Furniture News #383

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#383 August 2021


Sit pretty with Orbital’s award-winning CGI

Channel hopping OKA takes new routes to market READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS ROLLED MATTRESSES | TRADE SERVICES

Notes on the shipping crisis The ethics of trading out of lockdown

EDITOR’S COMMENT 3 EDITORIAL EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Paul Farley 01424 776101 Twitter @FurnitureNewsED

SALES SALES AND MARKETING DIRECTOR (Furniture News portfolio) Sam Horscroft 07764 650655 Twitter @FurnitureNewsAD OVERSEAS AGENTS Casey Loo (Asia) +65 973 00123 (WhatsApp) Ailsa Yin (China) +86 13113 115335 (WeChat)

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IT’S AN INSIGHTFUL SNAPSHOT OF HOW OUR TRADE HAS MANAGED TO OVERCOME ADVERSITY WHILE KEEPING ITS EYES FIXED FIRMLY ON THE FUTURE Did your favourite make the cut? This month’s issue has been a particular joy to compile, as it features the results of our first-ever Readers’ Choice Awards (from p20). With trade exhibitions coming back to life, the promise of global economic recovery and an increasingly vaccinated and confident populace, it’s the perfect moment to recognise those business partners who have truly proved their worth during one of the toughest periods in living memory. If people show their true colours when the chips are down, we should take heart that there are so many in our industry whose resolve, hard work and compassion helped make the journey a little easier. The roll call of 2021’s award winners is by no means comprehensive, but it’s a valuable benchmark, and an insightful snapshot of how our trade has managed to overcome adversity while keeping its eyes fixed firmly on the future. I hope these winners’ achievements will be remembered – just as I hope that the retailers who have exceeded expectations will reap the rewards. As Next joins the ranks of businesses pledging to repay the Government for its support during the pandemic, we look at how the industry has handled the ethical dilemmas of the past 18 months (p74). When faced with punishing trading

restrictions through successive lockdowns, retailers have often been forced to weigh social responsibility against the need to make money. What might the long-term impact of their actions look like? Also in this month’s issue, we interview OKA’s Jennie Farmer, who outlines the various directions the former mail-order business is taking to maximise customer reach (p10), and look at some of the manufacturer-brand rolled mattresses making good inroads despite fierce D2C competition (p66). Finally, fresh from Manchester Furniture Show (in hot, hot Harrogate!), we round off proceedings with various takes on the question on everyone’s mind – when, if ever, will the shipping situation return to some kind of normality? The BFM says it expects global supply capacity to recover later this year, but we’re by no means out of choppy waters. From p78, a range of industry commentators offer their perspectives on the logistical and legal angles of a freight crisis which continues to bleed an industry striving to meet huge consumer demand. As well as more successful trade shows and a promising start to the Golden Quarter, let’s hope the coming months see fewer blockages in the pipeline …

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No part of this publication may be reproduced without the specific prior written agreement of the Publisher and may not be stored on any type of retrieval system. Furniture News/ Gearing Media Group Ltd accepts no responsibility for variations in colour reproduction. Special colours (Pantone etc) can be catered for with prior arrangement. Some elements of the editorial content in this publication are submitted by the trade, however, all efforts are made to ensure that the editorial remains true to fact and unbiased. Monies may have been accepted to offset the costs of colour reproduction. Gearing Media Group Ltd reserves the right to alter without prior notice any content other than customers’ advertisements. No correspondence will be entered into regarding altered or adjusted editorial content. The editor’s decision is final. All material submitted for inclusion in Furniture News is done so entirely at the owner’s risk and no responsibility is accepted for the safekeeping or return thereof. Advertiser information is reproduced in good faith and Gearing Media Group accepts no responsibility in respect of adverts appearing in the magazine, and the magazines expressed do not necessarily reflect the publisher’s views. The Publisher accepts no liability for any loss arising from an advertisement’s late or non-appearance.

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#383 August 2021



Sit pretty with Orbital’s award-winning CGI



Channel hopping OKA takes new routes to market READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS ROLLED MATTRESSES | TRADE SERVICES

16 INDX Furniture Show / 18 MIFF Furniverse

Notes on the shipping crisis The ethics of trading out of lockdown

FN383_Pages.indd 1

10 OKA

26/07/2021 20:36







66 Rolled mattresses / 70 Trade services

74 OPINION 74 Right to retail? / 78 Up the creek? 79 Fighting the price war / 80 Better late than never? 81 Partner comment / 82 Feedback

Mark Gannon, MD, Sofa Source and Image Furnishings



Jordan Evans, digital content manager, Clarion Retail


Stephen Sidkin, partner, Fox Williams LLP



5th & 6th October ●

Over 80 exhibitors

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Central location at Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire

For a full list of exhibitors and to register please visit


The Lighting Industry Association (LIA) has appointed past president of the Society of Light and Lighting Bob Bohannon to the role of head of academy and policy BFM MD Nick Garratt has announced his intention to step down from the role at the end of the year to enjoy more time with his family Wayfair has partnered with homelessness charity Shelter, and will donate 10% of the profits of this month’s Save Big, Give Back sale to the charity, with a minimum donation value of £100,000 Five representatives from the Furniture & Home Improvement Ombudsman (FHIO) are taking on London’s Tough Mudder obstacle course this month in support of The Furniture Makers’ Company’s Step 2 It campaign. They hope to raise £500 for the charity Timothy Oulton has opened its second standalone UK Noble Souls gallery. The new flagship on London’s Tottenham Court Road joins the recently opened gallery on the Kings Road Harrison Spinks has donated 32 mattresses and divan bases to Don Robin’s House, a new development being built in Leeds by a local homelessness charity

DUNELM EYES FURNITURE GROWTH Dunelm saw total sales more than double YoY, and grow by +43.9% Yo2Y, in Q4 (to 26th June 2021). Digital sales growth remained strong throughout the quarter, up +38% YoY. Growth came from categories including bedding, curtains, bathroom textiles and cushions, and newer ones such as dining furniture and decorative accessories. Based on GfK data, the homewares market showed further growth throughout the quarter, says Dunelm, which reports that since its stores reopened it has delivered sales growth materially ahead of the market, and has gained meaningful share over the year despite significant periods of store closures during which some of its competitors remained open. Nick Wilkinson, Dunelm’s CEO, says: “Although our stores were closed for more than a third of the year, our strategy of investing in our digital capabilities allowed us to adapt to the changing environment and deliver strong growth. From what we have learned during the pandemic about our customers, colleagues, suppliers and our other stakeholders, we are more confident than ever about the opportunity to increase our market leadership and we will invest further in our proposition to support our growth ambitions. With many exciting developments in the pipeline to make us the first choice for home, and grow our customer base and

frequency, there is a lot to look forward to.” During Q4, Dunelm committed to two additional distribution facilities. The first was a new facility at the Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal (DIRFT) development in the East Midlands, which will expand both its capacity and capabilities for “heavy and bulky” storage, and enable it to expand its Home Delivery Network (HDN), underpinning its plans to grow its furniture proposition. The second is a standalone site in Stoke, which will be dedicated to centralised ecommerce fulfilment. Dunelm says it will maintain its focus on driving sourcing gains to mitigate ongoing cost price pressures across the supply chain, and expects to return to a normal trading calendar in FY22. It anticipates that profit before tax for the full year will be approximately £158m.

IKEA PULLS PLUG ON LANCING STORE PLANS IKEA UK says it will no longer progress with the planned development of an IKEA store at the New Monks Farm site in Lancing, West Sussex, and will sell the land. The retailer selected the site just over five years ago, but says that much has changed since: “Not only because of increasing urbanisation and the development of new technologies, but also due to more and more people shopping online, a trend which has accelerated over the last 12 months as a result of the pandemic”, states IKEA. Richard Rands, market expansion manager at

IKEA UK & Ireland, says: “This has not been an easy decision to make. Today, we are operating in an incredibly fast-changing retail environment and customer shopping habits aren’t as they once were. Although we know that there is great potential in Sussex, we no longer believe that an IKEA store on the outskirts of Lancing is the optimum way to reach customers in the region.” IKEA says it remains committed to growth in the UK, and will continue to “put all its energy” into its existing stores, investing in its online offer and exploring new formats.

CHARITY CYCLISTS RAISE £12,000 FOR STEP 2 IT CAMPAIGN The NBF has launched Version Four of its Code of Practice. The updated industry compliance guidelines now expect members to demonstrate their process controls with a basic Product Safety Incident Plan in place that covers all elements required by the consumer product recall standard PAS 7100 READ MORE ONLINE AT FURNITURENEWS.NET

Five cyclists who rode 200 miles from Axminster to London across three days have broken their fundraising target and raised around £12,000 for The Furniture Makers’ Company’s Step 2 It campaign. The ride, which was organised by the South West Region of The Furniture Makers’ Company, started in Axminster on 18th June, with the team staying overnight in Salisbury and Godalming, and arriving at Furniture Makers’ Hall, London on 20th June. The cyclists were Ben Burbidge, Hayden Davies, Peter Hooper, Alan Styles and Paul von der Heyde, with David Dewing driving the support van. Ben, David, Hayden and Paul are all past masters of

the livery company, Alan is the MD of Axminster Tools and a corporate liveryman, and Peter is an experienced long-distance cyclist. The group had initially set themselves the target of raising £7500 for the charity but upped their goal to £10,000 just prior to the challenge. Step 2 It is the new 12-month campaign from The Furniture Makers’ Company, which aims to inspire companies and individuals in the UK furnishing industry to organise sports-based fundraisers in aid of the charity and help raise £250,000, which will be used to support those in the trade experiencing financial hardship.




DREAMS FORGES MULTICHANNEL PATH Dreams has launched its first bricks-and-mortar presence for Feather & Black, with a concept store opening in Dreams’ Hedge End store (pictured). The retailer says the move marks “the beginning of a new phase for Feather & Black as an omnichannel brand”, and that it plans to open two more standalone stores this year. Dreams says the new concept is distinct from Dreams’, reflecting the brand’s high-end offer. CEO Mike Logue says: “This is hugely exciting for us and we hope customers feel the same way. Moreso than with other products, we know that having the ability to touch, try and feel before you buy is really important to people investing in highend mattresses and furniture. At the same time, the Hedge End store is a real marker of how Feather & Black has gone from strength to strength in the last year. It’s been great to see its doors open once again!” Suzannah Taggart, director of Feather & Black, adds: “We know that having a physical presence is crucial for our customers – not only so that they can try out our beds and mattresses, but so that they can really sense what they might look like in their own home. It has been a labour of love to develop this store, and we’re delighted to see our customers

interact with our products once more. Dreams has also launched an online only-brand, Sleep and Snooze. The retailer says the brand is distinct from its typical offer, and has been designed with a younger, digital-first customer in mind. As well as those looking to buy their first mattress or furnish their own home, the range is also targeted at anyone wishing to create spare rooms for guests. Sleep and Snooze comprises a limited capsule collection of over 40 mattresses and 40 bed frames, alongside a selection of headboards and bedding. All products on-site will be held in stock by the retailer, with free, one-week delivery offered across the collection. The new brand will use Dreams’ fleet of delivery vans to fulfil these orders.

NEXT REPAYS RATES RELIEF AS SALES SOAR Next reports that sales during the 11 weeks to 17th July were materially ahead of expectations and that it is increasing its profit guidance for the full year as a result – by +£30m to £750m (pre-IFRS 16). Next says the figure accounts for the profit from additional sales, together with the cost of its unplanned repayment of £29m in business rates relief (covering the period this year in which Next’s shops

were not charged business rates but were open). Full-price sales during the period were up +18.6% Yo2Y. Online sales were up +44%, with retail sales in the UK and Ireland down -6% (both Yo2Y). Nextbranded Home sales were up +40%. Next has raised its sales guidance for H2 from +3% to +6%. For the full year, surplus cash is forecast to be £240m.

OMBUDSMAN SUPPORTS CONSUMER PROTECTION DEVELOPMENT The Furniture & Home Improvement Ombudsman (FHIO) has applauded the Government’s proposed strengthening of consumer protection and the steps to make Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mandatory within the Home Improvement sector, which was announced last month by Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng and Consumer Minister, Paul Scully. Announcing these proposals in the new consultation on Reforming Competition and Consumer Policy, the Government said it will “make it mandatory for businesses to take part in arbitration or mediation where disputes arise over a transaction. This means both sides have an alternative to the time-consuming and potentially costly route through the courts, and levels the playing field for decent businesses who are doing the right thing”. FHIO has been providing voluntary ADR to

businesses in the home improvement industry for almost 30 years. Kevin Grix, chief executive and chief ombudsman at FHIO, comments: “This announcement by the Government will go a long, long way to help protect even more consumers who fall into dispute with a home improvement business – and further demonstrates that our existing members have been doing the right thing all along. “Consumers need protection now more than ever. They should expect as a minimum to be treated fairly before, during and after their purchase, and should have the comfort that if things go wrong there is an independent organisation to turn to. Good businesses who play by the rules have nothing to fear – with the right knowledge, practice and procedures in place, many disputes are avoidable. Businesses who work with us are helping to raise standards and are best placed to learn from complaints in order to improve for the future.”

