On The Table: Villeroy & Boch’s Expansion Plans
By : | August 28, 2013

The Indian economy may be going through downturn. However, many luxury brands are still betting on it, including the marquee heritage brand, Villeroy & Boch, which has set up its first store in Mumbai and hopes to expand to a few more cities. In an exclusive interview, Nicolas Luc Villeroy talks about expanding into new markets, how the brand leverages the social media and internet, its four founding principles that still hold sway, and the turning points in their journey.


Nicolas Luc Villeroy

When you look back at the journey the brand and your family business, what has the experience been like? What has it taught you?

A family owned or driven business always has two main sites: on the one hand, the tradition and soul are kept alive (by sticking to the roots of the business, the values and culture as well as to the region where it was founded). But on the other hand, you have to look into the future and also be ready for changes – changes in the society and the needs that you have to fulfill, if you want to be successful. This balance is not always easy to manage but Villeroy & Boch always did quite well, and I am sure will do so in the future. We have many young people in the company with fresh ideas, but also experienced ones that work with the company already for many years.

From my experience, committed workers and employees are very important for our success, for the success of each company.

DE: Hauptverwaltung Villeroy & Boch, Alte Abtei Mettlach EN: Headquarter Villeroy & Boch, Old Abbey Mettlach FR: L'administration Villeroy & Boch, Ancien Abbaye Mettlach

Villeroy & Boch Head Office – Mettlach

What is the most important historic, heritage association of this 265-year-old brand and how has it been retained till today?

Our key to success was in the past, is today and in the future built on four pillars: Tradition: Villeroy & Boch is a European Premium Brand that represents timeless values, keeping faith with the European culture, quality, authenticity and with the region it was founded in (Saar Lor Lux region). Further more, we are keeping faith with our traditional core competence & material, ceramic, as well as with our workers and employees since 265 years. Internationalisation: Since the beginning of the 19th century, when we set up base in three countries (Germany, Luxembourg and France) we have continuously extended our distribution into over 125 countries. Diversification: We show a high diversification of style and products matching three lifestyles: classic, country and metropolitan. We started with tableware, then sanitary and tiles followed, and today our range is wide and includes products for the completely laid table and accessories for interior (Domus) and ceramic kitchen sinks, as well as all products for the complete bathroom including bathroom furniture and accessories. Innovation: This is the main reason for competitive advantage in international markets right from the beginning. Technique and design have been the two core topics in our business since 1748 and we have already received innovation and many design prizes for our achievements, among others German business innovation award for the New Wave collection in 2005.This year, we have won the Red Dot Design Awards and honourable mentions for both divisions, Tableware (Artesano original, Lina) and Bath & Wellness (Joyce Slim Seat, Toilet).


Villeroy & Boch Store – Mumbai, India

What have been your big successes?

As I already mentioned, our collection NewWave has been a big success. Introduced in 2001 and awarded in 2005, it is today a bestseller worldwide and has also inspired competitors to think of new ways and new shapes. NewWave was a big innovation for us. Another very successful collection is Mariefleur, which represents a country style closely connected with the signature of our brand – floral décors belong to our DNA. Take our first décor “Old Luxembourg”, which we designed in 1768: it is still popular and successful worldwide. This I call a great success as well.

What have been the turning points in V & B’s journey?

Tracing Villeroy & Boch’s journey involves looking back 265 years of very difficult European history in general. Villeroy & Boch was set up in 1748 in the heart of Europe in the so called “three corner area” – France, Germany and Luxemburg. We survived all crises and wars in society. The vision of two competitors, Boch and Villeroy, helped establish the four pillars of success that I mentioned before.

You have invested in new markets like India through a single brand retailing joint venture. What is the kind of opportunities that new markets like India offer you?

The Indian market for luxury products has been growing continuously in recent years. This new partnership with GenesisLuxury Fashion, among the most successful luxury operator in India, comes exactly at the right time and enables us to extend our local presence. We can only wish us the same power and success that men like Nicolas Villeroy and Francois Boch had when they started their businesses. We believe in the Indian market for premium and luxurious products and we aim to become the first choice when it comes to premium and luxury products for the consumer’s table and home interior.

