MILAN — Thun, the ceramic ornaments brand that has gained a loyal following in Italy for its cartoonish puppets and knickknacks, is banking big on the post-pandemic appetite for home decor.
The 70-year-old company has been on an acquisition spree in order to build a group that operates in the middle segment of the porcelain, tableware and decor markets.
In early 2021, the family-run Thun, founded in 1950 by Lene and Otmar Thun, formed Lenet Group, a multi-business entity that, among other units, includes a business-to-consumer division, now bulked up via the acquisition of Unitable, which operates brands Rose&Tulipani, La Porcellana Bianca and Rituali Domestici, all tapping into the affordable market.
The group — which also offers third-party solutions by leveraging its expertise in operations, logistics, digital capabilities, omnichannel and retail strategies — is focused on growing its decor division, aiming to capitalize on the new market dynamics regarding decorating one’s home after two-plus pandemic years that have spun new trends and consumers’ ambitions.
“The pandemic has ignited a strong request for price-for-value products, there always needs to be some utilitarian component to every purchase,” explained Francesco Spanedda, group chief brand officer.
“It was the right company for us, with a strong portfolio of brands telegraphing Italian-ness…and tapping into the middle market, which I think has not been really explored,” Spanedda said of the purchase of Unitable.
He touted the portfolio’s varied mix, with La Porcellana Bianca offering muted and refined tableware with a country-chic bent evoking sun-soaked tables in the Tuscan countryside; Rose&Tulipani tapping into an eclectic aesthetic, very Milanese and Mediterranean, the executive pointed out, and Rituali Domestici creating home decor pieces such as decorative lamps, vases and ornaments with a contemporary design twist.
He said that in the past matching sets were all the rage, while the pandemic years have triggered consumers’ desire to use table decoration “as a tool to express oneself,” giving way to a surge in demand for mismatched arrangements, which, for instance, are core to the Rose&Tulipani assortment.
“All brands are complementary to each other, we purposefully chose to leverage the different synergies and carefully strengthen their distribution so that they don’t swallow one another,” Spanedda said.
Since the acquisition in January 2021, the Unitable brands have seen a 60 percent jump in their 2021 turnover, with the home and decor divisions posting sales of around 122 million euros. “Tremendous growth confirmed these were companies with untapped potential,” Spanedda said.
There’s more fuel to add, he said, in that all home decor brands could expand their assortment, for example in the “slow life” cookware arena for La Porcellana Bianca and with new trend-chasing styles for Rose&Tulipani, or embrace wider distribution and strengthen their global appeal, particularly for Thun.
The brand has little international exposure, except for the DACH area, and the company is aiming to widen the customer base by further leveraging its positioning. By contrast, the Unitable brands generate 40 percent of their revenues internationally and are stocked at Dubai’s Galeries Lafayette, Fortnum & Mason in the U.K. and Williams Sonoma in the U.S., among others.
In 2021, Lenet Group posted sales of 127.8 million euros, up 15.5 percent versus the year prior. In addition to the Unitable brands and Thun label, the group operates Teddy Friends, an ornament brand geared at children; Luxpets, a high-end pet accessories marketplace, and Connecthub Logistics & Digital, a provider of distribution, system integration and business intelligence services.
In January, the group was recognized as a Benefit Company, which by Italian law is bestowed on businesses that aim to generate a positive impact on people and planet and has applied for B Corp status.