Inside Track Interview: Loewe

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Buying a Loewe television is like ordering a new car: a customer goes to the retailer and specifies the model they need, the individual settings, the colour etc. The order is sent to Germany and assembled there. Within five days it is delivered to the retailer and then installed in the customer’s home. We don’t leave our customers to struggle with packaging, cables and instruction manuals.” Marc Nicolai, managing director of Loewe UK, has ambitious plans for the brand in the UK. He spoke to Anna Ryland about the compelling reasons why independents should be supporting Loewe.

Loewe’s history, marked with several world’s and European firsts, is evidence of its technological leadership. The company was founded in Berlin in 1923 by brothers Siegmund and David Loewe as a radio manufacturer, but by 1931 Loewe presented to the world the first electronic television set. In 1938, Siegmund Loewe, who was Jewish, emigrated to the USA where he befriended and cooperated with Albert Einstein. In the 1950s, Loewe began producing the Optaphon, the first cassette tape recorder. In 1961, the first European video recorder, the Optacord 500, entered mass production. The first European stereo colour television followed in 1981. Today the company’s HQ and sole manufacturing facilities are in Kronach, Franconia.

Loewe is not well known to British consumers. “For many years Loewe worked in the UK through specialist audio distributor Linn. We’ve become established in the premium end television market, especially with our Individual range. However the distribution of our entry level products, Xelos, Art and Connect, was poor. Since we now have a UK office, we wish to improve the distribution of our mid and entry level products, “ explains Marc.

“Loewe is no longer a technology leader,” admits Marc. “We haven’t introduced 3D to the market. But when we added it to our TVs it was the second generation of 3D technology, of very high quality. Our three main ranges, Loewe Art, Connect and Individual now incorporate 3D technology. All new Loewe TVs are LEDs. Internet technology has been integrated into our televisions ten years ago,” he adds.

Asked how he intends to strengthen the position of Loewe in the very competitive CE market in the UK, Marc argues: “The television market is competitive only in the below £1,000 segment. The premium market, where there are only a few suppliers and stable margins, is growing.

“Moreover, during the recession, more people invest in making their homes comfortable. The TV is increasingly being perceived as an art object since people spend more time interacting with it. Also, 2012 will be an important year for the industry with the European Football Championship and the completion of digital switchover in the UK.”

Loewe’s offer

“Loewe products come with added value: special service, home delivery, home installation, order on demand taking into consideration individual requirements and design preferences.

“Buying a Loewe television is like ordering a new car: a customer goes to retailer and specifies the model they need, their individual settings, the colour etc. The order is sent to Germany and assembled there. Within five days it is delivered to the retailer and then installed in the customer’s home. We don’t leave our customers to struggle with packaging, cables and instruction manuals. Loewe retailers are well trained to support our customers.

“One of our core values is exclusivity. Our Individual TV range has one million options. If a customer wishes to customise its television with a set of Swarovski crystals in the chassis – we can accommodate this. 

“Our television is also a one-stop solution – a TV panel, audio and speakers are integrated together and operated with one remote control; there is no need for additional boxes.”

The next step

Increasing distribution of Loewe products in the UK is the number one priority for Marc. At present, Loewe is supported by 65 independent retailers. Marc’s goal for the next two years is to extend the Loewe distribution network to 200 retailers to cover the whole country.

“We need more ‘bread and butter’ channels and we are happy to offer ‘an island solution’ to these retailers who will be willing to take on our mid range and entry products. Especially Xelos and Art – they are the core of our business in other European countries.

“In November 2011, we are launching three new audio products: the SoundVision music system, sound box and a dock/speaker.” Loewe customers constitute 10% of the market and he hopes that with the addition of the audio range he could extend this to 40%, giving younger people their first experience of the brand.  “But we are not going to join the price chase,” he stresses.

Marc believes that Loewe is a perfect partner for the independent. The company has a fixed margin policy. “Also, we don’t sell online. The products that can be found on the internet are the end-of-life and demonstration models.” The company is investing heavily in building brand awareness and keeps prices competitive (no price increases but planned downsizing of all its ranges in 2012), without compromising on functionality. Loewe is also making its training more bespoke to the needs of individual retailers. Finally, “we are not overdistributed in the UK, maintaining a degree of exclusivity.”

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