Interview: Häfele’s Richard Curtis on helping customers in tough times

InterviewFeatures Tue 27th Feb 2024 by Nicola Hanley

Interview: Häfele’s Richard Curtis on helping customers in tough times

Interview: Häfele’s Richard Curtis on helping customers in tough times

Feature by Nicola Hanley | Tue 27th Feb 2024

Nicola is an award-winning journalist who has been writing about interiors for 15 years. A former editor of Essential Kitchen & Bathroom Business magazine, she has also worked in PR and is now a freelance writer specialising in kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms. More

Twelve months after taking the helm as MD of Häfele UK, Richard Curtis reflects on the unprecedented year, which saw it successfully bounce back from a cyber attack, and reveals his plans for 2024. By Nicola Hanley.

It’s fair to say that Richard Curtis’ time at Häfele UK began with something of a baptism of fire. Just a month after joining, the new managing director found himself leading the company through one of its most challenging periods after it was hit by a cyber attack.

“Nobody could have anticipated what happened in February,” says Curtis. “We’re over it now but it was definitely a pivotal moment and it was a big challenge, not just for the UK but for the global group. But businesses and leaders are always faced with challenges, whether it be recessions, or the pandemic, and we did an exceptional job in the way it was handled. We prioritised communication with key stakeholders throughout, developed a recovery plan and I’m really thankful to our employees for how engaged they were throughout the process. They went beyond the call of duty to make sure our customers were fulfilled throughout that period.”

Häfele UK’s office and distribution centre is based in Rugby

Customers, says Curtis, were incredibly supportive during the 6 weeks that the business was effectively down. “We asked for a lot of patience from customers and their understanding was amazing and we’re really thankful for that. We didn’t lose any customers in that period as a result, which is a testament to the long-term relationships that this business has built over many, many years.”

Challenging though it was, the cyber attack did give Curtis an opportunity to work closely with other senior leaders within the business quicker than he perhaps otherwise would have done. “In terms of getting to know my colleagues, it was quite useful but I certainly wouldn’t want to go through it again,” he says. "It was a tricky period but I’m pleased to say we’ve come through the other side unscathed and of course, we now have state-of-the art IT technology which, touch wood, won’t be breached again.”

The Flex Lighting system is designed for speedy installation

The cyber attack didn’t stop the company from focussing on and developing its strategy for sustainability, which is one of its core values, celebrating Häfele’s 100th anniversary or from an innovation perspective, either. The manufacturer and distributor, which holds around 27,000 items across multiple product groups, from furniture fittings through to lighting, launched an array of exciting new products in 2023. As well as introducing its Flex Lighting System, which Curtis describes as “class-leading”, Modu3 customisable and modular shelving system, the company launched a bespoke worktop service along with Service+ to provide an enhanced level of support to customers. 

Launched in 2020, bespoke timber drawer manufacturing is one of Häfele’s most in-demand offerings

“Service is an increasingly important part of the Häfele proposition,” says Curtis. “Service+ is about the support we can give our customers and it allows Häfele to become almost part of our customers’ extended team, giving them the time then to focus on running their business.”

To boost its service proposition even further, Häfele UK has just made a £5m investment in a new warehouse shuttle system, which it is launching in February 2024. “It increases our capacity and further supports improvements in our delivery promise,” says Curtis.

Häfele UK is gearing up for KBB Birmingham where it plans to showcase legacy products alongside its latest launches

More new products are planned for 2024, which Curtis says will be a busy year for Häfele UK. “We’ve got some outstanding opportunities to grow in existing and new markets,” he says.

“But we also have to recognise that our customers are operating in a really challenging economic environment and they’re working harder than ever to win business. So one of our immediate priorities is to find ways to support those customers, to provide the product and service they need in a cost-effective way. We’ve applied some extremely competitive pricing recently and we’ve extended our free delivery with no minimum order value. Our ability to hold stock also helps our customers smooth out fluctuating demand patterns. It’s going to be a tricky time for the next six–nine months and it’s important that market leaders such as ourselves play our part in helping customers through it.”

Set to launch at KBB Birmingham is Zuma, an immersive loudspeaker and premium LED light, paired inside a single spotlight

The company is also busy preparing for KBB Birmingham in March, where it is looking forward to launching extended services and innovative products, including Zuma, an immersive LED downlight with integrated high-performance loudspeaker. Lighting is a core growth category for Häfele UK so the British-made Zuma is an exciting launch for the company, says Curtis.

“We have a very entrepreneurial and agile approach and it’s going to be a really exciting 2024 with lots going on,” he continues. “But ultimately it’s about putting the customer at the core of everything we do. Becoming more embedded with our customers in terms of our service proposition is very important and the market will see a lot more from Häfele in that space.”

Tags: interview, features, richard curtis, häfele, lighting

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