Simba generated more sales in H1 2021 than the entirety of 2019, recording its highestever Q2 sales and profits and its fifth straight quarter of EBITDA profitability. Simba’s H1 sales were up +130% YoY, following +66% YoY growth in 2020 Pike Textiles, a UK sampling solutions specialist, has joined the BFM. With its traditional process legacy, Pike says the association membership supports its plans to invest in its people and processes Barclays has published new research which reveals that 17,000 local high street stores could open in the next 12 months as British shoppers adapt to a post-lockdown world by ‘looking local’ Sleepeezee has renewed its branding partnership with Olympic and three-times world champion heptathlete Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill Sofology has launched Loop, a “flexible, sustainable upholstery rental service” with fully recyclable products, fast delivery and six-, 12- and 18-month rental plans from as little as £20 a month Sainsbury’s saw LFL and total retail sales (excluding fuel) both up +1.6% in Q1 (to 26th June 2021). Argos’ sales were up +6.7% Yo2Y, but down YoY against “exceptionally tough comparatives”. The retailer says strong home and furniture sales were boosted by the transition to the Habitat brand plus good performances from bedroom and upholstery








MULTICHANNEL MARVEL From its mail order origins to its recent acquisition, lifestyle and luxury interiors brand OKA has embraced fresh routes to market for over 20 years. For new CCO Jennie Farmer – an ex-beauty industry doyenne and passionate homewares advocate – the pandemic is just the start of a new chapter for the ever-progressive business … Jennie Farmer


OKA has often been ahead of the curve when it comes to delivering a multichannel shopping experience. How might its approach evolve? I believe that success comes from serving the customer where and how they would like to be served, and therefore a multichannel experience has always been core to our strategy. At OKA, we see tremendous value in our stores. We have 13 in carefully chosen locations across the UK, and by the end of the year we will have two in the US, supported by a strong online strategy. We know that our customers love to come to our stores to ‘touch and feel’ the product. Furniture and homewares are emotive items that bring personality to your home, so it’s important that customers have a chance to experience the products. Each customer journey is unique – some start their journey online to research and then make the purchase

Perfectly at Home, with Erin Doherty

Can you summarise the journey OKA has taken since its founding? OKA was founded in 1999 as a mail order interiors firm – the business has come a long way since then! In 2000, we opened the doors to our first store in Parsons Green, West London, and over the next decade OKA stores popped up in some of the UK’s prettiest market towns such as Harrogate, Broadway, Knutsford and Guildford. Our Chelsea flagship was launched in 2010. Alongside the digital push brought by the new millennium, we launched our website in 2001, and continued to develop our range over the next 20 years, including our launch in the US in 2019. The business continued to grow – in 2019 we were bought by Investindustrial, an Italian private equity firm, who has been a very supportive ‘parent’ ever since. Last year, we marked our 21st birthday with 14 stores in the UK and sales of £30m.

in-store, whereas others start in a store and then, after consideration and measuring up their home, make the purchase online – so it’s key to be fully connected across channels. We launched a major digital transformation programme in 2019 and continued to invest in our technology throughout 2020 – accelerating our plans rather than slowing down – which meant we were well prepared when our business was forced to go completely


online during the first lockdown. Our strong financial results in 2020, despite all the challenges that were thrown at us, prove that the brand is strong and relevant, our omnichannel business model is effective, and the marketing and product initiatives that we put in place over the past 12-18 months are paying off. Online homewares sales have boomed during the pandemic. How has OKA performed, and have matters changed much since stores reopened? Our 2020 financial results were strong, despite a difficult year for the retail sector with UK stores shut for four months and disruption in the supply chain. Our UK sales reached £30m, which was broadly flat compared to 2019, but we saw a very strong performance online, with sales up +36% YoY. We saw



a further acceleration in the second half of the year – after reopening our stores in June – with overall sales up +13% and online sales up +47%. It was great to see our store and online strategies working hand in hand, and, as a result of investments we had made in our IT infrastructure before the pandemic hit, we were ready for the influx of new virtual shoppers. New customer purchases overindexed in furniture, which we were delighted to see – this is an important sign of confidence in the brand, and in the quality of our products. These results, the strength of our team, and the initiatives we have in place, give us a lot of confidence about the future of the business. While we still have to be agile and innovative, we are a healthier and stronger business than we were two years ago, and we have a clear strategy in place.

Perfectly at Home, with Erin Doherty

Is there scope to grow your UK market share? Absolutely. We want to double the size of our UK business in the next two to three years, and are working hard to widen our customer demographic to enable us to do that. We are adding new products – including a number of more contemporary styles – to the product range, and evolving the brand tone of voice, making it relevant and engaging for a slightly younger customer base. We have had several successful digital brand campaigns to bring to life the OKA spirit, including our ‘Perfectly

at Home, with’ series featuring Erin Doherty who played Princess Anne in The Crown, which told our brand narrative in a playful way, successfully delivering strong engagement and brand awareness across our social media channels. Over the past year, we have also collaborated with a number of ‘friends of the brand’ – including Binky Felstead and Donna Air – to further establish our brand presence across social media channels. It’s important to us that we only collaborate with people who are genuine fans of the brand. What’s your professional background, and what have you brought to OKA? My passion is bringing brands that have a unique story to life, and that is what attracted me to OKA – it’s a truly individual brand with beautiful products and a strong, founder-led story. I have spent time working in prestige beauty at P&G, leading brand and marketing at De Beers Jewellers and at LVMH – my background combines retail, luxury and omnichannel expertise, and I hope to bring this unique blend to OKA. My belief is that the combination of a strong brand DNA with deep customer understanding sits at the heart of a successful strategy. What’s been the hardest part of stepping into the role? The hardest part has been joining virtually! I have met all my team and the company via video, and everyone has

been incredibly open and welcoming. Thankfully, stores reopened in April, so I was able to start being closer to the product and the teams, which I find very inspiring. … and, conversely, have there been any pleasant surprises? For me, it’s such a joy to work so closely with one of the founders. In so many luxury businesses you reference people who founded the business over 100 years ago, but Sue Jones is one of our founders, and a full-time member of the leadership team, bringing her expertise and amazing eye to the product development. To be able to spend time with Sue and understand what makes OKA so special has been inspiring and invigorating. Do you source all your product directly, or work with suppliers to flesh out your portfolio? We have an in-house product development team that work very closely with our suppliers to ensure we are creating products that meet our customers’ everchanging needs, as well as reflecting the brand DNA. It’s important that this is a two-way process – we work with some incredible artisans that we have been in partnership with since the creation of OKA over 20 years ago. OKA was built on strong international sourcing credentials – how has the pandemic affected how you operate in this respect? This has certainly been a challenge over the past 18 months, as lockdowns have happened at different times around the world and caused closures in our partners’ countries. The most uncertainty has been driven by the global shipping situation – not only have transport costs increased significantly, but the unpredictable timings are challenging for a company that prides itself on great customer service. Where are the gaps (if any) in your product portfolio, and have those disrupted supply chains created any new ones? It’s important that our product portfolio continues to evolve in line with customer desires. For example, in 2020 we launched Tailored by OKA, our bespoke collection of sofas and armchairs handmade to order in the UK, offering our customers over 800 combinations.


We will expand our offering off the back of its initial success, with new styles and more fabrics, and are looking to launch the Tailored collection in the US in 2022. This is meeting the customer need for personalisation and building on the trend for ‘buy less, buy better’. What’s selling particularly well right now – ranges, materials, colours, etc – and why? Customers have spent more time at home during the pandemic, and have realised that certain big-ticket items – such as a stylish, comfortable sofa or a beautiful dining table for their family gatherings – are worth investing in. This has led to a strong increase in furniture sales. Our new Avitus Sofa that we launched this spring has been a hit, and we are already planning new colours for autumn. We continue to perform extremely well in lighting and cushions, which are signature categories for OKA and often the way that customers discover the brand. We have over 250 different patterns and fabrics in our cushion

BY THE END OF 2021, WE ARE CONFIDENT THAT OKA WILL BE A TRULY OMNICHANNEL, DIGITAL-FIRST BUSINESS, WITH BEST-INCLASS SYSTEMS range, giving customers an incredible amount to choose from to craft the perfect look for their home. Those carefully chosen pieces – whether that be a rug, wall art or a statement console table – can totally transform a room. What technological developments are currently taking place, and what will bring to the business and its customers? Our digital transformation plan has been under way since before the pandemic hit, and we have continued investing throughout this time. We actually sped up our plans during 2020, as it became apparent how quickly

consumer behaviour was changing, and the accelerating trend towards shopping online for high-consideration items was growing after our stores were forced to close. A big part of our digital transformation is behind-the-scenes planning and implementation to make all aspects of the digital journey work seamlessly for our customers. However, there are also some exciting initiatives under way that will be more visible. For example, we have launched HERO, which is a technology which allows our customers to live chat with our brand ambassadors in-stores, either by messaging or by a video call, where they can see the products up close. It’s



only a few months in but we are seeing fantastic conversion rates. We are also working on a new website that will launch in September, that will better reflect the brand DNA of OKA and make shopping easy and inspiring for our customers. By the end of 2021, we are confident that OKA will be a truly omnichannel, digital-first business, with best-in-class systems to deliver exceptional customer service and insights, sustainable growth, and efficient and scalable operations. Why did OKA choose to cross the pond? We launched in the US in autumn 2019 – online only to begin with – and opened our first store in Houston earlier this year. We have big plans to grow our

operations in the States, with two more stores in the pipeline, and a strong trade programme planned. Launching in the US seemed like a natural move for us, as we know that as a quintessentially British brand, there is strong appetite for our products. Given our early customers’ response, we are confident about the future growth of the business, and we have exciting plans to continue building awareness and telling our brand narrative through brandbuilding initiatives, targeted digital media and integrating ourselves into the communities where we operate. What could UK furniture retailers learn from their US counterparts? And vice versa?

The scale of US stores is interesting, and we are learning about the desire for larger pieces for larger homes in certain states. The British have a unique way of layering product and mixing styles. Our stores play a crucial role in bringing this to life, and we present our product in roomsets for customers to discover and inspire their homes. Are you looking to expand anywhere else? Our first US store opened in Houston in the spring, and we are excited to open our second in Dallas at the end of the year, followed by Westport, Connecticut in 2022. Our focus right now is on continuing to develop our UK business and building out our US presence

Tailored by OKA




BUSINESS AS USUAL The INDX Furniture show (formerly the AIS Furniture Show) is set to reunite the industry when it returns to Cranmore Park from 1st-2nd September for its first live edition since January 2020.

Following the successful delivery of an online version of the show in March, which was supported by 70 suppliers, the INDX Furniture team is looking forward to resuming an in-person format, and reports that feedback from buyers – plus the number of brands eager to confirm their attendance – are both indicative of a community that is keen to get back to business as usual. The upcoming show will also be the first to take place under the INDX show umbrella, with Furniture having recently joined the portfolio of Home category shows. Julian Cox, director of

furniture and home at AIS, explains the decision to rebrand: “The INDX brand represents unique trade shows aimed at independent retailers, and is well established for the AIS Fashion trade shows, so we’re delighted to become part of the INDX family.” With a focus on delivering the latest innovations alongside key and bestselling collections, INDX Furniture will provide a professional, business and buyer-focused platform for retailers to network with industry service providers and catch up with existing suppliers, as well as offering them the opportunity to discover new and future brand partners. Curated specifically with the independent sector in mind, and brought together by selectors with a wealth of experience in furniture retail, the September exhibitor line-up is gathering momentum, and is set to showcase the latest collections from leading suppliers such as Venjakob, Corndell, ALF, Kettle, Himolla, Alstons, Duresta, Parker Knoll and HTL. Although the Government recently eased mandatory Covid-19 restrictions, to ensure visitors, exhibitors and employees feel safe during the event, INDX Furniture will maintain a number of existing measures, which can be found in detail on the show website. The exhibition will be open to AIS members on 1st September, with full trade access on 2nd September – buyers can register online at www.indxshows.

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WOODEN WONDERS SourceByNet (Malaysia)

Having been forced to cancel its live event again this year, the organiser of the Malaysian International Furniture Fair (MIFF) is going ahead with the third edition of its online event, MIFF Furniverse, from 20-24th September, through which it promises to connect the global furniture market with realtime trading oppoortunities.

KF Furniture Export

With so many consumers striving to ‘bring the outside in’ with the help of their choice of furniture, wooden furniture – both classic and modern – is still very much on trend, and few places are better placed to meet demand than Malaysia, states MIFF’s organiser, Informa Markets. With its tropical weather and favourable geography, Malaysia’s furniture manufacturers enjoy access to an abundance of timber resources – particularly rubber wood – and, when these resources are utilised by skilled craftspeople and innovative designers, there is no limit to what can be achieved.

MIFF Furniverse promises to bring together an extensive collection of wooden furniture pieces from premium Malaysian furniture manufacturers, offering professionals from around the world the opportunity to do business, build networks and connect with trusted suppliers. “Furniture sourcing has never been so easy,” states the team behind the show. “Get ready for the definitive late-summer sourcing experience!” Visit highlights/miff-furniverse for more information, or join the show’s mailing list at join-mailing-list Infurnex Resources

Panelbase System Industries

WHO ELSE TO in Just 17WANTS Days… GUARANTEE SALES SUCCESS Will your January 2017 salesIN be the2021? best month’s total

given a fair chance to shine, then clear it and replace it with a better performing line. Test and measure the selling potentia 19 of all your products in a Greenwood Sale.

• SELLING SKILLS - Get good at this selling. you’re going to see year? Most retailers SUPERCHARGE

don’t bother with a proper sales process or sales training. The “3 Months Sales in Three Weeks! Your YOUR Wouldones you like see sales ofSALES two,money four, sixinorquality even eight successful do! to Invest time and sales Sales Guy was Great! The Digital Sales timesGreenwood what is normally your best know-how. Call to arrange an month? effective sales Plan Worked Brillliantly!” “A Phenomenal 6 weeks business in the first five days. training course.


