Mr Schlotterer, you and the new Managing Director Design & Brand, Katja Konradi, surprised the public in Berlin with an unusual clean look. Why this change in style?
What we showed there was a Press Show, so just a part of the order collection, which contained the genes of the present, but not so flagrantly. The new direction of the Marc Cain sub-labels with more differentiation and clarity is currently in progress under Katja Konradi. The buyers have been very positive about this development in their order dates. The future positioning will be much clearer in the next seasons.
The personnel decisions over the past year were also clear. Creative Director, Karin Veit, left the company after 43 years. Urs Konstantin Rouette joined as Managing Director, Purchase, Production & Technical Development. It appears as if you’re occupying your house anew. How long do you want to remain at the top as CEO?
If you were to have asked me earlier, I would have jokingly answered: “at the age of eighty, half-days.” However, my racing car accident in 2017 gave me a change of heart. I am 72 now – physically and mentally fit but the question remains: How will my company be positioned after me? At present I’m in the process of successively giving up all the departments, which report to me as CEO. In the final phase there will be four Managing Directors. I will remain as owner and Chairman.
That sounds very precise.
Yes, we want to be ready by the end of the year. I’m not looking for a successor for me as CEO. But I am establishing a new management structure. I want to stabilise this level now. When all the company departments function with the new Managing Directors, I can look for the manager for the whole company. This would not work at the moment; someone from outside the company would not be able settle down currently. But I can imagine making the CEO appointment internally one day.
But this day will come.
Definitely but only when I show weakness. If this happens suddenly, I’ve made a decree, a will. Alongside the question of management, there’s a question of ownership. At the moment, I’m the sole owner; my wife and I don’t have any children. I have a social foundation, in which I concentrate my social commitment. I specified this as heir in 2008. But it is so that a social foundation is not an entrepreneur. I’m working on another solution for the question of an heir. I can imagine a fond which includes the active employees. This fond will be the owner after me – perhaps even earlier. I can’t imagine a better heir than the employees of this company. I’m increasingly pleased by this thought.
Sales are still not an issue? Despite the difficult successor issue that one can effectively observe in other companies?
If I had wanted to sell up, I would have done it ages ago. I’ve been offered immense sums. But this isn’t an option for me. I don’t need the money. I have a responsibility as an employer: to secure jobs and income for employees.
How far are you in the construction of this structure?
I am now in the lucky situation of being able to move into the future with two important people. One of them is in the position you were talking about – the Managing Director, Purchase, Production & Technical Development. Marc Cain is not only procurer, we are also producers. I was successful in finding Urs Konstatin Rouette. This is a very successful and forward-looking development. Then in fall, Katja Konradi came on board. Ms Konradi does not only carry responsibility for Design. She has taken over other areas, for instance Marketing and Product Management, as well as Marc Cain Interior Design. That means she is responsible for everything to do with our brand image on the market. I’m really happy that she has joined us. We were incredibly successful with Karin Veit – but this is now a new generation, another time, even conceptually. What we are now getting off the ground, is phenomenal. There is a lot in motion.
At the beginning you spoke of four Managing Directors.
Yes, I’m currently negotiating a new commercial manager, in other words, a CFO. This person will be responsible for Accounting, HR and IT, all areas that are still under me. As far as the finances are concerned, it’s not that difficult for us. We aren’t conducting bank discussions; we aren’t looking for investors. These battles do not take place at Marc Cain.
What battles do take place at Marc Cain? Your growth curve has increased steeply over the years. This development was consolidated for two, three years but on a high level.
That’s true. We have not grown in double figures over the last few years. In 2018 we were only able to increase our group turnover by 10 million Euros, that’s around 4% more than in 2017. The financial year 2018 was closed with a group turnover of 276 million Euros. That’s ok for today’s situation. The problem arises when the revenues do not increase as much as the costs, then the income decreases considerably. We had an EBIT of 18% once.