14195 Fri, 04/04/2008 - 2:26pm
By Allison Zisko
NEW YORK–In celebrating its 25th anniversary, The Zrike Company is in fact celebrating the 60 years company founder Raymond Zrike Sr. has been in the tabletop business.
It is Zrike, who, armed with about 40 years of experience as an importer, decided to go into business for himself, where he paved the way to Portugal and later established manufacturing in South America and China. And who, at 86 years of age, still goes to work every day and has a say in most aspects of the business.
“It’s an honor to work with him,” said David Zrike, president and one of Raymond Zrike’s three sons. He said his father, who is “sharp as a tack,” is highly regarded in the tabletop world, where he is considered “a dean of the industry.”
Raymond Zrike began his tabletop career in the 1940s by working with his uncle importing high-end European brands such as Lalique, Baccarat and Royal Worcester. In 1962, he became president of Royal Worcester—“That’s how my family got its foothold in this industry,” said David Zrike—and left in 1975 to lead Kosta Boda in the United States. In 1983, he founded The Zrike Company. He got the business off the ground as a distributor, but soon turned to manufacturing when Bloomingdale’s organized a Portugal event. Through this event, Zrike was introduced to Vista Allegre, a major Portuguese manufacturer. It thereby became one of the first tabletop companies to work in Portugal. “It was our association with Vista Allegre that got us entrenched in Portugal with our own brands,” said David Zrike.
The company still works in Portugal, as well as Colombia and China. The bulk of its production is done in China. It has also, in addition to its own brand, become a major licensor, for names like Tracy Porter (its top-selling brand), Disney, Kellogg’s, Campbell Soup and others.
Licensing has become an integral part of Zrike’s business. “In this market we feel it distinguishes us in this business. We are fortunate to have fantastic partners,” David Zrike said. “We’re fortunate to represent some of the major brands in the world. It has allowed us to place product in stores all over the country.”
Campbell’s, Zrike’s newest licensee, will have front-and-center placement at the tabletop show this week, and there will be new designs in Tracy Porter, Kellogg’s and Disney. The company also plans to launch a major brand, via license, in 2009.
To celebrate its 25th anniversary, Zrike will have a number of promotions, which it will detail at the show this week. It will also arrange trunk shows around the country. Zrike has tested the trunk show concept at a few stores in New Jersey and it’s been successful, Zrike said. It allows stores, mostly specialty independents, to bring in inventory without buying on consignment. The wares are featured at in-store events with cocktail parties and other draws. These trunk shows will be offered to Zrike’s entire sales force.
In the fall, Zrike will unveil its R.W. Zrike Signature Collection, a series of patterns that recall Zrike’s roots, including designs and products from Portugal and Europe.
Zrike’s game plan for 2008 is to focus on giftware and accessories, which have the most growth potential. Impulse buys are key, Zrike said. An example would be its Kellogg’s stackable bowls and mugs, which offer convenience as well as design.
In 25 years, Zrike has seen much change, mostly in its account base and in the number of stores who are bypassing manufacturers and buying directly overseas. “That’s why our brand strategy has allowed us to grow and profit,” he said.