Karl Zünd was 27 when he set up in business on his own in 1921.
Karl Zünd was 27 when he set up in business on his own in 1921. Back then, the status of craftsmanship was very different to what it is today. Even if times were not always easy, the local markets provided enough demand for small firms to survive in the long term. Saddles for horses, upholstered furniture, bedware, leather goods and sports articles were manufactured with passion and perfect craftsmanship. The firm developed and was soon one of the largest in Rebstein, with 10 employees. 30 years after it was founded, there was a change of generations: Mr Zünd Senior continued to manage his enterprise (only the bedware division still exists today) while his sons Karl and Ludwig took over the upholstered furniture division and established their own company, Karl Zünd & Co. They started out at the right time: the crisis years of the Second World War were over, and private households were now investing their money in consumer and investment goods after years of privation. Up to 250 employees The company's development was magnificent. 1957 saw the introduction of the Züco brand name, followed two years later by the construction of a second manufacturing facility at Hohenems to serve the Austrian market as well. The 1960s brought high growth rates and the headcount rose to 250. A second cornerstone was built up: homely furniture for elegant hotel lobbies, followed by comfortable sofabeds and functional conference chairs. Ergonomic revolving office chairs were the obvious next step. The 1970s saw further items added to the range as the company established its position on more international markets in Europe, the USA, Canada, Australia and the Far East. For office furniture, the growth curve was rising sharply, but it was becoming flatter and flatter for upholstered furniture until finally, in the mid-1980s, sales of office chairs outstripped the traditional range of products. A strategic realignment was emerging. In 1988, Karl and Ludwig Zünd - both close to retirement age - sold their company to Lista, an office furniture manufacturer based in Amriswil. Lista Holding as an office furniture manufacturer and Züco as a producer of office chairs were an ideal match. The upholstered furniture division could not fit in so well, so it was sold in 1994 and production was discontinued shortly afterwards. However, these classic products are still available today with the traditional brand name of "Züco Polster Design". The Dauphin Human Design Group Then came the recession in the early 1990s, which gave both Lista and Züco cause for concern. Lista underwent a reorganization so that it could focus more on its core business of office furniture, while Züco acquired a new owner in 1998: the German Dauphin HumanDesign Group based at Nuremberg in Bavaria - a family-owned global player. The Dauphin group now ranks as one of Europe's leading manufacturers of specialized furniture, with four brands that project very distinct images: Bosse Design (intelligent space structuring systems and versatile furniture systems), Dauphin (the trendsetter for ergonomic seating solutions), Trend Office (modern, price-conscious furniture for young office worlds) and of course Züco, the Swiss 'jewel in the design crown' (high-quality conference, lounge and office seating furniture). Ever since Züco was integrated into Dauphin Holding, its sales figures have moved continuously upwards. Züco benefits from synergies within the Group, especially as regards purchasing semifinished products, and it can pursue a targeted strategy to continue internationalizing its sales markets. A stronger presence on the Swiss market as one unit in the future As of January 2007, Dauphin Suisse merged with the marketing division of Züco Bürositzmöbel AG to create Züco Dauphin HumanDesign AG. This platform will be used to market the parent company's three brands as trading products in Switzerland, together with the firm's own Züco brand. As a result, the new structure can satisfy virtually any requirement related to 'sitting and working', and it will also enable more targeted development of all segments of the Swiss market. Roland Zünd, the grandson of the founder and Züco's CEO since 1998, has set himself some ambitious goals for the future: to consolidate the firm's position in the upper top segment of the market, comparable to the highest-quality Swiss watches. Despite an eventful history with several strategic changes of owner and takeovers, the company's philosophy has changed little in over 80 years: Züco is a Swiss manufacturer where much of the work is still carried out by hand to ensure quality that can be seen as well as felt, just as in the days of Karl Zünd, the company's founder.