Edelweiss Pianos play well at Harrods
When Harrods closed down its piano department six years ago, it was the end of an era – until Fulbourn-based Edelweiss Pianos came into the picture.
Edelweiss creates custom-built self-playing pianos which look fabulous and have single-handedly created demand for pianos as dazzling works of art as well as world-class musical instruments. While sales of traditional black pianos have hit a dud note, the prospect of choosing your own design, finish, colour, contrast and specifications has proved irresistible. Sales to the US, Middle East and Asia have rocketed.
The company was founded in the 1970s.
“My grandfather was a research physicist at the university,” says sales and marketing director, Tomas Norman. “A competent pianist, he tuned pianos as a hobby, but when he saw the poor quality of the repairs being carried out he started doing it himself.”
As the company’s reputation grew, based on craftsmanship and hard work, it expanded and moved to Fulbourn.
“This was an old supermarket bought in the 1980s,” says Tomas of the current site. As well as a manufacturing area, the premises feature a retail side – 1066 Pianos – open to the public. In the showroom is the most wonderful collection of period Steinways, Bechsteins and Blüthners alongside a lot of custom-made uprights, grands and baby grands, some of which have been extensively restored.”
At the point where the firm became “the main piano restorer in the UK”, things changed. In 2008, Mark Norman – Tomas’ dad – became head of design.
“Others came in and the bottom started falling out of the market,” notes Tomas, “so my father came up with the idea of a piano that customers could design themselves.”
The 2008 move from restoration into piano maker meant that the market opened up to those who couldn’t play, but loved pianos for their own sake. Today 60 per cent of Edelweiss customers are non-playing – the piano is more of a “statement piece for their home”, like a sculpture perhaps. But they’re not just artworks in their own right – they play beautifully, with precise tonality right down to the pressure put on the keys in mechanical mode.
The first sales arrangement with Harrods began in late 2017, and the team of artisans, technicians and craftsmen raised their game even higher.
“Harrods wanted something bespoke,” explains Tomas. “Sales had been declining in popularity, especially for the standard black look. Edelweiss showed we can do something completely different for people who love music – something very high quality, and with digital interaction.”
Each hand-crafted Edelweiss piano comes with an iPod, fully programmed with 1,000 songs, from classical solo piano to jazz, country, pop and rock. This summer, thousands more songs will become available for download.
The 2019 Edelweiss collection includes the world’s first multi-coloured Elmer the Elephant piano. The idea came from the cheerful character from the children’s storybook, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. The Elmer is the colourful jumbo gem in a range of five new customisable self-playing pianos, which are now on sale in the company’s sales area at Harrods.
Prices start at £25,000 and go up to £100,000. While sales of acoustic pianos have dropped from 30,000 in the 1980s to around 4,000, the Edelweiss piano is heralding a new era. So can Edelweiss revive the piano market?
“We’re the Tesla of the piano industry,” says Tomas, “the disruptor who people will go to in 10 years. It's happening - people are choosing us over long established piano manufacturers, which is a privilege.”