Behind the scenes at Meubles Pesse, the mirror to our lives
Some names have a resonance in the world of business owners in French-speaking Switzerland – these include the Pesse family, whose company of the same name has been helping every generation to select their interior décor since 1941. Francis Pesse, CEO of Meubles Pesse, talks about how the furniture company evolved from its foundation until its recent sale.
When you meet Francis Pesse in the offices of Bank CIC in Lausanne it only takes a few minutes to be struck by the passion and love for his profession this charming and elegant man exudes. The story goes well beyond just dealing in furniture.
His parents Marius and Anne-Marie Pesse opened their very first shop in Romont in the Canton of Fribourg in 1941. In 1970, following the death of the head of the family, Francis and his brother Roland took over the reins at Meubles Pesse and started running the company. His own son Samuel has been following in his footsteps for almost 30 years. Over time Meubles Pesse became a benchmark for quality furniture in Switzerland – furniture to last a lifetime. The brand moved from local to national level and became the largest independent player in Switzerland by adapting to the needs of its customers rather than following passing trends. What people want changed, and so did Meubles Pesse.
A profession engraved on his soul
Even when he was still young and selling household accessories around Monthey, Francis Pesse was gaining a passion. There was no question for him of not following in the family business; he was going to sell high-quality furniture, like his father.
He and his brother Roland were in the right place to follow the changes in society through the prism of furnishings. He can remember the time when people used to come and buy all their furniture when they got married, and he takes a pragmatic view of how consumption habits have moved on since the 1970s. “I still have the file with all the young couples I sold furniture to for their first apartment, and it’s amusing to leaf through it again today – some of them stayed customers for decades! Things don’t work like that any more, young people probably don’t attach as much importance to the inside of their home and do things gradually as and when they can afford it,” he admits. Be that as it may, he has something for every wallet and you can’t argue with the service customers get at Meubles Pesse: a huge choice, assembly, delivery and personal service are all evidence of the quality that made the brand a benchmark in French-speaking Switzerland.
Francis Pesse, member of the family that founded the furniture company Meubles Pesse SA
Business, for sure, but not just any old how
“I evolved gradually but resolutely, without burning any bridges. To my mind, a good businessman has to be a long-distance runner, not a sprinter. The firm can now look back on an 80-year history and has around 70 employees, 15,000 m2 of display area and a 6,000 m2 logistics centre in Monthey – my son Samuel and I are very proud of it all. It took courage and perseverance to get to this point!”, he confesses.
If there is one thing Francis Pesse values above all else in his profession, it’s dealing with people and listening to them. First of all with his customers, who can always contact him if they wish, but also with the partners who were key in developing the business, including his bank. “Bank CIC supported Meubles Pesse as it developed, especially thanks to the relationship of trust we built up with Maurizio Pierazzi, the bank’s manager for specialist activities, who assisted us through the sale process. We understand each other very well, and that matters a great deal to me, particularly when there are important decisions to be taken.”
He is of the opinion that the Swiss furniture market has good prospects, as long as you don’t lose sight of staying close to your customers. He greatly regrets the fact that due to Covid everything moved online, so human interactions are rarer.
Bank CIC supported Meubles Pesse as it developed, especially thanks to the relationship of trust we built up with the bank’s manager for specialist activities, who assisted us through the sale process.
High points and low points forge bonds
Francis Pesse has to admit his family company has been obliged to move with the times, but explains that nothing can replace quality if you want something to last – in your products, and in personal service for your customers. Quality is the foundation on which a flourishing brand like Meubles Pesse is built.
One of his great challenges was to find ways to constantly evolve while still holding on to the values the firm had followed since it was founded. “First, we had to find some land and gradually start building, like with Lego; sales in the first store collapsed in 1974 because of the oil shock. Fortunately things bounced back very strongly in 1978 and we doubled our sales area and built a warehouse...but the shop in town burned down in 1982. We had to build everything again, still with the unshakeable desire to develop, grow and have more satisfied customers.”
A lifetime’s experience, not just a sale
There was never any question of passing the firm on to his son Samuel, largely because he never wanted to take it on and become head of Meubles Pesse one day. Even so, he worked alongside his father Francis for 30 years, who explains: “Samuel was always very clear that for him the adventure would come to an end when I left – even after all the great work he put it over all those years,” he smiles. “So it was a question of finding the best exit for everyone, and Bank CIC was great help in looking for a potential buyer. ”
The Pesse family were keen to find a solution for their furniture business that would give it a lasting future, and in September 2022 decided to sell it to XXXLutz Suisse.