Business Profile: Beiersdorf Will Flourish If 'Real Men' Use Nivea; James O'Brien Talks to Thomas Flothmann, Managing Director Beiersdorf UK, Which Counts Nivea and Elastoplast among Its Products
Byline: James O'Brien
During the summer months Thomas Flothmann will listen more closely to the weather forecasts than most people.
What the forecaster tells the public can have a bearing on the business he runs and if the sun has got its hat on then turnover will be given a boost.
Thomas, aged 46, is managing director of Beiersdorf UK which has its offices at Birmingham Business Park and while he does not have responsibility for a manufacturing base he ensures that Beiersdorf's products maintain their presence in Britain's supermarkets and pharmacies.
That may give some reason for his acute interest in the weather.
Sunshine days mean the public buy more protective skin applications to stop the risk and danger from sunburns.
Thomas, described by his PR lady Dianne as 'gently spoken and a supremely courteous German,' has a team of more than 200 staff, which includes warehouse personnel, at Holford where pallets are stacked with the global brands of Nivea, Eucerin dry skin relief face wash, Nivea face care for men and Elastoplast.
But as Thomas agrees it is the men's Nivea that is showing potential in the market, helped by perimeter advertising at football and rugby matches.
Even if the tough-guy sportsmen in the grunt and groan mat-ches do not admit to applying a bit of cream to the hands and face away from the playing arena, Thomas and his team know they are buyers.
After England's famous 5-1 victory over Germany at Munich in 2001, Mr Flothmann was not too worried about the result but he was highly satisfied that the advertising around the pitch with Nivea for Men had gone well.
'Once there was only Gillette in the market with its shavers and some post-shaving applications but now there is Nivea.'
Footballer and popular icon David Beckham has shown his 'feminine side' according to the experts by admitting that he uses Posh's creams.
'Beckham does not assist our business because we do not have him on our books,' said Thomas, 'but I would love to have him promote our products and I suppose we could for pounds 2 million but in the way we think, that focus would mean sacrificing something.
'He is an asset to the hairstyle industry and if he changes his hairstyle then next day 10,000 kids want the new Beckham hairstyle.
'He assists the hairdressing industry and its styling and colouring products but he does not do much for our industry.'
Naturally, there was some marketing sloganising during our conversation with phrases like 'men who dare to care'.
'Men do use a cream, shampoo and aftershave but the cream was something they took from the pots belonging to their wife or girlfriend' Thomas came to the UK in 1993 with German company Beiersdorf of Hamburg, the year after the company re-purchased the Nivea brand from Birmingham firm Smith & Nephew.
In 1956 the Nivea trademark had been registered as the property of Smith & Nephew, which also owned Elastoplast, but that also is now back under the ownership of Beiersdorf.
When he arrived in the UKwith his wife and three young children Thomas was ensconced in 'run down offices' at Smith & Nephew at Alum Rock.
'I tried to integrate myself and met all the staff working around me and I also went out with them in to the field with the sales guys.
'In April 2000 I was called to a business meeting at Heathrow Airport by executives from Beiersdorf and Smith & Nephew.
'We all had to sign a confidentiality agreement. Smith & Nephew were getting something from Beiersdorf and we were getting something from them.
'On July 1 Beiersdorf had acquired Elastoplast and we had sold our hospital supplies business to Smith & Nephew. They are now a medical company and we are a consumer goods company.'
Beiersdorf then started its business in Birmingham and took 160 people with it from Smith & Nephew 'and that was the day I knew my integration efforts had paid off,' said Thomas who had never previously run a company. …