10/11/2017 – Gunold GmbH turns 90 — auf Deutsch lesen
Hallmarks of continuity and flexibility
What started as a design and drawing studio, founded in Plauen in 1927, has since evolved into the world’s leading supplier of embroidery needs.
The family-run company is steeped in tradition and recently welcomed a fourth-generation family member to its ranks. To this day, continuity in its corporate values, and flexibility in its product range are still very much at the heart of Gunold’s success. Before focusing on today, however, let us take a journey back in time.
In its early years, Gunold was a typical studio workshop in the traditional sense. Even today, the almost 90-year-old senior partner, Heinz Gunold, can still recall “the loud bang of the mechanical punching machine”. Almost 20 years after its foundation, in 1945, the company was struck by tragedy: an air raid on 9 April reduced Plauen to rubble, taking Gunold’s studio workshop with it. Several failed attempts to re-establish the company in Plauen led in the summer of 1949 to a decision that was to change Gunold’s history for ever. A plan was hatched to escape to Stockstadt in western Germany. Heinz Gunold remembers it, as if it were yesterday: “All we owned was what we could fit in our rucksacks. Having said that, we did manage to smuggle two machines to the west, which became our starting capital.” In 1950, the company suffered another blow when Heinz’s father and company founder suddenly died at the age of just 57. Robbed of his role model who had a truly “creative mind and well of knowledge”, Heinz Gunold was suddenly plunged into the deep end, facing a huge responsibility and feeling compelled to change the course in which the company was moving. He transformed the studio workshop into an industrial production facility for the manufacture of embroidery programs, or punch cards, used to control multi-head embroidery machines. In the years that followed, Heinz Gunold saw the company advance to the world’s biggest manufacturer of embroidery programs, exporting no less than 70 % of its output! In 1969, a decision was made, the impact of which can still be felt to this day.
Distributing yarn and embroidery materials
Very few people know that in the late 1960s, Gunold joined forces with the medium-sized thread producer Burckhardt & Schmitt (today: Madeira) to create a joint distribution company known as Stickma GmbH. 1975 marked another important milestone in the company’s history. This was when Gunold found a new thread supplier in Beerli AG, based in Switzerland, and launched the Sulky brand which is still used for the viscose embroidery thread today. This close and exclusive collaboration with Beerli AG, which has since become a partner in the company, has been going strong for 42 years!
From 1975 onwards, the thread distribution business was expanded throughout Europe. Under the leadership of Christoph Gunold, son of Heinz and today’s Managing Director, Gunold + Stickma GmbH of America was founded in 1982. The experience gained in the USA led to other companies being established in Canada (1985) and the UK (1988). Several turbulent years witnessed one or two outings into the software, punch and textile machinery world, before another important decision was made in 1996 to secure the future of the family-run enterprise. Heinz Gunold’s family stake acquired the company’s thread and material division.
Since then, Gunold, now headed by Christoph Gunold and Urs Isler (Beerli AG) as Managing Directors, has focused on expanding the global distribution of innovative embroidery products, positioning itself as an internationally leading provider of all embroidery supplies. Christoph Gunold states: “Embroidery is a niche market and isn’t really big enough in any one country to focus solely on a limited geographical area. In Central Europe, it’s rare for companies to produce in high volumes. And yet, at the same time, new customer groups have evolved with the rise of promotionwear, and of course the trend towards customised production and small lots; this really plays into the hands of embroidery which is seen as a high-quality design element. We always give top priority to ensuring that our customers receive excellent service from a single source.”
New threads, new materials, new services
A whole host of innovative products has since been added to Gunold’s extensive range and much has also changed in its dealings with its customers. Marketing Manager, Stephan Gunold, sheds a little more light on these developments: “Our customers and the market have changed over the past 20 years and we’ve evolved with them. We’ve grown into a service provider for the embroidery sector, offering a comprehensive range of high-quality embroidery materials and providing our customers with detailed and expert consultation. Since 2004, we’ve also been constantly on the go, delivering other services such as our training programme.”
It almost goes without saying that innovations and new thread colours are constantly being added to the range. Take the embroidery thread Poly 60 for example, which is designed for highly detailed embroidery or small lettering from around 3mm, or Poly Fire which is endowed with flame-retardant properties. The most recent embroidery thread to join the ranks of Gunold’s top embroidery range this year is Reflex Cry. Designed with thousands of microscopic glass beads, embedded in a polymer coating, this special thread reflects in the dark. The premium embroidery threads from Gunold, such as Sulky and Poly, are spun, twisted and dyed in state-of-the-art production facilities in Europe. During the dyeing process care is taken to minimise the consumption of water, time and energy. Innovative processes are constantly being tested in the modern laboratory and, where they are found to be suitable, are implemented in the production process. Another focus of the product range are embroidery backings which lend the embroidered ground fabric the stability it needs. Alternative stabilisation products from Gunold include, for example, Solvy (water-soluble) and Thermogaze backings (heat-soluble).
Continuity and flexibility
Steeped in tradition, this company, based in Stockstadt, Germany, offers around 10,000 different products for commercial use. Besides an extensive spectrum of embroidery threads and embroidery backings, the firm’s portfolio also comprises foils, gauzes, effect materials and other accessories such as needles and adhesive sprays. For more than ten years now, Gunold has also been providing a service for laser-cut products with much happening in the consumer field as well (hobby): for example, an online shop has been launched not only for commercial users but also for hobbyists. The latter contains anything and everything to do with sewing, embroidery and quilting for hobbyists, as well as free instructions from Sulky’s creative team along with its own blog.
The family-run business is characterised by continuity coupled with high demands on the quality of its products and flexibility in adapting to the needs of both customers and the market. At the company’s anniversary event, Christoph Gunold stated: “Even though our company is not so much founded on bits and bytes, but on the commitment of our staff, and we are as far from being virtual as the products we sell, we still work with computers and have a strong online presence, as it’s impossible to survive these days without them.” Fittingly, in time for the company’s 90th anniversary, all three pillars of the business – industry, laser, consumer – have been successfully incorporated on Gunold’s new website.