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Cy Fogel, You’re Furnished, Essex

With a host of autumn shows hoping to help buyersyour make competition on the mostmarketing relevant beneficial USP’s [Covid-modified] produced a up for lost time, September’s issue will point readers to “We took 6 months turnover in the 3 weeks [with no including choice, quality, value and service. Greenwood steady flow customers over a Call longer where, when and from whom they can source. If you’re problems at all]ofand have recovered our lockdown putting on a show, let the industry know! to mysteryperiod losses. Thiswe Greenwood has surpassed all my shop your competitors. so had noSaleovercrowding and

DISCOVER THE FORTUNE • Every THAT LIES HIDDEN IN Together with the latest in Bedroom, Dining, Living and See video interviews with both does. James and Cy good retailer from Tesco to Harrod’s Consider using a Trade Services, it’ll contain the following special features: on our website: “We took 6 months turnoversales, in theturn 3 stock int ‘Greenwood’ sales promotion to increase YOUR BRAND… expectations!”

These previews – plus reviews, profiles and fresh features we beat target!” James Fraser, M.D., Blackbridge Furnishings, – help make September’s Furniture News a vital line to the Inverness, Elgin and Fort William. trade at this pivotal time. PROMOTION – Promote your business effectively. Cy Fogel, You’re Furnished, Essex. August 2020

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VOTE OF CONFIDENCE The results are in! Our inaugural Reader’s Choice Awards, launched back in May’s issue, asked the trade to nominate their top suppliers, and the industry’s response was phenomenal. The result – an inspiring, revealing and credible roll-call of the businesses that truly excelled in the past year …


No-one needs reminding how difficult the past year and a half has been for the furniture industry. But, despite the obstacles before them, many of the trade’s manufacturers, suppliers and service providers have performed admirably – and some have truly shone, distinguishing themselves as among the best in the business. Furniture News introduced the Reader’s Choice Awards this year in a bid to recognise those businesses which truly came through for its readers during one of the most turbulent periods in their history. Perhaps a supplier pulled out all the stops to ensure that important delivery made it through. Maybe their innovations met customer demand better than any could have expected, or perhaps they demonstrated financial compassion during hard times. Whatever the reason, every business can recognise that there are some partners that they simply wouldn’t – or couldn’t – do without. The sheer number of votes cast is testament to a trade keen to make its

Julian Cox, AIS

Best Buying Group/Association: AIS (p24) “The last 16 months have undoubtedly been a huge challenge, and this win is a great endorsement of the value that AIS brings to its members and suppliers,” says the buying group’s director of furniture, Julian Cox. “We’d like to take this opportunity to also send our thanks to our valued AIS members and suppliers for their support during this challenging period.” Best Bed/Mattress Supplier: Sleepeezee (p28) “Receiving this award is testament to the hard work of the Sleepeezee team, and a reflection of the work that’s gone into making Sleepeezee a household

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voice heard. This year’s sponsor, January Furniture Show, helped spread the word, encouraging even professionals to get involved. Zoë Bonser, director of Clarion’s Retail portfolio, commented: “Now is the perfect time to showcase and celebrate all of the suppliers and service providers who have supported their customers and proved their worth, time and again, over the past year. “Every business will be thankful for the partnerships that helped, and continue to help them negotiate all this disruption, and, together with Furniture News, we’re looking forward to finding out which ones mattered most.” Well, without any more ado, here are the businesses which made the grade. Well done to all of them – they are truly deserving of your business.

name,” says MD Steve Warren. “We’ve been focusing on key areas such as new product development – including the expanded Jessica Range, in partnership with brand ambassador Jessica EnnisHill, whereby we support The Sheffield Children’s Hospital Charity with a donation for every bed sold. “Just recently we introduced solar panels to our factory site as part of our sustainability plan to reduce our carbon footprint, and we have launched a brandnew website to provide an even better online experience for our customers. Since the start of the pandemic, we have all pulled together admirably – and safely – and I can now say we are operating at full capacity after a most challenging time for everyone.


The Sleepeezee team

we must support the most innovative of retailers and designers in the homeware and lifestyle industries we service. We now deal with some of the best suppliers worldwide – but also in the UK, sourcing textiles and working together to design exclusive furniture and accessories for Coach House and our clients.”

“I’d like to thank our team and our retail partners for their valued contribution. We are very excited about the future of Sleepeezee.” Best Bedroom Cabinet Supplier: Wiemann (p30) “We’re delighted,” says Simon Hewitt, MD of Wiemann’s UK and Irish agent, Litmus Furniture. “This award is special to us because it is voted for by the readers of Furniture News, and we are extremely grateful to everyone who took the time to endorse us. We are thrilled to know that so many of our customers have such strong confidence in our beautiful, high-quality products and excellent customer service. This is a much-prized accolade, and a pat on the back for the whole team. Thank you!”

Neil Buckley-Jensen, Chilli Pepper Designs

Best CGI Visualisation/Website Provider and Best Newcomer: Chilli Pepper Designs (p34) “In less than a year, Chilli Pepper Designs has gone from concept to creation and picked up two prestigious

awards, as voted for by Furniture News’ readers,” says founder, Neil BuckleyJensen. “My thanks and gratitude to everyone who voted for us – get in touch if we can help out in any way!” Best Children’s/Nursery Furniture Supplier: Steens In May, Danish flat-pack furniture manufacturer Steens Group was acquired by Tvilum, another Danish business which operates in the same field and boasts a sizeable UK operation. Steens UK stated that it was “business as usual”, as it continued to respond to strong demand. “Despite all the significant challenges we’ve faced on materials supply and ensuring we respond to our customers ‘here-and-now’ needs, we have never taken our eye off the future,” said UK & Ireland MD, Alan Cozens, back in March. “Product development has continued apace, with a raft of new ranges in the pipeline – including many for our evergrowing Kids collections. This segment continues to grow for us, both here in the UK and Ireland and internationally, so the onus is on us to continue to come up with great-value designs which incorporate all our hallmarks of quality and sustainability.” Best Decorative Accessories/Soft Furnishings/Lighting Supplier and Best Dining Chair/Table/Cabinet Supplier: Coach House (p36) “Receiving two awards from Furniture News’ readers really was such a boost to us at Coach House at what is still a very challenging time for trade, as demand remains at unprecedented levels, but shipping remains volatile,” says director, Faye Bovingdon-Bryant. “Since Covid-19 hit the UK last March, we have not stopped developing new product lines, as it is our firm view that

Best Fabric/Component Supplier: Leggett & Platt It has been a busy summer for global components giant Leggett & Platt After showcasing its new bed-in-abox capabilities, spring solutions and sleep systems at online event interzum @home in May, it was revealed that Leggett & Platt had acquired Kayfoam Woolfson, the foam- and bedmaker behind the Kaymed brand. “At Leggett & Platt, we not only enhance our own product offering and industry leadership position, but also that of our customers,” comments UK sales manager, David Nuttall. “We take what was once great and make it even better. Our consistent and strategic approach is driven by our position and commitment to support our partners, customers, and investment in the wider UK bedding industry.” Best Flatpack Furniture Supplier: Furniture To Go (p38) “On behalf of the Furniture To Go team, I am really pleased to have received this award,” says director of sales and operations, Paul Sheldon. “We operate with a can-do attitude, and it displays our core values of being customer centric. I can honestly say that we work hard to support our partners/customers in the marketplace, and strive to build customer relations and develop business for our them. “We are a forward-thinking company, embracing technology and change to keep up with an ever-growing UK market.” Best Fulfilment/Transport Provider: Rhenus Home Delivery UK (p40) “Everybody at Rhenus Home Delivery is overwhelmed to win this category,” says UK sales director, Gavin Boden. “Over the last three years, we have been growing our business while maintaining our high standards of service. “In the last year, we’ve opened a brand-new, purpose-built 55,000ft2 distribution centre in Leighton Buzzard,

READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS Best International Exhibition: imm cologne Having endured lockdowns, cancellations and uncertainty, Europe’s exhibition powerhouse Koelnmesse is taking an increasingly digital approach right now, establishing a concept for next year’s restart based on three pillars: the core in-person event, which will be extended beyond the trade fair period to include digital formats throughout the year: The Magazine by imm cologne, an online platform offering inspiration 365 days a year; and Ambista, a year-round platform for business and networking. VP of trade fair management Matthias Pollmann says the global interiors event is “perfectly positioned for a sophisticated, hybrid trade fair format”.

which has allowed us to expand our network and deal not only with the surge in ecommerce business, but also to successfully onboard several big-volume clients. Our business is like a big family – we’ll celebrate this one in style!”

Best Garden/Outdoor Furniture Supplier: Bluebone (p35) “Thank you to everyone who voted for us,” says sales manager, Elaine Anderson. “Our team worked really hard this year to deliver our garden ranges on time – from meticulous planning, then taking the decision to ship despite the challenging costs, and working flat out once the furniture arrived to ensure we fulfilled our order book on time. “We are delighted to have won this award, and look forward to next season when we will launch several new garden ranges. We love garden furniture, and have already taken the decision to grow this side of our business in 2022.” Best Home Office Furniture Supplier: Core Products “As more people have been working from home, there has been an inevitable increase in demand for home office furniture,” says CEO, Mike Rowley, whose affordable new lines have proved a popular solution for a good chunk of the worksforce. “Indeed, with more time spent at home, furniture is playing a bigger part in everyone’s lives – more robust, easy-to-clean and maintain finishes are in demand, which has accelerated the movement away from natural wood.”

Best Sales/Marketing/Display Support Provider: Furniture Sales Solutions “We’re absolutely thrilled to win this award,” says MD Adam Hankinson. “We’re working hard with a number of AIS members, independent and national retailers to help sharpen the skills of their sales teams and managers. “With over 40 years in furnishings retail, we know how to turn browsers into buyers, and how to give your salespeople the confidence to perform at their best, every day. We absolutely guarantee to increase your sales by +10%, minimum – if not, you don’t pay.”

Peter Delaney, Gallery Direct

Best Furniture Care/Repair Provider: Homeserve Furniture Repairs (p46) “Along with the Homeserve Furniture Repairs team, we’d like to say a huge ‘thank you’ to Furniture News’ readers, and to our existing clients and staff for all the support they’ve shown over this extremely difficult period,” say CEO James Lane and MD John Bowater. “As the largest furniture repair company covering the UK and Ireland, our focus is quality of service, and ensuring the customer comes first. As we continue to expand, it’s of utmost importance that we continually maintain and improve the quality of service we provide. To this end, we’re working on some exciting new developments, which will be unveiled over the next six months – watch this space!”

Best Occasional Chair/Recliner Supplier: GFA “GFA are very grateful that we have been recognised for this award by our customers, and would like to thank everyone who has voted in our favour,” says sales & marketing supervisor, Emily Mihailovich. “We try and do our best in bringing a commercial product to market that the consumer will buy. New fabrics, shapes and styles are always evolving, and we need to react to this ever-changing landscape.The year has been a really tough one in respect to supply, and we continue to try and ship product, even at these crazy rates! Let’s hope we can get back to some sort of normality by 2022!”

Best Software/Technology Provider: RetailSystem (p50) “The entire RetailSystem team is honoured to be recognised by Furniture News readers in an industry we love,” says global president, Jesse Akre. “RetailSystem’s teams strive for Best Living Room Cabinet Supplier: Gallery Direct (p48) “We were thrilled to learn that we have won the award,” says MD Peter Delaney. “It’s a great accolade to receive from the industry. I would like to thank everyone who voted for us, and of course Furniture News for organising the awards. “We continually strive to develop exciting new products, to offer our customers a wide and varied range of styles and looks, so there is something to suit all interiors. It is truly a team effort, with hard work throughout the process, from design concept to delivery of the finished product to our customers – and so the whole team thoroughly deserve to win this award.”

Jesse Akre, RetailSystem



Best Testing Services/Certification Provider: FIRA International “FIRA International is delighted to have won this award,” says marketing co-ordinator, Chrissie Winsor. “It is testament to the efforts our colleagues go to every day to ensure we deliver outstanding levels of service and support to our customers. “We continue to invest in initiatives designed to improve the experience we provide to our customers, and we will be announcing further exciting changes to our operations later this year. We would like to thank everyone who voted for us, and will work hard to retain our title over the next 12 months.” Best Upholstery Supplier: Whitemeadow (p52) “Although the last 18 months has been a very challenging period, we believe it has made Whitemeadow stronger, more resilient, and more adaptable to change than ever before, so we can continue to be a trusted partner to our loyal customers,” says head of group marketing, Zehra Gezer. “On behalf of everyone at Whitemeadow, we thank you for the honour of this award, and we look forward to supporting you in the months and years to come.”

Best UK Manufacturer: Millbrook Bed Company (p54) After pivoting production to turn out

PPE at the pandemic’s peak last year, Millbrook has amassed a string of accolades and forged new bonds as it looks to the future. As well as moving ahead with its focus on sustainable production, Millbrook, which celebrates its Jubilee anniversary this year, has taken on a new company architecture to better integrate the new brands and mattresses entering its portfolio following the start of a joint venture with US bedmaker Eclipse International, with new technology and materials – such as the US-inspired Chittenden and Eastman Hampton range – now complementing its established handmade mattress collection.

award,” says sustainable development director, Richard Naylor. “We would like to thank the Furniture News readers for their votes, and for recognising our commitment to the journey we are on to create comfort with integrity. It is great to see sustainability in our industry as an important focus point. “Sustainability is at the core of everything Hypnos does – after all, we were the first carbon-neutral bedmaker in the world. For over a decade, we have committed to reducing our carbon footprint and using environmentally friendly materials. We believe this dedication and focus is what has won us this award and makes us stand out from the rest.”

Best for Sustainable Thinking: Hypnos (p56) “As a business that prides itself on creating ethical beds made from natural and sustainable materials, we are absolutely delighted to have won this Richard Naylor, Hypnos

Best UK Exhibition: January Furniture Show (p42) Like all event organisers, Clarion has endured a tough couple of years – but, with the successful staging of this year’s Manchester Furniture Show in Harrogate last month, the tide is beginning to turn, and Clarion’s Retail team is now looking ahead to September’s Top Drawer, and the UK industry’s principal gathering, January Furniture Show –returning to the Birmingham NEC from 23rd-26th January.

