SIGVARIS GROUP owners Stefan und Christian Ganzoni have been awarded as “Entrepreneurs Of the Year 2019” in the category Family Business in Switzerland.
The Entrepreneur Of The Year™ is highly respected award recognizing the achievements of entrepreneurs. The program is run by EY, currently spread to over 70 countries, and was organized for the 22nd time in Switzerland in current year. A total of 45 Swiss entrepreneurs participated in the 2019 competition. These 45 companies represent the categories “Services/Trade”, “Emerging Entrepreneur”, “Family Business”, and “Industry/High-tech/Life Sciences”.
The entrepreneurs went through an intensive process with interviews and company visits, leading up to the announcing and awarding the winners for each of the four categories.
The new segmentation and refreshed appearance of the product brand for medical compression products, Sigvaris, will also make the new orientation of SIGVARIS GROUP visible and tangible for consumers from the middle of the year. The newly designed product packs arrive at the points of sale in the USA, Canada, Mexico, Brazil and France. With the motto «Live your life. Be yourself.», Sigvaris products enable their wearers to live a self-determined, active life, staying true to their own style. Without compromise.
A portion of the shares will be transferred to the next generation – a big milestone with the goal of keeping the company in the family in the long-term.
As of January 2019, the name SIGVARIS GROUP stands for the company all over the globe, and it clearly differentiates from the product brands. This structure also allows the integration of future brands to diversify and complement the companys offer even further. From now on, all solutions will be centered around patient and consumer needs.
Thanks to solid growth, particularly in the North and South American market, 2018 has been an exceptionally successful year for the SIGVARIS GROUP: the company will be able to record historic record sales.
After a good 2 years of planning and construction, the factory expansion in Peachtree City is officially inaugurated in March 2017. The doubling of the production capacity now allows all operational processes at the North America headquarters to be brought under one roof and provides the space needed for further growth.
BiaCare is known as innovation leader in the development, production and marketing of short stretch velcro wraps as well as other compression solutions for patients suffering from venous and lymphatic disorders. With the acquisition of BiaCare, SIGVARIS further strengthens its position in a rapidly growing market. BiaCare is renowned for its high medical standards and enjoys the trust of many physicians and therapists. BiaCare’s novel range of compression products designed to treat lymphedema, lipedema, chronic venous insufficiency and other complex edemas immediately broadens the SIGVARIS offering.
The full acquisition of the Färberei Kronbühl AG dye works by SIGVARIS AG as a minority stakeholder is an important and positive step. It allows optimization of future processes and creates synergies. Both companies will continue to operate independently on the market; the interfaces will be minimized and optimized. As a result, SIGVARIS AG gains greater flexibility and more room for maneuver in controlling important work steps even more efficiently.
Early 2016, the SIGVARIS group is launching a new site in Silea, Treviso, thereby reinforcing its market position in Italy. With the new location, the company is creating another high-growth platform in Europe with which it can develop new markets as a competent partner, establish customer relationships and grow with an innovative product portfolio.
The Board of Directors of the SIGVARIS Holding AG appoints Andreas Schönenberger, present head of the country group Central, Northern and Eastern Europe based in St. Gallen, as new CEO of the group. Andreas Schönenberger succeeds Urs Toedtli as of June 1st.
Andreas Schönenberger studied Economics and Social Sciences at the University of Basle and graduated as lic.rer.pol. in 1988 and has many years of management experience and extensive know-how of the health care business. He worked successfully as CEO of SIGVARIS AG in St. Gallen since June 2014. In his function he was responsible for the markets Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Italy, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe as well as Australia and the Middle and Far East.
Prior to joining SIGVARIS, Andreas Schönenberger worked for various pharmaceutical and consumer health care companies such as Sanofi, Bayer and Roche national and international (Spain, Germany and the USA).
With the acquisition of Pani Teresa Medica, SIGVARIS strengthens its position in a rapidly growing market. Pani Teresa Medica is renowned for its high medical standards and enjoys the trust of many customers in Eastern Europe. As part of its portfolio expansion, SIGVARIS continues to focus on traditional local products which are firmly established in their markets. The application of joint know-how provides the company with the platform for growth potential in the Eastern European market which allows it to exploit new markets as a competent partner.
The Winterthur-based group counts 1400 employees worldwide and incorporates its own quality-guaranteed production plants in Switzerland, France, Brazil and the US as well as subsidiaries in Germany, Austria, UK, Canada, China, Australia and Mexico. They supply around 70 countries globally.
The new corporate design, as well as all subsidiaries’ name change to SIGVARIS in 2011, is a success. The newly launched stocking lines WELL BEING and SPORTS sell well. It seems that it is now possible to cut the Gordian knot of diversification.
