#Designgoeson: Paolo Castelli, the supply chain, communication and Salone del Mobile

#Designgoeson: Designdiffusion.com talks with Paolo Castelli, CEO Paolo Castelli Spa, about the economic emergency following the health emergency

What is the situation at Paolo Castelli spa a month after the beginning of the Italian lockdown and two weeks after the suspension of production activities?

In the furniture industry, there are two kinds of activity, one targeted at the residential market mainly, the other at the contract market. Since I know well both of them, I can say that, in a complicated situation like this, the companies that have been focused on the contract sector from the beginning may cope a little better. For a very simple reason. Those who sell their products on the residential market will depend on the reopening of the stores, which will cause a significant delay in the return to work. On the contrary, those who work in the contract sector could recover in a shorter time. Of course, not all companies are structured to deal with contract supplies, a specific sector that requires a different corporate structure.

Moreover, a further complication in the contract sector has to do with the protection of the supply chain to safeguard the relationships with the main suppliers so that they are always able to work with continuity and punctuality. In general, however, we who work mainly in the contract sector are worried as well, but our projects have different timing, with a slightly wider scope. Moreover, design studios can work remotely with no interruption, which allows us to advance with work. Then, as soon as we reopen, we will have to respect delivery times, and that is where safeguarding the supply chain comes into play, and that is where we also hope that there will be public financial support to companies to make up for the liquidity crisis, which will be inevitable.

Read also the other interviews with leading figures from the design world:

Smart working: a new way of working

Here at Paolo Castelli Spa, we modified the workstations to respect safety distances, even in the headquarters, as early as the beginning of March, and a Chinese client gave us a thousand masks, so we were ready to work in the offices safely. Given the obligation to close, however, we have arranged things to work remotely, and I must confess that a whole world of potential activities that can be carried out online has opened up to us. Meetings with employees, meetings with clients, meetings with buyers: new technologies indeed save time, money, effort, and the environment as well. Now is the time to take advantage of them and change some habits for good.

The Salone del Mobile di Milano and its absence: what opportunities are there?

Among the various repercussions caused by the Covid-19 health emergency, one of the most important, if not the most important for us, is the cancellation of the Salone del Mobile.Milano. For me, who comes from a family rooted in the furniture industry [Leonida Castelli, Paolo’s father, founded Anonima Castelli in the 1970s, editor’s note], the Salone del Mobile is an unmissable event, a ritual. My grandfather, Cesare, was one of the founders of the Salone, and, with my company, I have participated in the Salone 23 or 24 times. Moreover, we usually close several sales at the Salone, so the lack of the Salone represents a major loss for us. However, first of all, we have to think that there will be no Salone, which will bring no profit, but, on the other hand, there will be no costs.

I also think that we should take advantage of this year of absence to understand whether the system of relationships deriving from the Salone del Mobile can be replaced, at least in part, by an intelligent use of virtual communication. Of course, the Salone del Mobile is not replaceable, but this will be a testing ground. In the end, it may well turn out that, for companies, holding the Salone del Mobile every two years is sustainable. The annual frequency of the Salone makes it quite difficult to seriously work on research: a year is a short time to develop new products. Maybe two years would give companies more time to invest in new products.

Said that, I don’t mean that Milan’s Salone del Mobile should be biennial. I’m just saying that a year of forced stop must also be an opportunity to think; we must not stop only to look at the negative repercussions. Last, but not least, the year of forced stop will be an opportunity to understand to what extent virtual communication can help maintain relations with clients and the international press. Maybe for some it will be an opportunity to redesign their website or to consider different sales strategies.

Made in Italy furniture and exports: what about the recovery?

It is not easy to predict what will happen. Right now, we are still working on international projects, in France, in the UK, in Saudi Arabia. But we do not know what will happen when we reopen, whether we will be able to meet delivery times, or if our suppliers will be able to work, for example. What we do know for sure is that we will go ahead with the new Inspiration and Greenkiss collections, and the new catalogs as well. We will decide how to present them to clients and the press later, either online or during special meetings. Our Chinese distributor, Red Star Macalline, has confirmed that China has resumed activities, but still very slowly. On the other hand, international research says that this forced reclusion is increasing the demand for home furniture and accessories, which makes us optimistic about the recovery.

Read also the other interviews with leading figures from the design world:

Related Articles


Agape: 50 years of excellence

“In realtà, volevamo fare dell’altro” (“Actually, we wanted to do something else”) is the title of the exhibition celebrating the 50th anniversary of Agape, a company founded on the banks of the Mincio River in 1973.

Read more »