Eric Klückers and Robert Dennewald leave the “Made in Luxembourg” label at home--but are happy to be offering their products internationally. Photo: Matic Zorman/Maison Moderne

Eric Klückers and Robert Dennewald leave the “Made in Luxembourg” label at home--but are happy to be offering their products internationally. Photo: Matic Zorman/Maison Moderne

Luxembourg-based manufacturer of concrete materials Contern is now exporting part of its production, and sees growth potential in outdoor fittings.

It’s not “Chaux de Contern” anymore, simply “Contern.” When the rebranding was announced in 2017, the local mayor at the time, Fernand Schiltz, welcomed the decision: “[It] will carry the name of Contern well beyond the country’s borders.”

Six years later, this proclamation has come true: as of 2023, the company--with 160 employees--has built an esplanade for the coastal French town of Malo-les-Bains, marking a major extension of its catchment area from 80km to 400km.

“Our aim is to expand in the outdoor landscaping sector, because that’s where we have the greatest potential to increase our market share,” explains , CEO of the concrete products manufacturer. He estimates that revenues could triple in this segment, which currently accounts for a minority of total sales--€35m--in 2022.

Valuable public contracts

While its core business remains the manufacture of products for structural work, such as masonry blocks, Contern is also very active in civil engineering pipes and prefabricated wall segments.

As a leading supplier, the company is feeling the effects of the slowdown in the construction market. “The structural works sector is suffering, with a 35% to 40% decline in this business over the past year,” says the CEO.

This is all the more reason to expand into other segments, while retaining the valuable market for public tenders. “Fortunately, public works represent two-thirds of our business,” says , the company’s chair and majority shareholder, with a smile.

“Made in Luxembourg”

To make itself known beyond its borders, Contern takes part in trade fairs, but doesn’t emphasise its “Made in Luxembourg” label, which it considers to be more geared towards the domestic market. “Luxembourg is known abroad for finance, maybe a little tourism, but certainly not for its industry,” says Dennewald.

At a time when carbon footprints are increasingly important, the former president of Fedil has no hesitation in calling for a “Luxembourg first” approach among local decision-makers.

"For products like ours, it’s heresy to transport them 700km,” he points out. He admits that his competitors--mainly German--are overshadowing him in the vicinity of the grand duchy.

Contern counts on a network of around 100 international dealers, with a presence in France in Lorraine, Alsace and Burgundy, and as far west as Lille and Dunkirk. “Even if the quantities are currently homeopathic, we have a network to move forward," concludes Klückers.

This article in Paperjam. It has been translated and edited for Delano.