Decoceram, unity is strength
Date:July 21, 2016
by Simona Forlani
Growth, courage, imagination: they are the words that can best summarize the history of Decoceram, the French company that in just a few years has turned into a giant ceramic supplier. We have asked Christophe Callon, the company’s general director, to tell us about the story of the firm and its future prospects.
Mr Callon, what have been the main stages of Decoceram’s development?
Our company was created after a series of mergers between three firms previously covering the whole of France: the region of Rhône-Alpes (Depok Service Carrelages), Ile de France, North, Centre and Normandy (Boch Freres) and South-East (Thuon). At the beginning, in 2011, Decoceram was a network of agencies; today is a sole business with different corporate names. Next step, which we count to reach in two or three years, will be the creation of a single corporate name.
How is Decoceram structured today?
We currently employ 480 people, 90% of them in customer related positions, across 58 retail stores. 65% of the company total turnover comes from tiles.
What products and materials can be found in your stores?
We sell tiles, tile installation products, natural stoneware, sanitaryware. 80% of the company total turnover comes from direct sale to professionals: craftsmen, building contractors, and large chain stores (supermarkets, hotels, restaurants, etc).
What are your products meant for?
We sell materials both for indoors and outdoors, to private people as well as trade partners, ect.
Let’s now take a close look at your retail stores. What are their main features?
They have a very large showroom enabling private customers to freely choose their tiles. There are also several great quantities of objects set in an urban modern kind of setting.
How would you say customers’ needs and requirements have changed over time, especially in the light of the economic crisis?
Professionals have changed their approach towards their job, finding it difficult now to predict when construction sites will start and if they will have any clients at all. Hence all work becomes last minute work. This on the other hand triggers a certain degree of flexibility and reactivity, and helps improving logistics and warehouse keeping. For everyone, be them private customers or operators, price is of utmost importance. If two products are equivalent in quality and beauty but differ in price by 20%, clients will not go for the more expensive of the two. And it doesn’t matter what brand it is. The same is true for architects, real estate agents, ect.
What features do you look for in Italian ceramics?
We look for quality, innovation, but most of all we look for something different and unique. Every Italian firm should rethink itself in terms of competition, trying to understand where it is that it can be more competitive than other firms: what competitive advantage does it possess? Where does it outperform its competitors in? What does it differ in? Over the last few years we have witnessed companies attacking all market sectors instead of specialising themselves in a particular field, therefore becoming “generalised” and unspecialised, a dooming scenario for innovation. Future belongs to those companies which will be able to tailor cut their own market.
What is at the base of your relations with Italian firms?
We market many Italian brands. Our relations start when goods are legally produced and of high quality, prices are reasonable and in line with the market; when the company is healthy and distributing modalities have been discussed and agreed upon. The history of our relations is very important.
According to you, what are the differences between Italian products and products from other countries?
A higher quality, that’s for sure. But logistics also plays an important part, considering the recent price increase. Last, innovation: the daily challenge to every Italian firm.
What’s the French construction market situation like at the moment?
It is rather difficult. There hasn’t been a bad year as 2014: only 250,000 new homes have been built. 2015 too will be difficult, with everybody having to adapt to the situation. What is promising is the fact that in France 500,000 new homes are needed every year. Which means that recovery can’t be too far away. Moreover, tax burdens on savings are quite high here, which means that money is not lacking.. Little by little confidence is being built back up..
€130million: total 2013 turnover, 65% of which come from tiles.
58: retail outlets