Interview with Engineer Sónia Claro

Interview with Engineer Sónia Claro

Interview with Engineer Sónia Claro, Managing Director of Monteiro Fabrics, for Monteiro Ribas' magazine. 


What was the impact of COVID-19 on the employees of Monteiro Fabrics?

We had a very intense and concerted action from the Health and Safety department, with the implementation of many measures. I think we performed very well as a group, and people felt comfortable and supported. We reacted quickly and I feel that we did a good job. We managed to make our workers feel at ease when coming to work, with all the implemented measures. We made masks available in record time. All safety and hygiene-related issues were resolved within a span of one to two months. That was a very positive aspect. The dynamics and people's perception of the company changed. They realized that there was a concern for their well-being within the administration and management.

Eng. Sónia Claro Monteiro Fabrics


And in the business?

From an economic standpoint, we experienced a 20% decrease in revenue in 2020. We had a quarter with a larger impact, between May, June, and July. During this period, we were in a state of lay-off. It was a complex process that required a lot of communication and close contact with our employees, to help them understand that it wasn't a dismissal, but rather a pause, an adaptation. We analyzed the situation of each employee and tried to minimize the individual impact. As for the markets, saying that we lost 20% of revenue indicates that they retracted. We have a significant share of the market connected to the hospitality sector, including hotels, restaurants, and bars. We manufacture many products for this type of clientele. Everything came to a halt, especially in the three months I mentioned.

In 2021, the business started recovering slowly. We haven't reached the levels of 2019 in terms of quantity yet, but we are offering a more valued product, with more added value, which provides us with higher margins. This way, we are going to surpass that year's revenue volume through pricing, reaching 7.5 million euros. 


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How do you define your customer market?

We have around 90% of exports, and 90% of our customers are in Europe. Portugal represents less than 10%. We also work with clients from African and Asian countries. The markets are starting to recover, but the hospitality market is closely tied to the impact of the pandemic. It still represents a significant portion of our portfolio.

What are the differentiating factors of Monteiro Fabrics' products? I'll start with a basic factor, which is quality. Our products are of high quality, and we maintain consistency in what we deliver. They also have a design component associated with them. Another aspect, perhaps the most differentiating factor, is the service we provide. We aim to increasingly meet the needs of our customers with personalized service. We are working on enhancing the customer experience.


Do you work on custom orders?

In the past two years, we have focused on expanding our range of products with 30-meter quantities, creating a stock service area that's ready for immediate delivery. In the recent past, our minimum order quantity was 300 meters. On the other hand, we continue to offer tailor-made custom orders, a service that has existed for several years, where products are made to fit each customer's specifications.


How do you envision the future?

Currently, our product range is geared towards safety footwear made in Europe, featuring numerous technical properties. Another range we are working on includes sustainable products applicable to both footwear and upholstery. This involves recycled and bio-based raw materials with a reduced carbon footprint. We're developing this range to cater to our European customers. There's a significant trend towards choosing vegan and non-leather options. As this trend grows, our products must align with these preferences. However, we need to be prepared. We can't offer the standard product we used to make. We need to provide alternative solutions, and we already have some. We'll always be in a state of development and readjustment. We've been in the upholstery business for 15 to 20 years. If we hadn't adapted, we wouldn't be here today. We always need to think two years ahead to introduce products, even when the market isn't demanding them yet.


Interview with Engineer Sónia Claro, Managing Director of Monteiro Fabrics, for Monteiro Ribas' magazine.