Number 227 August/September of Ambiente Cucina, an interesting interview with Gianmaria Dolfo, CEO of GeD Arredamenti: “Never forget your origins when looking to the future“.
Leadership and a new corporate structure, a leaner and fresh company especially in terms of marketing and sales, a strategy focussing on the aspects of distribution and export, without forgetting the origins and production history of the company. These are the new coordinates of GeD, a company which has re-launched itself and bet on the future, despite the crisis. The CEO of the company, Gianmaria Dolfo, tells us about it.
How have you reacted to the crisis in the sector?
Like everyone else we were affected, but we have also maintained the clarity to look forward by defining a different strategy and organisation, and streamlining our costs while sometimes making painful choices. My father’s pride and determination, mine and that of my collaborators got us through the hard times, but I never seriously thought of abandoning the sector. Actually, my desire was to revive…
How is GeD currently structured?
Remember that our story began back in 1969 with my father, Giuseppe Dolfo, and continues today with renewed determination through a corporate structure A passage that allowed us to be among the few companies in the kitchens sector to survive the tsunami of the Italian economy (and beyond). Today the company approaches the market with three product divisions and three distinct brands: GeD cucine for kitchen projects with contemporary, trendy designs, Ca’ d’Oro for furniture and wooden kitchens in a tailored and classic style and Doges for wooden bathroom furniture, heat-treated with a modern design.
Your history is synonymous with great expertise in wood, a material which is now back in fashion. How is it currently interpreted by the company?
Wood has always been part of the DNA of GeD cucine. In the joinery which we have managed in Romania for over 20 years we buy logs from forestry bodies and transform them to create the components of our best kitchens. Wood for us has never been a matter of fashion, but rather a passion that pushes us to go beyond and innovate in terms of content and aesthetics. Our last technical achievement 3S is an example of this. It is a door manufactured internally in three opposing layers, in natural or painted Oak or Larch. A solution that allows maximum reliability and durability of a wooden door to be achieved, even without using the frame, and with a more contemporary and clean aesthetic.
What does it mean for GeD’s classic designs?
It means expressing content in trendy designs, but going beyond the passing fads. Not an exercise in style, but the result of research into the correct relationship between form and function, that cannot exclude the use of materials able to withstand the test of time. This is also why the aesthetics of the kitchen must be, as it were, modern and classic at the same time, “timeless” as the Anglo-Saxons say. The key features in the design culture of GeD are respect, a sense of rationality, order, balance, measure and harmony. All concepts valid in any era.
Does attention to content in times like these not risk unbalancing the costs, and therefore prices, at levels which are not very compatible with current market dynamics?
The risk is always there, but paradoxically it also happens that the content, I am referring in particular to materials such as wood, when accompanied by an integrated approach to production, and unencumbered by quantitative logic (purchase volumes, stock, industrial buildings, machines , etc.) does not necessarily rise the costs. Also regarding price, as for aesthetics, we try to use the principle of measure, with value propositions made to suit the owner and user.
More generally, how do you see the current market and the future prospects for Italian kitchen manufacturers?
I think we need to move the perspective from “product” to “project”. And, as already said, from “production” of the item to its “distribution”. Low price kitchens are increasingly the preserve of large retail companies provided by thick-skinned manufacturers whose costs and productivity can sustain margins despite low prices imposed by the logic prevailing in Europe. In this sense, unfortunately for us Italians, the size and organisation of large German companies, and the low costs of the equally large operators in developing markets, are winning compared to the industrial fragmentation typical of our country. Vice versa, the “Made in Italy” kitchen project is appreciated abroad, especially in a higher and more demanding market segment. Ultimately there is room for Italian companies that combine good attention to product content and quality, with the ability to provide solutions for the needs of designers and propose an adequate service. With a keen eye on the retail aspects.
What are you doing in this direction?
Taking account of the market in Italy, we aim to have fewer stores, promoting the most qualified and those who work in partnership with the company. Retailers are able to enhance housing projects and quality, and not only focus on price. We always carefully look at the potential of exports, which for GeD is already over 50% of turnover. The next move on the international markets will be the opening of our showroom in Indonesia which will complement those in New York, Hong Kong, London, Moscow and the opening is fast approaching in Abu Dhabi, which is very important for us. Our showrooms are our ambassadors, authentic “exhibitions” to promote GeD.
Ultimately, what is your company’s mission?
Our philosophy when creating our furniture and kitchen designs contains everything that still makes Italy extraordinary: history, traditions, the beauty and the ability to design and create beyond the sketch. Materials and craft are not enough, you need to “know how”, taking inspiration from the skills of Venetian artisans from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Since the beginning, we tried, as a company, to merge the know-how of mirror makers, the “marangoni” (Venetian carpenters), upholsterers, of those who worked the stones in the palaces and villas of Venice, Asolo and the hinterland around Treviso and Vicenza. We chose to interpret the values of this traditional craft, to use its knowing techniques and practices, giving it all a contemporary design. Fortunately for us, there is still an important niche of customers in the world.