Arc International - Company Profile, Information, Business Description, History, Background Information on Arc International

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World tableware leader

Created in 1825 as a small, traditional glassmaking workshop in Arque s, France, the Arc International Group has, at the initiative of its leaders, risen to the new challenges of an international market. The official change in name and identity took place in 2000, reflecting t he group's new position as world leader in all areas of the tableware industry. The group achieved turnover of 1.2 billion euro in 2004.

History of Arc International

Arc International is the world's leading producer of glassware and st emware. Based in Arques, France, Arc International produces more than six million pieces per year in six production sites, including two i n France, and one each in the United States, Spain, Italy, the United Arab Emirates, and China. The company's brands include the consumer brands Luminarc, Cristal d'Arques, Salviati, Studio Nova, and Mikasa, allowing the company to cover every tableware segment, from luxury t o low end. The company also markets products through the Arcoroc bran d, targeting the professional restaurant and catering sector. The com pany's U.S.-based Mikasa subsidiary, acquired in 2000, provides the g roup with a network of nearly 170 retail stores, and in the mid-2000s the company has begun expanding the Mikasa brand to the European mar ket. In addition to Mikasa, Arc has taken control of its distribution operations, acquiring its distributors in France, the United States, The Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Spain, and Portugal. In 2005, t he company created a new distribution joint venture for Japan in part nership with its long-term distributor there. Arc International remai ns controlled by the Durand family, which has been involved in the co mpany since the late 19th century and has owned the company outright since the 1920s. Philippe Durand is company chairman.

Crystal Origins in the 19th Century

The village of Arques, in the north of France, began its association with glassmaking in the early 19th century, with the rise of demand f or a new type of bottle, the "dames jeannes." Known as demijohns in E nglish, the new bottle featured large bodies with narrow necks, and t he largest were capable of holding as much as 20 and even 50 liters. Used for storing cognac and wine and other liquids, demand for the bo ttles quickly outstripped supply. In the 1820s, two entrepreneurs in the Artois region, near Saint Omer and Calais, decided to set up thei r own glassworks.

The first of these was built by Charles Carpentier in Saint Martin au Laert, and began production in 1823. Two years later, a new glasswor ks was built nearby in Arques, by Alexander des Lyons de Noircarme. T he following year, the two sites were merged into a single company, V errerie des Sept Ecluses. In 1869, the glassworks was acquired by ano ther glassworks operating in Arques, and then renamed as Verrerie Cri stallerie d'Arques in 1892.

Verrerie Cristallerie d'Arques was placed under the management of Geo rges Durand in 1897. Then just 27, Durand had already been active in the glassmaking industry, having worked for three years at another gl assmaker, the Cristallerie de Sèvres. By 1916, Durand had boug ht Verrerie Cristallerie d'Arques outright.

Into the 1920s, the Arques glassworks remained a fairly small busines s focused on the French market, with just 350 employees at the end of the decade. The arrival of Durand's son, Jacques Durand, as head of the company in 1927 signaled the start of its growth into the world's leading manufacturer of glass tableware. The younger Durand recogniz ed the potential for introducing new production methods to the French glass industry. In 1930, Jacques Durand took a trip to the United St ates, visiting glassmakers there. During that trip, Durand discovered new mechanical production techniques, including the use of tank furn aces. Returning to France, Durand decided to expand the Arques works, installing the company's first tank furnace, as well as three automa tic presses and the first mechanical blowing machine. The investment, completed in 1933, enabled Durand to launch large-scale production, a first in the French market.

The outbreak of World War II temporarily suspended the company's expa nsion. Instead, the company focused its efforts on designing and deve loping new glass presses, which the company installed in 1947. Three years later, the company returned to the United States, bringing back a new generation glass-blowing machine. The adoption of the new prod uction equipment and processes enabled the Arques site to become the most modern glass production site in Europe. In 1948, the company lau nched its first consumer-oriented brand name, Luminarc, which quickly became its flagship mid-priced brand.

JG Durand, as the company became known, also emerged as an important innovator in its own right. In 1958, the company became the first to automate the production of opaque "opal" glass, which was launched un der the brand name Arcopal. Two years later, the company achieved ano ther first, with the implementation of an automatic process for the p roduction of stemware. Whereas elsewhere in the industry the joining of a glass bowl to its stem was still carried out manually, Durand's process made it possible for the two parts to be fused mechanically, vastly speeding up the production process while dramatically lowering the cost of production. By placing stemware on store shelves at pric es far below those of its competitors, the company rapidly gained a l eading share of the international market.

Durand also captured a significant share of the professional market. In 1963, the company introduced its industrial tempering process, mak ing its glasses more resistant to breakage. This development formed t he basis for the launch of a new brand, Arcoroc, dedicated to the pro fessional restaurant and catering sectors. During the 1960s, Durand a lso began targeting expansion into the United States, launching sales through local distributors. In 1968, the company set up its own dist ribution subsidiary for the U.S. market.

International Success in the 1960s

The new subsidiary was established in large part to support the compa ny's true breakthrough, which came at the end of the decade. In 1968, the company became the first in the world to develop a method for au tomating the production of lead crystal. Launched under the brand nam e Crystal d'Arques (Longchamps in the United States), the company's n ew line of crystal stemware quickly swept over the market. Whereas tr aditionally lead crystal stemware sold at $25 per stem, Durand's stemware boasted prices as low as $6 per stem.

