A leader in the luxury goods market for two decades, Nicolas Krafft has taken on a more senior role as Managing Director of premiere flatware and gift manufacturer Christofle, founded by legendary goldsmith Charles Christofle in Paris in 1830. Under Nicolas Krafft’s leadership, Christofle expanded its product lines from flatware to home décor and jewelry as it expanded its public profile in North America and Europe.
Nicolas earned his academic credentials for his business success at the Panthéon-Sorbonne in Paris, culminating his program with a master’s degree. Also at the Sorbonne, Nicolas Krafft mastered the art of sabrage, opening a bottle of champagne or sparkling wine with a ceremonial sword to create a memorable occasion.
Creating memorable occasions has been the theme of Krafft’s distinguished career.
Nicolas Krafft’s earliest job experience after university gave him opportunities to invent ways to surround customers with delight in new homes as a store manager for Prisunic Builders. After five years with Prisonic, Nicolas Krafft secured a position with the AELIA Group (Nanterre) giving direction to 16 duty-free shops in Roissy-CDG airport. Just a year later, Krafft became the company’s Director of Operations, creating unique buyer experiences at the company’s alcohol, tobacco, and gift outlets. Then in 2002, Krafft started his long and continuing tenure with luxury silver flatware maker Christofle.
Nicolas Krafft’s first position with Christofle was as President and CEO of the company’s North American subsidiary. He used his authority in the company to create a brand synonymous with enjoyment.
Christofle grew in Europe and reached the United States on the strength of its skills with silver plating, making elegant flatware available to millions of families who otherwise could not have afforded it. When Marshall Fields in Chicago started carrying the Christofle brand in the late nineteenth century with the slogan “Give the customer what she wants.” Christofle opened its own store in New York City on 57th Street between Madison and Fifth Avenues in 1957. Although Christofle closed its 57th Street store during Krafft’s tenure with the company, under his leadership the company grew to hundreds of locations throughout the United States, making North American the company’s second largest market after Europe.
Nicolas Krafft grew sales and prominence of his company by understanding its customers. The average Christofle customer, Krafft disclosed in an interview with Forbes, is traveled, has professional and commercial influence, and can have multiple homes, maybe a boat, and a global perspective on life. Nicolas Krafft made sure that these high-net worth customers gained an understanding of Christofle from a global perspective, working with interior decorators and estate managers to bring the gravity and globality of the Christofle brand to everyday objects of beauty and delight.
Nicolas Krafft created a company culture which not only encouraged customers to purchase the beautiful items they had for sale, but also to enjoy them in their day to day living.
Under Krafft’s leadership, Christofle did not stay aloof in its industry. It partnered with other companies to create events that animated their brands. It grew beyond its caricature as a store at which customers could always come in to have a glass of champagne or enjoy fine caviar, but also a place where Christofle’s chef de cave could explain the curation of fine wines and their pairings with gourmet foods and the elegant presentation made possible by the company.
Nicolas Krafft’s mastery of the art of sabrage is an apt metaphor for his stewardship of the Christofle brand. Decapitating a bottle of champagne for a celebration through a skilled act of sabrage is, of course, more common in France than in the United States. It is a French tradition dating back to Napoleon.
Sabrage is a spectacular act with a practical end. The unique offerings of Christofle delight the senses but they have practical utility. Sabrage is not a skill that comes easily. Nicolas Krafft learned the art by studying with a friend’s father who was an officer in the Army. Nicolas Krafft has practiced the art so long that he now has a collection of over 100 ceremonial sabers.
And sabrage is an art that requires practice. Under Krafft’s leadership, Christofle expanded its practice of creating elegant things and showing their customers’ staffs how to use them so they now have a greatly expanded product line.
Nicolas Krafft has returned to France to manage Christofle’s European operations. His influence on the company continues through the company’s new and expanded leadership in the US luxury goods market.