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Issue 290 | May 2013

Protecting profit margins BM Direct – delivering real value in every container

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Furniture News FURNITURE | BEDS | UPHOLSTERY | ACCESSORIES

© Gearing Media Group Ltd 2013 PUBLISHED BY: Gearing Media Group Ltd 4 Red Barn Mews, High Street Battle, East Sussex TN33 0AG ISSN No: 1475 - 3731

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Paul Farley, editor paul@gearingmediagroup.com twitter.com/FurnitureNewsED

Wish upon a star Celebrities are great, aren’t they? Whether they’re having their pet monkeys seized by customs, drinking themselves into the local jail or biting their opponents in the six-yard box, the rich and famous touch the lives of all of us in some way. OK, so that’s a slightly imbalanced take on celebrity culture. I’ll shift, if I may, to the other end of the spectrum – towards the experts and visionaries that influence our lives in more positive ways. Our industry contains a fair number of them, and, to a greater degree, is affected by their actions – be it through their crusades to reinvigorate the high street, or the more tasteful of the home decor choices made by the rich and famous. The last month has seen a number of examples of celebrities bolstering activities within the UK furniture industry, which demonstrate just how an influencer might be utilised when generating business. The launch of UBM’s May Design Series has seen the event’s organiser garner support from plenty of notable individuals. From the support of SBID’s Vanessa Brady to Ab Rogers’ creative direction – not forgetting international design figurehead Karim Rashid’s contributions to the seminars and the after-party – London’s ExCeL centre is set to be full of familiar faces later this month. Sometimes, indirect endorsements arrive unexpectedly. Duresta Upholstery was paid a visit by David Cameron – he selected the supplier based on its export credentials, and took the opportunity to discuss the potential benefits of apprenticeships (which have seen a huge take-up in Duresta’s Derbyshire locale). Read more about the Prime Minister’s visit to Long Eaton at www.furniturenews. net. Perhaps more relevant to retailers is the example of St-Helens retailer Ena Shaw Home, which invited fashion and interior designer Jeff Banks to deliver in-store style consultancies. Ena Shaw Home MD Barrie Potter said: “We were thrilled that Jeff was able to join us in our new-look store. It gave customers something to really look forward to, and provided them with a unique chance to meet one of the country’s biggest style and design icons.” Every good business should realise the potential influence that relevant celebrities can bring to bear when seeking an audience – or a buyer. Celebrity involvement gives a business activity a human face, and subsequently provides a handy story hook for the consumer press. So, the next time a local sports star or business mogul hits the headlines – or the homegrown celebrity decides to revisit their roots in your town – why not consider the potential marketing opportunities available, and make their fame work for you?

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01/05/2013 16:19


Furde

82 Last word

Jim Harrower Commercial manager, Dormeo UK

How did you get into the trade? I was working for a company called Unilock in Hastings, and received a call from a headhunter, recruiting for an MD for Sealy beds in Aspatria, Cumbria. All I remember from that initial conversation is they kept telling me that Sealy was in a most attractive part of the country, called the North Lakes. After saying I was interested, a quick look on my map – no Google then – later told me otherwise. North Lakes? How about South Scotland?! What was the turning point in your career? Very early on I did a u-turn. Having studied Mechanical Engineering at university, my first position in industry was supposed to be in the production department of a Unilever subsidiary business, making decorative vinyl wallcoverings – wallpaper to you and I. However, when I arrived as a new boy I was seconded to the marketing department, as they were short of ‘gophers’, and I never went back to the production side. I still remember being asked to put together a sales promotion after only a few weeks. I was sensible enough to ask one of the more experienced sales people what kind of things would they like to see in a sales promotion … luckily, he didn’t say 50% off the prices. How will the industry evolve? I joined Sealy in 2000, and was told the independent bed and furniture retailer would go the same way as grocery independents had gone in the 80s and 90s – that the multiples were all-conquering. Thirteen years later, we have seen the demise of Courts, Furnitureland, MFI, Allders, Allied, Sleep Depot, Rosebys and Land of Leather, and very recently Dreams, to name but a few – not too many independents in there! A good independent, well focused on what they need to offer the consumer – eg service, choice, product information and value for money – will continue to thrive. The retailer that embraces the internet will prosper, because the continued growth of this sales channel is as certain as death and taxes. I may be showing my age when I say that I would hope consumers will favour retailers

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with both a presence on the high street as well as an active internet site – although the internet-only ‘e-tailer’ may disagree with my view. I just feel that face-to-face interaction with consumers is part of the fun – and frustration – of retailing. What is the key issue today? The key issue is that consumer footfall is down and those that are spending are not doing so to the same level of spend as a year or two ago, so when they do log on to a website or wander into a retail store, the business needs to make sure all factors are positive to minimise the risk of them feeling they need to look elsewhere. How can retailers increase sales and profitability? The first step in doing this is to get people in your store. The traditional local press advertising still has some benefit, but advertising via internet and social media are key to getting your name in front of the consumer. Once they are in the store, please ensure you have sales staff that don’t welcome you with that wonderful line: “Can I help you at all?” What can retailers do to improve their marketing strategy? I believe many retailers try to be too many things to too many consumers. You have to offer choice, but I would recommend the retailer keeps it simple – more is less. Properly target the consumer with a great product display, easy-to-understand ‘steps and stairs’ when selling a product range, attentive – but not pushy – sales personnel, and, for big-ticket items, don’t charge for delivery! My pet hate: “Thanks for spending £2499 in my store Mr Customer … that will just be another £29.99 for delivery.” I know it’s a real cost, so tuck it away in the price and say “no charge for delivery”. What are you doing to become more competitive? Our competitive edge is that we have launched a product into the UK bed market that no-one else can offer. The bed industry

“The retailer that embraces the internet will prosper, because the continued growth of this sales channel is as certain as death and taxes” is full of products that claim to have the most responsive this, or the most comfortable that … and now we have beds with probiotic treatment – I think this means you can eat yoghurt in bed! Seriously though, how many times have you heard a retailer say: “I want something different to sell”? This is our competitive edge – no other manufacturer can supply a mattress like the Dormeo Octaspring. We say it is unique, and that is 100% true. Do you have any tips on upcoming trends? I would love to offer up lots of tips, but if I had that many I’d keep them for myself. What brings a smile to your face in this industry? The smile (or is it a grimace?) has got to come from dealing with consumers. For example: “Dear Mr Bed Manufacturer, it may look as if my dog had been sleeping on the bed, and the marks you claim are footprints over the mattress are really just pixie dust, and although I’ve slept soundly and used the bed continuously over Christmas and New Year … I now want to return it, as it’s not my colour!”

01/05/2013 13:37

Furniture News May 2013  

Furniture News Magazine May 2013, includes news, insight and features on all the latest in the interiors world.

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