The site in Shanghai, China, founded in 2012, is developing accordingly. Plans are in place for new distribution companies in Australia and Mexico.
In 1994, the SIGVARIS group has produced 2.83 million pairs of stockings, employs 690 staff, and net sales have reached 85.4 million Swiss francs. Now, 18 years later, SIGVARIS group produces 7.2 million pairs of stockings, had 1’365 employees, and net sales reached 221 million Swiss francs.
The newly emerging markets in Brazil and the USA are very dynamic and still have lots of potential. Medical compression stockings are responsible for nine out of ten Swiss francs made in sales.
As a long-term executive member of the globally oriented Sefar Group, a Swiss family-owned company founded in 1833, Urs H. Toedtli, thanks to his analytical and intercultural skills, is armoured perfectly for his most important job at SIGVARIS, i.e. strengthening the group functions.
His most challenging job includes merging company areas with different directions and philosophies and to provide them with a new strategic alignment. He succeeds brilliantly.
With the handover of group management to the experienced manager Urs Toedtli, the “congruence between ownership and operational management” that has been practised since the company was founded, ends. Not least in order to give the group new momentum.
In 2011, the high-tech covering department in Andrézieux, France, is opened.
To quote an excerpt from the annual report: “If the basic conditions do not change, we can continue as before.”
With over 60 percent, France is the motor of the Ganzoni Group, which entails risks. The growth in other markets is therefore supposed to be sped up significantly, to achieve more balance within five years.
Also in 2008, the French customer service and logistics takes up work at the new center in Huningue, France. The most important challenge of the future was to “leave the shadow of standardized wooden legs”.
In 2009, the product line SIGVARIS SPORTS is launched.
The company globally sells 11’000 pairs of compression stockings per day. None of the attempts of broadening the product range to include elastic wraps, hospital stockings or prevention products lead to the anticipated success.
France, producing about half the sales, has become the leader. St.Gallen contributes 34 percent, the new sites in America 17 percent. In Germany, sales finally increases after several years. A new state-of-the-art factory is inaugurated in Jundiaí, Brazil, to replace the one in São Paulo.
Group management is reorganized and positioned centrally in the newly founded SIGVARIS Management AG in Winterthur, Switzerland. A new motto is supposed to provide orientation. Objectives include lowering the manufacturing costs by 20 percent and investments from capital resources.
A last attempt to save the newly launched support stocking line Ariosa, by renaming it SIGVARIS Wellness, fails. Distribution is discontinued. Traditional compression and support stockings did well in almost all markets.
70 percent of the customers receive their SIGVARIS product within a day. Just a few years ago, it was barely 50 percent. With the first group-wide marketing plan and the traveler sock Traven being introduced in several markets simultaneously, the new millennium starts with a bang.
The consolidated accounts are a milestone, revealing a completely healthy company with a proprietary capital quota of 69.6 percent and assets surpassing the value of long-term loans tenfold.
Growing competition is leaving its mark. In Germany, balance sheet restructuring is required. Switzerland remains a happy island with a SIGVARIS market share of well over 50 percent, considerably surpassing that of 1993.
SIGVARIS Inc. has been moderately successful since 1988. To react quicker on the market, it is decided to build a factory in Peachtree City near Atlanta, Georgia that will open its doors in 1997. Main objective: profits. Long-term objective: products and concepts developed in the USA might become important in Europe’s “pillar markets”.
Expansion also in Brazil: a new factory opens in São Paulo. Several requests of large company groups addressing the “small niche player” Ganzoni are rejected. Competition increases on all markets.
To make better use of synergies, the two-company-culture as practiced for decades is abandoned. The first international management meeting is an expression of this new understanding. The new group management presents a 25-pages strategy paper. There is quite some room for optimization in the field of production but hardly any potential in the marketing area. In the «main business medical», the countries are summarized in country groups for the first time ever.
With the image brochure “Insight”, published in six languages, the group is represented as a global, family-owned company with a new concept. Motto: “Wir von SIGVARIS sind da.” (SIGVARIS is here for you). While St.Gallen is able to maintain its “admittedly high price”, Ganzoni experiences in France its first decline in sales after 27 years of continuous growth.
After he enters Ganzoni St. Gallen in 1992, he introduces the SAP system into the European sections of the company. Until 2000, he is responsible for parts of Ganzoni St. Gallen and for SIGVARIS do Brasil.
Starting in 2002, the consistent entrepreneur is responsible for the country group led from St.Gallen. At the end of 2008, he retreats from operational activities, and at the beginning of 2011, sells his shares to Stefan Ganzoni and Christian Ganzoni.
