By Allison Zisko
Does the tabletop industry need another whiteware player?
It does, according to Steve Baram, if the company is Maxwell & Williams. Baram, the chief executive officer of Fitz and Floyd, said he has been "chasing" the Australian brand for the past five or six years and is so confident in its potential in the United States that he brought 500 SKUs to the Tabletop Show in New York last month.
Fifteen-year-old Maxwell & Williams is known for its everyday, affordable, fashionable tabletop. The company launched in Australia with its White Basics line of porcelain dinnerware and has since grown to encompass glassware, bakeware and gadgets. The Maxwell & Williams brand is available in 50 countries worldwide. Through a recently inked distribution agreement with Fitz and Floyd, Baram plans to make it a household name in America.
"I do a lot of international travel," Baram said. "Wherever I go, I see this brand. The story is about style, affordability, the casual nature of the business. It's not another whiteware. I look at this as a comprehensive lifestyle coming to the table."
Baram seems most impressed with Maxwell & Williams' ability to offer something to everyone--factory, distributor, retailer. Everyone makes a profit, he said. All of its products, which include wide ranges of shapely porcelain and bone china, are made in China. Price points are extremely reasonable (a bone china dinner plate retails for $10, a fine quality plate for $5), but no one gets squeezed, according to Baram.
"The business philosophy is simple but successful," he said. "In order to maximize market potential all business undertakings must be mutually beneficial. Maxwell & Williams constantly strives to be an efficient, effective and reliable business partner to suppliers and retailers. The business relationships that have been established are of mutual trust, confidence and cooperation based upon honest, open and timely communication.
"Their go-to-market strategy is so consumer friendly, so retail friendly," Baram continued. "It's in 50 countries. There's no reason why this country will be any different."
Fitz and Floyd has undergone significant changes in the past five years--including a company purchase and relocation--but Baram always kept his eye on the growing Australian company.
Fitz and Floyd is design- and sourcing-driven, Baram continued, yet it opted to bring in a new brand. "We could have brought all these categories to market ourselves. But there's something different about the Maxwell & Williams culture, the excitement. There was no way I was going to let someone else bring it in."
Maxwell & Williams generates more than $100 million in sales annually in Australia, a country with a population of 20 million. Its potential in the U.S. is significant, according to Baram. It is targeting department and specialty stores.
Maxwell & Williams recently partnered with Pasabahce to create lines of glassware and barware, and is in the negotiation process with another glassware company for glass serveware.
"Overnight we will be a force to be reckoned with in glass," Baram promised.
At the Tabletop Show key offerings included the White Basics line of dinnerware, Cashmere bone china, Motion tableware (featuring curved lines and undulating shapes), Microstoven bakeware (oven-to-table, non-stick, microwave- and freezer-safe) and Maxi gadgets.