Professional shopfitters umdasch The Store Makers provide special retail solutions that are based in craftsmanship, visionary in the digital and always rooted with a human aim and goal of realising successful stores. Here, RLI sits down with Roman Fussthaler, Managing Director Premium Retail to discuss how the company evolved during the pandemic and how recent store completions focus on sustainability.
Born as a little joinery business in a small town in Austria in 1868, umdasch have been shopfitting history for the past 153 years and have grown to become an international shopfitter for inspiring retail environments who are among the best in the business in the sector.
Despite the difficulties that the global pandemic caused businesses all around the world, umdasch The Store Makers have continued to maintain profit, with €240M being turned over in 2019 and then €241M during 2020, the first year of the outbreak. This year the company is on course to exceed €270M so solid growth has returned to the business.
Fussthaler highlights that this difficult period in the past 18 months has pinpointed just how important their people are to the business and it is their staff that make the difference. “During this Covid-period we have focused on our employees, new customers and sustainability,” comments Roman Fussthaler, Managing Director Premium Retail at umdasch The Store Makers. “To boost team morale during unusual times we introduced a ‘True Heroes’ award, where staff members could nominate a fellow colleague who has done an exceptional job under the circumstances for the award, and it has become so popular we have kept it now on an annual basis, even though the pandemic has abated slightly.”
With offices across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, umdasch works on a global scale, but a couple of their most recent prominent projects have launched in Europe, that of Bründl in Kaprun, Austria and Nike House of Innovation in Paris, France.
The Nike House of Innovation store is a forward-thinking design that combines a physical and digital shopping experience. It was a particularly difficult and challenging scheme for umdasch because it was completed during lockdown and all of the associated difficulties that came with that because of travel restrictions, but the finished store has become a landmark for Nike as it is the first European flagship site under the ‘House of Innovation’ banner and it is ideally situated on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, offering unrivalled access to Nike’s best innovations, athlete storytelling and experiences.
The other exciting store launch took place at the beginning of last month, where after a renovation and extension, the flagship store of Bründl Sports in Kaprun opened its doors on a 2,500sq m space and is very much an example of how future sustainable retailing could work. The new Bründl Sporthaus is the first store in Austria to be certified according to ÖGNI-Innenraum standards (Austrian Sustainable Building Council – Interiors). The Council is a branch of the DGNB (Deutsche Gesellschaft für nachhaltiges Bauen/German Society for Sustainable Building).
“We also joined the G7 The Fashion Pact at the beginning of the year, becoming the only shopfitter member to join since March this year and it is an organisation of around 70 companies that houses 200 brands that have committed themselves to a joint implementation of important environmental goals which include the containment of climate change, regeneration of species diversity and protection of the oceans,” comments Fussthaler.
“I also believe it is the job of the companies and corporations of today to lead the way and find the new business models of tomorrow. Our business is changing and now we are no longer producing everything new anymore, we produce locally and we recycle and upcycle and this is the future.”
Maintaining a good working relationship with clients is a pivotal part of the work umdasch does, and Fussthaler explains that the simplicity of listening to their clients is the most important aspect of this relationship. He goes onto explain that retail can be an environment that changes very fast, can be exciting and dramatic and that you must be honest with clients. A key relationship can be highlighted through the aforementioned Nike House of Innovation scheme, as this is just the latest flagship in an 18-year history they have with the client and they have produced their European flagships every year during this partnership.
This approach would appear to be a successful one, because in the past year alone umdasch have begun working with such names as Bucherer, Ferrari, Salvatore Ferragamo Stone Island and Tory Burch.
The umdasch company has a wide, varied and successful history, so as our time with Roman nears its end, we ask him what he feels their key strengths are and what has defined their success to date?
“I feel we have found success because we constantly question ourselves, we change and adapt very quickly to market alterations and also you have to be ready to change and not be content with staying the same.”
As for the future, Roman is very much looking forward to what comes next, and in particular one strategic aspect he is focused on executing is expanding the company’s footprint in the UK, while the company as a whole is looking strengthen their overall position across the EMEA region.