From Fierce Competitors to a Very Successful Merger, or a Brief History of the Polish brand HEFRA
Business has something in common with chemistry – we can never predict exactly what the final result of mixing different ingredients will be. For example, a merger between two fierce competitors may end in a complete disaster just as likely as… work like a dream. The latter has been the case for Warszawska Fabryka Platerów HEFRA S.A., the Polish manufacturer of deluxe flatware and tableware, which is the effect of merging two former arch rivals who, having suffered heavy losses during World War II, joined forces to create a completely new value. Till today, the merger is reflected in the company’s name. If you want to know how, read on to find out.
Imagine we are back in the 1820s. At the special invitation of the then equivalent of the modern day Interior Minister, two French entrepreneurs – brothers Alphonse and Joseph Fraget – arrive in Warsaw. What they bring with them is their considerable expertise in the gold and bronzing industry, and it is in this very sector that they decide to start their new business. In 1824, a small manufactory producing copper and silver-plated goods comes to existence. The French aesthetics of the Fraget products coupled with greatest care and attention to detail make it an instant success with the sophisticated Warsaw clientele, who quickly become Fraget’s most loyal customers. And thanks to the introduction of the latest technologies and machines used in the plating industry, the Fraget factory in Warsaw is nothing short of the world-best and most technologically-advanced ones operating in Paris at that time. Over the years, the plant keeps developing, allowing the Fraget brand to reach ever further corners of the world – by the end of the 19th century, its silver products are already known in such far-flung cities as Tiflis (Tbilisi), Lviv, St. Petersburg, Odessa, Kiev, Vilnius and even Constantinople. After the death of the founders, the factory goes to Joseph’s son, Julian, whose mission is to continue the development of the family business. Owing to the contribution of the following generations, the Fraget factory continues to thrive until the outbreak of World War II.
However, Fraget’s dominance in the silver tableware market as the market leader could not last long. Already in 1856, one of the former Fraget’s employees – Julius Joseph Henneberg – opens his own silver business producing cutlery and other tableware items. Using the know-how acquired in his previous job, Henneberg quickly gains popularity, becoming a serious market challenger and thus a fierce competitor of the Fragets. The constant struggle for market share between the two brands continues until World War II, which is the first time when they both have to admit their defeat, after having been almost completely destroyed and plundered.
HE + FRA = HEFRA
After World War II, the Fraget and Henneberg plants are nationalised. Efforts are made to resurrect both companies, but the damage caused by the war is too great to restore them to their former glory, hence the decision is made to merge the two former arch rivals. On 1 January 1965, the former Fraget merges with the former Henneberg. From the names of both founders, the new brand – HEFRA – is coined, under which the company is known till today. And although over the years the company changes hands several times, its core values – tradition and the highest quality of products – remain unchanged. Today, nearly 200 years after the founding of the original Fraget manufactory in Warsaw, HEFRA continues the heritage of its forefathers, still offering the best handmade silver and silver-plated tableware to its clients.