He chose leather –its colour, smell and softness– to upholster sofas characterised by innovative design and a unique, inimitable individual streak. It was a decision that has allowed Pasquale Natuzzi to transform his small, artisanal workshop into the biggest furniture producer in Italy and the only global player in the sector. Natuzzi generated revenue of €464.1m in 2014 and boasts seven production facilities in Italy, Romania, China and Brazil, 1130 outlets around the world, 12 commercial offices and 5,300 collaborators.
From the bottom (of Italy) to the top quality Natuzzi now represents, Pasquale’s store began in the Southern Italian town of Taranto in 1959, where he and three collaborators began to produce sofas and armchairs for the local market. It wasn’t until 1972 that his entrepreneurial career really kicked off, as he founded Natuzzi Salotti in Santeramo in Colle in the heart of the Murgia region of Southern Italy, where the group’s general headquarters are located to this day. «I had two objectives: grow in Italy and establish myself abroad», recalls Pasquale Natuzzi, the President and Ceo of the group that now bears his name.
In order to broaden his horizons and make footfall on foreign shores, he magnified his typically artisanal production operation onto an industrial scale and began specialising in leather, creating new, casual-chic models that he made available in a wide range of colours and modalities. Exquisitely made sofas showcasing contemporary lines, the models flawlessly reflected foreign market trends and soon won popularity with North American consumers. Impressive success followed and the Apulian company became the world leader in a matter of a few years. It was undoubtedly a model for success and numerous attempts at imitation ensued, so in 1993 it decided to list itself not on Piazza Affari but on Wall Street, the promised land of global finance, in a move almost unheard of for an Italian company at the time.
Fifty-seven years down the line from those early days in Taranto, Natuzzi is a well-established organisation. Pasquale Natuzzi loves to compare his company to a huge tree, its roots firmly planted in Apulia, the muse that has always been the soul and identity of the brand, and the branches spreading out across the world, managing the Natuzzi brand and its two product lines specially designed for different target audiences: Natuzzi Italia and Natuzzi editions. The tree analogy is no coincidence: «The common denominator of our all activity is our respect for the environment. Our production facilities in Italy are immersed in the green land of the Murgia, we do not have chimneys and all of our production is done using solar energy produced by 21,000 photovoltaic panels installed on the roofs of our factories. We were among the first companies in the sector to achieve ISO 14001 environmental certification. Moreover, all of the materials we use are traceable and certified, starting from the wood we source from sustainable forests», explains Natuzzi. «I’m a great believer in ethics, in legality, in transparency and in the manufacture of environmentally sustainable products: these values have been fundamental to me and are identifiable in all of our products, in our company and in the people that work for us».
The range of products offered by Natuzzi has significantly increased over the years too. The leather sofas, which are still a fundamental asset for Natuzzi, have been joined by top-quality, microfiber fabric versions. And there are coffee tables, rugs, lamps and accessories for the living room, plus beds and other furniture for the bedroom and even tables for the dining room. The collection encapsulates the brand’s DNA, which is founded on the concept of harmony. Harmony between objects, the harmony of being at home: it makes Natuzzi the «Harmony Maker».
That alone is not enough, of course, yet there is reason why independent research has identified Natuzzi as the most widely known furniture brand in the world among luxury goods consumers (Ipsos/Lagardere). The driving force behind this has been Natuzzi’s policy of globalisation. «We invested in opening and developing our retail networks, renovating our production facilities in Italy, opening new factories and commercial offices abroad and integrating these into the organisation, as well as innovating our products and production processes», explains Natuzzi. «It’s been a long, challenging process, particularly as a result of the difficult macroeconomic situation which has made life very difficult for the furniture industry. But we’ve invested €600m in the sector and we’re now starting to see the first fruit of that».
In the first six months of 2015, the group continued to expand its retail network in both the United States and Asia, where sales have experienced growth of 20.2% and 22.4% respectively thanks to new store openings. «The United States and Asia –particularly China– are markets in which we’re experiencing great success. That’s why we’re planning to open new stores in these regions across 2016 and 2017», reveals Natuzzi, who last year received special recognition for his services to the Italian industry at the Italian Talent Awards 2015, as a representative of Italian excellence in the furniture and design sector and an example of globally acclaimed creativity and innovation.