A British manufacturer and worldwide distributor of housewares has acquired Santa Fe-based Nambé LLC, a kitchenware and home décor company that has been locally based since its establishment in 1951.
Portmeirion Group’s purchase of Nambé for $12 million from the Hillenbrand family, which had owned it for nearly 40 years, closed Tuesday, Portmeirion CEO Lawrence Bryan said.
“I’ve known about Nambé for a long time,” said Bryan, who splits his time between England and New Jersey, where Portmeirion has offices not far from a Nambé office site. “… I always enjoyed their design ethic. It’s very contemporary, very chic. They never abandoned their central vision.”
The sale included the Nambé headquarters building at 200 W. De Vargas St., all rights and intellectual property, and a distribution center in Española. The New Mexico operation will remain essentially unchanged, and Nambé’s 89 local employees will not be affected by the new ownership, according to Bryan and Nambé CEO Bill Robedee, who recently was promoted to president of Portmeirion Group USA.
Nambé designs, manufactures and sells serveware, dining products, glassware, kitchen products, décor and jewelry. The products — long available at a handful of dedicated Nambé stores and other retailers in the U.S. such as Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom — are go-to gifts for just about any occasion: Christmas, birthdays, weddings and awards celebrations.
In the coming months, they will start to appear on the shelves of Portmeirion’s 11 British shops, and Bryan expects to open Nambé shops in other states.
Nambé was founded as Nambé Mills in 1951 by Pauline Cable in Pojoaque. After the company’s foundry in Pojoaque was destroyed by a fire in 1976, however, the foundry was moved to a Santa Fe site on Siler Road, near Agua Fría Street, where the company had as many as 250 employees.
The company was bought in 1981 by the Hillenbrand family from Indiana.
Until about 10 years ago, the Nambé’s signature aluminum alloy products continued to be manufactured in New Mexico, but now such merchandise is produced in India, while wooden items are made in Thailand and stainless steel flatware in Vietnam, Robedee said.
Robedee, who commutes between New Jersey and Santa Fe, joined Nambé in October 2014 to reposition the company to tackle what he called a “retail apocalypse.” A large part of his mission has been to strengthen Nambé’s online presence. He upgraded the company’s website and improved the company’s content on other retailers’ websites.
In the past five years, Robedee said, online sales have about doubled, with the Nambé site making up 12 percent of all sales and online purchases through retail partners amounting to about 60 percent of sales.
Bryan, who has been with Portmeirion for 24 years, said he first thought of acquiring Nambé about 15 years ago and revisited the plan a decade ago.
In recent years, he had been monitoring Nambé under Robedee’s leadership, he said. And then, about a year ago, Nambé marketing director Lou Scala reached out to him at Portmeirion.
“We first talked about us distributing their product in Europe,” Bryan said.
“I went to visit New Mexico in August,” he added, and “we talked about purchasing.”
Portmeirion, which has $120 million in annual revenue, is based in Stoke-on-Trent, a town known for pottery midway between Manchester and Birmingham, England. It distributes its products to 60 countries.
Bryan believes Nambé, which now brings in $18 million in annual revenue, will match or surpass Portmeirion’s 8 percent to 12 percent growth rate over the past 15 years.
Nambé was Portmeirion’s first purchase outside the U.K., Bryan said. Along with the Portmeirion brand of housewares, the company owns dinnerware makers Spode and Royal Worcester, candle-maker Wax Lyrical, and niche kitchen accessories firm Pimpernel.
Bryan expects to have items from the Spode Christmas Tree collection in Nambé shops for the holiday season, and products from other brands could follow.
“I really don’t want to change the feel of the Nambé shops,” he said.
But he envisions an increase in the number of shops.
Nambé now has eight stores — seven in New Mexico and one in Scottsdale, Ariz. There are four shops in Santa Fe, two in Albuquerque and one in Old Mesilla outside Las Cruces.
The first wave of new Nambé stores could open in the next year in Southern California, Texas and Florida, Bryan said. “We would like to open a few more stores but not all over the country. Double the number of stores would be a high number.”