The success of the Longchamps stemware line helped establish Durand a s a worldwide market leader, and also contributed to a revolution in the glassware industry in general. Whereas previously crystal tablewa re had been luxury items reserved for special occasions, the automati on of lead crystal production placed crystal stemware within the real m of everyday consumer products.

Durand made a strategic move to back up its growing sales in the Unit ed States, launching a production subsidiary in 1979. Located in Mill ville, New Jersey, the subsidiary, Durand Glass Manufacturing Company , launched production in 1982. In the meantime, the company had expan ded its production to Spain, acquiring, in 1980, full control of a pr oduction joint venture initially established in partnership with Sain t Gobain in 1971.

Durand also expanded its brand offerings. In 1983, the company launch ed a high-end line, named JG Durand, to complement its existing Longc hamps and Crystal d'Arques brands. By then, the company had become a truly international operation, posting more than 75 percent of its sa les outside of France. The United States had become one of the countr y's single largest markets, accounting for 15 percent of the group's total revenues.

World Leader in the New Century

Jacques Durand remained in control of the company into the 1980s, joi ned by son Philippe in 1973. The younger Durand began to take over th e group's direction in 1990. Nonetheless, Jacques Durand continued to lead the company until his death in 1997. In 50 years, Durand had su ccessfully transformed the company from a small, locally focused busi ness to the world's leading maker of glass stemware, with more than 1 6,000 employees and sales to more than 130 countries.

Nonetheless, the company found itself faced with growing competition as it approached the 21st century. Philippe Durand now became determi ned to extend the group's operation, launching a new line of porcelai n items, as well as taking control of the group's distribution. Duran d also sought to reposition the company's portfolio of brand names.

That latter effort led the company, in 1999, to make its first brand acquisition, of Italy's Salviati. Founded in 1856, Salviati produced high-end glassware using traditional handmade and mouth-blown techniq ues--taking Durand full circle, as it were. The following year, the c ompany reached an agreement with Nanjing Glass Factory to form a dist ribution joint venture for the Chinese market.

The year 2000, however, marked a more significant milestone for the c ompany. In that year, Durand reached an agreement to acquire U.S. tab leware brand and retailer Mikasa for $280 million. The deal not o nly gave Durand control of the highly popular Mikasa and Studio Nova brands, but also the company's network of 167 Mikasa retail stores. M ikasa was founded in 1948 as American Commercial, serving as first an importer and later wholesaler of dinnerware. The company launched it s own Mikasa-branded line of dinnerware in 1957. In the 1970s, the co mpany expanded its line to include stemware and flatware, as well as gifts and other home furnishings. The expanded line supported Mikasa' s entry into the retail sector, with the opening of a first outlet st ore in 1978.

Following the merger, Durand changed its name, becoming Arc Internati onal. The addition of Mikasa had boosted the company's sales by some $400 million. It also had transformed the company's geographic fo cus, raising the share of the United States markets to more than 50 p ercent of the total group sales.

In the meantime, the success of Arc's joint venture in China had enco uraged the company to branch out into the production market there as well. In 2001, the company announced its intention to launch a new pr oduction facility in China. The company continued in its effort to tr ansfer part of its production overseas. This effort came in large par t in response to the increasing inroads of low-cost producers into th e company's core European and U.S. markets. Yet the company's decisio n to step up its foreign production also came in support of its effor t to target sales to the Middle East and Asian markets. In 2003, the company added a new production unit, this time in the United Arab Emi rates, with the purchase of 80 percent of RAK Glass from PAK Ceramics in Ras al Khaimah.

Into the mid-2000s, Arc put into place another prong of its growth st rategy, that of taking control of its international distribution oper ations. The company began acquiring its foreign distributors, many of which had worked with the company for several decades. In 2003, the company acquired its distributors in the United Kingdom and Spain, fo llowed by the purchase of its four French distributors, regrouped as Arc International France in 2004. The company continued its distribut ion acquisitions into 2005, acquiring U.S. distributor Cardinal Inter national and Dutch distributor Glasheinz, and forming a new joint ven ture with its distributor in Japan.

As it completed the consolidation of its distribution network, Arc re turned its attention to developing its brand portfolio. In 2003, the company launched an effort to introduce the Mikasa brand to the Europ ean market, opening its first factory outlet stores. In late 2005, th e company began negotiating with Newell Rubbermaid to acquire the Por tland, Maine-based company's European business, Newell Cookware Europ e, as well as the European, African, and Middle East license for the Pyrex and Vitri brands. Arc International inherited more than 170 yea rs of glasswares history--and raised its own glass for continued grow th in the new century.

Principal Subsidiaries: ARC Distribution France; Arc Glassware Nanjing (China); Arc International Middle East (United Arab Emirates ); Arc International North America (United States); ARC International Tableware UK; Art Glass Manufacturer Salviati (Italy); Cardinal Inte rnational (United States); Durand Glass Manufacturing Company (United States); La Vajilla Eneriz (Spain); Mikasa (United States); Vidrieri a Cristalleria de Lamiaco (Spain).

Principal Competitors: Compagnie de Saint-Gobain; Owens-Illino is Inc.; OSRAM GmbH; Schott Glas; Nipro Corporation; Belopal AD; Turk iye Sise ve Cam Fabrikalari A.S.; Vereenigde Glasfabrieken N.V.; Cris taleria Peldar S.A.; Nihon Yamamura Glass Company Ltd.


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