Homeware company turning household chores into domestic pleasure

Brabantia is 100 years in business next year and is planning growth through acquisition

It might just be a bin but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be beautiful.

So says the man whose company Brabantia has somehow managed to turn everyday household items into objects of desire.

The family-owned business, which marks 100 years in business in 2019, was established by Tijn Van Elderen's great-grandfather in the small town of Aalst in the Netherlands in 1919.

While it remains best-known for its waste bins, the homewares brand has hundreds of products including laundry racks, food storage containers, ironing boards, towel rails, bread bins and kitchen utensils.


"What we're trying to do is turn household chores into domestic pleasures," says Mr Van Elderen, who has led the company since 2012.

“We try to make all our products beautiful as well as sustainable,” the EY World Entrepreneur of the Year finalist adds.

Mr Van Elderen, who previously worked for drinks giant Diageo before joining the family firm , said the look and feel of everyday items was of importance to consumers.

“Some 85 per cent of purchases for the home are made by women and if you ask them what they think is important in a bin, ironing board or whatever, it is that it looks good.

Making toilet roll holders and drying racks desirable isn’t easy though , Mr Van Elderen admits.

“I’m sorry to say that while some of our categories are beautiful some are not yet. It is hard to make an outdoor rotary dryer look elegant for example but that doesn’t mean we don’t try,” he adds.

The company, which was initially called Van Elderen & Co, began by producing milk cans, jugs, sieves and funnels. In the 1930s it diversified into making radio casings for Philips with its first range of pedal bins not hitting the market till the 1950s.

While Mr Van Elderen might have worked outside of the family firm he said he knew from the age of 5 that he wanted to one day run Brabantia.

He took over the business at a difficult time however with revenues having dropped from $147 million in 2007 to $111 million in 2012, the year he joined.

A renewed product line and a the implementation of a cost-cutting strategy helped rejuvenate the company, which employs 1,000 people. Turnover in 2016 was €107 million.

Brabantia now sells its products in more than 12,000 stores in 90 countries.

The company made its first acquisition last year when it took over Eindhoven-based company DutchDeluxes for an undisclosed sum.

Mr Van Elderen said more acquisitions are in the pipeline with Brabantia also looking to become a 100 per cent recyclable company.

“After World War II we made pots and pans out of discarded oil drums and cups out of condensed milk tins so we’ve always led the way in recycling,” he said.

Mr Van Elderen is one of more than 50 business leaders in the running to be named EY World Entrepreneur of the Year with the final taking place on Saturday.

Harry Hughes, chief executive of Portwest, which has its headquarters in Co Mayo, is the Irish representative in the finals.

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor is a former Irish Times business journalist