CEO, Gemla

Benny Hermansson

Four and a half years ago, Benny Hermansson became owner and CEO of Gemla, a prestigious furniture manufacturer in the south of Sweden. He was leaving behind a career lasting over 20 years at IKEA, where he worked as warehouse and marketing manager and on the group’s business development. The Gemla factory is situated in the small community of Diö, just 11 km north of better known Älmhult and just 30 km from the village where Benny actually grew up.

“I had previously spent a great deal of time on brand change and how to position our company, and I concluded that the only way for Gemla to survive was to increase the craft element and work on environmental issues to create a product that is, quite simply, the best in the industry. So we have gradually tried to hone our range and the look of the products.”

It has clearly worked. We heard that you have just shipped off a batch of chairs for Terence Conran in London!

“Yes, the exporting is coming along nicely. There was some export business way back, but not in the modern era. I’ve been to London quite a few times now. The key is to establish good contact with the architects, so they design our furniture into their projects. We’ve been involved in a number of projects in London, New York, Los Angeles and a few restaurants in Chicago and Miami. We’re also doing well in the Nordic countries, and we’re currently working on breaking into the German market, where we’ve received a wonderful response.”

How important is Stockholm Furniture & Light Fair for Gemla?

“When you’ve been languishing like Gemla, having a presence here is vital. We’ve had many people come up to us and say ‘are you still going?’ We’ve secured a prime location and we get lots of visitors in the morning, so it’s been a fantastic fair for us.

“All in all, it’s a professional and well-organized fair.”

How do you tackle environmental issues?

“The first thing I did when I took over ownership was to conduct an environmental audit of everything we do. We threw out all the polyester, cheap synthetic fabrics and so on. We really did our environmental homework, so now we work exclusively with certified forests, vegetable tanned leather, high quality organic wool fabrics and water-based surface coatings.”