Spokane Journal of Business

Zak Designs expands its presence in Europe

Dinnerware maker here aims to boost growth of its childrenÂ’s products

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Zak Designs Inc., the Airway Heights-based dinnerware designer and manufacturer, says its expanding its operations in Europe and is eyeing Latin America for future growth opportunities.

The company, which already has several offices across Europe for its adult dinnerware operation, now plans to open sales offices in France, Germany, and Scandinavia for its childrens dinnerware division, says Irv Zakheim, the companys president and CEO. Zak Designs also is looking at opening a sales office in Belgium, the Netherlands, or Luxembourg, and plans to set up a warehouse, likely in the Netherlands, for its childrens dinnerware division, Zakheim says.

Zak Designs, which has had an office in the United Kingdom since 1995 and opened offices in Switzerland and France for its adult dinnerware division three years ago, previously has served its childrens dinnerware customers in Europe through independent distributors, Zakheim says.

We want to deal with retailers in that region on a more direct basis, he says. Its been such a good success for our adult-focused division that we wanted to do it for our kids meal-time products.

Each sales office will start out with about two or three employees, and the company will look at hiring more as business grows, he says. Zak Designs expects to open the offices in France, Germany, and Scandinavia and the warehouse within the next two months. It will contract out the warehouses operations to a European company, he says.

Zakheim estimates that Zak Designs will employ up to 150 people in Europe within the next five years. The company currently has a total of about 400 employees globally, including 190 at its Airway Heights plant, he says.

In addition to the European offices, the company has international operations in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Australia, Mexico, Japan, and Canada. It also opened an office in Shanghai, China, in 2006.

Zak Designs posted $180 million in revenues last year, up roughly 15 percent from 2006, Zakheim says. The company is projecting a roughly 10 percent increase in revenues this year, he says.

International sales account for about 60 percent of the companys overall revenues, he says. Zakheim expects the international share to increase as operations outside the U.S., particularly in China and Europe, grow.

The company anticipates between 20 percent and 30 percent growth in its revenues in China this year.

We feel theres great growth potential there in the coming years, he says. Thats why were investing a lot of money in international operations.

After Zak Designs solidifies its presence in Europe, it likely will set its sights on Latin America, Zakheim says. This year, the company plans to strengthen its distribution networks in Colombia, Peru, and Venezuela, and expand its distribution system in Brazil, he says.

Once the companys revenues in Latin America increase enoughlikely in two or three yearsit will open sales offices there, as it has done in Europe, Zakheim says.

The majority of Zak Designs business comes from its childrens dinnerware division, which features products emblazoned with depictions of popular cartoon characters and entertainers. The companys products are sold through many major retail chains, including Wal-Mart, Target, and K-mart.

Contact Emily Proffitt at (509) 344-1265 or via e-mail at emilyp@spokanejournal.com.

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