Roelens Beaulieu International Group:’An IMEC for the textile industry would be welcome’
Following years of cost cutting, factory closures and retrenchments, it seems the Belgian carpet industry is geared for recovery. Despite the fact that volumes have not increased, and have even dropped in some cases, the general climate is upbeat, with manufacturers maintaining that profitability is the key and lower volumes don't matter that much. Domotex, the annual international carpet industry fair held in Hannover, seems to reflect the same sentiments. Turnover was kept constant, even though it was mostly due to fact that the higher raw materials prices were taken into account in the consumer prices. The cost of raw materials is in the region of 50 to 70% in the carpet industry. “The lower euro is a beneficial in this industry,” says Fa Quix, director general of the Belgian sector federation Fedustria. “It weighs more positively on the sale of our products and offsets the negative effects of the high dollar when purchasing raw materials paid in dollars.” The bigger players in the Belgian carpet industry have put cost cutting behind them, preferring instead to focus on client needs, innovation and international positioning. “We plan to extend our marketing,” says Associated Weavers, business with a strong presence in the residential market. “With the launch of five concepts based on specific colours, style and feel, we hope to make it easier for interior design companies to help their clients choose carpets instead of other floor coverings.” Balta, with its turnover of 754 million euros, is the biggest player in the Belgian and European arena. Following its takeover last year of the carpet division of Domo, the company plans to strengthen its foreign positioning, with sights on Turkey in particular. Geert Roelens, who joined Beaulieu International Group BIG, the second biggest player in Belgium, as CEO last year, tells a similar story. BIG was established in 2005 by merging the divisions of Roger De Clerks’s former empire, and is led by his son Francis who is chairman of the board of directors. Roelens gained experience in the development of subsidiaries in growth countries like China during his time at Bekaert. Now that BIG has left its difficult period behind, it is ready for product innovation, a stronger sales base and more networking in China, says Roelens. One example of innovation is the new Click range, laminated vinyl strips which make it 30% easier for a DIY enthusiast to lay than normal vinyl. Roelens is not too worried about inevitable Chinese copy cats, dreaming instead of a type of IMEC Internationally renowned research centre for micro-electronics and nanotechnology in Louvain that could boost innovation in the Belgian textile industry.