Internationally-known British furniture manufacturer Vitsoe is set to move into its new headquarters in Leamington in May. Oliver Williams spoke to managing director Mark Adams about why it chose to move to the town.
Speaking at the pop-up unit set up in Warwick Street in the town until April 13, Vitsoe’s managing director Mark Adams told us the reasons why the internationally-known company is so keen to settle in to its new factory and offices on the site once occupied by the Ford Foundry in Princes Drive.
He said: “One of the reasons for the decision to come here is Warwick University, Coventry University, Warwickshire College and the independent and state schools. The site we are on has lots of school kids and college students coming past that roundabout and we are, as much as anything, appealing to our future employees. The building is very transparent, you see in it, we can see out. We want children walking past and saying ‘I could work there some day’ and we want to take groups of schoolchildren around the building and for them to understand how it has been built. This is very much about reaching out to the younger generation and, frankly, to inspire them that we can still design and make things of really good quality in this country and send them around the world.”
Work on the new headquarters started in October 2016 and the company plans to move there from its current London site at the end of May with operations due to start in June.
The ‘eco-friendly’ building is the first of its type in Britain and among the first in Europe to be built using a timber structure made up of beech laminate veneer lumber.
It will be naturally lit during daylight hours and naturally ventilated to reduce energy costs and the land surrounding it will be based on the old ridge and furrow fields of the past giving more surface area to absorb rain and it will have long grass on it to reduce the road noise from Princes Drive.
Vitsoe’s move to the 3.3-acre site was announced in October 2014 and the company will be bringing its staff from London to the Leamington area with there being scope to expand the workforce as the business continues to grow.
Mr Adams said: “It was becoming clear many years ago that as a British-based production business exporting around the world that we were outgrowing London and had taken that as far as we could not only from a vehicle movement point of view but actually in our ability to employ people and for them to live any reasonable quality of life.
“London has got deep problems and for those earning modest salaries, and especially with families, it is pretty much unworkable.
“Equally, our supply chain is very much West Midlands-based.
“When Leamington was first suggested to us by MP Chris White we came and looked and said then that we want to meet the community. We don’t want to look at building sites or buildings or anything like that, we just want to meet the people who live here.
“That was when we felt a natural ‘welcome’ which has continued for four years through all the trials and tribulations of making our project happen - it’s been that warmth and welcome to the community which has been fundamental to it.”
**** Vitsoe’s furniture, including its universal shelving system, is known as ‘German Design Classic’.
The company, first known as Vitsœ+Zapf, was founded in Frankfurt in 1959 by furniture salesman Niels Wiese Vitsoe and German designers Dieter Rams and Otto Zapf.
In 1969, the company was renamed Vitsoe when Otto Zapf left.
Mark Adams became managing director in 1993 having been called to help save the company from being closed down.
The company moved to Britain in 1995 and 65 per cent of its business is now done through exports to 60 countries.
It is aiming to be 90 per cent export-based and part of its decision to move its headquarters to Leamington was the town’s proximity to the Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal.
Mr Adams said: “Vitsoe exists because it allows more people to live better with less that lasts longer.
“We give people a better quality of life, they come to rely on us so at any one time 50 to 60 per cent of the orders we are taking are from existing customers ****