In 1991, trends towards isolation in the run-up to the vote on Switzerland's accession to the European Economic Area (EEA) are worrying in St. Gallen. “If we remain in splendid isolation, soon nothing worth marveling over will be left with the exception of our alps bathed in morning gold and evening glow”, is an excerpt taken from the annual report. Business booms in France and only the sports product line under the brand TEF remains considerably below expectations.
After training and schooling as a textile engineer, Stefan Ganzoni starts at Ganzoni Saint-Louis in 1986. He will be CEO of SIGVARIS France from 1993–1996.
Starting in 1994, he manages the SIGVARIS group together with his nephews Christian and Caspar Ganzoni. At the end of 2010, he passes on his operative responsibility to Urs Toedtli. Today, Stefan Ganzoni is a shareholder in the family-owned company and a board member – and he loves music.
In 1989, an expert committee comes into existence in the European Union, also including the EFTA-states. Its function is to harmonize the standards for compression stockings. This raises fears of decreased sales, boosted by stagnating sales in almost all importing countries (France and Switzerland, one million pairs each).
Also in 1989, the operational building in St. Gallen is expanded. The 125th anniversary of the company celebrated with anniversary celebrations and the publication of the company history.
After intense training in the USA and Brazil, amongst others, the business economist starts working for the company in 1984. In 1993, he takes over operational management from his father Werner Ganzoni-Schwarzenbach. He helps build the group structure and its internationalization.
In 2002, he becomes responsible for industrial projects and human resources on group level at SIGVARIS Management AG, Winterthur. This shareholder is gifted in languages and has been a member of the board since 2011, concerning himself with special tasks.
In 1988, Ganzoni takes over all the T. E. F. shares; the company is integrated into the group. In 1989, an administration unit is added to the factory in Saint-Just-Saint-Rambert built in 1986; in 1991, covering is centralized.
Business is doing great. Within five years, Ganzoni France has doubled its profit to 100 million Francs; in St.Gallen, turnover increases by roughly 20 percent within a year. 92 percent of the products are compression and support stockings.
Overseas, SIGVARIS Inc. in Bradford, Connecticut, USA and SIGVARIS Corp. Saint-Laurent, Québec, Canada, are founded in 1988.
Ganzoni Saint-Louis starts cooperating with Tricotage Élastique du Forez (T. E. F.) in Saint-Rambert. The French family-owned company with 67 years of experience contributes its know-how, Ganzoni contributes its strong brand Sigvaris and an excellent marketing competence. Ganzoni acquires 50 percent of the T. E. F. shares, with the option to increase. This cooperation lays the foundation for later success in France.
The same year marks the beginning of building the production company Sigvaris do Brasil in São Paulo.
At the same time, St. Gallen draws level with the same product under the brand names Samson and Delilah. Later on, anti-embolism stockings follow, as well as knee caps and elastic sports bandages from the French production. After a few years, however, sales of the same is discontinued due to a lack of demand. It is one of many attempts to distribute the risk with a broader program.
90 percent of the production of St. Gallen is exported to 40 countries – a great challenge, which requires the setup of independent companies in the more important markets.
Sigvaris Vienna is founded in 1971; then in 1975, the chief agency located in Memmingen, Germany, since 1961 is upgraded to distribution company. Currency fluctuations create problems for both markets, leading to red numbers despite an increase in turnover.
On the occasion of the 50-year anniversary, the president of the chamber of commerce in Mulhouse praises the company as an exemplary family-owned company. Great plans are in place; the company wants to expand their export significantly. But within 15 years, export will decrease from 20 to 5 percent, all the while the domestic market increases continuously. The “ceintures chauffantes” in particular, items which sold well in North Africa, were not as high in demand.
After years of “unbearably little space”, a functional and expandable new building is erected in St.Gallen. During the following decades, the building will be expanded several times.
Sigvaris is the brand name mentioned most often in the respective literature. Turnover had increased sixfold; 200’000 pairs of compression stockings are manufactured. Half of them are sold in the Federal Republic of Germany, one fourth in Switzerland, the rest all over the world. The number of employees has increased from 43 to 103. Since 1968, the stockings are hemmed and checked by a specialized company in Hundwil AR, Switzerland.
He enters the company as a junior partner and textile specialist and remains there until 1960. 1973, shortly after his father’s deadly accident, he returns. He turns the export-oriented company into an internationally active corporation. The talented piano player is a consistent and persistent entrepreneur.
