Six questions about Steinhoff you were too embarrassed to ask.Who is Steinhoff and where did it all start?
While it has often been lauded as one of SA's most successful global companies, Steinhoff was originally a West German firm.
The company’s somewhat complicated history was laid out in its 1998 prelisting prospectus before when it went public on the JSE, some 17 years before it listed in Frankfurt.
According to the prospectus, the group’s origins date to 1964, when German businessman Bruno Steinhoff, a furniture sales agent, decided to start his own business.
He was successful, especially in forging links with upholstery and furniture producers in the then East Germany.
In 1989, following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany, Steinhoff aquired a number of businesses in the former East Germany. It later expanded to Poland and Hungary.
In the 1990’s Bruno Steinhoff’s family bought an 35% interest in in Gommagomma Holdings, a SA company that manufactured things like lounge suites, bedroom units and dining furniture.
Steinhoff apparently liked what he saw in SA and in 1998 Gommagomma, who had by then bought Victoria Lewis, changed its name to Steinhoff Africa.
Steinhoff International Holdings, meanwhile, became the umbrella parent firm under which Steinhoff Europe and Steinhoff Africa fell.
Steinhoff listed on the JSE in 1998. But it already had its eye on further expansion.
“Our business model is to be a low-cost producer and distributor of furniture. Our marketing thrust is global, catering for the mass middle market,” stated its chairman’s report in 1998.
A 2015 company report that looked back at the history of the firm notes that the years between 1998 and 2004 were when it “established the base”. It invested in further low-cost manufacturing, and dipped its toes in the UK and Australian markets.
The years between 2004 and 2015 were a time of “consolidation”.
Major investments include discount furniture and household retailer Poco in 2008, and pan-European home furnishings company Conforama in 2011, as Steinhoof tried to stand toe to toe with the likes of Ikea.