Embracing the future and building on our heritage

For well over 125 years, the family-run Kessler Group has put the customer first, placing personal service at the heart of all it does.

Our Story

It began in 1893, when Bernhard Kessler, an exceptional designer and craftsman, became involved in the manufacture and sale of umbrellas. Subsequent generations of Kesslers used their skill and business acumen to steer the organisation forward and become leaders in their field.

1893

The Beginning

The Beginning

Trained as a master craftsman in wood, Bernhard Kessler founded the family firm in Vienna, specialising in the manufacture of high quality umbrella handles and walking sticks crafted from wood, metal and horn. Business prospered, and by 1910 Kesslers began exporting its goods to London.

1926

Kesslers in London

Kesslers in London

Leopold Kessler, son of Bernhard, opened and managed the Kesslers London branch near Old Street.

1930

Parker Pen

Parker Pen

The first display client was Parker Pen who visited from the States to show Leopold Kessler a photograph of a novel concept – the freestanding cabinet. This innovative idea meant that consumers could see the product and it was no longer stored behind the counter, but at the front of the store.

 

Leopold took the concept of the freestanding unit to the beauty industry, initially working with Max – the founder of the Max Factor company.

1939-1945

Kesslers During the War

Kesslers During the War

When war broke out in 1939, the Kesslers company devoted its production to the war effort in a collaboration with Polish inventor, Josef Stanislav Kozacki, whose Mine Detector 2 was the world’s first electronic detector and a breakthrough in anti-personnel mine detection for the British Army. Leopold was closely involved in the design and manufacture of the mechanical parts and used great ingenuity to resolve a number of inherent problems.

 

As part of his contribution to the war effort Leopold Kessler gave the copyright of the mine detector to the MOD.

1940s

Willie Kessler

Aged 11, Willie Kessler, Leopold’s son, started work as a Saturday boy, and was allowed to carefully polish and wrap the wooden displays his father had designed for the quintessential brand Atkinson perfumes.

 

At 15, Willie joined the family business full time, and always remembered his first day. “I left school on the Friday afternoon and reported for work on Monday morning as a wood machinist,” he recalled.  It was typical of the diligent work ethic he displayed throughout his entire working life.

1950s

Kessler Group Adapts to Change

Kessler Group Adapts to Change

In the early 1950s, links with pre-war customers, including Max Factor, were revived and new ones forged. The Parker Pen Company and Dunlop Tyres commissioned Kesslers to make display stands.

1961

Sam Berger

Sam Berger

Willie Kessler and Sam Berger became Joint Managing Directors.

1963

New Factory

New Factory

An increase in the number of major new clients necessitated a move to a larger factory in Dalston where Kesslers became established as one of the leading UK manufacturers of display and manufacturing material. Clients included Sellotape, Mary Quant, Biba and Yardley.

1966

Kessler Group’s Expertise in Beauty

Kessler Group’s Expertise in Beauty

Kesslers was always at the forefront of modern merchandising design from its post-war high quality wooden displays to modern-day fixtures that required complex display techniques.

 

Kesslers was renowned for its close relationships with its clients, which included the beauty world’s iconic founders and leaders, many exacting in their demands.

 

Elizabeth Arden, famed for her direct and forceful approach to business, wanted Kesslers to produce an innovative plastic merchandising unit to display lipsticks. The company specially purchased a moulding machine for the job, which was soon put to use with many top cosmetic brands, including Helena Rubinstein, Mary Quant, Charles of the Ritz and Yardley.

 

Fashion and cosmetics designer Mary Quant would repeatedly insist on changes to her retail display units until they met with her approval.

 

Kenneth Green, the charismatic chairman of Charles of the Ritz, was heavily involved in his brand’s displays and impressed with his professional eye for detail and natural flair.

 

Barbara Hulanicki, inspirational founder of BIBA, ensured the BIBA cosmetics displays reflected the brand’s iconic values.

1970s

George and Charles Kessler

George and Charles Kessler

In the mid 1970s, Willie’s sons, George and Charles, joined the business, helping grow Kesslers’ export business following UK’s membership of the EU.

1970

Expansion

Expansion

Further rapid expansion led to another move to a much larger plant in Stratford, East London. The increased space facilitated the latest manufacturing techniques as well as a multi-material approach – plastics, wood and metal could be manufactured in one plant. Kesslers became one of the pioneers in the introduction of computer assisted design and manufacturing. Helped by the UK joining the Common Market (EU) the export side of Kesslers was established.

1980s

Kesslers International Ltd

With the expansion of the business came a change of name to Kesslers International Ltd, reflecting its growth in exports. Throughout the 1980s, the business flourished with the introduction of computer assisted design (CAD) and manufacturing.

