Roche Bobois turned 60 last year, and marked the occasion by reinterpreting several iconic pieces from its history. The furniture vertical is a leading designer and distributor, and works with renowned designers and Haute Couture fashion houses to deliver exclusive, made-to-order lines through 255 showrooms worldwide – Furniture News spoke to Julien Salmon, general manager of Roche Bobois UK, about how his operation fits into the bigger picture.
What’s the extent of your activities in the UK?
There are eight stores in total in England, six in the Greater London area, one in Surrey and one Manchester. We are doing between £18-20m pounds turnover, with a team of approximately 55 members of staff.
How long have you operated here?
The brand has been in the UK for the last 30 years. It operated with only one showroom (in the Hampstead area) for many years before really starting to develop its network in 2006, when we started to open new showrooms at the pace of roughly one new store every 15 months.
How important is the UK market to Roche Bobois?
The UK has long been one of our key markets within Europe, after France. Besides this market, our fastest-growing market in Europe is Switzerland.
How does the product assortment differ?
We realised that 80% of our bestselling pieces are also bestsellers worldwide (our iconic Mah Jong sofa is the bestselling model not only in the UK, but worldwide).
Then, of course, depending on the location of the showroom itself (even within London), approximately 30% of the pieces are specific to local tastes. For instance, we might sell more leather sofas in our Harrods store, while we will be more fabric-oriented in our South London showroom.
And what defines the UK customer?
What is really important to our British customers is that we meet their expectations. Of course, this is important everywhere in the world – however, it is key for the UK market, where clients are demanding, and expect excellence in service.
In terms of style, more than anything else they are looking for timeless pieces. They also respond really well to our most iconic pieces, and relate to our core values of European know-how and quality, innovation, and, above all, our creativity, and playful, colourful, fun approach to furniture design.
Are the UK stores influenced by/do they influence those in other countries?
Having a presence in Harrods has helped Roche Bobois expand worldwide. It is true that many of our new franchisees in the Middle East or Asia originally saw our concession inside Harrods, and this convinced them to actually open a showroom in their own country.
How does the UK’s response to Covid-19 compare to that in other markets? Are you facing any unique challenges here?
Indeed, this is a really complicated situation. London is a very international city, and our international clientele make up a significant share of our business. Our sales in the UK are really driven by London, and at the moment we can clearly see that the international clients have not yet returned to the city.
How does the brand’s 60th anniversary collection reflect its past and future?
To celebrate its 60th anniversary, Roche Bobois has called on internationally acclaimed artist Joana Vasconcelos to design a collection that I believe embodies the values of the brand – creativity, know-how and innovation.
It has also been a key trait of our brand to collaborate with designers, architects and fashion designers to broaden our horizons and push the boundaries of design a step further. When working with an artist for the first time, the brand once again puts its resources at the mercy of the designer’s vision.
The synergy between the artist and the brand is obvious in this collection, which is multifunctional, optimistic, playful, colourful and fun. I personally love the collection of sofas with adjustable backs – each family member can adjust theirs to find their own level of comfort.
What do you enjoy most about working for Roche Bobois?
I have to say the people that I work with every single day, and, in general, the passion we all share – as I truly believe that without passion, you cannot have success.