Why do people lose so many umbrellas

"Out of sheer caution"

09.10.2015
Interview with an umbrella maker

Protect umbrellas, protect insurance companies. In an interview, Till Finger, one of the last umbrella makers in Germany, explains the symbolic power of his product - and how he provides for old age.

Till Finger has his shop, his workshop, in the center of Bremen. There, in the midst of hundreds of umbrellas, between sticks, poles and fabrics, one of the last umbrella makers in Germany gives the GDV magazine POSITIONEN information about what makes his craft so fascinating and what insurance companies have in common with umbrellas.

You can only lose, Mr. Finger: If the sun is shining, nobody will come. When it starts to rain, the department stores get the cheap umbrellas for five euros from the warehouse. People don't come to you.
Till fingers: But. The cheap umbrellas don't even hold up halfway. Then people come to us and we sell a good one. Unfortunately, many people first have to realize that cheap umbrellas are no good before they resort to a good one.

Is that enough to survive?
Finger: There will always be people who want high-quality umbrellas - and people who build them. For example, Till Finger. “High quality umbrellas” is a fairly small market, but we get a pretty big deal from this market.

“When it comes to old-age provision, I don't rely entirely on real estate, but go three different ways. So also statutory pension and private provision. "

How do you deal with customers who are clinging to their cheap umbrella and want to have it repaired?
Finger: When someone comes with a three-euro umbrella, it's like sewing plastic bags: you can, but you don't have to. I honestly tell everyone how good each wing is - and where it has weaknesses. Even if it hangs in my shop window.

Isn't that bad for business?
Finger: On the contrary. This is the only way that customers can take my word for it and trust my expertise. Because we always tell people the truth.

What doesn't everyone do?
Finger: Many sell brands, I sell quality and always focus on the benefits and the technology. The color only comes afterwards. Men need five colors, so there is guaranteed to be the right one. Women need more extensive advice. The demands are higher there.

Because it has to be more colorful?
Finger: The Hanseatic woman likes muted colors and that's where she quickly finds herself in the men's area. Most women want an umbrella that is more stable, lighter, smaller, more comfortable. So here, too, it's about the benefit. And if someone has an unusual request, we order the fabric and build the umbrella for them. Exactly how he wants it.

That costs then - how much?
Finger: Customers can choose the handle, the crown, the sticks and the bars - and of course the fabric. That requires a lot of explanation and advice. Every customer is different, so the umbrella is also different. Made to measure. I've been working on it for a couple of hours. That also costs a few hundred euros.

Very few customers have an idea that goes beyond “should protect against rain, look good and be solidly made”.
Finger: Unfortunately. Perhaps in every tenth case we have that someone wants something special. Most want the normal - an umbrella with good use. I make them too.

POSITIONEN - The magazine of German insurers

The interview with umbrella maker Till Finger was published in POSITIONEN magazine. The GDV magazine provides information on innovations, business models and political developments from the world of insurance. Further topics of the current issue:

>> To the POSITIONEN magazine

Which umbrellas do you personally prefer?
Finger: What I find most beautiful is single-colored umbrellas in noble quality and with a great feel. There are also umbrellas made of carbon that are resilient and weigh next to nothing - these are probably better umbrellas. But I find others a thousand times more beautiful.

Protect umbrellas. How do you protect yourself from accidents, from business risks, from poverty in old age?
Finger: Our family has been working with an insurance broker for 70 years, and my business, car and other insurance policies are run through it. When it comes to old-age provision, I voluntarily pay something into the statutory pension, I do something privately and a little with real estate.

Is that enough or will you have to stand behind the counter well into old age?
Finger: It can boil down to that. Fewer and fewer people are born in Germany, but people are getting older and older. I wonder whether a property will still be worth something in 30 years if there is no one left who wants to live in it. That is why I do not rely entirely on real estate, but go three different ways. So also statutory pension and private provision. Out of sheer caution.

Have you never had the impulse - very carelessly - to give up everything and do what you feel like doing?
Finger: I used to think a lot to the right and left and outside of the box - and yet ended up with the umbrellas again.

How come
Finger: I grew up with it, my family had an umbrella factory. Then I started studying civil engineering after learning to be a carpenter. I ran a carpentry shop for four years. When I noticed, “No, actually I want umbrellas”, I sold them.

Interview: Michael Prellberg

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