GREEN LIGHT FOR ROLF BENZ HAUS IN LEIPZIG
Porsche, DHL, Amazon, Zalando – the thriving metropolis in Saxony is attracting an increasing number of well-known companies. Even Rolf Benz will have a presence there and is opening Germany’s third ROLF BENZ HAUS in Leipzig on 15th November, 2022. We spoke to Managing Director and furnishing expert Thoralf Förster about his love for his home city, the future of the furniture industry and his enthusiasm for consistently good consultations.
Mr Förster, after Hamburg and Frankfurt, now Leipzig has its own ROLF BENZ HAUS with you as its Managing Director. How exciting have the last few weeks and months been for you and your team? What do you think about the result?
The whole process took us almost a year in total. We turned everything upside down and fundamentally redesigned everything. With the experts from Rolf Benz, we had qualified partners at our side with plenty of previous experience in this area. By working in tandem, we’ve created a wonderful atmosphere here. Everything goes together perfectly, from the furniture selection to the lighting concept and the rugs. We also have a huge material wall on which we can present all fabrics and covers. It creates a completely coherent overall picture. It’s really great. Such a project requires intensive dialogue and numerous decisions. Of course, we also looked at the other ROLF BENZ HAUS spaces and drew inspiration from them. It was important to me and my team that we identified with the store concept. That’s why we brought in lots of fresh ideas and sources of inspiration, so we could say with complete conviction: “Yes, that’s us. This is what we stand for.” At this point, I would like to say a great big thank you to my employees for their fantastic and tireless work over the last few months. And also, of course, to the Rolf Benz team for their positive and constructive collaboration. It was completely worth it. I found it simply fascinating to see how the individual pieces of the puzzle eventually came together to make up the whole picture. The result is simply delightful.
What do you hope for the new ROLF BENZ HAUS LEIPZIG?
I hope that the new overall concept will show off to an even greater extent the interior skills that we have accumulated over many years. I hope that the wonderful things that we have created here will soon become the talk of the town. I hope that plenty of interested visitors will come and take a look and go home feeling wowed. And, of course, I also hope that we make lots of sales!
Mr Förster, you were born and bred in Leipzig. What makes Leipzig so special? What benefits does Leipzig’s city centre have to offer retailers?
Our company, “Wohnberatung Krabbes”, is a traditional company that has always been based in the city centre. In precisely this location for 114 years, actually. Moving out of town was never an option. The wonderful city centre location with its varied shops and the whole district itself has a really special charm that offers customers a great, holistic shopping experience. The best thing about Leipzig is that although it’s a city, it’s still small and friendly. I love this city. Everything is close together and easily reached on foot. Even the football stadium isn’t on the outskirts of town but in a central location, only a 15 minute walk from the opera and the Cloth Hall. It has developed enormously in the last twenty years. In the communist era, everything was really grey, grim and gloomy. There’s good reason why people talk about “Hypezig” today. Leipzig has become a vivid metropolis that is attracting increasing numbers of young people. In the 12th century, Leipzig was one of the most important trade and business cities in Europe. We currently are on a really good path to restoring its former glory. In my opinion, Leipzig is the boom town of the East – and it feels really good.
Rolf Benz has been an influential leader in the furniture market for over 50 years. How do you explain the brand’s success?
Rolf Benz represents solid furniture that stands out with its fantastic appearance and high quality. Customers who choose Rolf Benz don’t want to buy a new sofa every two years but are looking for something really good that will last a long time. Timeless, durable and sustainable designer furniture with great seating comfort. This exceptional design combined with high quality, versatility and sustainability all go towards what makes Rolf Benz stand out. These very properties correspond exactly to our company’s philosophy, incidentally. That’s why we have been successfully working together with Rolf Benz since 1996. On this basis, we create living spaces in which you feel comfortable in the long term.
What do you like about working with Rolf Benz?
First of all, of course, the excellent quality. And again, durability and sustainability. Rolf Benz rarely takes products of out its range. They have been producing some items of furniture for twenty years and they still look just as modern as ever. Rolf Benz products are given sufficient time to establish themselves on the market. The subject of reliability is naturally also a key point for us as a retailer. With Rolf Benz, we can rely on processes running smoothly, from ordering to deliveries.
