Vorwerk is an international diversified corporate group headquartered in Wuppertal, Germany. The main business is the direct distribution of various products like household appliances (e.g. Kobold vacuum cleaners), fitted kitchens and cosmetics. Vorwerk was founded in 1883.
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|Industry||retail, electronics, textiles, chemistry, services|
|Founded||Wuppertal, Germany (1883)|
|Reiner Strecker (Managing Partner)|
|Products||household appliances, fitted kitchens, cosmetics, services, carpets|
|Revenue||3.05 billion € |
(Group Sales 2016)
The company, which is family-owned and operated as a limited partnership, reported having 12,000 full-time employees and over 590,000 self-employed sales representatives in more than 70 countries worldwide as of 2014. The largest proportion of sales representatives (546,000) work for the US-based subsidiary JAFRA Cosmetics. The company posted revenue of €2.8 billion in 2014.
The beginnings — Barmer Teppichfabrik Vorwerk & Co
In 1883, the Barmer Teppichfabrik Vorwerk & Co was founded by the brothers Carl (1847–1907) and Adolf Vorwerk. That very same year, the brothers parted ways again and Carl Vorwerk continued to run the company. The firm initially manufactured high-quality carpets and upholstery fabrics, and later also the looms used to make them – first under an English patent, and then under an improved proprietary patent.
Carl Vorwerk’s son, Carl jr. (1878–1904), was to be his successor as company director, but he died just a few months after taking the helm in 1903. Thus, upon the death of the company founder in 1907, his son-in-law, August Mittelsten Scheid (1871–1955), became sole managing partner. Under his leadership, the company diversified following the First World War, taking up the production of gear units and electric motors for gramophones as its military research efforts halted.
Kobold and direct sales
As radio grew in popularity in the 1920s, gramophone sales dropped precipitously. This dire situation gave rise to the birth of the “Vorwerk Kobold” in 1929: chief engineer Engelbert Gorissen developed out of a gramophone motor a high-performance electric upright vacuum cleaner. On 25 May 1930, a patent was granted for the Kobold “Model 30”. At first, sales of what was at the time a completely unknown appliance in Germany were very poor, despite the relatively modest price of 20 Reichsmarks. Only when direct sales were launched in 1930 – the brainchild of Werner Mittelsten Scheid (1904-1953), a son of the company founder – did the product meet with success. By 1935, 100,000 “Kobolds” had been sold, by 1937 half a million and by 1953 one million. Already before the Second World War, in 1938, the first foreign sales organization was established: Vorwerk Folletto in Italy.
During World War II, the main plant in Wuppertal-Barmen was severely damaged in a May 1943 bombing, after which August Mittelsten Scheid’s sons, Werner and Erich Mittelsten Scheid, jointly took over management of the firm. The sales organization, which had held the company above water during the war years by selling various products, discontinued operations that year.
After the war was over, production and sales were rebuilt, first in Germany, and then in Europe and overseas. By 1955, 2,000 Vorwerk sales representatives were once again underway. Sole managing partner – following the death of his brother in 1953 – was Erich Mittelsten Scheid.
In 1969, Dr. Jörg Mittelsten Scheid, Werner’s son, succeeded his uncle as head of the family business. Three years later, Günter Busch and Bernd Balders became the first managing partners who were not members of the founding family.
While up to the end of the 1960s the company focused mainly on the production and sale of vacuum cleaners, carpets and upholstery fabrics, ever since that time it has continually diversified, initially into the services sector. Vorwerk was co-founder of the akf bank in 1968; in 1970 the in-house data processing department brought forth the ZEDA Gesellschaft für Datenverarbeitung und EDV-Beratung mbH & Co. KG; and the founding of Hygienic Service Gebäudereinigung und Umweltpflege GmbH in 1974 was the germ cell that led to the Hectas Facility Services division. At the same time, the company was also expanding its range of household products. This included the launch of the Thermomix food processor in 1971, followed by Vorwerk Fitted Kitchens in 1974.
