A Conversation with Markus Aumann
Thursday, August 30, 2018
Ed. Note: This is the sixth year since Spartherm made its entry into the North American market. In that time, Markus Aumann, International Sales manager, has set up distributors and called on many retailers.
Spartherm, the product he is selling, is a wood-burning fireplace with beautiful design and German engineering – meaning the best in the world. Hearth & Home caught up with Aumann for a quick chat.
Hearth & Home: Do you presently have all of your distributors in place to cover the U.S. and Canadian markets?
Markus Aumann: “We have a reasonable network set up in Eastern Canada and in parts of Western Canada. In the U.S., we have a number of larger retailers that we have started working with.
“In Eastern Canada we have Powrmatic; they have six well-placed locations and adequate stock to service the clientele. Powrmatic also deals with retailers who have been established in the U.S. and have the warehousing needed to accommodate our products. Classic Fireplaces and Fireplaces Unlimited handle Western Canada.
“It is too soon to have an established network throughout the U.S.; there is a lot of work to be done in 2019.
“The U.S. is large and it takes time to find the right partners for long- term cooperation. Interested wholesalers or area dealers are welcome to contact us.”
Has Spartherm introduced any new products?
Aumann: “Not for the North American market. Spartherm, one of the leading European brands in fire technology, has come up with a number of new products for the European market; it is a very competitive market and important to have new and innovative products.
“The main new development is our “Premium range” of fireplaces that is the latest in design and creates a fireplace where no frame is visible and the fire view is optimized. The Premium range is designed to set the trend in new development in Europe and has been very well received.”
When last I asked, you told me the price of your products was not a problem. Is that still true?
Aumann: “Our main goal is to manufacture, and supply, a design product that is known for quality, workmanship, and innovation. The use of the materials and production processes have to be such that it creates a product of value and durability. We take no shortcuts in the engineering and testing of our products, and manufacture the components in-house.
“Spartherm is not an inexpensive product, however, we have clientele in 60 countries worldwide that find a value in the purchase of our fireplaces. Specifically, we are known for quality and the latest in innovation. Price is related to what a particular customer finds to be of value.
“We are not trying to compete with the market for wood-burning fireplaces; we are trying to offer a completely new concept of a wood- burning fireplace that is “fireplace furniture.” The use of the design and function will create a long-lasting atmosphere and feeling of well-being. It is the look and the view of the fire that is important, and the long-term function of the fire.”
What is the price range of your line?
Aumann: “It is U.S. $6,000 – U.S. $12,000. We have standard “straight face” units through to multi-angled fireplaces available. However, what is very important to us is that the technology and innovation is standard throughout the range.
“There is no difference in the material that we use to manufacture the different units, however, an angled unit is more expensive to manufacture and design.”
Obviously, there are some hearth shops that do better than others in selling your product. When you examine those stores, do they have anything in common? For example, are they in particularly wealthy areas? Are they in particularly cold areas. Are the stores that do well with your product particularly attractive? Well run?
Aumann: “We have found that there are certain retailers/dealers that work better than others. The range is very new and different to what is available on the market. Therefore, it takes some vision to take on a line of fireplaces that have a new or different type of installation.
“We have found that specialized retailers/dealers who have worked with commercial or residential projects find a way forward with our products. In general, these types of retailers have a background of dealing with architects and designers, and therefore there is a vision to find products with a new design. The trend should always be to think progressively and find something different and new.
“Some parts of the market are more traditional, in which case we focus on starting with straight-face or see-through fireplaces until the angled units become better known.”