Pierre Friob (Abitare Kids): a children’s retailer which thinks big
Specialising in products for children, including furniture, toys and clothes, Abitare Kids is focused on digital technologies and international expansion. Pierre Friob, the company’s CEO, explains the strategy which has led to the brand’s launch in China.
Can you present Abitare in brief?
Abitare Kids is turning eight this year. But the story began in 1999 when I acquired Abitare, which operated under the name “Trendhopper”, a commercial concept from the Netherlands. 2010 was a turning point: the Abitare Kids brand became an entirely separate company. It stands out with its multichannel concept, offering physical sales in stores and online sales. We aim to provide a product range which meets children’s needs, from newborns to eight year olds. Abitare Kids provides clients with childcare essentials, along with furniture, homeware, games and clothes. Our stores are the biggest concept stores in Europe within this market, with 1500m² of retail space focused on children! At the same time, Abitare Kids has expanded its online presence by focusing on digital technologies and, in addition to its Luxembourg store, has launched in Cologne in Germany and in Barcelona in Spain.
«Our company has always been a trailblazer when it comes to digital technologies. We’ve offered baby gift lists since 2005!»
What short-term and medium-term projects are you working on?
Our investments in Spain and Germany have seen us acquire struggling companies. There’s a lot of work to be done before they reach the same level of performance as the Abitare Kids store in Luxembourg! But this year’s biggest project launched on 18th August with the opening of our Abitare Kids store in Shanghai, which we designed in its entirety. This is an opportunity to test the Chinese market. We’re working on other projects too. There’s the launch of new furniture collections which we design and manufacture: these collections were first shown in store in September 2017 and were made available online to our European customers in July. A second collection was launched in June and there’ll be a third after the summer. Abitare Kids is also testing a revolutionary concept: the private showroom. Parents make an appointment via a platform to discuss with other families and specialists in children’s products. This is the culmination of ten years of work with a French start-up called Teeps.
What are you focusing on as you continue to expand internationally?
The distinctive nature of our stores — we offer a wide range of products for a specific target in large retail spaces — and our expert understanding of digital technologies which has helped us with the online sales of our products. This is an area which I try to promote as president of the Luxembourg E-Commerce Association. At the end of 2015, our experience and know-how helped us to develop a partnership with Peter Handstein, founder of Hape, the world’s biggest manufacturer of wooden toys. With our new partner, who leads a group which employs 3,000 people, and present internationally in China, the world’s largest market, Abitare Kids can set its sights on other continents.