Within a short period of time, Sigvaris has become market leader. The problems of the band weaving department still producing red figures, however, remain. After difficult negotiations with the owner families, the company changes based on the model of St.Gallen. Apart from compression stockings, the only item that remains in the program are the well accepted “ceintures chauffantes” (heating belts); by 1970, production of the same will have increased from 20’000 to 100’000.
On its 100thanniversary, Ganzoni is once again a specialized, export-oriented company. The following excerpt is taken from the anniversary brochure: “…finally achieved the breakthrough, which has been pursued for so long, and achieved an always creative, but now also successful economic program”. In Saint-Louis, new products are added to the assortment, but the biggest changes are yet to come.
After a business assessment, it becomes apparent that Ganzoni has no chance of survival with a wide, constantly changing assortment. The only solution is to specialize in medical compression stockings.
Production radically changes, the elastic band weaving department is sold to a competitor and moved to Gossau SG, Switzerland. Most of the employees are taken over. The number of Ganzoni employees drops from 79 to 30.
During an international physicians’ convention in 1961, a latex-based medical compression stocking is presented under the brand name Sigvaris. The compression stocking has been in development since 1959, in cooperation with phlebologist Karl Sigg. It offers a continuously decreasing compression, starting at the ankle, going up toward the thigh. In Finela Forma, launched later on, only synthetic yarns are used.
Despite the close financial ties with St.Gallen, the principle remains to treat each other like independent companies. High investments into machinery don’t lead to profits. In 1959, the production of wide fabrics in St.Gallen is discontinued. This after the corset industry as the most important customer is following new fashion trends. “I do not foresee us celebrating our 100-year anniversary”, writes Werner Ganzoni.
Stagnant exports, decreased sales in Switzerland and a wide product range that includes shoe rubber, starting rope and rubber stockings, make Werner Ganzoni wonder whether the company is still taken seriously.
A loss of 90’000 Francs in 1955 can only be counteracted by a loan provided by shareholders. The production site in Winterthur is abandoned. It is hoped that the remaining production can be continued “without concession to a modern management, as is now requested”.
The oldest of Paul Ganzoni-Bidermann’s four children enters the company in 1950. The textile expert acquires management knowledge at the Centre des Jeunes Patrons (CJP). From 1967 onwards, he carries the sole responsibility.
The takeover of Tricotage Élastique du Forez (T. E. F.) in 1988 is a crucial step to the expansion of SIGVARIS in France. The heart of this music lover and violin player beats to the sound of French savoir vivre.
In 1947, Haggenhalde is inaugurated. The residential area near the factory’s premises in St.Gallen has been established in cooperation with a non-profit housing association. Ganzoni purchases six single family row houses to be rented out to staff, a model following examples from Saint-Louis and Winterthur.
The problem that has started already in 1944 soon becomes existential. It is solved in 1946 following the Washington Treaty between Switzerland and the USA. Only one year later, Ganzoni Elastic reports record sales. Hope is sprouting. But all this improvement is based on the need for catching up — and was short-lived. The situation is similar in Saint-Louis in 1947/1948; after a brief boom, the tide changes.
Resources become increasingly sparse. The 1941 annual report states that the “manufacturing plan follows the rubber yarns”. A second welfare foundation for the staff in St.Gallen is initiated in 1942. A workers’ committee decides on the use of the funds. Gradually, the rubber content in the products has to be reduced.
In May of 1940, shortly after the German invasion, the site resumes production and the staff becomes “entourage”. Contact with Switzerland is virtually lost.
A branch is opened in Lyon, which holds up surprisingly well, although the company is officially classified as "maison juive" (jewish house) by the Vichy government.
Since 1928, exports have decreased by 85 percent. Ganzoni Elastic is also affected. The domestic market is not able to compensate for these deficiencies, particularly since the margins are cut in half.
The hope for an export impulse due to the inflation of the Swiss Franc by 30 percent in September is not met. Ganzoni survives only because of land sales and financial aid from the owner family.
The French government under Léon Blum introduced the 40-hour week and a decreed increase of wages of ten percent lead to the introduction of a two-shift operation and a massive increase in production to maintain profits while margins keep declining. It is a tightrope walk that pays off in the end. Just prior to WWII, the company in Saint-Louis is on solid ground.
Wages have to be cut in St.Gallen and Saint-Louis. New products such as panties, braided belts for men, starting rope for gliders and cushioning devices for the aircraft industry were expected to boost domestic demand; however, in these troubled years, the capacities of the elastic industry were much too high, resulting in a rat race.
According to the store newspaper “Gummistoffe und Gummibänder” (rubber fabrics and rubber bands), Ganzoni has included sewing supplies, bands for stocking suspenders, suspenders and sock holders in the product assortment, all of which was manufactured in Winterthur.
