product range to show to customers is also fundamental.

BerlinerFliesenmarktShowroom2

What kind of customers are Berliners today?
Not many people in Berlin can afford to remodel their bathrooms. The middle class is basically split in two. What we can say is that Berlin is currently taking advantage of all foreign investors.

What do you expect from the Italian ceramic products you buy?
Both Italian design and product should come from Italy, that is what I expect. Unfortunately several firms have started to focus on mass production and their products risk becoming not as competitive as they used to. The future of all the products, which remain difficult to copy, because of their high level of creativity and uniqueness, relies on Italian manufacturing companies.
And what should Italian companies do, or what could they do to reach a larger audience in Germany?
First, packaging weight could be reduced considering the weight a single man can stand and lift by himself (some package weigh up to 40 kg).
Second, companies should go back to the level of creativity and uniqueness they used to have 15 years ago. This applies even more so to traditional bathrooms.
Furthermore, I would suggest that products displayed at Cersaie be immediately available, otherwise we risk competitors bring them out on the market before Italian manufacturers.
Last, products should always be available.

How is the German real estate market going?
Today there is a boom in the construction industry. People now buy the apartments they used to rent. As a consequence, there is a greater need for investments and, therefore, tiles.