What connects you personally to the Rolf Benz brand?
When I think of Rolf Benz, I think of many plus points. The appearance, for example, it’s simply incredible. Then there’s the solid craftsmanship and the sustainability aspect that I already mentioned. Superbly finished quality materials that you can enjoy for a long time. This fits in well with us, because the issue of sustainability plays a key role in our consulting services. As reputable interior designers, we don’t want to sell just anything to the people who come to us. We want to discover their true needs and requirements before finding the perfect solutions that will work for them in the long term. This requires intensive dialogue with our customers. A lot of heart and soul. And, naturally, products that keep their promises.
Which are your favourite Rolf Benz classics and what’s your top new product?
If I look at the classics, then it has to be Rolf Benz Mera. For me it’s the Swiss army knife of furniture! Sitting, slouching, lying and relaxing together with the family – the flexible configuration options make it incredibly versatile and flexible to suit your needs. It’s perfect for any situation. The top new product for me is the extravagant Rolf Benz Jack recliner that has a wonderful design and is also incredibly comfortable.
Do you think there is a typical Rolf Benz customer?
Perhaps, in the past, one might have considered a solicitor or a doctor as typical Rolf Benz clientele. However, I’m not in favour of putting customers into categories, it’s a bit out-dated in my opinion. Today, our society is much more diverse than it was twenty or thirty years ago. On balance, however, one could say that anyone who decides on a piece of furniture from Rolf Benz has good taste in interior design and places great value on quality and sustainability.
How do you feel about online shopping? How do you think the future is looking for stationary trade?
Essentially, online shopping is perfectly legitimate, especially for things that might not be available in the shop around the corner, or for products that you can choose easily without much assistance. However, for purchases where you do need some advice, stationary trade is clearly the better choice. You can clarify what you are looking for in an individual meeting, since customers aren’t always entirely sure about what they really need. As interior experts, we can offer valuable assistance by asking the right questions. For that reason, I definitely see a future for stationary trade in the higher-quality furnishing sector and not just a small future, but quite a large one.
What do you still find fascinating about the furniture industry?
I started out working in kitchen planning. Even back then, I was completely surprised and delighted by how visible results can be achieved within a relatively short space of time. There are only a few jobs that can say the same. Some architects never see their masterpieces during their lifetime, for example. That’s why in the furnishing sector, we have the advantage of being able to experience the results of day-to-day work relatively quickly. That’s what’s great about this job.
How do you think the furnishing market will change in the coming years, particularly with regard to the location of Leipzig?
It’s hard for me to gaze into my crystal ball, especially in light of the current complex global situation. However, at the same time I believe that “home, sweet home” is and will remain important to the German people. As a retreat from often stressful everyday life and the outside world that is becoming increasingly complicated. People want to be themselves at home and relax. That’s why the issues of interior design and planning will continue to be extremely important in our country. The aspect of sustainability will also become more significant. People are looking for items for their home that are better quality and longer lasting. Leipzig now has 600,000 inhabitants and is continuing to grow. There are increasing numbers of well-paid jobs. I think that we as a retailers will benefit from this positive development and increase in demand.
What’s your “sweet home” like, Mr Förster?
I work a lot, so it’s important that I feel good when I spend time at home. I live with my wife and our two children. We haven’t designed everything down to the last detail, but our home is practical, versatile and cosy. The centre of our social interaction is a nice big dining table with comfortable chairs. This is where the family gets together and talks over what happened during the day. After work, I find it easiest to switch off and relax in our little garden, or lying on our big sofa watching films in the evening with the family. And, of course, I love our kitchen. It’s also a central place where we meet up with family and friends.
Which item of furniture would you take with you to a desert island?
I’d much prefer to take my family with me than a great piece of furniture. But if I could take something with me as well, then I’d choose the Rolf Benz Jack armchair, simply because it’s so great for sitting on and relaxing. If I could have a nice Aperol Spritz as well, that would make it the perfect island experience.