Italian timber market is gathering speed

With sales growth in the double-digit percentage range last year neighbouring Italy plays an important role for the Pfeifer Group. We asked long-standing Italian sales representative Mario Molinari for an interview to find out how the market differs from others and what developments are currently taking place in the Italian industry.

Mario Molinari has been selling the Pfeifer Group’s products for 37 years. As a self-employed commercial agent, he serves some of Italy’s 20 regions. In his efforts, he is supported by his son who also works as an agent and his daughter who is responsible for order management and office administration. After the slump in demand for timber products as a result of the global economic crisis, sales volumes are once again on a continuous rise.

Pfeifer has always had a strong presence on the Italian market in the sawn timber segment and subsequently on the pellet market. Is that still the case? What other products are in demand with customers?

Dringel: We can proudly say that Pfeifer is one of the leading suppliers in the country. The fact that the Pfeifer Group is the European market leader for products such as shuttering panels is also made evident when you look at its sales in Italy. In the area of finished products, we first had to establish ourselves on the market, but thanks to our quality standards we are able to score points with many customers. In order to remain one of the leading companies in the timber industry, it is of course necessary to grow along with the Italian market.

What role does the price play in the purchasing decision or does the quality of the products ultimately lead to one being awarded a contract? How important is personal contact with the customer?

MOLINARI: If a company concentrates its sales efforts solely on the price, it is always bad for both the agent and the company. That's why, in addition to the quality of the products, I focus on service and the customer. Personal relationships with the customer play a major role. It is easier to negotiate when being able to look your counterpart in the eye and you get information on the market situation and competitors.

Sales professionals for the Italian market: Son Davide, Mario Molinari and daughter Elena.

How does Pfeifer succeed geographically on the Italian market with its products? Are there differences in sales in the economically strong north and the Mezzogiorno region?

MOLINARI: In my experience, the north is certainly the greater incentive for a company such as Pfeifer, if you look at the packaging industry, for example, the leading companies in Italy are now to be found exclusively in the north. Northern and Southern Italy are very balanced when it comes to the construction industry. Nevertheless, the north is still more interesting as a sales market, even if conversions and renovations outnumber new buildings. The reason for this is that timber construction has a high priority in the north, that purchasing power is higher and that investment volumes are greater. The same applies to the pellet market. Especially taking into account that – due to logistics and transport costs – pellet deliveries shouldn’t exceed a certain radius since the end price would simply be too high.

What do you think about the Pfeifer Group’s future development on the Italian market? What are your goals?

MOLINARI: My main goal is further growth. For that, I need the full support of the company, of course. The Italian market will always be important for Pfeifer, not least because timber is a trendy material for building and heating.

Mario Molinari

Pfeifer Group Commercial Agent in Italy

Personal customer relations are essential.