The Parker Company is adapting to a hospitality market undergoing significant change, but it continues to attract projects both large and small , says managing director Titus van der Werf

The Parker Company MD and partner for Europe, MEA Titus van der Werf.
The Parker Company MD and partner for Europe, MEA Titus van der Werf.

Founded 40 years ago in the US, procurement specialist The Parker Company first entered the Dubai market in 1996, during a time when the first landmark hotels began popping up across the emirate.

Nearly a decade and a half later the firm continues to perform well, supplying a variety of hotels from luxury ‘seven-star’ resorts to budget hotels.

Titus van der Werf, The Parker Company managing director and partner for Europe, Middle East and Africa, comments: “We came here to do procurement under a completely new philosophy.

“At the time all procurement was done on a commission basis and The Parker Company works only on a flat fee basis; back then this was a new concept and was somewhat unique to the Middle East.”

After completing its first four projects in Dubai, The Parker Company became an independent freezone company and began its expansion into other growing Gulf markets, including KSA, Kuwait and Qatar.

“Somewhere around 2003 and 2004 the big boom started and we got involved in major projects, including Madinat Jumeirah and Atlantis The Palm,” remarks Van der Werf. “The company grew to 40 specialists, all working on between 10-15 projects; that’s what we continue to do today.”

The firm is divided into two segments: the furniture, fixtures and equipment (FF&E) division, and the operating, supplies and equipment (OS&E) division. There is a 60-40 split in favour of the FF&E division in regards to resources.

“On average we work about 18 months per project from start to finish,” explain Van der Werf. “But we do more than just procurement; we source procurement, solve logistic issue, and organise warehouse management and installation for hotels.”

As a global company Van der Werf says that the firm has a big reach supplemented by a state-of-the-art online data system that connects the Dubai office with the company’s other offices around the world.

“I think this gives us an edge,” he asserts. “With 14 years of experience in this region and having worked with virtually all developers and operators, our clients understand us very well and know what to expect from us. Whether we are delivering a project in Windhoek, Namibia, or Doha, Qatar, the logistics of delivering the product is not such a challenge as we work with very reputable shipping companies and experts to make sure it all gets there on time.”

Market diversification

Van der Werf says that the biggest challenge during the global financial crisis has been maintaining service levels while the market restructures.

“We did everything to maintain our staff levels and the challenge now is to adjust the organisation and the operation to a new situation,” he observes.

“I believe the market will shift to more affordable lodging, which means the scale of properties will go down; instead of five-star resorts, it might become four-star hotels, which means we have to adjust to that new market situation.”

The company is already working with budget hotel brands such as Ibis, Novotel and Pullman.

As Van der Werf notes: “It’s beautiful to do the Armani Hotel in the Burj Khalifa, which took a lot of effort, but we should never forget that we can serve our four-star hotels at least as well and as efficiently”.