Monday, November 23

When the shoe business runs through your veins

The president of the Elche-based shoe company Wonders, Rubén Carbonell.

The president of the Elche-based shoe company Wonders, Rubén Carbonell.
antonio amorós

The first time that Rubén Carbonell went to “work” at the shoe factory founded by his father, Wonders, from Elche, he was punished for misbehaving, when he was still a child. Surely then he would not see it the same, but today he fondly remembers those summers. After all, he says, it was always clear to him that he would go into the family business. A business that he now presides over, after a few months ago the generational change in the firm was completed and Jaime Carbonell decided to permanently leave the command of the company in the hands of four of his five children.

In addition to Rubén, who combines the presidency with the position of director of product and brand, in the corridors of Wonders one can meet Jorge Carbonell, who directs the export area; Nuria Carbonell, who is in charge of the design; and Francis Carbonell, who heads the electronic commerce department. Only the youngest -Lorena- has decided to follow a different path. Unlike other families, where the company is often the focus of conflicts, the president of Wonders assures that blood ties are an advantage. At the end of the day, “no matter how much you argue, you have to see each other every Sunday and we are all clear that the discrepancies remain in the factory,” he confesses. In addition, where appropriate, ensure that the discsusiones are in favor of the company, “Because we are all very involved and we want this to go forward.”

The company has carried out an almost book transfer of powers, with the creation of new governing bodies to facilitate management, the incorporation some years ago of a general director from outside the family -Fracisco Oliver-, and a gradual withdrawal of the founder of the first line, no matter how much he still passes by the company almost every day, according to his son. In addition, as the current president points out, the Carbonell brothers accumulate many years of experience in the company, and have been part of the entire development and expansion process of the firm.

In the case of Rubén Carbonell, he has been working professionally for the company for two decades, after those summers when he was forced to do so. He started part-time, combining his tasks in the company with a law degree that he decided to study to train, although he never intended to practice. A training that he completed with two specialized masters in business management and fashion. What he did not study was design and, nevertheless, he assures that one of the things that has surprised him the most in this time is that he is also good at it. Not surprisingly, he participates in the entire process of developing the home’s collections. Unlike other brands, in Wonders they have always been clear that they are not satisfied with marketing, as other companies in the area do, that their DNA is that of a manufacturer. Thus, when all the Elche footwear firms stampeded to China to look for suppliers at the beginning of the last decade, the Carbonells decided to keep the factory, which “has always been the priority.” In this regard, he maintains that, “For us, it is important to be able to control the whole process and, although we went to China to see what could be done, before we stepped onto the steps of the plane we already knew that we had nothing to do there.”

When the others began to return and found the problem that the specialized workforce had disappeared, they still had their entire staff: more than 300 people “whom we have known for a lifetime,” he emphasizes. A workforce that has become one of its priorities after the outbreak of the pandemic, which has shaken the foundations of the entire economy, but especially in sectors so dependent on the evolution of consumption, such as footwear. “We want to make shoes, we have never thought about being commercial, and for that we need people, our workers. We are going to defend them, ”says the executive.

The other front that they have open are the customers, the stores that are in charge of getting their products to the final buyer, and with whom they also work side by side to find a way out of the current situation. A help that they make compatible with the reinforcement of the online bet, which the company has also promoted in recent years.

One of the consequences of the pandemic, according to Carbonell, is the need to present news more frequently to encourage consumption. “We now make almost five collections a year,” says the president of the company, who, despite everything, is convinced that the sector will survive this new crisis. Thus, he assures that as soon as the news about the effectiveness of the vaccines is known, they have already begun to receive calls from customers who want to accelerate the orders for the next season. The light is already visible at the end of the tunnel.

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