Orbital Vision’s “unreal team of creatives”

continuous excellence – and this award reflects those efforts.” “However, we take a moment and recognise this would not have been possible without all our retail clients who are hard at it, each day, doing all they can, enduring incredible new twists and turns. That’s where it happens – RetailSystem right there with them.”

Best for Innovation: Orbital Vision (p58) “We are thrilled to have won this award,” says MD, Rob Walker. “Most importantly, it’s great to see our team’s hard work appreciated by our clients and the readers of Furniture News. To be recognised for being at the forefront of innovation for CGI, material and fabric builds within the furniture and interiors industry is such an achievement. It really is testament to our talented team and all they do. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for our business as we continue to strive only for the very best.” For an idea of what Orbital is capable of, just take a look at the cover of this month’s issue …

The Furniture News Readers’ Choice Awards will return next year …




ASSOCIATED INDEPENDENT STORES (AIS) AIS is the largest independent nonfood buying group of its kind in the UK and Ireland, with around 350 members boasting a combined retail turnover of over £2b. The group offers members collective buying power, access to ownbrand products, exhibitions, financial services and more. “AIS would like to thank the readers of Furniture News for this accolade,” says AIS’ director of furniture, Julian Cox. “The last 16 months have undoubtedly been a huge challenge, and this win is a great endorsement of the value that AIS brings to its members and suppliers. We’d like to take this opportunity to also send our thanks to our valued AIS members and suppliers for their support during this challenging period. “Since the first lockdown in March 2020, the business has seen a number

of changes, including the appointment of a new MD, Sue Kemp, in July 2020. To reconnect our industry, we also created our first digital buying show, and, with the support of over 70 suppliers, we held the Online Furniture Event in March of this year – an initiative which was extremely well received by members and suppliers alike. “We’re very excited to have started planning our next trade show, set to take place at Cranmore Park on 1st2nd September, with the first day open to AIS members and general trade access on the second. The wellbeing of our visitors is our priority, and we will be adhering to all event industry and Government guidelines to deliver a safe environment for what will be our first in-person show for over 18 months. “The September event will also see us move to the INDX show branding, joining the portfolio of existing home and fashion categories. “Ultimately, AIS work as a

collaborative partnership with its community, and the pandemic has strengthened this relationship. We remain focused on providing a bespoke service, which includes offering help, advice and inclusive support, with a strong sense of mutual advantage for members and suppliers alike. “As well as giving access to exclusive product ranges, negotiated buying terms and discounts, AIS membership also offers unique benefits including Cenpac, an efficient central payment facility which gives efficiency and resource savings for members and suppliers. The AIS Procurement team save members money across areas such as utilities, low-energy lighting, waste, insurance and more – while Partnership Trading continually monitors and controls merchandise standards.” Independent retailers wishing to find out more about the benefits of joining AIS can visit the group’s website or call Julian on 01217 134465


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Premium bedmaker Sleepeezee has delivered innovative, market-leading mattress designs for the best part of a century, and has flexed to meet evolving demand at every turn. Sleepeezee’s team has done a lot of thinking over the last 97 years, and knows exactly how important sleep is, states the Kent-based bedmaker. By offering multiple sleep solutions – whether they be memory foam, temperature control or managing certain aches and pains – Sleepeezee strives for an outstanding quality not only in its products, but also in its core beliefs and values, all of which have contributed to the company being a Royal Warrant holder for over 30 years. Through innovation and marketleading mattress designs, Sleepeezee

has become one of the most well-known bed manufacturers in the world. Every Sleepeezee product is made at its factory in Rochester, Kent, where over 300 expert craftspeople build bespoke beds to a premium standard. Sleepeezee also understands how busy and stressful lives can be, which is why its products enable customers to feel good on the inside and out, “enabling them to be the best version of themselves” – an approach that is encapsulated in its latest campaign, Leave The Rest To Us. Constantly developing new products, Sleepeezee is proud to have launched the Jessica range in partnership with Jessica Ennis-Hill. Designed for those with an active lifestyle, the beds and mattresses combine the best of the brand’s sleep technology with a selection of luxury fillings. When it comes to the environment,

Sleepeezee has been among those leading the way in sustainability in the manufacturing industry for some time, and was honoured to be the first UK bed manufacturer to receive the Planet Mark accreditation, with no waste from its operation going to landfill since 2012. Indeed, since becoming carbon neutral in 2017, the company has offset a total of 1643 tonnes of CO2. Sleepeezee states that winning Furniture News’ Best Bed/Mattress Supplier 2021 award is a testament to its commitment to excellence and its ability to showcase the best of British craftsmanship. Discover the specialist ranges available throughout the UK, and watch out for more updates on forthcoming news and developments from Sleepeezee, at the Bed Show, coming to Telford in September

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Wiemann is one of Germany’s leading bedroom manufacturers, specialising in semi-fitted collections in both modern and traditional styles. “We’re honoured and delighted to receive this award,” says Simon Hewitt, MD of Wiemann’s sole agent for the UK and Ireland, Litmus Furniture. “This award is special to us because it is voted for by the readers, and I can’t thank all those who chose us enough. We are thrilled to know that so many people in the furniture trade have such strong confidence in our products and customer service. It’s an accolade to treasure. “Wiemann has enjoyed a strong year despite the restrictions we have all had to live under. We didn’t let the lack of trade shows earlier in the year stop us from revealing new and updating existing product. “Premium range Interliving and valuefocused Cairns were launched in early summer, hot on the heels of spring VIP additions, Kos and Metz. Meanwhile, the

top-end Monaco and popular entrypoint collections, Miami Plus and Korfu, were refreshed with extra finishing options to further consolidate our place as a market leader in total bedroom solutions. “Interliving is a design lover’s dream. Based on strong sales in Germany, it brings a bold, new, on-trend look to UK and Irish bedrooms. Cairns, meanwhile, features matt-painted hinged doors, available in white, pebble grey and graphite for a contemporary look to suit any style of home. It is available with or without mirrors, and is well suited to online sales. “Kos and Metz are wardrobe and accessory collections, both combining in-vogue good looks with cleverly thought-out versatility in a variety of carcass and door options. “Throughout the period, we made sure that we remained as accessible as possible, with Covidsecure appointments available at our permanent showrooms at Harlow, Essex and Long Eaton, Nottinghamshire, when allowed (contact enquiries@wiemannuk. to arrange a visit).


“Wiemann successfully embraced the growth in the trend towards online sales, finding a balance with the bricksand-mortar market, offering a mix of designs which lent themselves to either or both. “In terms of directions, at Wiemann we’re always developing new ranges and tweaking existing ones – it’s how we manage to keep all our collections absolutely on trend and up-to-date. We’re planning on attending a number of trade shows in the autumn, including Scotland’s Northpoint (September 1214th), the NBF Bed Show (September 21st-22nd), Longpoint (September 20th-23rd) and the Irish Furniture and Homewares Show (date TBC). “Design, style, innovation and practicality are all factors that need to be taken into consideration when it comes to creating a popular bedroom furniture range. But what we believe marks us out from the rest is our excellent customer service. “As well as beautiful, desirable furniture at excellent prices, Wiemann also offers a full delivery and assembly service to all stockists, plus product sales training and after-sales service via its team of regional sales agents – all this with stringent health and safety measures in place to protect customers and staff throughout all stages of manufacture, sales and delivery” Eastside



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CHILLI PEPPER DESIGNS Chilli Pepper Designs has rapidly gained a reputation for excellence in the visual representation of architecture, interiors and exteriors, furniture and the built environment. When the first lockdown struck and his product imagery ran dry, Indesign Furniture’s Neil Buckley-Jensen responded with typical vigour, pivoting his furniture design and manufacturing operation to encompass CGI marketing services. Less than a year on, Chilli Pepper Designs is one of the top CGI companies in the business, and already counts some of the largest global brands among its clients. Neil says there are plenty of reasons to embrace digital product visualisation, pointing out that it gives sellers unparalleled flexibility in how they present their goods online, and can prove cheaper than traditional photography in the long term. Yet with the entire industry confronted

with massive supply chain disruption, CGI marketing’s most valuable ability has truly come to the fore. “You can lose weeks on a photoshoot,” says Neil, speaking to Furniture News from his office in Bexhill, East Sussex. “That’s not to mention the time spent travelling to factories, developing prototypes, inspecting them, making the product, shipping it, promoting it to the trade and displaying in-store, all while fretting about how popular it’ll prove. In all, you could be waiting 6-9 months just hoping something works.” Neil brings extensive industry experience to the mix, having managed his own cabinet brand, Indesign Furniture, which supplies wholesalers in the UK, US, New Zealand, Australia and Canada. While reaching out to potential overseas prospects, Neil discovered that buyers were increasingly willing to place orders based on high-quality product renders alone, and so began exploring CGI to circumvent his own in-house roadblocks. Consequently, nationwide lockdown sharpened his focus, and Chilli Pepper Designs was born.

“Right now, people are looking for pipeline products, and our technology offers a bridge from concept to sample creation in less than two weeks,” says Neil, “without the costs (and carbon footprint) usually associated with the development of new ranges. “CGI enables suppliers to leapfrog the back-and-forth associated with traditional product development. With Chilli Pepper Designs, new products can be visualised, tweaked, and run past key stakeholders in a matter of days, while – or even before – they are being made. With material supplies, shipping, exhibitions and bricks-and-mortar retail all smarting from the Covid-19 effect, CGI is a powerful antidote right now. “In less than a year, Chilli Pepper Designs has gone from concept to creation and picked up two prestigious awards, as voted for by Furniture News’ readers – 2021’s Best CGI Visualisation/ Website Provider and Best Newcomer. My thanks and gratitude to everyone who voted for us – get in touch if we can help out in any way!”


Neil Buckley-Jensen

CGI by Chilli Pepper Designs




With its roots in Indonesian handicrafts, Bluebone has offered a combination of innovative design, sustainability and quirky individuality for more than 22 years, operating from offices and warehouses in Manchester and Belfast. “Thank you to everyone who voted for us,” says Bluebone’s sales manager, Elaine Anderson. “Our team worked really hard this year to deliver our garden ranges on time – from meticulous planning, then taking the decision to ship despite the challenging costs, and working flat out once the furniture arrived to ensure we fulfilled our order book on time. “We are delighted to have won this award, and look forward to next season when we will launch several new garden ranges. We love garden furniture, and have already taken the decision to grow this side of our business in 2022.

“Although the pandemic created unusual trading peaks for garden furniture back in March and April, we were still amazed at how quickly our stock sold out. With the outdoor living trend showing no signs of slowing, we look forward to another successful season for 2022 – new ranges for spring

include a garden bar table and chairs, plus a new Scandi-style dining set. “In short, our garden ranges echo the same design-led style as our indoor collections – and quirky outdoor accessory collections complete the look. We aim to provide something extra in our design, style and service”

Bluebone Garden - NEW RANGES LAUNCHING AUTUMN 21 River Mill 2, Park Road, Dukinfield, Cheshire SK16 5PD 0161 330 8959





Coach House has imported and sold design-led, furniture and homewares throughout the UK and further afield for over 40 years. It is one of the industry’s biggest trade-only names, and remains a family-run business. “These awards mean the world to us as, throughout the past year, Coach House has striven to continue to push boundaries in terms of our offering and service,” says director, Faye Bovingdon-Bryant.

“When we could not deliver goods in our own fleet, we set up a collection service for customers to utilise – and when we couldn’t exhibit at trade shows, we launched product in-house and arranged for safely conducted buyer meetings and virtual tours, ensuring that our clients were offered new product for the seasons ahead. “We have also completely redesigned our 40 showrooms in Lancashire, as well as our showroom in Chelsea. “Like all other suppliers, we have found buying a challenge, as international travel has not been

possible, but we have taken this as an opportunity to work closely with some of the best suppliers in the world to develop exclusive designs and, now that we’re back to receiving 50 containers of stock weekly, it really is business as usual! “We are very much looking forward to getting back to the NEC for the Autumn Fair in September, where we will be launching thousands of new lines for SS22 as well as a brand-new floral collection unlike any seen before – think massive scale and amazing colour …”







FURNITURE TO GO Furniture To Go supplies quality RTA bedroom and living room furniture made in European partner factories to the UK and Irish markets, with delivery on a next-day basis. “On behalf of the Furniture To Go team, I am really pleased to have received this award,” says Furniture To Go’s director of sales and operations, Paul Sheldon. “We operate with a cando attitude, and it displays our core values of being customer centric. I can honestly say that we work hard to support our partners/customers in the marketplace, and strive to build customer relations and develop business for our them. “The last year was a very strange year for everyone, not only in business but in day-to-day life, affecting families and communities,” he continues. “We were very fortunate to be able to continue to operate (within Goverment guidelines). There was an unprecedented demand for furniture, and the whole of the supply

chain was under pressure from the shortage of raw materials and pressures of Brexit on shipping. “Thankfully, our partner factories in Europe – Tvilum, Meble Wojcik, Manis-H, and Balticsofa – are powerhouses in the furniture world, and they rose to the challenge by keeping up with demand. It wasn’t easy, though, and there were times that, by our own standards, we didn’t do as well as what we could have. I can honestly say that this was a very tough time – yet our bonds with our partners made it possible to supply our ever-growing customer base with as minimal disruption as possible. “Today, we’re in a great position, and going from strength to strength. We have learned a lot over the past year, and adapted in a positive way. We developed our systems and internal processes, and are continuing to develop them, again putting the customer first. We have over 1200 SKUs available in our UK warehouse, for same-day shipping (the aim is to continue pushing availability to about 98%). New ranges are being added all of the time –

commercial product, and ranges for the UK market. “I think a combination of factors led us to top this category, and I believe it comes from the roots of what we believe in: product, with a great customer choice of quality designs; suppy chain – with European partners, if the production is in stock, we have it here within a week; overpacking of product – we take care in preparing our product for shipment to minimise any damage; marketing – great availability of hires images, CSV files and marketing material; service – going that extra mile for our customers; and distribution of the product, working with DHL, UK Mail, XDP and Palletways to ensure the final mile goes well. “This all boils down to forging positive working relations with our partner factories, our transport providers, and our customers. We are not perfect, but we are continually seeking ways to improve. We are a forward-thinking company, embracing technology and change to keep up with an ever-growing UK market”


Luci Bright

Luci Dark

BARCELONA Already a huge hit with our customers, this Scandinavian designed living and bedroom collection consists of 12 items. Barcelona comes in White or Matt Black with brown leather tab handles. If you want the classic shaker style with metal handles you can choose the elegant Madrid collection.