In addition, “elastics made of cotton and viscose, smooth or with button holes, elastic stockings and elastic parts for corsets and shirtwaists” are manufactured at the branch St.Gallen Bruggen.
The situation is different in St.Gallen, where the downfall of the stitching industry leads to thousands being unemployed. On October 8th, Ganzoni Elastic purchases the former stitching company Zähner & Schiess, located in St.Gallen’s suburb of Bruggen. Rubber braiding and knitting, as well as the production department, are relocated. The extent of the influence of a worker’s strike at the site of Winterthur in January on that decision is not known.
To avoid dependence on few products, the product range is broadened significantly. Finer rubber yarns are used, and new, porous and wide elastic fabrics are used for the manufacture of belts, suspenders, socks and stocking suspenders.
The brand name Samson is established on the Swiss market, and with the manufacture of circular knitted rubber stockings, new grounds are broken.
In France, a 30 percent protective tariff inhibits a revival of business. It is decided to set up a production in Saint-Louis, a factory is built. Production starts in December 1924.
After initial problems, Ganzoni Frères actually benefit from the protectionism in France. Thanks to the protective tariff, ready-made articles become bestsellers.
Sales collapse, there are high losses after an utterly successful year in sales. The company is reorganized. Realignment on the Swiss market is discarded due to low perspectives. Revival of the export business occurs with great difficulty due to protective tariffs, political confusion and inflation.
30 employees work at the production site in Winterthur. A company foundation created in 1920 supports retired personnel and helps out in emergencies, which should prove itself several times in the years of crisis to come.
The end of World War I does not lead to the anticipated state of normalization. Just the opposite, as England impedes the supply of raw material, saying that Ganzoni cooperates too closely with a “hostile company”. Several interventions at the British embassy in Bern are necessary before the issue is solved.
Werner Ganzoni’s younger brother could have become a musician. But he remains loyal to family tradition and builds, after extensive commercial and technical training, the French sister company. This also accomodates the rather different temperaments of the two brothers.
On September 6thin 1918, the workers in the elastic weaving department go on strike. It is finished after ten days; the agreement includes the following: “The company abstains from taking any measures against striking male or female employees.” For the case of a “return to normal production conditions”, a “wage regulation of the pay” is assured.
Werner Ganzoni would have loved to pursue an academic career. But his father decides differently, so Werner turns his outer calling into an inner calling. In 1920, at the age of 28, he takes over the company and will become a passionate patron for half a century. He also is fond of music, literature and art.
1914, after a setback at the beginning of World War I, business picks up due to an increase in domestic demand. Reduced hours caused by mobilization, as well as the procurement of raw materials, causes problems. Despite an increasing demand, production has to be narrowed down.
Between 1890 and 1910, sales in Austria decrease from one third to 3 percent, while Germany emerges from insignificance (1,3 percent) to the most important market (45 percent in 1906).
Newly incorporated, wider elastic fabric saves Ganzoni from bankruptcy. In 1907, demand is so high that orders have to be turned down.
After his years of learning and travelling, Moritz, at the age of 25, takes on the responsibility to guide the company through hard times. He is an exemplary employer and also active in public offices, e. g. as a commercial judge. With his soft and melodious baritone, he also has close ties with the Musikkollegium Winterthur, a Swiss symphony orchestra, for all his life.
In 1890, a company health insurance is founded, and an employee’s right of say in the general meeting is introduced.
Protective tariff causes problems. In 1895, a branch opens in Dornbirn, Austria. Hopeful at first, but there is tough competition. The company ends in the red and, in 1900, is sold to the biggest competitor.
A factory building is erected on Grüzenstrasse 44 in Winterthur (today a photo museum). 40 rubber band weaving looms are in use, powered by two transmission belts of a piston steam engine. A dressing shop is built since customers desire finer products.
The sewing supply store is sold, home weavers are not employed anymore. The distribution network includes almost all of Europe and even extends as far as North Africa and Argentina.
The founder of the company is a talented gymnast. In 1864, he and his business partner Niklaus Barthelts (1837–1891) form a congenial leadership duo, laying a solid foundation for all the following generations. Moritz has deepened his commercial training by staying abroad, e.g. in Egypt. “Ganzoni und Barthelts” is founded as a sewing supply store in Winterthur, Switzerland.
As early as 1865, due to great demand, elastic bands for laceless halfboots, back then a very desirable fashion article, are manufactured on four weaving looms. In 1870, 20 weaving looms are in use and home workers are available in times of increased demand.