domingo, 16 de diciembre de 2012



After 28 years, of traveling, working and tasting around the world, I believe it is time to tell you my story and share with you, some of my experiences. My first international experience started in New York, when I was 18 years old, ready to discover the world.  My notebook full of plans and a concrete project.  I left for New York... I was going to launch the Belgian Waffles in the Big Apple.  It was a great and tough experience...starting from the distribution of flyers in the Grand Central Terminal station, housekeeping in Staten Island and serving in a restaurant in the Tribeca area. The waffle concept, however, I realized a couple of years later, across the Atlantic in Portugal.
Back in  Belgium, I started my professional career at giant American sportswear company, the VF group.  I was appointed as Product Manager Lee Jeans Europe.  After 2 years, I moved to the leading worldwide sports retailer 'Intersport International Group' in Bern, Switzerland, to start as Brand Manager Europe, developing, managing and launching their textile collections with their European affiliates.  
3 years later, I was sent to Portugal as Country Sourcing and Quality Manager, controlling all production and sourcing of their products.  
The set up of new concepts has always been my cup of tea, after all these years, I dare call it my 'retail instinct'...In Portugal and next to my existing job, I created and launched 4 years later, my first own retail concept...'Carciofi'.  A new Italian fast food concept.  I opened a first take away store in a shopping mall in Oporto, 6 months later a first franchise store opened its doors (complete franchise concept) in Braga and 1 year later, the 'street restaurant concept' in Vila do Conde (an exclusive seaside resort next to Oporto).  
The success of the concept, was mainly due to the fact that we offered a different way of eating Italian pizza, offering, instead of the typical pan pizza with an excess of ingredients.  We offered a thin crusty taste full masa with just enough less but much better quality.
This, presented in a nice original concept, combined with an excellent service, were considered as different and new and became very popular.
In line with our pizza concept, we launched our very successful homemade ice cream and the famous Belgian waffles ( they are..).. under the name 'Babette', but integrated into our 'Carciofi' concept.  The results were in line with the success of Carciofi and very soon we opened 3 ice cream parlors in the north of Portugal.
As the pizza from Carciofi became the talk of the town, we also started our pizza corner in the main disco of Oporto, the 'Pacha' with an tremendous success.

CARCIOFI...THE WHOLE STORY... some impressions.

our company marketing

our franchise leaflet

a magazine publicity


   our first store in the shopping mall in Oporto

our first franchise store in Braga

our first street store in Vila do Conde

our company warehouse

our production unit

our company fleet

the crowd, waiting for an 'Babette' ice cream

and more people...

a view inside the ice cream parlor 'Babette'

two young 'Babette' ice cream fans

the 'Pacha' disco pizza corner

After 10 years of Portugal, it was time for a change.  Especially as we got a very interesting offer to take over the company.  
Carciofi,.. was probably, one of the most exciting projects in my life.
Next stop....SPAIN


The idea of Sofa deco, started about 11 years ago in Barcelona.  At that time,... it was not even called Sofa deco and the concept was more a kind sell-out warehouse, painted in flashy yellow and cobalt blue colours, packed with furniture, this kind of cheap factory outlets.  We catch up the idea in Portugal and decided to launch a similar project in Spain.  At that time, Spain was one the leading economical countries in Europe and the big boom in the real estate provide a tremendous market for the furniture business.  Everything was possible and could be sold.  After the tremendous success of our first store in Barcelona, we opened our first store in Madrid.  The stores, were mainly warehouses, situated on very commercial highways.
Mid 1997, together with the Lehman Brother crisis,...everything changed.  Suddenly, the Spanish market received the first reactions of this global economical bubble and in very short time the crisis hit the market, with the current situation as result.
After analyzing the situation, we decided to upgrading our product and image by creating a new concept, Sofa deco.  Where in a difficult market situation, mayor businesses intent to reduce selling prices (with less profit ) and try to operate into to lower segment of the market (the famous Maslow pyramid), in order to survive, we decided to upgrade and operate into the middle level, by offering better products, at the right price.  This level, was and is still a quiet abandon segment, but allowed us to position the company to what we are today.  By upgrading and creating the right concept, offering products with added value at very competitive prices, presented into a different more modern and actual concept, where quick response and service are very important (all our products, can be ordered in various sizes, fabrics and colors and are produced in Spain, with a delivery lead time from 3 to max 6 weeks), allowed us to stand out of the crowd and be still into the market today.
By reducing our product group into a more narrow, but more depth product offer, specializing it, into 2 main areas, upholstery and bedding, we managed to be more exclusive and better than others.
The upgrading into the middle segment, allowed us not only, to catch the upper level consumer, used to buy more expensive brands, but always looking for similar quality products, but at more competitive prices, but also the more lower level looking consumer, who originally first was seduced for the prices of lower level and mostly, less quality products, but finally turnover to buy a more quality product for a small price difference.
So, definitely, by offering an upgraded product, with an added value at a competitive price, so not necessary the lowest price.  
Just being different.  
Today, we operate 2 successful stores in Madrid and are preparing, after more than 10 years of experiences, to launch our first franchise store.  Our strong longtime experience with our local suppliers, allows us to look the future with optimism and start with the expansion of Sofa deco.
To be followed...

Some product images

How we convert a store into a Sofa deco store

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