DE: House of Villeroy & Boch, Shop Düsseldorf EN: House of Villeroy & Boch, Shop Düsseldorf

House of Villeroy & Boch – Shop Dusseldorf

What do you do differently in a new market like India vis-à-vis in established markets where you have a presence?

In established markets, we usually go directly our own way, with our own subsidiaries and stores. India is indeed a new market for us with a huge size, a rich culture and a complex social and economical structure. Therefore, we decided to go the way of cooperation with Genesis, who know the market very well and bring valued experience in the field of premium and luxury brands into our partnership.

Do you think the concept of luxury has changed over the years and what are the new parameters?

Over a very long period, luxury meant nothing but rarity that was reserved for a “happy few” like kings, maharajahs, etc. Nowadays, many luxury brands are able to sell their products to a much larger base of customers. The challenge is to keep the right balance between rarity and ubiquity,to offer very special services like ways of customization, which makes the product then truly personal and individual. For me, rarity is still the main criteria for luxury and my personal luxury is to spend quality time with my wife and children.

Do you believe that the social media and an online website play a huge role in attracting young consumers? Are you shifting your marketing focus to include online platforms?

Yes, we believe that social media and online are already very important social as well as commercial channels that are used by not just young people. Young people grow up with the internet, with computers and social networks, they shop online, and have to be attracted and served by us also “online”. We are already set up well in the fields of e-commerce as well as social media. The Villeroy & Boch Fanpage on Facebook and other channels like Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram are, for example, handled by a professional team at Villeroy & Boch since last year. We set up special online teams for e-commerce, social media and online,in a bid to bond with existing customers, and to win over new ones. Our marketing teams, who so far focused on printing brochures and more classical instruments, also think ‘online’ today. For example, take our brand magazine ‘Friends’ for the end consumer, which is available for free in our retail stores: From this year, it’s not only available in a printed version, but is also online. We have invested in a sophisticated online version of the magazine to also attract the more online focused consumers – for example, young people who surf the internet for many hours a day. Please find out more on: http://www.villeroy-boch.com/friends-online/21/?lang=en

DE: Hauptverwaltung Villeroy & Boch, Alte Abtei Mettlach EN: Headquarter Villeroy & Boch, Old Abbey Mettlach FR: L'administration Villeroy & Boch, Ancien Abbaye Mettlach

Amazonia Collection

In March this year, V & B also launched the Joyce collection, which offers users not just diverse options to play with forms, colours and accessories but also the opportunity to change the bathroom to suit current requirements and moods by the use of apps. Can you tell us a bit more about the conceptual idea of Joyce and what has the response been like?

The idea of the bathroom collection Joyce, which we introduced at the international trade fair ISH in Frankfurt/Germany this year in March, is all about individualization. Individualization remains one of the strongest trends of the present day. Fashion and accessories are becoming ever more personalised. With just a few internet clicks, shirts, bags and shoes can be individually styled and glasses frames are quickly matched to clothing. More and more people are taking advantage of the many opportunities to express their individuality, particularly in the home interiors space. Villeroy & Boch has seized upon this trend and playfully interpreted it to create a new complete series for the bathroom: Joyce, the bathroom with apps. Joyce allows the creation of bathrooms that are constantly changing and that can be flexibly adapted to the needs, wishes and moods of users. The innovative concept utilizes interchangeable, functional accessories and apps with which the bathroom can be individualised as desired.

But the apps are just one aspect. Conceived as a comprehensive complete bathroom collection, Joyce includes all product categories: sanitary ceramics, bathroom furniture and accessories, all of which are convincing in their extreme functionality. So far, the response has been good in all different kind of markets worldwide.


Samarkand Collection

What are Villeroy & Boch’s plans for the future? Which countries are you planning to head to?

The plan for 2013 is to initially open three Villeroy & Boch stores across India, and then to ramp up over the next five years to a total of 16. To realize these plans, investments in the two-digit million ranges (in INR crores) will be made. The first store we just opened in the elegant Palladium Mall in Mumbai a few weeks ago.

As a brand Villeroy & Boch is already present in the Indian market since some years. We are now set up very well in the market. For your information, we are present with our Bath & Wellness Division and 20 Showrooms nationwide since 2009, as well as with our Hotel & Restaurant Division since 2002.