It only took a few years for your vinyl wall coverings to become a leading product in the main developed countries. How do you explain this rapid success ?
Vescom is a group that was created in the Netherlands, and it goes without saying that the Dutch have a knack for business and that they rarely rest on their laurels. It is true that success came quickly. In 1973, two years after the company was created, we already had a presence in several European countries. However, I don't think that a flair for trade is our only strong point: we were able to evolve while constantly expanding our collections. We enjoy a strong reputation for our vinyl wall coverings, and we are starting to make a name for ourselves as regards the quality of our PVC coatings for covering seats, and for our collections of curtains; all of which were only launched in 2010!
Who are your customers?
Almost everyone, except individuals. We often go through influencers with whom we have a good relationship: architects, interior designers, construction economists, builders, and we regularly visit them to keep abreast of their projects and to present our new collections. This constant contact is essential, especially for a company like ours which launches a new product every six weeks. That being said, our customers are major real estate development companies, the hospitality industry, the service industry, stores and, of course, the medical industry in the broadest sense as it involves hospitals, private clinics and retirement homes. Finally, we have around twenty subsidiaries dotted across the world and a presence on every continent.
Do you have your own production centres?
Yes, we have five plants worldwide: two in the Netherlands, of course, one in Germany, and two in the United States where we are a major player in our chosen industry. This industrial autonomy enables us to focus on our manufacturing processes and on the quality of our products. We offer solutions for all types of projects, from the smallest budgets to the largest. We have two major ranges of PVC; the first has a density of 300 g per square metre and the other has a density of 750 g per square metre, almost twice the density for increased rigidity. Being a manufacturer also has other advantages, namely being able to control the design process.
Speaking of which, how are you organised? Do you use external designers?
This is one of our greatest strengths as I must repeat that we place around ten new products on the market every year. Our designers are usually internal staff, but we sometimes use external designers, particularly in the context of personalised projects for which there is increasing demand. We have three digital printers, one of which is a large format printer, that are able to print PVC, which is ideal for small and medium quantities made to order. But developments in design are not limited to the machines. Our designers are constantly on the lookout for new trends and are always proposing new textures, new patterns, or simply new harmonious combinations of colours. The R&D department then has to develop the right processes for manufacturing them. And our forty years of experience gives us a distinct advantage in this area. Choosing a set of colours or a convoluted pattern is not a problem. Vinyl truly is an incredible material!
What are vinyl's greatest strengths?
Compared to what exactly? In our industry, we are in competition with painted walls and possibly with painted canvas. Although these two solutions seem less costly at first, things seem less certain when you look more closely. Paint coatings usually have to be redone after five years, while a PVC wall has a life expectancy of around fifteen years. It is resistant to impact and abrasion, it does not deteriorate over time, it does not wash out, and there are so many more possible variations in terms of colours, patterns and even textures. The same advantages can be found in our ranges of PVC designed for covering seats. In the event of an accident, they can simply be washed with a sponge to restore them to their initial appearance. Reason enough for being favoured by restaurants and hotels alike.
You mainly work with public spaces: how does vinyl behave against fire?
Very, very well! In fact, it meets very specific and strict standards. An independent laboratory recently carried out full scale tests in student lodgings decorated with PVC coverings (floors, walls, furniture). The hydrochloric acid released by the PVC is not the cause of incapacitation or death of the occupants, whether they are able-bodied or disabled.
In other words, in the event of a fire, a person who was unable to leave the premises is more likely to suffer burns than chemical poisoning.
Finally, what is your environmental policy?
We are Dutch, from a country where people travel by bike, so it can be said that we attach great importance to the environment. For instance, we have been affiliated to VinylPlus since its inception; it is the international authority launched by the vinyl transformation industry which aims to sustainably improve the production and use of PVC. PVC is an easily recycled polymer as long as it is pure, which is the case for our products, once the cotton backing has been removed.
We are also very vigilant as regards our production processes, and we systematically opt for the greenest alternative. In the space of twenty years, we have been able to reduce our consumption of water and energy while continually increasing production. However, despite this "good report", we believe that we can still do better.
We are currently considering improving the recycling systems for our wall coverings by creating our own collection system. This would be a major project that would require a lot of energy. Fortunately, we have more than enough to spare !