A Hungarian success story | by Roberta Chionne
Gergő Szabó, owner and director of Palatinus 94 Kft, sees excellent customer service and investments in growth as the keys to the success of the Hungarian company, which operates throughout the country with ninety employees and seven sales outlets. Amidst the challenges of 2020, the company has digitalised its central warehouse, scheduled the launch of a new online store and searched for locations for future showrooms.
Mr. Szabó, could you outline the key steps in the development of Palatinus 94 Kft?
The company was originally founded as a ceramic tile importer and distributor in Eger, Hungary by Attila Juhász in 1989. I can’t tell you much about the early days because the founder was the owner of the company from which my family bought Palatinus 94 Kft back in 2005. My father invested a lot of money to strengthen our presence in Budapest, which included opening a brand new showroom in 2007, our first in the capital. I have been running the company since 2010. During the world economic crisis, Palatinus 94 Kft had around 40 employees, whereas our team now consists of over 90 people. The company operates in three main business areas: retail trade, wholesale and projects. Our outstanding results over the years have enabled us to build up a highly effective project team and open new stores. We currently have 4 stores in Budapest and a further 3 in Kecskemét, Eger and Gyöngyös.
How has your company performed during the Covid-19 emergency? And what is the current state of your country’s construction industry?
The Covid-19 crisis has had a relatively small impact on our business as we have been able to continue operating during the pandemic and have achieved the same results as last year. The Hungarian building industry remains fairly stable for the time being, although the signs of a downturn are already visible. This decline will cause difficulties over the next 1-1.5 years. To revive the industry, the Hungarian Government has announced new actions to support residential construction and renovation in the future, although the process will take some time.
What is your philosophy?
Our customers have always been our top priority. Our mission is to provide an excellent customer service while offering the widest possible assortment of products from the world’s most highly reputed manufacturers, fulfilling the needs of our mid and premium category customers and helping them build their dream homes and lifestyles. Investing in company growth is another of the keys to our success. This year we have digitalized our central warehouse and are set to launch our new online shop while looking for locations to open new stores.
How would you describe your showroom and what kind of clientele do you cater for?
We always keep in mind the store’s characteristics, target clientele and location and ensure that the products in our showroom are displayed in the most effective way possible while also presenting the most innovative designs. We cater for customers in search of mid and premium category retail and wholesale products and we also have project customers.
What do you see as the most important aspects of customer service?
Our company’s heritage is rooted in excellent customer service, which we provide in all of our stores. We aim to create a familiar atmosphere in our stores, where our customers will feel welcome, relaxed and appreciated. We believe in first contact resolution and spend time getting to know our customers and discovering their needs. By supplying Spanish and Italian products, we are able to help our customers discover their dream lifestyle. We work with them to fulfil their dreams and provide after-sales follow-up to ensure they are satisfied.
In your opinion, what are the main ceramic tile trends in Hungary today?
Marble and natural stone look tiles are regaining popularity, while concrete and wood imitation tiles naturally continue to be bestsellers.
What should Italian companies do to raise their approval level within the Hungarian distribution system?
Italian imports account for the third largest market share of the Hungarian market in terms of square metres after Hungarian and Polish products. Italian products are the market leaders in the premium category in Hungary, so generally I would say they are very well positioned. To strengthen their mid category positioning, they might offer more competitive prices in the future or make bigger investments in merchandising.
Italian brands sold: