“26 years ago Pavel came to my restaurant, and the rest is history,” begins Mr. Stanek, explaining how he got into business with Pavel Stanek, co-founder of the group (though no relation). “Pavel was good at business; I was good at cuisine.”
From the first store opening in 1992, mainly focusing of distribution operations, and with a clientele of mostly small restaurants, the company has, step-by-step, opened up in different cities throughout the Czech Republic and most recently in the Slovakian capital of Bratislava: “We were able to continue expanding throughout the financial crisis by reaching beyond our wholesale and distribution operations into households themselves. With this strategy we became part of a growing market, and today we have eleven stores, and represent large brands such as Rosenthal and Villeroy & Boch in the Czech Republic. You could say our plan picked up on the fact that during the financial crisis people learned to cook at home!”
Despite the success, the ethos of the firm is one of constant improvement, as Mr. Stanek explains: “Last year we had our 25 year celebrations. Pavel and I reflected on how far the company had come. We realized that while we’ve had successes in moving the company forward, like during the financial crisis, getting modern, young and new voices involved would be key to turning future challenges to our advantage.” By this, Mr. Stanek refers primarily to digitalisation, and the growth in smart technology.”
In order to bring new voices onboard, Mr. Stanek goes on to explain that the firm consulted various organisations and marketing partners, who all gave them the same general answer: online business will become more important. “As a result of this advice, we hired Unicorn Attacs consulting company to give us a cutting-edge marketing campaign to push our products online and reach into new markets”.
It is by no means risk free to build on an already successful firm, one with 120 employees and a turnover of twelve Million EUR in 2018: “We are aware that it’s a risk to attempt expansion. Why try? After all we are a strong brand, and after 25 years we are well-known, even in small Czech and Slovakian cities. But our company sees success as a continual process, you never reach the end.”
You could say our plan picked up on the fact that during the fi nancial crisis people learned to cook at home! Milos StanekExecutive Director
Since bringing in new voices, Mr. Stanek and Co. have made significant changes. “We’ve been augmenting our consumer focus a lot. This has meant increasing the level of our in-store service, and making all of our products available online. Enlisting marketing partners has expanded our reach significantly beyond physical stores, to be able to tap into the growing demand online for luxury goods in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.”
Representing a range of 36 high-end kitchenware brands, among them Villeroy Boch, Rosenthal and KitchenAid, Mr. Stanek has great confidence that the current growth in demand is something Potten & Pannen - Stanek Group are in prime position to take advantage of: “The real unique selling point of our brand? Our quality, design and in-store experience are market leading. For the high-end, we have always been the best in sector, so now that we are marketing it right, utilizing Social Media, and SEO, we are really boosting our profile and reach.”
This new strategy has led to several milestones for the company, Mr. Stanek explains: “In Prague, a new department store, as part of a luxury mall complex, have offered us a shop there. We are now becoming a desirable brand, due to marketing the company right, for example, our association with a famous chef through our new gourmet academy. It’s all working together to build the image we want.”
That image, as a luxury and chef-endorsed kitchen equipment retailer, is something Mr. Stanek is proud to have achieved in this second phase of the company. However, just as he did at the firm’s 25 year anniversary, he is already looking to the next phase: “Our new online platform is going to be the beginning of the next steps for the firm,” he says. “This will allow us to move beyond Czech Republic and Slovakia, into markets in neighbouring countries. The expansion of exports is now our priority.”
Mr. Stanek is aiming to finish reorganising the firm by the end of the year, before the next phase in 2020. There is a refreshing ingenuity about the business, a continuous movement forward, derived from the energy of its leadership. It is often the case that when firms achieve success they begin to lose their collective drive. However, like the cooking school Gourmet Academy, this business is always on the lookout for fresh ingredients, to develop the firm’s modern recipe.