“In 2012, Villeroy & Boch produced one quarter of all its big sanitary pieces in the Hungarian facilities,” explains Managing Director Gábor Hideg. “The production of porcelain ceramics is still the core business of the Villeroy & Boch Group. At present, we are the biggest production facility for sanitary ware of the Villeroy & Boch group. But we are also involved in the product development and design process, especially for the Hungarian market. We also accomplish all logistic services ourselves. In order to deliver to our customers directly and to avoid the time- and money-consuming way through our parent company, we implemented a complete logistic center, which is fully automated and draws on a state-of-the-art high-rack warehouse and top-modern IT. Our location in Hódmezovásárhely is ideal. We are close to the Romanian and Serbian borders.”
While the group’s product portfolio is divided into the fields Bathroom, Tiles, Tableware and Kitchen, Villeroy & Boch Hungary focuses on the manufacture of sanitary products. One of the latest innovations is Joyce by Villeroy & Boch – the bathroom with Apps. The series excels in the combination of design and functionality and is also suitable for smaller bathrooms. In the bathroom sector, other series such as Loop, Memento, Aveo or Subway are best sellers in the upper market sector.
Villeroy & Boch Hungary also produces the Gustavsberg brand, which was acquired in the 1990s and boasts the lines Artic and Nautic. The production portfolio is completed by the Alföldi brand, the Hungarian market leader. “Our group focuses on the upper and medium market fields,” says the managing director. “Today, our premium products account for almost one third of our overall business volume while our basic category focusing on the medium sector generates around 55% of our annual turnover.”
The company relies on target-oriented marketing and presents its products directly to the partners. All service technicians are trained regularly as the assembly of Villeroy & Boch products demands special knowhow. Alföldi products are already introduced at vocational training schools.
“We service clients from Canada to Australia, but our focus is on Europe,” says Mr. Hideg. “Here, Germany, Austria and France our key markets for us. We are a 100% subsidiary of the Villeroy & Boch company, so our development is closely connected to that of our parent company. At present, we do not suffer as much from the crisis of the Hungarian building industry as our competitors. The coming years will be a challenge for the domestic building industry. The market has been decreasing for almost five years now. Therefore, there is strong demand. I am positive that the market will reach the level it had before the crisis. The situation in Western Europe is completely different from ours. There, between 35 and 45% of the product costs are labour costs. In order to cut costs, the companies there totally changed their productions within recent years. Here in Hungary, our labour costs are much lower, but we have much higher energy prices.”
Over the years, the business grew, and Alföldi Porcelángyár became the biggest ceramics factory nationwide. In the course of political changes, parts of the company were sold to investors. In 1992, Villeroy & Boch came on board, and since 1998, the company has been operating under its current name.
The last years have seen continuous technological development and modernization, and the successful combination of the group know-how with Alföldi’s expertise. The two product portfolios were integrated, too, and last year, more than half of all products were Villeroy & Boch products.
In 1996, the group also acquired a sanitary ceramics factory in Lugos, Romania, and a few years later, the Gustavsberg enterprise was taken on. “We are very proud that we were able to meet the Villeroy & Boch quality standard,” says Mr. Hideg. “The acquisition gave our business an important boost. New technologies were bought and implemented, and via our parent company, we gained access to the global market.”
At present, the Hungarian company has a staff of 900 and achieves an annual turnover of double-digit million EUR. The Villeroy & Boch group has 7,400 people on the payroll and generates revenues of around 744 million EUR. Villeroy & Boch in Hungary is ready for the future and new challenges.
“Efficiency is one of our top issues on our future agenda,” says Mr. Hideg, who has been working for Alföldi since 1994. “Competition is tough, and even within the group, the different factories have to compete. Our parent company expects us to meet the highest expectations in terms of efficiency and quality and to improve our performance continuously. We will do our very best to enhance the market penetration of the Villeroy & Boch brands and to keep the status of our Alföldi brand in Hungary. We draw on profound know-how and on many years of experience in the industry. We employ state-of-the-art financial and controlling systems. All of these are crucial aspects for a modern company to stay competitive in the long run. Speaking of the Hungarian market, our strategic challenge will be to develop a sustainable market and employment strategy.”