The name Plastoria stands for accessories in the premium sector. Under the labels of seven famous fashion brands, the Brussel-based traditional company designs, produces and sells business gifts with a long-term impact all over the world.
“We produce business gifts, not promotional products – that is a big difference,” explained Lionel Wajs, COO of Plastoria. “Our products are not merely successful due to their function and advertising message, but also because of their brand name and character as high-quality gifts. They have a price, which we don’t undercut, which is on the other hand well below their perceived value by the recipients.“ Plastoria represents seven worldwide famous fashion brands: Hugo Boss, Cacharel, Cerruti 1881, Christian Lacroix, Nina Ricci, Jean-Louis Scherrer and Ungaro and also holds the license to design, produce and sell accessories under the respective brand name. Writing instruments and office accessories make up the largest share, followed by bags, leatherware and watches. “We are particularly proud of our latest license – Hugo Boss – which we were able to acquire in 2015 and which comprises of writing instruments and office accessories,” stated Lionel Wajs. “We invested a lot of effort into achieving this. It is a big honour that is only granted to a few companies.“ As a manufacturer and designer of luxury items, Plastoria looks back on over 80 years of experience. Originally founded by Lionel Wajs‘ grandfather, as a producer of leatherware, in the 1930s, the company began to design, produce and import products on behalf of and under the license of brand companies in the 1980s. “The first brand that we produced collections for was Balmain,” reported Lionel Wajs. “Further brands followed gradually and the distribution network grew in the B2B area, but primarily also in the retail sector – we have experienced such strong growth here that in 2009 we decided to divide the company up.“ The independent sister company Distri-Brands has been responsible for the retail customers all over the world since then. “We currently have around 3,000 sales points around the globe, I am expecting this figure to treble within the next three years. Of course, the strongly increasing demand for our brands in the retail sector also helps the B2B business, i.e. Plastoria.“
Just like its retail sister company, Plastoria is still 100% family-owned and family-run: In addition to Lionel Wajs, the management comprises of his father Michel as the CEO, and his sister Chloe, who is Director of the Design, Product Development and Product Management Departments. Everything comes together at the headquarters of Plastoria, an extremely impressive building, both inside and outside, that is located in the Anderlecht district of Brussels. 60 employees work in the Administration and Production Departments here, 5,000 m² of space offers room for offices, the administration department and showroom, creation, prototyping and customising as well as two warehouses. Numerous glass walls enable a clear overview of all departments. The product design – an important asset of the company – is completely carried out in Brussels under the company’s own direction. Every year between 400 and 500 new products are created – around 25% of the overall collection that comprises of around 2,000 items. “The cycles are slightly different to those of the fashion area, where there are at least two seasons a year,” explained Lionel Wajs. “At the beginning we receive an introduction into the trends of the new season by the brand companies, among others in the form of a mood board, which conveys colours, moods, materials or shapes. On top of that of course there is a significant catalogue of brand guidelines and specifications that have to be strictly followed in detail.”
A development process lasting several months ensues, during the course of which Plastoria engages in an intensive exchange with the respective companies. “Every brand has its own distinctive image, furthermore we have to satisfy different international tastes that differ greatly in some cases,” explained Lionel Wajs. It goes without saying that the manufacturing process has to be carried out with due diligence. Lionel Wajs: “We already check the raw materials thoroughly, we have our own offices in the Far East and only work together with producers, who we completely or at least partly control. Each product is only produced by one manufacturer, because we can’t tolerate even the smallest deviations.“ For this reason, all of the products are checked meticulously in the finally quality control that is carried out in Brussels. The brand companies lay down precisely how the products have to be positioned for sale – in print, online and offline, in the retail outlets as well as at trade fairs and in showrooms. “Hugo Boss forbids customisations on the products themselves,” said Lionel Wajs. “We too recommend our customers not to embellish the products directly, but instead to place an advertising message on the packaging or to use an inlay, because this further enhances the high-quality perception of the product. People, who receive a luxury product, remember the sender without a logo.“
The customers of Plastoria can fall back on an in-house programmed webshop system, that is connected to the merchandise management and which communicates the stock level and delivery in real-time. This allows distributors to create their own webshop with little effort, the content of which is completely managed by the Plastoria back-office. “This is also necessary due to the brand guidelines, at the same time we offer our customers a comprehensive service and also give them the opportunity to suggest ideas and improvement proposals,” explained Lionel Wajs. In most countries Plastoria cooperates with exclusive representatives that have to undergo an acceptance procedure and who also have to fulfil certain objectives. Nevertheless the motto is class instead of masses. “We don’t want to distribute our products on the market following the scattering principle, instead we prefer to work together with fewer distributors, who are however good and who understand our brand concept – including the fact that price is not the decisive criteria for selling our products,” underlined Lionel Wajs. “All of these are measures that serve to reinforce the brands and protect them against dilution. Because the stronger a brand, the more a business gift is likely to enfold its full impact as a haptic messenger.“
// Till Barth
A detailed report about the Belgian promotional products market can be found here: Part 1.