“We chose tiles to offset a fall in sales” | by Simona Storchi

“We have two state-of-the-art showrooms that set a benchmark for many displays throughout Europe,” says Robin de Man, Purchasing & Marketing Director of Netherlands-based company Michel Oprey&Beisterveld. Winner of the 2018 Confindustria Ceramica Distributor Award, the company has the largest showroom space in the Benelux region.

Founded in 1968 by Michel Oprey, the Dutch company specializes in outdoor/garden products, natural stones and ceramic tiles. “This year we celebrate our fiftieth anniversary,” explains Robin de Man. “We started out by selling natural stone tiles and outdoor garden products, then developed into a structured company with three business units: outdoor, indoor and slabs. Each department is the market leader in its field. Today we have about 100 employees working at three locations in the Netherlands and in a small specialized factory in Italy. Our consolidated turnover is around 50 million euros, 40% of which is generated from sales of ceramic tiles.” The showrooms are located in the cities of Vianen, close to one of the most densely-populated areas in the country, and Echt, near the country’s southern market as well as Germany and Belgium.


How would you describe Michel Oprey&Beisterveld showrooms?

Both showrooms are situated in highly accessible locations alongside the A2 highway and are visited by around 10,000 families every year. Each showroom has a team of highly-trained consultants who can offer customers their expertise. However, our approach is to leave visitors free to discover our enormous range on their own without pressurizing them. Visitors must feel reassured by our range of products and by our impartial consulting service. They need to realize that just one visit is enough to arrive at a decision. It’s very rare to find showrooms like ours.


What’s your core business?

Essentially, we sell natural stone and ceramic tiles. A small portion of our turnover is generated from accessory products. Thanks to our specialized team of consultants, we are able to advise architects, interior designers and all kinds of private consumers. We adopt a B2B business model, which means that we operate and deliver our products through professional channels consisting of an extensive network of wholesalers, retailers, installers and landscape architects.


When and why did you start selling Italian ceramic tiles?

During the economic crisis we began looking for other types of product that would enable us to compensate for the loss of turnover we were experiencing in the natural stone segment. Following the digital printing revolution, the aesthetic qualities of ceramic products improved so much that we finally acquired a passion for ceramic tiles.


What are the main characteristics you are looking for when you buy Italian tiles?

In terms of aesthetics, Italian products are the top of the line. An eye for design is in the Italian DNA. Furthermore, most technical innovations in the ceramic industry originate in Italy, so the country’s tile producers always have a head start.


What’s the difference between Italian tile producers and non-Italian competitors?

There’s a big difference in mentality between the Italians and non-European producers, not just in terms of their sales approach but above all regarding their focus on design rather than bulk. The difference with respect to European manufacturers is less pronounced, but the Italians are still likely to be the first to develop new products and to be the highest performers in terms of design.


What do you think Italian producers must do right now?

Because they have invested so much in machinery, they have put a lot of pressure on themselves to sell products. We ask them to have more patience and not to pressurize distributors. Moreover, bypassing wholesalers and going directly to retailers is the wrong approach with loyal partners, it’s really not the solution.


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October 2018