BRISTOL, PA— Mads Ryder joins Lenox as CEO at a pivotal time in the tabletop industry, as the segment is faced with changing consumer shopping preferences, as well as the overall casualization of an industry that for decades put a spotlight on fine dining.
While Lenox is faced with new challenges, Ryder is no stranger to the industry as he has held multiple leadership positions at top European consumer companies, including IC Group, Royal Copenhagen, Weight Watchers, and Lego Group.
Ryder succeeds Katrina Helmkamp, who left the position in June to pursue a role elsewhere. Brian Gowen, COO of Lenox, had been serving as the interim CEO.
Ryder, who is of Danish heritage, brings a fresh perspective to the PA-based company, as this will be his first time leading an American corporation.
“I’m incredibly excited by the opportunity in front of me. Lenox creates world-class products, and, as the leader in the U.S. market, we have a unique opportunity to interact with consumers in a way that can elevate the way Americans eat, entertain, and celebrate at home. I am confident a better experience for Lenox’s consumers will drive growth for Lenox’s business, and a more prosperous future for Lenox’s trade partners,” he said.
In an exclusive interview with HOMEWORLD BUSINESS®, Ryder talked about his top priorities, as well as the challenges that face the tabletop industry as a whole.
“At Lenox, we need to be more targeted and do more in a focused way, a more consumer-oriented way. We also need to be more distinct on what our brand and sub-brands stand for,” he said.
Ryder noted that one of the biggest issues the tabletop industry is facing right now is that none of the old traditional players have reached the young consumer yet.
“We see pressure from [retailers like Ikea]but also smaller newcomers who are becoming major players in the market. And while they might not be taking a lot of market share from us they are creating a lot of noise, often creating disappointment with consumers when they see our offerings versus what the new brands are doing. It is very important for us— Lenox is a 130 year old company— to reach the new consumer,” he said.
Ryder is stepping into his role just as Lenox has prepped its latest collection, Global Tapestry, a new venture for the company that it unveiled at the recent fall New York Tabletop Market. The collection includes a variety of goods including dinnerware, ceramic giftware, glass giftware, garden décor, wood and metal accessories, and flatware. It represents the blending of international ethnicities and cultures, resulting in a vivid collection tipped with saturated color grounded by earthy hues, the company noted.
Of the collection, Ryder said it is on point with where the company needs to be heading, a mix-and-match approach.
“We need to be more in tune with the whole offering to tabletop consumers. We need to think much more dynamic on how dinnerware is used daily and how it is used as dinnerware items, but also how the pieces can be used in other areas of the home, such as for décor. We need to make things more flexible in the use. Global Tapestry is the first example on how we can achieve that. It is very distinct and very different,” he said.
Ryder said that the concept of mix and match, such as with Global Tapestry, is something that he believes Lenox needs to explore further to attract the younger Millennial consumer.
“With all the dinnerware and glassware and bone china we have made over the decades, we need to create something that is looking backwards and forwards. It needs to be modern and contemporary, yet casual at the same time. We want to inspire younger consumers to go back to their grandmother and mother’s closets and look at what they have and find ways to incorporate them with new pieces,” he said.
Another program that Ryder said the company would continue to focus on is licensing, one that has proven to be lucrative as it attracts consumers that connect with the designers Lenox works with. However, as consumer interest has shifted to more casual, artisan-crafted pieces, Ryder said it’s time for Lenox to explore relationships with licensing partners in that vein.
“Licensees are important and they are doing a good job for us but we need someone that is not just coming with a color or pattern in mind, but someone that also wants to understand the nature of making dinnerware and why we put it in the kiln, why does it shrink and then after spending time understanding the nature of the material, gets inspired to express their own creative ideas,” he said.
Dansk, for example, is one of the many Lenox brands that Ryder feels this artisanal strategy would be a good fit for.
“Dansk could be a perfect carrier of craftsmanship. At the end of the day it is pottery, and the brand really understands how dinnerware is made— how to make a plate, make the material and by nature it is very casual. I think there is a lot of potential in Dansk, we just need to unfold that potential. We are just getting started,” he said.
Another priority for Ryder is how to approach the changing landscape of bridal registry, which he said is transforming into event registry.
“We need to look at it as occasions that happen in your life. It is very traditional and very nice and all that to marry but there are other times you have milestone events. Move away from parents, live as a student, you move in your first cohabit, establish a family, all those things, so many life events… the summer house… the second dinnerware house… downsizing— so many of these events we need to get out of that very traditional way of thinking. Do we have some events in our lives where we do different things? The tabletop industry and among our customers, our retailers, they think very traditionally. We have to get out of the older way of thinking,” he said.