Interview: Franke's Barbara Borra on working with the right retailers

InterviewFeatures Mon 15th Jan 2024 by Emma Hedges

Interview: Franke's Barbara Borra on working with the right retailers

Interview: Franke's Barbara Borra on working with the right retailers

Feature by Emma Hedges | Mon 15th Jan 2024

Editor of KBBFocus Emma has been writing about design and interiors for over 25 years. A former editor of Essential Kitchen & Bathroom Business magazine, her work has been published in a wide variety of leading trade and consumer titles. More

As Franke unveils its newly renovated showroom in Switzerland, Emma Hedges talks to Barbara Borra, president and CEO of Franke Home Solutions, to hear how partnering with those who understand the essence of the brand is key to its ongoing success.

The opening of Franke's revamped showroom at its HQ in Aarburg, Switzerland, marks the conclusion of its transition to a new-look brand image as well as the latest phase in its Great Stage campaign, which was launched by Franke Home Solutions over a year ago.

The aim of the campaign has been to celebrate cooking at home, and illustrate how the brand's premium products can play a vital part in bringing homeowners' culinary ambitions to life. “Residential kitchens have become fascinating stages for domestic 'cooking shows'," says Barbara Borra, president and CEO of Franke Home Solutions.

The entrance to Franke's newly revamped showroom

The stunning new showroom takes the Great Stage analogy to the next level with more than 350sq m of beautifully designed display space, as well as an expansive adjacent cookery demonstration area. 

The Showcooking Area at Franke's Aarburg showroom

Franke's different product families – the premium Mythos range, the Maris range, and the Smart range – each have dedicated zones, and the company's extensive portfolio of sinks, taps, ovens, hobs, cooktop extractors and range hoods is well represented.

The Mythos area in the Aarburg showroom

The well-timed re-entry in 2022 of Franke Home Solutions' premium Mythos range into the UK appliance market at the time of the supply crisis is continuing to pay dividends, says Borra, and those retailers who came on board then have stayed the course.

"We profited from the scarcity in the market, but we had a very selective approach so we worked with partners who wanted to have [our products]," she says. "This is not a 'push' approach – it's a 'pull' approach. We're in places where the proposition can be displayed in the right way, because one of the key things is to push the perception of the brand in a more premium area."

The Mythos Masterpiece showroom area

Previously a vice president and general manager at Whirlpool where she held positions of global responsibility, Borra joined Franke Group in 2019 as president and CEO of Franke Kitchen Systems and member of the management board. The company says that her arrival marked the start of a journey aimed at optimising all processes in the division. Since January 2021, she has led Franke Home Solutions, the new division of the Swiss multinational born out of the merger between Franke Kitchen Systems and Faber Hoods & Cooking Systems.

So is Franke still growing its UK retailer network? "Yes, we're growing, but we've been a longstanding player in the UK – it's certainly one of the pillars of the division but growth of the footprint is not the major driver," she says. It's more a case of quality over quantity. "We look for retailers who understand the importance of the brand – who play on value, not purely on price."

The Maris range display area

In the fast-paced appliances space where innovation is constantly changing the landscape, Borra says the company doesn't embrace technology for technology's sake. "We want to bring meaningful connectivity that simplifies the life of our consumer or that brings improvement in wellbeing in the proper sense," she explains.

The concept of wellbeing is also a focus within the showroom, and there are zones dedicated to air and to water, complete with open demonstration corners so visitors can experience the technology for themselves.

The Air area in Franke's Aarburg showroom

In the hoods arena, Franke's Mythos Air Hub not only eliminates cooking odours and vapours effectively but also eliminates the majority of bacteria and viruses, ensuring clean, hygienic, and odourless air in the home, and the brand is also investing in interactive and noise reduction technologies. "All that is a real plus for the consumer," she adds.

The sinks and taps area in the new showroom design

Sustainability continues to be a priority, and the company's approach is to keep pace with consumer demand and support retailers by offering them "the best products from the sustainability point of view, training and the right arguments to help customers make sustainable choices", she says.

So why should retailers come on board with Franke now? "I think we have the best after-sales service organisation across Europe but mainly I think it’s the commercial policy – having a very clear sales policy that depends on the professionals of the channel," she explains. "Our presence online is minimal but when we decide to play with some online players it’s always with a differentiated trend, so there is no confusion in the marketplace about product, pricing and so on. There is not the erosion of the value of the brand."

Tags: interview, features, franke, barbara borra, appliances

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