RY Ry is both modern and refreshing with a clean design that would suit many existing styles, whilst maintaining a timeless air that will keep it from falling out of fashion. For both living and bedrooms – this collection is available in White, Matt Black and Walnut. The 6 drawer double dresser is already a proven winner!

Furniture To Go have more than 50 unique collections. All in stock for next day delivery. No MOQ. Ecommerce support. Sign up for newletters at

Just call us: 02380 517067 and let’s see how we can support you. |





RHENUS HOME DELIVERY UK Rhenus’ UK operation is part of one of the world’s leading logistics specialists, Germany’s Rhenus Group. Whether providing transport, warehousing, customs clearance or value-added services, the family business ensures it prioritises customer needs at all times. Gavin Boden, sales director, Rhenus Home Delivery UK, comments: “Everybody at Rhenus Home Delivery is overwhelmed to be the winning supplier in this category! “Over the last three years we have been growing our business while maintaining our high standards of service. In the last year we’ve opened a brand-new, purpose-built 55,000ft2 distribution centre in Leighton Buzzard, which has allowed us to expand our network and deal with not only the surge in ecommerce business, but also successfully onboard several big-volume clients. Our business is like a big family – we’ll celebrate this one in style, and watch this space for more exciting news this year!

“For every logistics company, the last year has been a wild, wild ride, with many catalysts (Brexit, Covid, etc). Rhenus Home Delivery have seen some huge successes while dealing with the surge in demand. Obviously, we’ve felt the pain from the shortage of drivers and container limitations, but during this time we have increased our offer and improved our service levels. Not only that, but we also opened our new facility. Rhenus Home Delivery has most definitely arrived in the UK, and will take home delivery to the next level. “As I mentioned, there’s some big news to come. While I can’t tell you everything, I can say that we’re well into launching a new training school for all of our driving crews. The Rhenus School of Excellence will be fully launched later this year, with a purpose-built facility which will offer our crews a mock-up house, including front door, hallway, stairs and different rooms for the crews to practice deliveries into the customer’s room of choice. “On top of that, we are proud to announce that after successfully

passing his CPC, Chris Mitchell, our transport manager, has acquired an operator’s license, and will be building and running our own fleet of trunking and delivery vehicles around the UK. “Why do I think we won this award? During the last two years we’ve increased our visibility within the UK and onboarded some well-known brands, whilst maintaining our high levels of service – not many home delivery companies have either the resources or capacity to do that. “Luckily, we are backed by a huge group who are happy to invest in growing the business, including putting the right people in the right places. We have invested in growing several different departments – customer service, quality control and client communication. “But what we offer over and above all our competitors is that we understand the furniture industry. I have over 34 years’ experience within it, and the passion to make sure that our teams deliver (excuse the pun) a fantastic customer experience. We’re not just delivering furniture – we are delivering people’s dreams, every day”




CONTACT US Rhenus Home Delivery UK. Unit 7 New Cheshire Business Park, Wincham Lane, CW9 6GG, Northwich Phone +44 (0) 7745 540524. Email:




JANUARY FURNITURE SHOW January Furniture Show is the UK’s largest and best-attended furniture and interiors trade event. The newest iteration of an industry fixture that spans decades, January Furniture Show took a break this year due to the pandemic, but will return in 2022, promising more than 50,000 new products and collections, catering to every budget and style. “The team at Clarion Retail would like to extend a huge ‘thank you’ to the readers of Furniture News Magazine for voting the January Furniture Show the best UK trade exhibition in the Reader’s Choice Awards,” states Clarion. “The team are so honoured that January Furniture Show has won, and couldn’t be prouder to support the industry with this flagship show each year.

“The January Furniture Show hosted at the NEC is the most influential trade event of its kind, and for it to receive that recognition through Furniture News magazine’s Reader’s Choice Awards is truly amazing – it shows just how loved by the industry it really is.” James Howard, head of sales for Clarion Retail’s furniture shows (January and Manchester), comments: “This is such a fantastic achievement – coupled with amazing recognition of the hard work and dedication our team put in to create the show.

“We take great pride in hosting the show ,and winning this award is a great testament to the entire team responsible for making it happen. “Huge thanks as well to the many brands, sponsors, partners and organisations that support the show every year. Building on the phenomenal success of the recent Manchester Furniture Show in Harrogate, our team are beyond excited to be going back home in January 2022 for a long-awaited January Furniture Show at the NEC.”


Sales manager Shona Carmichael echoes James’ sentiments: “What can I say?! Thank you so much to the amazing retailers, brands, interior designers and other readers of Furniture News. This would never have happened without the amazing team that I am proud to be part of, and the industry that I have so much passion for! “Roll on January 2022 – we can’t wait to see everyone back at the NEC.”

James Howard

Russell Rule

Shona Carmichael


After what has been a tough 18 months for the industry, Clarion Retail is clearly looking forward to bringing the industry back together at a crucial time in the buying cycle. The success of sister event Manchester Furniture Show, which was staged alongside Harrogate’s Home & Gift last month, shows just how important trade shows are, states Clarion: “There’s nothing that can truly

replace face-to-face business.” The Harrogate-based exhibition proved a fruitful outing for many. Tom Bayliss, UK sales director for frontof-house exhibitor Kettle Interiors, says of Manchester Furniture Show: “Throughout the four days the footfall was consistently good, and the halls often full with store owners keen to refresh their displays with the latest looks for the busy AW21 season ahead.



We were overwhelmed by the level of interest our new furniture received, and look forward to seeing it on high streets across the country later this year.” All eyes now turn to the January Furniture Show – a crucial opportunity for brands, designers and buyers to reunite, says Clarion: “At its core, retail is an industry all about people, passion and connection. These are things the event team at Clarion will continue to harness as they work to bring you the best possible January Furniture Show in 2022.” Show director Russell Rule comments: “We are really delighted to receive this award after such a tough year for the industry as a whole. Our main focus is to unite our brands and buyers, and we cannot wait to be back at the NEC in January to do just that.

At the Helm is set to return to next year’s show



This award really helps to cement the importance of the January Furniture Show in the industry calendar.” The show has continued to develop since its inception in 2015, and caters for retail buyers, interior designers and specifiers wishing to purchase at volume-, mid- and high-end levels of the market. In 2022, the exhibition is set to welcome back some big industry names, including Forte, Tetrad, Kettle Interiors, At the Helm, Hydeline, Carlton, Italia Living, SITS, Rauch, MLILY, La-Z-Boy, Alpha Design, Gallery Direct and Pacific Lifestyle – plus many, many more.

Clarion states that the exhibitor list will again comprise over 500 UK and international exhibitors, supplying upholstery, cabinet, beds and interior accessories, and that over 75% of the show has already been sold. The four-day January Furniture Show 2022 will run from 23rd-26th January at the Birmingham NEC. Those interested in exhibiting at the UK’s largest furniture and interiors trade event should email To be first to hear when show registration goes live, sign up to receive alerts from the January Furniture Show website


RETAIL WONDERLAND Clarion Retail is overjoyed to have won so many readers’ votes, but is also excited to have successfully launched its new digital marketplace, Reveal. Reveal promises to be a hub of product discovery, easy ordering, inspiration and insight – 365 days of year. It is a 24/7 digital shopfront, and a rotating shop window for suppliers. For retailers, it will offer a daily dose of product discovery, and a unique opportunity to source, connect and buy, as well as to learn and be inspired. To find our more about Clarion Retail’s new platform, turn to p82, or sign up at www.retail-reveal. com/signup.




HOMESERVE FURNITURE REPAIRS Homeserve is Britain’s largest upholstery, bed, mattress and cabinet furniture repair specialist, visiting over 25,000 customers each month. CEO James Lane and MD John Bowater comment: “Along with the Homeserve Furniture Repairs team, we’d like to say a huge ‘thank you’ to Furniture News’ readers, and to our existing clients and staff for all the support they’ve shown over this extremely difficult period. “From one man and a van back in 2004 to over 140 furniture technicians supported by 75 head office staff providing furniture repairs to the UK and Ireland, we’ve come a long way – and are so immensely proud to win this award. Through this life-changing period, we’re continuing to expand and improve our level of service, leading this industry from the front with the Homeserve Furniture Repairs family ethos. “Like most businesses, we’ve had to overcome some extreme challenges over the last 18 months, and our family

have stuck together, persevered, and come out the other side stronger than ever. We’ve been driving forward, recruiting some fantastic new technicians to strengthen our team out on the road, as well as growing our support staff and technical managers based at head office (indeed, we’re still recruiting furniture technicians across the UK and Ireland – if anyone reading is interested, or knows someone who is, email!). “As the largest furniture repair company covering the UK and Ireland, our focus is quality of service, and ensuring the customer comes first. As we continue to expand, it’s of utmost importance that we continually maintain and improve the quality of service we provide. To this end, we’re working on some exciting new developments, which will be unveiled over the next six months – watch this space! “Communication, and keeping the customer informed, is key. Our bespoke system, built in-house, is amazingly simple to use – our clients have instant visibility of what part of the journey the customer’s on, with real-time reporting

John Bowater with part of Homeserve’s van fleet


linked to automatic notifications to your email, so you don’t have to be logged in. “KPI data reports are available on our system, and are tailored for each client so we can look at the root causes of the issue raised and work together to find solutions, hopefully preventing those issues from recurring. Also, our own internal IT team is available for full support – they’ve built our bespoke operating system, and are always looking at ways to improve the customer journey. “Our full UK and Ireland coverage for any furniture issue gives the retailer or manufacturer a one-stop solution for all their furniture service needs. Our technical management team comprises furniture technicians with over 15 years’ experience on the road – they preview jobs and pre-order parts directly from the manufacturers to ensure we maximise the chance of resolution on the first visit. “Additionally, we’re really proud that, since completing the ISO 9001, we’re now at the final stages of completing our ISO 14001 accreditation for Environmental Management System (EMS), and ISO 27001 Information Security Management Systems (ISMS). “Once again,” conclude James and John, “from us, and the Homeserve Furniture Repairs team, a massive ‘thank you’ to all our staff, clients, and readers of Furniture News, for your support”


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GALLERY DIRECT Gallery Direct’s catalogue of home interior products offers a wide range of cabinets as part of its extensive furniture collection, which also includes other living and dining pieces, home office, bedroom and made-to-order upholstery. James Hudson, commercial director, comments: “We are delighted to have won this award, and I would like to thank everyone who voted for us. We put a tremendous amount of hard work into designing and developing all our products, paying great attention to detail – not just to individual pieces, but also to collections and in pulling together key looks. To have this recognised and receive an award from the industry means a lot to the team.

“The last year and a half has been hard for everyone,” continues James, “and as a business we have faced challenges that we have not had before – but we worked hard to find solutions to overcome these. We have managed to keep a flow of products arriving here in the UK for our customers, and currently have a great range in stock ready for delivery.” One of Gallery’s key strengths is its continual development of new products. Even with the difficulties faced during the pandemic, including no overseas travel to work with suppliers to bring its new designs to life, the team still managed to launch its impressive SS21 Collection earlier this year. This includes an impressive selection of living and dining furniture, including the eye-catching Oklahoma. Inspired by the increasingly popular Japandi style, with a focus on natural textures, Oklahoma

Oklahoma drinks cabinet

Balotra four-door sideboard

Milano two-door open display unit


features a unique geometric design in a multi-tonal finish with black metal legs and simple round handles, bringing balance to each piece of furniture across the range. The collection offers a stylish drinks cabinet, a sideboard and a media unit – each works well as a standalone piece, or paired together. Offering a completely different look is the Balotra sideboard, which makes a great feature piece. Crafted from mango wood, the doors are hand carved with an intricate design, with iron knobs to add the finishing touch. Some of Gallery’s popular collections were extended, including the Milano with its notable chevron design. A two-door open display cabinet, two-drawer coffee table and round dining table were added to range. However, the team did not stop after the launch of SS21, with new products being introduced at last month’s Harrogate Home & Gift show, including a preview of an extended outdoor furniture collection, and more new lines planned for the AW21 Collection, which will be launched at Autumn Fair. To find out more about Gallery’s vast product offering, visit its website or contact the sales team on 01795 439159 or

Never before have we been more equipped to say that we are the complete solution to home interiors, with a broad range of products there’s something to suit all interiors. Our Como display unit is the ultimate statement piece, offering a sophisticated modern look, with its clean and simple lines. The dark wood finish pairs beautifully with the brushed steel legs, offering an eyeBest Living Room Cabinet Supplier

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Winner of the Readers’ Choice Awards

