Interview Jan Kurtz

"I am a faithful soul."

Jan Kurtz is a communicative guy who doesn't like to talk. At least not about himself. "I'm just a normal guy." He thinks so. Well, there are more normal ones. In the sense of boring. In the sense of unpretentious, you can agree with him. But he jumps at the right topics. 

jankurtz was listed with some major distributors. Sounds like a great business. Now you're not. Why not?
Yes we used such channels. And it went well. The furniture stores sold us really well. 

They wanted an extra fee for selling us very well. 

For making so much profit on jankurtz??
Yeah. I didn't understand that either. I didn't want to be blackmailed. And bang, I was out. 

And then?
Well, it was quite a slump in the balance sheet. We had to restructure.

"I will not be blackmailed."

What is the strategy today?
focus on class instead of mass. 

What does that mean?
We are
out of the mass market. We prefer to rely on high-quality design dealers. Above all, on many dealers. Such selective distribution also means spreading the risk. Today we have about 500 customers. And we work with them on an equal footing. But it also took a few years, such a changeover. 

Where would you place the jankurtz collections in the market?
We are
certainly interesting for those who have already tried the IKEA programme up and down. Who want to reach a new level in their interior design. They can do that with us. jankurtz is straightforward, original, sensible, consistent. Clear lines. Clear edge. Quality. 

It is noticeable that you charge fairly moderate prices even for properties for which you have a quasi-monopoly. What is behind the concept?
First of all,
a sales price has to be calculated seriously. There's no point in charging exorbitant prices just because you could. Besides, it keeps competition at bay. The more expensive I am, the more likely it is that someone will come up with the idea that they can offer the same (or even cheaper). 

You work with external designers, but the company also develops its own models. Do you have permanent designers?
. One. Me. I am our design team. But seriously, I think about it, get feedback from customers, try to optimise details, improve lines. Make little drawings with a few strokes. But I'm not a trained designer. Just an autodidact who tries to optimise the products.

"The design team at jankurtz? Me."

This was and is also the case with the loungers from the Italian manufacturer FIAM. One of jankurtz's top sellers. Still room for improvement?
lounger itself is ideal. I think so. And 50,000 satisfied customers find it so every year. Every year. But we have made suggestions - also with professionals from outside - for new variants. Higher lying surfaces that make it easier for older people to get up, wider lying surfaces, armrests, things like that. That's how a whole collection came into being. 

There was stress with a trade partner. Why?
We had our FIAM couches in their shops. In every city in Germany. The next year they didn't want the loungers anymore. They had their own. Copies of ours. So I filed a copyright lawsuit. For five years. Through all the instances. A lot of people advised me to let it go. It's also mega-stress. And expensive. And the opponent is actually superior. 

How did the legal dispute turn out?
The Federal Supreme Court ruled in our favour and prohibited us from copying the technical details. I had a great lawyer. I still have one today. And he has become a good friend. I'm kind of a loyal soul.

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