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Castelli seeing big growth opportunities in designing contracts for big customers

by Giovanna Mancini

A 25% rise in profits in one year would make any entrepreneur rub his hands with glee. Paolo Castelli, though – who, in 1994, took over the Bologna-based furnishing company founded by his great-grandfather in the late 1800s – is not one to settle.

“We hoped to replicate the record figures of 2015 in 2016, but part of the orders we expected to come in last year were pushed back to 2017,” he said. “Never mind: it means we already have around €28 million's worth of orders slated for this year, while another €11 million are in the pipeline for 2018.”

Not bad for someone who, six years ago, chose to expand his business beyond the traditional furniture manufacturing activity, to take responsibility for entire projects on behalf of major contractors (construction firms, engineering and architectural firms or real estate owners), managing the entire process, from the construction works to interior design, to fixtures and fittings.

The projects in question are worth millions of euros, like Palazzo Italia for Expo Milano 2015, Alberto Masotti's Fashion Foundation in Bologna, the Mont Blanc cableway stations, part of the new Mandarin Hotel in Milan, not to mention Castelli's major real estate projects abroad (particularly in the hospitality and residential sectors).

These projects enabled the firm to go from a turnover of €14 million in 2014 to approximately €25 million in 2016, doubling personnel, which now consists of some 95 employees, many of whom young and with the right skills to meet Castelli's new challenges: not only designers and architects but engineers, logistics experts and project managers.

“We have orders and contracts for the whole of 2017 and 2018 as well – says Paolo Castelli – in all of the three sectors we work in: the shipbuilding sector, global contracts and furniture manufacturing.”

Just last year, the Bolognese firm delivered a very important project for a major shipbuilding customer, which enabled the division to grow by 50%; expectations are similar for the current year, since this same client has already confirmed new purchase orders.

The contracting sector is also on an upward trend, in particular thanks to contracts from overseas, like the Ritz in Montecarlo (delivery expected over the next few months) and Galeries Printemps in Paris, where Castelli recently won the tender to restructure the shopping mall, in partnership with Studio Citterio. So much so that by year's end, overseas accounts' share of total revenues will go from the current 45% to 55%.

As for furniture production, June will see the offer broaden to include a new technical line, while on the retail front (almost absent at the moment: the main channels are contract and e-commerce), the first single-brand Castelli store is slated to open in London in 2017, while negotiations have been initiated for a store in Miami. Finally, Castelli has launched a collaboration with a Chinese dealer to ensure distribution in this crucial market.