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RetailSystem’s EPoS enables users to manage and control all aspects of their business, and the technology specialist’s rapidly growing ecosystem is fast finding its place across the global furniture and furnishings sector. “The entire RetailSystem team is honoured to be recognised by Furniture News readers in an industry we love,” says global president, Jesse Akre. “However, we take a moment and recognise this would not have been possible without all our retail clients who are hard at it, each day, doing all they can, enduring incredible new twists and turns. That’s where it happens – RetailSystem right there with them. “To be named Best Software/ Technology Provider by Furniture News magazine’s readers is an incredible feeling, and an honour. RetailSystem’s teams strive for continuous excellence – and this award reflects those efforts. “But we are far from done. Being presented awards such as this is both

acknowledgement and challenge – an acknowledgement of what we have done so far, and a challenge to find new ways to improve, and to be better. “Sixteen years in, the award-winning RetailSystem continues its journey as the leading cloud-based PoS for furniture and bed retailers. This past year has seen exciting developments, features and new offerings, paired with new team members in sales, retailer support and dev/ops, as well as design and content services. “We’re proud to be the chosen EPoS for over 1000 retailers. RetailSystem is now in 10 countries, with big expansion into the US, Canada, South Africa and Vietnam. “Besides a record number of retailers joining RetailSystem, over the last year we’ve released many new features and enhancements to the RetailSystem EPoS. Big news surrounded our launch of the real-time integration with QuickBooks Online, and we’ve also launched WebSystem by Shopify – full integration with the leading Shopify ecommerce platform provides retailers with a seamless, single-database approach to

RetailSystem’s powerful EPoS is an integral part of many UK furniture retail operations (photo credit


their retail business. “This is how omnichannel happens, combining EPoS, accounting and web – all significant pieces in the retail technology matrix. “We have also launched FurniturePay, our integrated merchant processing partnership with Barclaycard. “These developments, and more, demonstrate that we continue to give our retailers a map to success – to be awarded Best Software/Technology Provider tells us we are on the correct path. “Ultimately, we believe it takes more than great technology to deliver a true solution. RetailSystem is a fantastic EPoS for furniture and bed retailers, but it takes so much more. That’s why, on top of regular improvements and new features, we invest greatly in the expansion and development of our teams. Great people can make great things happen, and RetailSystem has great focus each day to exceed in what we do. “Because we know it’s not what we say that matters – it’s what our clients say. And they have spoken. The entire RetailSystem team thanks our clients and all the Furniture News readers for their vote. “And more exciting things are coming, as the teams at RetailSystem are already hard at work on next year’s offer …”

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WHITEMEADOW Privately owned upholstery manufacturer Whitemeadow employs over 600 staff across six sites in Nottinghamshire, and prides itself on its ability to meet customers’ evolving quality, style, comfort, colour and texture demands. “After a turbulent 18 months in the industry, we are very proud to receive this award, voted for by our loyal customers,” begins a Whitemeadow spokesperson. “Whilst having to contend with supply issues, cost increases, longer lead times and Covidsecure production processes, we have ensured that communicating with our customers on a regular basis has taken priority. “We do, however, believe there is light at the end of the tunnel, and have been busy preparing to secure the future of

the business, for our employees and our customers. “Towards the end of 2020, we secured an additional 145,000ft2 of manufacturing space, and have been steadily increasing output from there over the past five months. The site will be fully operational by October this year, increasing our output capacity by +20%. “Sustainability has continued to be at the top of our design agenda, and we are due to launch our new independent sustainable range this summer. We continue to seek suppliers that share our environmental ambition of reducing harmful impact on the planet. “This year also saw the launch of our internal vision and values, with the aim of driving the business forward towards the same goal – ensuring we are our customers’ most trusted upholstery supplier. “Focusing on the future, we understand the need to draw new


people into the industry to fill the skills gap we are all facing, so we are delighted that the new site will become the home of our new Upholstery Academy, following the continued success of our Sewing Academy. We have also been working hard with schools and colleges in our local area to offer open days at our facilities, to educate and attract young people into the industry. “With no trade shows for over a year, we decided to take matters into our own hands this year and renovated our head office showroom to become an impressive space to showcase our products to customers. The open house show was a great success, and has provided us with the flexibility to offer more of these types of events in the future should we need to. “Although the last 18 months has been a very challenging period, we believe it has made Whitemeadow stronger, more resilient, and more adaptable to change than ever before, so we can continue to be a trusted partner to our loyal customers. “On behalf of everyone at Whitemeadow, we thank you for the honour of this award, and we look forward to supporting you in the months and years to come”








MILLBROOK BED COMPANY Hampshire-based Millbrook Bed Company has designed and manufactured beds for 75 years, delivering comfortable, high-quality sleep solutions while working towards a more sustainable future. “We’re delighted to win this award, and would like to thank all of the Furniture News readers for their votes and recognition for all of our hard work over the last year,” says operations director, Ross Thurston. “Thanks also to the massive effort of all our staff, who have enabled us to adapt and evolve over the past year. We

completely rearranged our factory and employed new skilled workers to help support the NHS with their demand for PPE – in total, we produced over 600,000 gowns. With the hard work and dedication of our fantastic team, we have been able not just to continue to manufacture sumptuous handmade mattresses, but also really push the innovation of new mattresses and brands. “We have also announced our significant partnership with Bedding Industries of America, taking the Millbrook brand to the US. “Right now, there are some very exciting things happening at Millbrook Bed Co. We have a new corporate

structure to embrace new brands and new technologies, such as the new Eclipse collection, our very first memory foam mattress. And we have several revolutionary new products launching at the NBF Bed Show this year, which are totally unique and unlike any other mattress currently in the market. “It’s been a hard year, but we’ve released some very exciting products, and have been very consistent with both supporting the retailers and supplying products – certainly, in a time where supply chains were extremely challenging, we were very reliable in delivering all products on time”


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Last year, Millbrook pivoted its operations to produce PPE for the NHS














Having manufactured luxury handmade beds for more than 100 years, Hypnos is internationally renowned as an expert in handcrafted pocket spring mattresses and divans. “As a business that prides itself on creating ethical beds made from natural and sustainable materials, we are absolutely delighted to have won the Best for Sustainable Thinking award,” says Hypnos’ sustainable development director, Richard Naylor. “We would like to thank the Furniture News readers for their votes, and for recognising our commitment to the journey we are on to create comfort with integrity. It is great to see sustainability in our industry as an important focus point. “At Hypnos, we’re committed to constantly refining every aspect of our business to make sure it’s as ethical and as sustainable as it can possibly be, and the last year has been no exception. “We have continued to pioneer industry firsts, through partnerships with likeminded organisations like Red Tractor Food and Farming Standards and the Better Cotton Initiative, through to our

new eco-packaging. Adding to the roster of ethical partners we pride ourselves on working with, we’re also excited to announce that we are part of The Woolkeepers initiative, which focuses on bringing together the community of farmers, manufacturers and brands offering a transparent, independently verified and ethical source of wool, from farm gate to shop front. “Working with this quality assurance platform, as well as with Red Tractor on our Origins range, is an example of our dedication not only to the traceability of our materials (including British wool), but also recognises the impact of brands and supply chains on people, animals and places, and our capacity to improve for the benefit of all. “Seeing exactly where the wool has come from gives us and our customers peace of mind that they are supporting responsible British farmers by sleeping on a Hypnos mattress, where every step of the production journey is accounted for. “We’re pleased to say that our endeavours to be as sustainable as possible will never stop. In fact, our factory recently achieved the Global Recycled Standard, and we calculate


that we have recycled over 235 million plastic bottles using eOlus fibres inside some of our mattresses. This certification is only given to companies who use recycled materials from socially and environmentally responsible manufacturing processes, and we are extremely proud to be one of them. “Going forward, we plan to pursue our sustainability journey by continuing to reflect on our business and developing new and innovative ways that can help the environment. We will remain industry leaders for sustainability, providing ethical solutions at each stage of bed production and how our business operates. Our 100%-recyclable packaging, made from renewable and carbon dioxide-depleting sugar cane, is one such innovation. “As the sustainable bed champion in the industry, we’re leading the way in sustainable best practice, and it’s great to see that our work is inspiring other companies to follow suit and to make changes for a more sustainable future too. “Sustainability is at the core of everything Hypnos does – after all, we were the first carbon-neutral bedmaker in the world. For over a decade, we have committed to reducing our carbon footprint and using environmentally friendly materials. We believe this dedication and focus is what has won us this award and makes us stand out from the rest”

Richard Naylor

Hypnos’ Origins collection is made in partnership with Red Tractor

Hypnos MD James Keen, and chairman Peter Keen

We value the people, animals and places behind our new sustainable and ethical bed ranges.

Expertly handcrafted mattresses with 100% traceable British Wool from Red Tractor assured farms. Carbon Neutral | Handmade in Britain and 100% recyclable

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INTO ORBIT Orbital Vision is a creative design agency based in Long Eaton, Derbyshire – the UK Centre of Quality Upholstery Manufacture. Orbital’s creative team specialises in CGI for the furniture and interiors industry. With years of specialised knowledge and experience in the field, the agency is known for producing an unparalleled array of photorealistic imagery for its clients – both national and international retailers and manufacturers.


Over the past year, Orbital has taken a different approach to working with its clients, by offering additional support in marketing and ecommerce opportunities. The agency works closely with clients to understand their business needs, and offers advice on what can be achieved when making the most of CGI. Orbital often talks about the importance and infinite opportunities of digital assets. These assets consist of anything that the team makes in CGI. From furniture models to fabrics to roomsets, these digital assets can be used for many different functions – which have proven to have a palpable effect on ecommerce sales for clients that have already seen the benefits of making the most of CGI. “Most of our clients first came to us wanting product cut-outs to show a model in every available fabric,” says Orbital’s director, Rob Walker. “As this is almost impossible to achieve through traditional photography, they turned to CGI. Only recently have clients have started to make the most of these digital models by looking into the different avenues of what they can get out of CGI.” The possibilities of CGI are endless – once a furniture model is built in CGI, it can be utilised in many ways to bring an upgraded ecommerce experience

COVER STORY 59 This month’s CGI cover image, from plain model to coloured version

to customers. Not only are businesses able to showcase a model in all of its available fabrics and materials, but a model can also be shot at multiple angles and brought to life through the use of augmented reality (AR), through which customers are able to ‘drop’ the product into their own home. With traditional photography becoming increasingly expensive and difficult – not to mention the environmental impact – CGI enables the creation of endless shots, styled to any preference, states Orbital. So, as the seasons change, in line with the trends, these digital assets become a vital tool needed for anyone looking to achieve unsurpassed speed to market. Not only this, but Orbital can also animate the room to bring products to life – all at a fraction of the cost of a photography or video shoot. With the production of a fully functioning product customiser now

under way, the agency will not only be able to offer its clients impressive imagery and marketing assets, but will also have a complete digital sales package – containing everything needed to sell a product online. Orbital’s product customiser will allow online shoppers to completely customise and configure products to suit their needs and fit their own personal style. They will be able to change the fabrics and materials of a product, while being able to see its

dimensions and a running total of what it will cost. The customiser will also allow customers to spin the product around via the 360 function – and, to top it off, will also allow customers to view products in their own home through the use of AR, bringing the product to life via their smartphone’s camera by scanning a QR code. If the product does not quite fit the space once tested out in AR, customers will be able to switch between product sizes in the same range, or, if offered by the retailer, can choose to build/ configure their own model, adding or taking away elements. Another highlight of the product customiser is that it works on any device and is easy to navigate, so is widely accessible to all customer bases. It also has an option which allows customers to save their customised product as a draft, and revisit it at a later date. The platform will run on any website, and can be integrated whether a client’s site is built in WordPress, Magento, Shopify or any other platform – and, if a new site is needed, Orbital can take care of that too. With a complete digital sales package on offer, perhaps it is time to get ready for change – contact Orbital’s “unreal team of creatives” today


PRODUCTS Hampton 3000


This year, the Millbrook Bed Company (MBCo) has ramped up its sustainable business practices and introduced innovative solutions to further reduce waste and CO2 emissions. MBCo has always invested time in finding sustainably and locally sourced materials, using only timber from FSC-managed forests, and repurposing millions of plastic bottles each year into mattress construction – building upon which has been an important element of its strategy since achieving the Environmental Management System standard ISO14001:2015 in 2008. New measures introduced include partnering with The Planet Mark to achieve net zero carbon targets across all aspects of the business, and working towards achieving a recognised sustainability certification to measure the company’s carbon footprint (which will be improved by +2.5% each year in order


Gallery Direct’s catalogue continues to expand apace, the supplier’s mantra of ‘leading by design’ ensuring stockists are never at a loss for new looks or lines. Gallery recently introduced a collection of outdoor furniture and accessories that combine classy design with practicality for anyone wishing to relax or dine outdoors.

on comfort or quality. For many years, our focus has been on sourcing sustainable, natural fabrics and fillings, with sustainability driving both our corporate responsibility and customer scrutiny. We now have partners to work with to help us do our bit to tackle the climate emergency. “Sleeping soundly requires peace of mind, and our customers can rest easy knowing we have an environmentally responsible approach to making mattresses – because we believe sustainable sleep is the future.”

From practical bistro sets for smaller spaces to chic wooden designs and rattan-style lounge sets, the impressive selection now numbers 14 ranges, a selection of which were previewed at Harrogate’s Home & Gift last month, overseen by Gallery’s garden furniture buyer, Carole Nolan. Also on show was a selection of Gallery’s Simply Green cushions and throws. From the products themselves to the logo and labels, a great deal of thought went into the development of this ethical brand. The 100%-recycled throws are handwoven using yarn made from recycled plastic – each utilises approximately 300 bottles. These are collected and shredded into fine strips, which are back-combed to open the fibres and then spun into yarn and dyed. The resulting yarn is as soft as wool, with washable and stain-resistant properties, resulting in a product which is environmentally friendly, soft and practical. The throws, which feature a chevron design, are offered in four colours, and matching feather-filled cushions made from the same fabric are also available.