1980

Clarins

Clarins

Logistics was a key part of the Kessler Group offering for almost 40 years. It all began in 1980, when Clarins, a small French brand, run by the former Marketing Director of Max Factor International, approached Kesslers to ask if they would store their goods for a few days.

 

The business evolved to become an ongoing consultancy, warehouse and delivery service which the company fulfilled impeccably.

 

It was from these small beginnings that BDM grew to become the international 3PL it is today.

1982

Bridgewater Distribution & Management

Bridgewater Distribution & Management

The idea for a separate logistics business was born, named BDM.

1990

Lord Mayor’s Prize

Lord Mayor’s Prize

Care for the environment had long been an important priority for Kesslers. Staff spent many weekends to rid the canal of supermarket trolleys, rubbish and debris. In 1990, as a forerunner in environmental campaigning, Kesslers won the City Dragon Environmental Award for its work in cleaning up Bow Back Rivers, which ran close to Kesslers’ premises.

 

1991

Volvo Penta Award

Volvo Penta Award

Kesslers won the Volvo Penta environmental award for outstanding awareness and action in their products.

1994

Further Expansion

Further Expansion

Kesslers expanded into Carpenters Business Park.

1997

Kesslers Move

Kesslers Move

Rick Roberts Way Unit 1 site was completed and Kesslers moved into a state-of-the-art production facility.

1998

BDM Expands

BDM Expands

BDM continued to expand and moved into the larger premises at Carpenters Business Park. Tony Banks MP opened the new facility in October 1998.

1999

New IT System

BDM introduced a new state of the art IT system.

2000's

Kessler Group’s Expertise in Beauty

Kessler Group’s Expertise in Beauty

In the 21st century Kesslers expanded to service clients all over the world. Global campaigns were launched for both Christian Dior and Chanel from Paris, and Estée Lauder and Revlon out of New York.

2000

Awards

Awards

Kesslers International won a record number of European awards for outstanding merchandising programmes.

2001

Duke of Edinburgh

Duke of Edinburgh

HRH Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh came to the factory to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Kesslers in London on 29 November 2001.

2004

Kessler Properties

Kessler Properties

The Kessler Property business grew with acquisitions of important sites in London.

2005

Expansion

The Rick Roberts Way site was expanded to give increased capacity to Kesslers International.

2006

Preparations for London 2012 Olympics

Preparations for London 2012 Olympics

Preparations for the London 2012 Olympics were underway and the Carpenters Road site was purchased so that the building of the main Olympic stadium could begin.

 

Charles Kessler recalls discovering that the Olympic diving pool was precisely where BDM was located, meaning that Tom Daley and others would have dived straight through the BDM offices on their way to medal victory.

2007

BDM Move

BDM Move

BDM moved to purpose built new premises in Beckton giving 70% more capacity and room for growth.

2008

Brand Technology in Dusseldorf

Brand Technology in Dusseldorf

Brand Technology  was launched at EuroShop in Dusseldorf.

2011

Global Display Award

Kesslers were presented with a Global Display of the Year Award in Las Vegas, won for fragrance brand display for Procter & Gamble.

2012

Olympics

Olympics

The world came to Stratford for the Olympics in London.

2013

120th Anniversary

120th Anniversary

Kesslers proudly celebrated the 120th Anniversary of the Group at The Houses of Parliament.

2016

The Sale of Kesslers International Display Business

Kesslers International Display Business was passed on to new owners. The Kessler Group has since focused on building BDM’s international business and embarking on major refurbishment and extension of Kessler Group Properties.

2017

Kessler Properties Development

Kessler Properties Development

A major refurbishment was undertaken to Notcutt House in Central London. Finished to the highest standard, the building is a prestige Head Office for major tenants.

2019

Passing of William Kessler

Passing of William Kessler

In July 2019, William Kessler passed away, aged 92, after 77 years of continuous service to the business. He was closely involved in many aspects of the business right up until his passing.

2019

Dr Edward Kessler and Charles Kessler

Dr Edward Kessler and Charles Kessler

In March 2019 Edward Kessler, founder of The Woolf, Institute returned to the board of the family business.

2020

BDM Further Growth

BDM Further Growth

Record investment in BDM facilities led to further growth in capacity and IT facilities.

Future

From small beginnings in the manufacture of umbrella handles to the modern-day demands of global business, Kessler Group remains to this day a family-run business.

Throughout this time, Kessler Group has demonstrated an ability to embrace change and respond to the ever-changing demands of the retail and digital world.

Sustainability has moved front and centre and will dominate the way that companies conduct business in the future. Kessler Group will be there, ready to take on the challenge and work with its clients towards a sustainable future.