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Saturday 25 November 2017

Smeg bets on property-hungry investors after opening flagship London store

Smeg has signalled renewed confidence in the UK market.

Smeg designer toaster
Smeg designer toaster

By Kalyeena Makortoff, Press Association City Reporter

High-end Italian appliance firm Smeg is hoping that the weak pound will continue to attract property-hungry investors to London, where the company has opened its first UK storefront on Regent Street.

Smeg started planning its flagship UK store nearly three years ago, long before the Brexit vote, but chief executive Vittorio Bertazzoni assured Britain was still an important market for the company regardless of its EU membership.

He also suggested that sterling’s subsequent decline could actually open some doors for Smeg – which could be used to source chic appliances for new foreign homeowners in the UK.

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Smeg storefront

“It might be, yes, that the weaker pound can attract more visitors or attract people that want to buy real estate. I mean, the devaluation has been roughly 25-30% so someone could spot good opportunities.”

The opening of its new 6,000-square foot store on Regent Street marks a renewed commitment to the UK, having originally stepped into the market in 1989 and gone on to sell its wares through department stores including Harrods and John Lewis.

The family-owned firm – which is best known for its retro curved-edge refrigerators – also opened a new UK headquarters in Abingdon, near Oxford, last year.

Smeg currently derives around 10% of its revenues from the UK, posting annual turnover of around £500 million.

However, the company is betting on the success of highly-priced white goods in the midst of a national inflation squeeze that has seen consumer prices surge 2.9%.

Smeg retails kettles upwards of £99 and has even partnered with Dolce & Gabbana to offer designer toasters and juicers for around £400 each.

But Mr Bertazzoni stressed that quality brands like Smeg have a record of withstanding economic turbulence.

“Yes, we are a high-end appliance manufacturer but I have discovered during my career that even in periods of uncertainty and difficult times people prefer to spend on something that is solid, that is a certain quality, especially when you come to the kitchen, which is the heart of the home.”

He added: “I strongly believe that a strong brand that continues to invest and has a clear position in the market, they have big advantages when times are rough.”

There could be further challenges ahead if tariffs are erected between the UK and Europe after Brexit, a move which Mr Bertazonni said makes him most “worried for the consumer,” though Smeg would adapt.

Smeg’s main factories are all based in Italy, with partners based in countries including Germany and Turkey, and while there are no current plans to open a UK plant, the chief executive said he was remaining “open minded” should the need arise.

“We are a very flexible company so we can adapt quite fast to these kind of new regulation or whatever indeed happens.”

Press Association

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