The labels used for the collection are also made from recycled material – the cushions and throws have a woven label, featuring the brand logo, and recycled cardboard swing tag.

Simply Green


to retain the certification). Through The Planet Mark, there will also be an annual donation to the Eden project, and one acre of rainforest saved via Cool Earth. MBCo is also switching all mattress packaging to plastic made from sugarcane and recycled plastic, which is 100% recyclable. Operations director Ross Thurston says: “We are utilising 75 years of experience in creating mattresses for perfect sleep while constantly working towards a more sustainable future, without compromise














































For further information call 023 80 866111

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GOING GREENER The GNG Group has expanded its Komfi mattress offering to include the new Rhea collection, to meet ever-growing demand for more sustainable products and concerns about reducing landfill and plastic waste.

Komfi Sensory 3000

Launched in May, the Rhea collection has a model range spanning from the entry-level Eco Graduate to a sumptuous Natural Pocket 5000. Key design components include Komfi’s Ecofoam and Ecoadvance technologies, a wool, silk and cashmere comfort layer, and supportive individual pocket springs. Komfi’s Ecofoam is produced from 100% recycled and re-engineered foam, and features throughout the Active and Rhea collections, while Ecoadvance is unique to the Rhea range. This stateof-the-art material provides a superior level of comfort and support, states GNG – the unique blend of fibres allows moisture and air to flow freely, offering excellent temperature regulation. Ecoadvance is a foam alternative, is 100% fully recyclable at the end of its life, and, in turn, can be upcycled into other products. The Rhea collection also features two exclusive models, the Carbon Neutral Deluxe and Superior, which have been developed after working closely with Carbon Footprint. Once Komfi’s design team was happy with the core designs for the new Rhea collection, choosing the right fabrics was crucial, to match the recyclable and sustainable message throughout the range – hence the decision to include chemical-free probiotic Purotex, and

fabric using Seaqual yarn, which is produced from upcycled plastic ocean waste. The team also looked at the vacuumpacking process, and switched to using Polystar packaging, which is made up of 30% recycled material. Together, the Active, Sensory and Rhea collections offer the consumer a choice of more than 20 mattresses. The Active and Sensory ranges were launched just over a year ago, and represent a new direction for Komfi, after GNG’s major investment in a modern vacuum-packing production line. They are now well established under the Komfi brand, and have gone from strength to strength in the marketplace, despite the pandemic. However, always looking to innovate and stay at the forefront of product development, sales director Stuart Hibbert set out to take the sustainability story another step forward, with the Rhea collection. To some extent, the shortages of raw materials suffered by the bed industry, and significant price increases in foam, helped to accelerate the development of this range of mattresses with new eco technology and commercial price points. Stuart comments: “The mattress industry has undergone massive changes in the last 15 years, and vacuum-packed-and-boxed mattresses have played a huge part in this, with a number of new disruptors gaining considerable market share. “However, the Rhea collection may be the start of a new revolution to disrupt the disruptors, sustainably!”

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When and why did Jay-Be enter this market segment? Jay-Be has a long history of mattress manufacture, traced right back to the time of World War I. Around the turn of the millennium, we recognised that the way consumers were shopping was changing – the internet was accelerating, retailers and consumers were demanding faster delivery, and the competition was fiercer than ever before. We decided to exit all products which were slow and bulky to deliver (which, back, then included traditional mattresses), allowing us to focus on producing comfortable, great-value, environmentally friendly folding beds – all delivered in one box, next day, straight from our factory to the consumer’s home. To lead the way and stay ahead in this extremely competitive market sector, we continued to push the boundaries of bed manufacture, using innovative and sustainable materials, introducing more efficient production methods, and backing it up with fast delivery, coupled with excellent service. About three years ago, it became clear that the learnings and expertise which we had gained through our focused strategy positioned the company extremely well to be very competitive in the rolled mattress arena – we decided to re-enter the mattress market, but this time offering vacuumpacked and rolled, sustainable, and delivered next day.

Roger Durrans

For long-established bedmaker Jay-Be, rolled mattress production was always on the cards – and evolving demand during the pandemic only made its offer more attractive, explains CEO Roger Durrans …

What product range do you offer in this regard? All Jay-Be rolled mattresses are designed with comfort, health and sustainability at their core. We are extremely committed to being one of the leading mattress brands, and we love to be the first to explore new ideas and introduce new technologies. All Jay-Be mattresses are 100% foam-free, using e-Fibre comfort layers which feature polyester fibres made from 100%-recyclable plastic bottles. These e-Fibres are bonded together to create different pads which offer varying support benefits just like foam, but with the added benefit that they are breathable, VOC emission-free, and can be recycled again at the end of life. What are your thoughts on how the rolled/boxed mattress ‘revolution’ has changed the UK bed industry? With the mix of manufacturer brands and D2C entities, does it feel like supply has gone full circle? I think the rolled mattress revolution was a long time coming. It’s something we’ve talked about internally for many years, and when it happened it wasn’t a surprise – it made perfect sense. Consumers want fast delivery, convenience and the most value for their money. Retailers want the same.


Rolled mattresses are ideal for this. Their vacuum-packed size lowers storage, delivery costs and carbon footprint, and by delivering direct from our factory to the consumer it saves the retailer handling costs too, ensuring the consumer gets the most mattress for their money. How do you handle the marketing/ production/distribution of your rolled/ boxed models? Jay-Be is committed to making retailers’ lives as easy as possible and offering the consumer the best products at the best value. We pride ourselves on providing unique, distinctive and visually exciting marketing materials for both online and in-store promotion. All our products are supported with high-quality photography and videos, and we work with retailers to provide bespoke assets when needed to meet their individual requirements. Has the pandemic changed demand for rolled/boxed mattresses, or the way you operate in this sector? The pandemic has clearly presented challenges for all businesses, but we felt thankful that our operation was well placed to respond. We source

most of our raw materials from local UK suppliers, so we were able to continue manufacturing, and because we deliver direct from our factory to the consumer’s home, we were able to continue fulfilling customer orders, even when retailers’ stores were closed. Several of our bricks-and-mortar customers quickly shifted their focus to maximising their online sales, and we

were pleased to be in a position where we could support them during this time. How can readers find out more about what you offers in this segment? Customers can discover more at our website, or, if they would like to speak to someone about our products and services, they can contact our sales team by emailing



NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION With a home improvement boom in full swing and usual working practices curtailed by the pandemic, it’s been a busy year for the Furniture & Home Improvement Ombudsman, says deputy chief ombudsman, Judith Turner …

Judith Turner


What is an ombudsman? It’s a gender-neutral title for a person or independent body that investigates complaints in a fair and open way to try and reach a resolution without going to court. Ombudsman is the job title of the individual who is charged with investigating and addressing disputes and helping both sides come to an agreement. It’s a term originating from Scandinavia, as Sweden became the first country to appoint an independent official known as an ombudsman to investigate complaints against government officials and agencies. How does an ombudsman scheme benefit businesses? The Furniture & Home Improvement Ombudsman (FHIO) is an independent, not-for-profit, Government-approved voluntary ombudsman scheme providing Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). We offer ADR training and advice to businesses and consumers, and are a scheme set up by the Office of Fair Trading in 1992, working to protect consumers’ rights and promote fair trade. … and consumers? We provide alternative dispute resolution for unresolved disputes against businesses who are members of our scheme. This means that consumers who purchase from one of our members have an alternative to going to court which is free for them to use, and the resolution is binding on the business in question. Membership of the ombudsman provides consumers with peace of mind that they have an independent route to recourse if things go wrong – which sometimes, despite a business’ best endeavours, they do. What changes have you seen to the ADR landscape over the years? I’ve definitely seen more emphasis placed on consumers having access to and knowledge of their rights. There seems to be a greater awareness of the channels which are at the public’s disposal should they require further redress to their complaints without going down the route of using the court system. There’s also been more of a shift in this technological

era, in which consumers are logging their complaints online, as opposed to over the phone or via the post as they have done in the past. It’s important that we adapt to our current and future users’ needs, staying ahead of technological advances whilst retaining accessible channels to ensure those without or with limited technical means do not become disenfranchised. If ADR is not accessible and discoverable by all, there is a risk that access to justice could be compromised (see p8 for more). How do you think the pandemic has affected ADR in general? Over this salient period, it’s even more important than ever for consumers to have routes to justice should something go wrong, as the courts are currently facing a backlog of cases due to not being able to hear cases face to face for a prolonged period during the pandemic. It’s been key to keep our service available to all, and for consumers to know their rights whilst purchasing goods during or between the respective lockdowns. When non-essential retail was closed, we still kept the light on, figuratively speaking – especially for vulnerable consumers who may have felt they had nowhere else to turn and those, for example, who may have been in the middle of a kitchen installation and were left without cooking equipment or access to clean water. We’ve also been making use of virtual inspections, which are based on quality photo or video evidence supplied to us from businesses or consumers via smartphones, which means that some inspection reports can now be taken by consultants at arm’s length. Evidence submitted will be collated and forwarded on to an independent inspector who specialises in the type of product the complaint is regarding. They will review the evidence, and will document the findings in a report that can be used in the dispute. These inspections were welcomed by consumers who during the pandemic may have been self-isolating or shielding – cases were still able to progress, and they were able to supply crucial evidence to support their case

A new adult mattress range offering exceptional comfort while helping to protect the future of our planet. Developed using the latest sustainable materials there are four distinct mattresses to choose from available in four sizes. Discover more – visit



FIBRELINE The world’s consumption of plastic has increased dramatically over the past 70 years, creating huge amounts of waste. Alongside other plastic items, bottled water has become a major source of this waste, and, in the hope that it can help remedy the crisis in some small way, Fibreline has found a way to utilise it, by converting the equivalent of 100 plastic bottles into each “very comfy” Fibrefill Blue cushion. Completely recyclable, Fibrefill Blue offers cushion manufacturers an environmentally friendly solution that puts waste plastic to good use. Call 01535 606846 or visit Fibreline’s website to find out more.

Fibreline converts plastic bottles into cushions

The eco-friendly Fibrefill Blue cushion

U N FO R G E T TA B L E . U N R I VA L L E D . U N M I S S A B L E


1-2 SEPTEMBER 2021* Experience the buzz of a live event. Discover leading brands and ranges specifically curated by AIS for independent retailers. Visit the website for our current Covid measures.

Cranmore Park Conference and Event Centre, Cranmore Avenue, Shirley, Solihull, B90 4LF *1 Sept open to AIS members only. Visit the website for our current Covid measures.

21011 INDX Furniture News half page.indd 1

17/06/2021 09:50:31

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RIGHT TO RETAIL? Business direction is never black and white. When faced with punishing trading restrictions through successive lockdowns, retailers have been forced to balance social responsibility with the need to keep trading – with mixed results. This month, Paul Farley explores the ethical questions the industry has asked itself throughout the pandemic, and considers the longterm impact of actions both laudable and questionable …


From manufacturers turning out PPE to retailers raising funds to support those impacted by closures and job losses, Covid-19 has brought out the best in so many. The Financial Times reports that as of June, British business had repaid £709m of Job Retention Scheme (JRS) monies to HMRC, homewares retailers IKEA and ScS among them – encouraged by its strong performance across the year, the latter repaid £3m in furlough grants. When the pandemic hit, Dunelm furloughed 8000 staff, yet after putting them back to work in May to serve a boom in demand, the retailer saw a +29.7% increase in sales in Q3 alone, prompting it to return the £14.5m it had claimed in JRS monies, and to reject the offer of subsequent schemes and bonuses. Dunelm instead introduced its own, self-funded furlough equivalent, to protect vulnerable staff and those not working due to the restrictions. Others made a point of going beyond the letter of lockdown law to help halt the spread of the virus. In January, as well as reducing the range of services it carried out in people’s homes, John Lewis suspended its in-store Click & Collect services, stating that it was

conscious of “the increased need to remove reasons for non-essential travel during the current lockdown, to help encourage the public to stay at home”. At the time, JLP’s executive director of operations, Andrew Murphy, said: “We’ve listened carefully to the clear change in tone and emphasis of the views and information shared by the UK’s governments in recent days. While we recognise that the detail of formal guidance has not changed, we feel it is right for us – and in the best interests of our partners and customers – to take proactive steps to further enhance our Covid security and related operational policies.” Yet, for every example of responsible retailing, there was another that resisted Government guidance in its hunger to do business. In March last year, Mike Ashley refused to close Sports Direct, while opportunistically hiking the price of home exercise products – and in November’s lockdown, The Range, plus major flooring chains Carpetright and Tapi, remained open, courting controversy for their insistence on continuing to trade despite majoring in ‘non-essential’ goods. Indeed, the regulatory wording was often ambiguous. In that first lockdown, the Government permitted ‘homewares’ retailers to reopen in May (guidance which was seized upon by various furniture retailers including Furniture Village, ScS, DFS and Barker & Stonehouse as a green light to trade) – only later clarifying that furniture retail instead fell within the ‘non-essential’ category, and should, in fact, wait until 15th June to do so. Having gone through the arduous and costly process of realigning their stores to meet the Government’s Covid-19-safe guidelines, those retailers already committed to reopening could perhaps be forgiven for going ahead and doing so. It’s nigh-impossible to discern, praise or condemn in any hardand-fast manner how businesses conducted themselves through those unprecedented times. The decision to shut up shop started out as a matter of conscience, yet later became one of survival, prompting many to consider