The company kicked off the 21st century with a number of new acquisitions and restructuring projects. In 2001, Vorwerk purchased the Lux Asia Pacific direct sales organization from the Swedish Electrolux group, thus consolidating its position on the Asian market. The next year saw the introduction of the “Feelina” ironing system, and the year after that the spin-off of the company’s data processing services: ZEDA was sold to T-Systems in 2003. The final coup was the acquisition of American cosmetic manufacturer Jafra Cosmetics in May 2004.
At the end of 2005, Jörg Mittelsten Scheid left the board. Since January 2013, corporate management at Vorwerk has been in the hands of: Walter Muyres (Managing Partner), Reiner Strecker (Managing Partner) and Frank van Oers (Managing Partner).
The consolidated Vorwerk group encompasses over 27 companies worldwide, which are divided into eight main fields of business.
Main fields of business
- InDirect sales
- Division Kobold
- Division Thermomix (multifunctional kitchen appliance)
- Division Jafra Cosmetics (cosmetics, skin and body care products)
- Division Lux Asia Pacific (household appliances in the Asia-Pacific region)
- Division Vorwerk Carpets
- Division Vorwerk Facility Management Holding KG (infrastructural facility services)
- Division akf group (financial services)
Important companies and locations
as well as sales companies in Germany, Austria, Italy, France, Spain, Czech Republic, Poland, Russia, Portugal, China, Taiwan, Mexico, Japan, Switzerland, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Hungary, United States of America, Brazil, Dominican Republic, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia.
Vorwerk production sites
- Vorwerk Elektrowerke GmbH & Co. KG, Wuppertal (research of household appliances)
- Vorwerk Semco S.A.S., Cloyes-sur-le-Loir, France (Thermomix production)
- Vorwerk Folletto Manufacturing S.r.l., Arcore - Milan, Italy (production of accessories and ironing system)
- Vorwerk Household Appliances Co., Inc. Shanghai, China (production and sales)
- JAFRA Cosmetics International, Inc., Westlake Village, California, USA (headquarters, research and development)
- Cosmeticos y Fragancias S.A. de C.V. Naucalpan de Juárez, Mexico (production)
as well as additional sales companies in Mexico, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Netherlands, Brazil, Indonesia
Lux Asia Pacific
- Lux Asia Pacific Pte. Ltd., Singapore (headquarters)
- Lux Manufacturing Corp., Makati City, Philippines (water filter production)
as well as additional sales companies in Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, Taiwan, Australia, Vietnam, Malaysia.
- Vorwerk & Co. Teppichwerke GmbH & Co. KG, Hamelin
Vorwerk Facility Management
- Vorwerk Facility Management Holding KG, Wuppertal
as well as additional subsidiaries in Germany, Austria, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Poland, Belgium, Greece
- akf bank GmbH & Co. KG, Wuppertal
as well as additional subsidiaries in Spain
- Reiner Strecker (Managing Partner)
Advisory board for the managing partners:
- Rainer Baule (Chairman)
- Dr. Jörg Mittelsten Scheid
- Prof. Dr. Ing. Pius Baschera
- Dr. Rainer Hillebrand
- Dr. Axel Epe
- Daniel Klüser
- Dr. Timm Mittelsten Scheid
- Sabine Schmidt
In 2011, Vorwerk Group reported revenue of EUR 2.367 billion. Direct sales were the main drivers with an increase in revenue worldwide of 5 percent. The share of business volume outside of Germany was 67 percent and direct sales accounted for as much as 83 percent.
The most tradition-steeped products in the range are the carpets and carpeting, the only business field in which Vorwerk has been active consistently since its founding in 1883. But Vorwerk is known chiefly for the production and sales of vacuum cleaners and accessories, and Division Kobold is the company’s biggest moneymaker today. Vorwerk Fitted Kitchens, the Thermomix kitchen appliance and the Feelina ironing system round out the portfolio in the household realm. New since the takeover of Jafra in 2004 are skin and body care products as well as cosmetics and perfume.
- "Neato Robotics Acquired by Vorwerk Group". Smart Robotic Home. 2017-09-22. Retrieved 2017-09-22.
- "Vorwerk acquires home robot vacuum maker Neato Robotics | VentureBeat". venturebeat.com. Retrieved 2017-09-22.
- Annual report 2011