THE Singapore-based firm distributing the popular British retail brand Cath Kidston and watch label Bering has unveiled ambitious plans for growth as it celebrates its 10th anniversary next month.
Norbreeze Group, co-founded by Danish couple Anders Peter Juel Sauerberg and Anne Trads Juel Sauerberg in 2004, aims to quadruple its current 50 stores around the world and grow its business by 40 per cent a year for the next three to five years.
The firm will open a fourth Cath Kidston store on Friday at Marina Bay Sands, following outlets in Tangs Orchard, Ion Orchard and Great World City.
Mr Sauerberg, the chief executive, told The Straits Times that the next three years will see Norbreeze solidify its presence in South-east Asia as a regional retail specialist.
"South-east Asia is our home market, and we are now focusing on bringing in brands within the 'accessible luxury' band to cater to a growing middle class here," he said. He added that the group hopes to bring in up to 10 more brands, with plans to acquire a brand or create its own on the horizon.
Norbreeze, which also distributes Danish jewellery brand Pandora, wants to set up another regional office in South-east Asia to manage operations in places like Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines.
But the group is not expanding into China yet, said newly appointed chairman Waldemar Schmidt.
"There are endless opportunities in South-east Asia. We know our limitations, and we don't want to do too many things at the same time," he said.
It plans to open an online store that it expects will eventually comprise 15 per cent of its business.
Norbreeze has come a long way. A decade ago, it was operating from a Telok Ayer Street shophouse with just two staff: Mr Sauerberg and his girlfriend Anne, now his wife. The turnover in 2005 was $640,000.
The firm now has more than 250 staff, with offices in Hong Kong, Macau and Malaysia. Turnover has risen by around 40 per cent a year since 2007 and is expected to surpass $70 million this year.
Mr Schmidt did not dismiss an eventual initial public offering, saying: "We are moving to the next level, and transforming Norbreeze from an originally entrepreneurial set-up to a more corporate one."
Singapore has been a good recruiting ground, with locals making up about 80 per cent of the staff here. But Mr Sauerberg acknowledges manpower and business costs as concerns.
"We try to retain our staff as far as possible by offering not just a salary, but also a career path. Increasingly, we are seeing more transfers within the group and fewer people quitting," he said. "But Singapore is our home now, and we are here to stay."
The Sauerbergs are Singapore permanent residents with two children. For Mrs Sauerberg - who graduated from Lasalle College of the Arts here in 2002 - and her husband, business is personal.
"In business, people tend to see the word 'personal' negatively. But we are personal, because we are passionate, and because we care about our brands," she said.