Founders: The Zentile brothers, Arnaldo and Lino.
An industry that still strongly reflects the traditions and the activities of its founding family.
In the 1950s, ZAF was producing window dummies and busts for Standa’s displays of fashions for the women of the early years of the economic boom as they discovered the marvels of the first great department stores to the notes of the Platters and that new genre launched by Elvis.
In these fast-flying years, Italy saw the debuts of the department stores, the Fiat 600, the washing machine, the TV set, and the supermarkets; they were the years of Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, when Italian vitality was accompanied by melodies sung with an American accent.
The American Dream: the model of a market led by the “happy consumer” became a way of life and the Zentile brothers immediately joined the fray, responding to changes in the market as they happened but with a longsighted approach.
They capitalized on the opportunity offered by the American challenge with exquisitely Italian inventiveness and passion, producing the first metal shelving units and thus contributing to the birth of the first “Superette” chain, with its vanguard Standa branch in Via Torino in Milan. That mythical Milan of the Sixties, capital of Italian business, design, and innovation, which even back then showed all its promise as a European economic development capital and trendsetter.
Inspired by the layout of American large-scale distribution and designed to meet the new display needs, the ZAF shelving units featured hollow-core wooden shelves and an innovative metal support structure.
Even these first units incorporated rational technical solutions aligned with Italy’s desire for renewal and with the time-honored values of the Italian entrepreneurial tradition. What’s more, they were designed to safeguard personal safety, a feature that was anything but a matter of course in those years. The shelf units were so stylish and so functional that success was immediate.
The ZAF shop fitting products marked out the rhythm of Italy’s march toward modernization, providing not metaphorical but actual physical support: strong, long-lasting, and designed to ensure the best sales performance. The products marketed on ZAF shelves carried the brand names that accompanied the children of the Sixties as they grew up and that are still market standards, generations later.
We are talking about the Stella supermarkets, Standa, and of course, the Autogrill Pavesi that began to act as milestones on another “miracle”: the A1 motorway, with its Supercortemaggiore and AGIP service stations where travelers stopped just for the fun of it.
The first ZAF plant was founded in 1960 in Bollate, just outside of Milan; in 1971 the company opened a second plant in Zibido San Giacomo and shortly thereafter another plant a short distance away.
In 2002, a sweeping expansion and rationalization program transferred the Bollate production to the two Zibido San Giacomo plants at the southern Milan city limits.
Today, the complex is an important industrial center: fifteen thousand square meters of covered area, one hundred and ten employees, and annual consumption of more than 9,000 tons of steel, transformed into shop fitting components for the domestic and international markets: France, Great Britain, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Poland, the Arab Emirates, Lebanon, and other markets, in constant, progressive expansion.
Today as yesterday, ZAF is attentive to changes in the market and marketing display needs. ZAF’s best known customers include the Ipermercati Bennet, with 58 sales points in northern Italy, the Autogrill chain, and the Spanish El Corte Ingles department stores.
ZAF prides itself on its capacity to offer solutions aligned with evolving distribution needs and the continual changes in the market scenario and product evolution, adapting its production capabilities to meet ongoing change. ZAF can offer those transversal competencies needed to provide real answers to the needs of the new distribution channels, from small specialized shops to franchise chain stores, and of the new residential models, in which simultaneous establishment, integration, and growth of sales points and housing is a prerequisite.
ZAF TODAY: “CAN DO”
Thanks to its history and industrial culture, ZAF is a company that can provide concrete answers, that brings its design capabilities to bear on turning ideas into winning solutions. It is a versatile company with a “can do” attitude, understood as the desire to become the customer’s champion in meeting all the challenges posed by development.
The company’s core business is production and distribution of its distinctive metal shelving and shop fitting system for food and non-food shops, stores, and chains.
Working hand-in-hand with specialists in interiors, ZAF can handle all sales point shop fitting needs on small, mid-size, and mega sales floors.
Besides its commitment to innovation of its shop fitting system, ZAF creates customized products designed to meet all its clients’ display needs.
