Creativity as the Common Thread

Interview with Alexander Kuhn, General Manager of Brother Sewing Machines Europe GmbH

Alexander Kuhn, General Manager of Brother Sewing Machines Europe GmbH
Alexander Kuhn, General Manager of Brother Sewing Machines Europe GmbH

Sewing is in. And has a long tradition. In 1790, the first wood-based sewing machine operated by a hand crank was patented. Today, sewing machines are true high-tech products that can not only sew and embroider but are also digitally connected. One of the leading companies in the area of hobby sewing machines is Brother Sewing Machines Europe GmbH from Bad Vilbel.

Economic Forum: Mr. Kuhn, you are the General Manager of Brother Sewing Machines Europe. What does the name Brother stand for?

Alexander Kuhn: Last year, Brother produced its 70-millionth sewing machine, yet the company is mainly known in Europe for its printers and fax machines, which still make up the majority of its business today.

Economic Forum: How has this diverse product range developed?

Alexander Kuhn: In 1908, the Yasui brothers started their own business with a sewing machine repair service and later began manufacturing them as well. Until the 1950s/1960s, sewing machines dominated, which were continuously developed further. Based on the acquired know-how, the company then entered the typewriter, printer, and fax machine market; products that are known worldwide. Our task is to continue working on brand awareness and to position Brother even more strongly as the epitome of high-quality household and hobby sewing machines.

Brother Sewing Machines Artspira
Artspira – even with sewing machines, the future is digital; Brother has developed an app called Artspira that can connect to Brother machines

Economic Forum: How is the company positioned today and where are its core competencies located at the Bad Vilbel site?

Alexander Kuhn: Bad Vilbel is home to the European headquarters for household sewing machines. There is another branch in England, as well as employees in France, the Benelux countries, and Italy. Another location in Emmerich focuses on industrial applications for both sewing machines and printers. Worldwide, 41,000 people work for Brother. Corona led to a boom; many started sewing masks or simply found joy in sewing, discovered their creative side, and invested in a sewing machine. Meanwhile, the situation has normalized, and we are experiencing slight and healthy growth.

Economic Forum: How can the Brother portfolio be characterized?

Alexander Kuhn: Brother offers everything related to sewing, embroidery, and creativity. We focus on domestic and hobby sewing machines in a price range from 150 to 15,000 EUR. Especially in the DACH region, where we focus, high-priced models are in demand, while in Eastern Europe, the focus is on affordable or mid-priced machines. Over time, the machines have technically advanced, so that computer sewing machines with electronic stitch selection today constitute the core business. Competitors are stronger in mechanical machines. Brother also offers embroidery machines as well as combination machines that can both sew and embroider. In times when personalizations are trending, embroidery machines are very popular; Brother holds a market-leading position here. Another pillar is cutting plotters.

Brother Sewing Machines WLAN capable Embroidery Machine
WLAN capable Embroidery Machine – because personalized products are in trend
Brother Sewing Machines Exchange with the Employees
General Manager Alexander Kuhn values the Japanese corporate culture and the close exchange with the employees

Business Forum: Are there any special trends emerging in the market?

Alexander Kuhn: Digitalization is playing an increasingly important role; sewing machines nowadays resemble computers with large displays. It's important for us to keep pace with these developments. That's why we are heavily investing in the subscription area and have created Artspira, an all-in-one design platform that allows creative embroidery ideas to be turned into unique projects. We offer a free version and a subscription version, where users benefit from sewing instructions and embroidery designs. The future will be in Wi-Fi models that can connect to an app. Currently, we are focusing on embroidery patterns and will gradually expand this offering.

Business Forum: Over 70 million sewing machines sold - where does this success come from?

Alexander Kuhn: We are successful because our products are good, but above all, because the people make the difference at our company. We still afford to have a sales force that is in close contact with the specialty retail; we care for our employees, listen to them, treat each other with respect, and maintain a familial coexistence. Even though we have good products, they do not sell themselves. Therefore, we will broaden our sales approach to continue to grow healthily and make our sewing machines accessible to an even wider audience. The specialty retail remains our primary partner.