The board game Risk—full of diplomacy, conflict and conquest—was a childhood favorite for Frederic Henry. When he became the CEO of North America for British fabric brand Romo in 2005, he applied the same skills to expand the brand into the United States. “I liked conquering a country or a continent one at a time, and then making sure you don’t let go,” Henry tells host Dennis Scully on the latest episode of The Business of Home Podcast. “I feel like we did that with Romo. We had a new focus every year or [every] two years, we’d put a team together in that market, and that market, and that market.”
Over the past 18 years, Romo’s U.S. footprint has expanded to include showrooms in New York, Dallas, Chicago and Boston, and the American market now accounts for 45 percent of the company’s global sales. The fifth-generation family business was founded as a furniture manufacturer in Nottinghamshire, England, in 1902, before adding textiles to its portfolio in the 1950s. By the early 2000s, the company had a strong presence across Europe and was ready to grow further. Cue Henry, who was working at Belgian wallcovering brand Arte and clicked with the Romo team during a supply visit in 2002. Henry saw potential in Romo’s operational excellence and inventory management system, and spearheaded the brand’s U.S. subsidiary three years later.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing. At first, Romo struggled to get traction with showrooms. Then, in 2007, Henry met Thomas Lavin, who gave Romo a space at his then-new eponymous multiline showroom in the Pacific Design Center. “In life, you meet certain people and you’re like, ‘Wow, this person is going to be important to me for the rest of my life,’ and Thomas is one of those people,” says Henry, who explains how Lavin’s representation led to runaway growth in Southern California, from $300,000 to $2 million in a couple of years. Romo soon began to catch on elsewhere, and by 2007, the company opened its first showroom in New York in the Decoration & Design Building. Today, Henry continues to implement his “Risk mentality” by setting goals for the brand’s growth. “I would like that 45 percent to be 50 percent someday without us losing any market share in Europe,” he says. “We all have to grow together to make that happen and have steady growth year after year.”
Elsewhere on the podcast, Henry discusses the rise of performance textiles, whether brands matter in the world of fabric, and why Romo won’t sell to consumers.
Listen to the show below. If you like what you hear, subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. This episode was sponsored by Loloi Rugs and Four Hands.
The Thursday Show
Meanwhile, on the latest episode of The Thursday Show, Scully and BOH executive editor Fred Nicolaus broke down the latest news in the design industry, from a client rejection note that went viral to Ikea’s new design service. Later, Schumacher’s president and CEO Timur Yumusaklar joined the show to discuss the brand’s new Nashville showroom/boutique hybrid.
Listen below. If you like what you hear, subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. This episode was sponsored by Crypton.
Homepage image: Frederic Henry | Courtesy of The Romo Group