This value, together with the excellence of the ZAF product and the extraordinary quality/price ratio, has permitted the company to build long-lasting relationships with its clientele. But there is more: the company’s loyalty to its suppliers is a further guarantee for the client that ZAF’s acknowledged quality standards will be maintained over time.
It is thus the market itself, through ZAF client satisfaction and loyalty, that has conferred success on a product that is rational, easy to assemble, and easy to maintain, and that always offers the possibility of integrating the original structure with new elements and accessories - even twenty years after first purchase.
A WINNING TEAM
From the owners to the suppliers, from the employees to the entire Italian and foreign sales network, ZAF is a single, winning team.
Many members of the ZAF team started with the company, or are members of the families of ZAF’s earliest employees.
Over time, this sense of belonging has created and maintained a strong product and market culture, which permits ZAF to manage all phases of product design and production in-house.
Since beginning its activity, ZAF has dedicated great attention to the foreign market and has begun working not only in Europe but on the Arabic-language markets as well. The structure of the foreign distribution network got its start at the 1978 EuroShop trade fair in Düsseldorf.
In Italy, ZAF can count on a capillary network of loyal retailers located throughout the national territory for meeting the needs of a wide range of clients in a timely manner.
Safety, aesthetics, and attention to detail have always been the distinctive qualities of a versatile, mature product that offers a full complement of accessories — more, in fact, than any of its competitors.
Even back in the 1960s, ZAF products were absolutely innovative and at the avant-garde; all sharp corners and edges had already been eliminated.
Simplicity, practicality, design, and essentiality in every accessory, plus the possibility of series production of any item to serve clients in need of large supplies of ZAF products.
ZAF products are built to last and designed to be integrated and updated. The product is rustproof and impervious to other agents; the horizontal bottom and shelves are in plastic-coated steel sheet to guarantee resistance to scratches and abrasion.
For ZAF, shelving is a tool for lending support to the client’s values; a tool that, if need be, can blend unnoticed into the background to leave space for the product, highlighting the display while making its silent contribution to function and aesthetics.
THE ZAF PATENT (annexes “brevetto01.jpg” / “brevetto02.jpg”)
The ZAF load-bearing structure revolves around a single element. In 1976, ZAF patented the “cold-pressed or extruded load-bearing element for formation of modular structures such as shelving and similar structures”: the vertical stand, the key element in the shelving structure, an upright which thanks to the special forming of the metal features high stress resistance and hides the section of the rear paneling, ensuring versatility and both horizontal and vertical modularity.
United by the backing, two uprights form a closed framework requiring no further structural support elements; the shelving is therefore a self-supporting structure whose strength derives from the coupling of the upright and the base, a structure that can support assemblies of up to and exceeding 3 meters height.
Historically, ZAF was the first company on the market to produce its own structure based on the coupling of a patented upright and the bottom, with no need of any welding.
ZAF has always invested in research to improve its product and its offer, which starts with the modular structure and branches out into customization for permitting the best possible display of any product, all in line with market and marketing demands and needs.
ZAF was the winner of the Milan Expo “Best Product” award in 1970.
INSTALLATION AND ASSEMBLY
One of the features of the ZAF shop fitting system that is most appreciated by the market is the extreme simplicity and rapidity with which the components, already remarkable for their extreme versatility and interchangeability, can be assembled.
All these features are the fruit of ongoing attention to design, which over the years has always targeted creation of a truly complete and integrated shop fitting system.
Thanks to accrued market culture and synergy between the Technical Office and the Sales Office, ZAF can profitably study the challenges posed by client needs and develop new installations for solving any shop fitting problem.
Rapidity in designing, preparing, and delivering products means an order turnover time of 2 to 3 weeks, thanks to consolidated, orderly workflows that nevertheless allow for versatility when assigning priorities.
ZAF’s ample inventories of products, in a wide choice of finishes and colors, permit even faster delivery of standard materials.
ZAF is a company that listens to its clients and collaborates in solving problems. Our clients always enjoy full assistance, before and after sale.
Clients surveyed by ZAF name after-sales assistance as an important element in determining company excellence.
ZAF can respond to any need for maintenance and modification of the display structures to adapt to new products, providing consulting for integration or refurbishing of existing displays with new fittings and furnishings.
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