INFORMING INDUSTRY, BUILDING BUSINESS 75 ways to operate (as safely as possible) within the grey areas of lockdown law. But what does the trade think? I asked the members of our industry feedback panel to share their views on the ethics of trading through lockdown and treatment of furlough payments, and the possible long-term impact business’ decisions might have on their brand and customer loyalty – good or bad, when the dust finally settles, will their actions really matter? Adam Ashborn, Reborn Marketing & Design: I can see both sides of the coin for why businesses would try to remain open and operational whilst others followed the Government guidelines and stayed closed/worked remotely. Unfortunately, some businesses don’t have the right setup to deal with running a business remotely, so taking up the furlough scheme would ultimately help them to survive the lockdown without hastily investing in new infrastructures and procedures to cope with the new working environments. It’s difficult to argue either way, as businesses have done what they can to survive the lockdown – the last thing the Government needs is further business closures and a higher unemployment rate. We also need to keep in mind that some of these manufacturing businesses also stepped up to help support the Government during its time of need, with the production of masks, medical gowns, bedding equipment, etc. Adam Hankinson, Furniture Sales Solutions: Having worked for Graham Kirkham for 20 years, I’m a fan of not following the crowd – but I think in general most people have done the right thing. Plus, a lot of the guidance was vague, so I’m certain some people were genuinely confused. I think if you can afford to repay furlough then that’s very laudable, but to many it’s been their only way of surviving. For many businesses this has been (and continues to be) a knife edge, so as long as you aren’t deliberately doing things illegally or fraudulently, I understand that you have to do what you must to survive. Dids Macdonald OBE, Anti Copying in Design (ACID): Like water, I always believe the truth finds its way. Ethics, compliance and respect should be part of our DNA as an industry. No-one

LIKE WATER, THE TRUTH FINDS ITS WAY Dids Macdonald OBE, Anti Copying in Design (ACID)

DOING THE RIGHT THING ISN’T A MARKETING EXERCISE Lee Ness, Global Upholstery Solutions likes a cheat or those who take the fast track to market by bending the rules to suit themselves– it’s corporately selfish. Whether it’s about IP, safety or sustainability, unless we demonstrate best practice, this has a negative impact on our industry. Increasingly, companies are finding that they have to ‘walk the talk’ on corporate social responsibility, and this is important – you can’t tick the box unless you deliver! Emma Leeke, Leekes Retail: I personally found Ryanair’s behaviour shocking – there was no communication, a slow response, and I’m still chasing refunds. Sadly, there will always be a place for budget airlines, and convenience and price means I will no doubt continue to use them … Gavin Boden, Rhenus Home Delivery (UK): I’ve seen the absolutes, both the cutthroat and the caring – but what we needed to do is put people before profit. And John Lewis did just that in January. Lee Ness, Global Upholstery Solutions: We are part of a group, and I believe the way the group’s directors behaved was exemplary in how it treated staff and how ethical it was in making sure there was absolutely no possibility of abusing the relevant Government schemes. They could have used them a lot more, but didn’t. I guess whether it matters is a question of perspective. Our business will not publicise what it did, because

doing the right thing isn’t a marketing exercise – so, from an external perspective, probably not. But internally, people recognise the type of business they work for, and that makes a difference. Mike and Karen Rowley, Core Products: Every business has to make their own ethical judgment on this – ultimately, is it best to help a customer who urgently needs a replacement mattress or high seat chair, or has been affected by a flood or some other misfortune? As they are surely deemed an essential purchase – as long as the transaction and delivery is carried out in the safest way for all. I feel fortunate that all the companies who I had pre-bookings with were quick and efficient to refund and even extend loyalty status and expiry dates (American Express and British Airways deserve particular mention for their exceptional service). On a more sombre note, dealing with Her Majesty’s probate office has proved dispiriting, and shows how incompetent and badly-run a Government department can be, especially at a time when they are most needed. Unfortunately, they are unaccountable and do not care, as no Government minister is directly responsible for oversight. Mike Murray, Land of Beds and AIS: We were really impressed with the decision made by supermarket giants such as Tesco and Morrisons to pay back



their furlough payments. We are firm believers that good morals and social ideals are a pillar to business success, and they are also extremely important to customers and staff. Being a retail business, we were, and still are, very proud of all the frontline staff – delivery drivers, shop workers, and many more. They kept the country running, and should absolutely be considered essential workers. Peter Harding, Fairway Furniture: I think that the behaviour of the two big players in carpets – Tapi and Carpetright – at the start of the second English lockdown was very poor, trying to remain open went against the spirit of what the lockdown was trying to achieve. Fortunately, pressure came from all sides and they were forced to back down and close. I also think that some wellestablished and very reputable suppliers have really struggled to manage their way through the pandemic. Some have furloughed too many of their staff, meaning that retailers are left in the lurch dealing with upset customers. Others have used it as a means to increase prices far more than can be properly justified. It has been a very challenging period for retailers in terms of dealing with customer orders – something many suppliers simply do not see or appreciate.

Royce Clark, Grampian Furnishers: There have been many that have shone, and others that have sailed close to the wind. I think overall in the furniture trade we have been pretty responsible. However, if anything, some of the flooring nationals have let the trade


WHATEVER ACTIONS HAVE BEEN QUESTIONED OR APPLAUDED, IT’S NOW TIME TO MOVE ON Robert Bianchi, furniture retail veteran down by pushing boundaries – locally, we had two of the national flooring retailers promoting home visits for measuring and estimating, and they were still carrying out non-essential flooring installations during lockdown. Steve Adams, Mattress Online: The pandemic has been a learning curve for us all – it was unknown territory, and the definition of ‘essential’ has a lot to be desired. A socially distanced bed shop is forced to close, yet an offlicence selling alcohol and tobacco is considered essential? Amongst the carnage there are always some heroes and villains. Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct debacle back in the first lockdown has not sat well with me. Tesco started the trend of paying back the Covid-19 business rate relief – after paying an enormous dividend,

admittedly, but this still started a £1.8b rate repayment, which should be applauded. Robert Bianchi, furniture retail veteran: I’m not sure I’d class any of the retailers as unethical in terms of how they approached lockdown – more that the Government guidance was open to interpretation. In Lockdown 1, the interpretation of homewares being allowed to trade ensured that most furniture retailers in England opened their doors well before the official end of the lockdown date in June. And in the last lockdown, my local Marks & Spencer was rightly open because they sold food – however, you could also buy clothes. There were similar examples with B&M and The Range. Likewise, garden centres were allowed to trade, but furniture businesses were not, even if they sold garden furniture. Whilst I applaud those companies that have returned the furlough money – which morally and ethically was certainly the right thing to do – I don’t believe that will have a positive effect on consumers. Look at boohoo – criticised and castigated in the summer of 2020 over labour rates and a health and safety compromises in Leicester, they nevertheless reported a record +40% increase in the run-up to Christmas, and added Debenhams to their portfolio in Q1 2021. My gut feeling is that whatever actions have been questioned or applauded, it’s now time to move on and put the last 18 months firmly behind us






UP THE CREEK? Why has the cost of that chair gone up? It’s becoming a common refrain in our industry, says Sofa Source and Image Furnishings MD, Mark Gannon, who contests that the chair itself costs as much as it’s always done – it’s the cost of getting it here that’s gone through the roof …



Currently, everyone in our industry is left with a choice – have nothing to sell, or bring in stock at a higher price. Left with the choice between quitting or fighting, we know what decision our customers will make – the same one that we did. Some people are still bamboozled about how we got here, so let me tell you a story about shipping through a pandemic. The rising cost of shipping has affected every industry in Ireland. From building materials to footwear, the cost of just about everything is rising, and the furniture industry is no different. Unfortunately, the pandemic broke the global supply chain last year and the way we move stuff all over the world still hasn’t recovered. With the high street driving demand for small, relatively expensive items, large bulky items, such as furniture, are taking the brunt of the skyrocketing shipping rates. Short-term freight rates from China to northern Europe have breached the $20,000 per 40ft mark. There have also been reports of several quotes from the top five carriers of $21,000 per 40ft for July shipments from Chinese ports to Felixstowe and Southampton, with the average at around $18,000. Ocean freight gives us the ability to buy inexpensive stuff. This system is complex, but it can be distilled into a few crucial elements – ships, ports and containers. Each of these things has been in turmoil at some point since the pandemic started, and many of them are still broken. Ship shortage The first hit came early last year. As the pandemic spread across the globe and China shut down, it was unclear whether there would be any product to ship across the world. These massive container ships need to operate at least 90% capacity to be profitable. As a result, shippers began to cancel or ‘blank’ their sailings, with one shipper announcing cutbacks of -22% on voyages between Asia and Europe during the spring of 2020.

Port congestion And, almost as quickly as we were forced into a standstill in the early part of 2020, the world started to turn back on. However, buying was in full flow, with people using their pent-up earnings saved from the lack of travel and a general social life to spend on big-ticket items like treadmills and sofas. However, Covid had depleted the workforce in the world’s ports. In the first half of 2020, under 5% of ships had to spend more than five days in port, but in late January 2021, ports were overcrowded with waits of two weeks or more. In March 2021, the blockage of the Suez exacerbated the situation, causing even more backlogs and resulting in massive port congestion. At the time of writing, 5.5% of the world’s container fleet are waiting in port. Equipment shortage Of course, we cannot ship without boxes to ‘contain’ the product, and there aren’t enough of them – or at least, there aren’t enough of them in the correct locations. Some of these are stuck on the ships waiting to be unloaded or currently in transit, but the more significant issue is that many of these containers are not going back to China to be reloaded. Carriers simply didn’t realise they needed to bring back more empty boxes than ever. They are still correcting this, but the imbalance will remain until 2022. At least someone is making money! The cost of products hasn’t gone up, but the cost of transporting them has. Behind all of this, the bottlenecks hampering shipping right now are bad for seemingly everyone except the shipping companies. And the current equipment shortage only reduces ocean shipping capacity, driving freight rates ever higher and pumping up profits for major ocean cargo lines. Maersk, for example, turned a profit of $2.9b in 2020 – it lost money for three of the four years preceding that. At Image Furnishings, we’ve assessed the situation at every turning


What are the options? At the time of writing, the third largest port in the world, Yantian in China, is operating at less than full capacity due to a Covid outbreak. Ships are now left waiting to dock, tying up both the ship and precious equipment. Box recovery could take up to a month. Other ports

point. We filled our warehouse when China was shutting down in early 2020, leaving us sitting on massive amounts of stock for the entire length of the first Irish lockdown when furniture retail was closed up. Thankfully, this went a small part of the way to meet the demand when retail reopened – but, faced with rising shipping costs at the end of 2020, we reset our pricing structure for all new stock. Throughout the first half of 2021, we kept our prices static for our customers even as shipping prices skyrocketed, reducing our margins. The record shipping prices have forced us to reset our pricing once again, as many of our industry peers have.

are seeing congestion as a result of vessels omitting Yantian by choosing alternative routes. The equipment issue is only getting worse, and we don’t expect it to stabilise this side of the new year. We are in for turbulent times in the

FIGHTING THE PRICE WAR With shipping prices continuing to go through the roof, industry veteran Robert Bianchi wonders if it’s time to explore new directions – without rocking the boat, of course … After more than 30 years in the industry, I decided the time was right to leave the protective bubble of the family business in order to head out and explore some new (and hopefully exciting) opportunities. As an interested observer, rather than at the coalface, I have been closely following (with growing incredulity) the spiralling costs of shipping from the Far East. Coupled with extended lead times and successive Covid outbreaks, it’s proving to be a perfect storm for furniture retailers and wholesalers importing from Asia.

For many of us, as buyers the Far East represented the end of the rainbow – access to prices previously unheard of (along with improved quality and more aspirational designs) was the hook, and relatively cheap and easy logistics the icing on the cake. This third part is now proving worrisome, and the speed at which the shipping prices are accelerating is astounding. Prices of $17,000 are regularly spoken about – if, of course, you can get a shipment date – whereas at this point last year the prices were at a steady $2000, with ready availability. With the Christmas rush just around the corner, I believe the worst is yet to come – and that paying $20,000 for a box will not come as a surprise to many.


medium term, and can expect the cost of goods to continue rising. As I said at the start, everyone in our industry is facing a choice – but do any of us really have a choice when it comes to stocking our storerooms and keeping our doors open?

By ROBERT BIANCHI So, what to do? In a word, nothing. The prices – particularly for dining furniture – still outstrip what’s on offer in Europe, and restocking bestselling lines with other ranges sourced from different factories can bring other problems into play, particularly when you combine this with the ongoing travel restrictions due to Covid. It is the firm belief amongst the logistics industry that although the $2000 container of 2019/20 might be a long shot, the prices will soften going into 2022. If it were me, I would be absorbing the increases, ensuring any price rises are kept to a minimum and, in so doing, keeping the supply chain moving. More importantly, I’d be working hard to ensure customers aren’t let down – trying to do anything new right now would effectively be shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. In addition, I’d be investing my time in looking at sourcing from new factories in Europe – in so doing ensuring that I wouldn’t be over-reliant on any particular region or country for importing my goods in the future …



BETTER LATE THAN NEVER? It’s a given that the timely delivery of goods is important for the performance of many contracts. But do contracting parties ever give thought to the consequences of deliveries being delayed? According to Stephen Sidkin, this question is pertinent for many contracts – not least, agency and distributorship contracts – following the release last month of the Ever Given from the Suez Canal, where the Suez Canal Authority had held it (and its 18,000 containers, which held, among other things, products being supplied to IKEA) since March …


The contractual relationship between many suppliers and distributors will be formally documented. The contract should set out the terms on which the distributor will develop and service a particular market. It should also set out the terms on which the supplier and distributor will sell and buy the goods which are the subject of the distributorship contract. Failure to do so will, at best, result in the supplier relying on the Sale of Goods Act. But the act does not: limit the seller’s liability for late or nondelivery of the goods; or provide for force majeure. For the distributor, late or nondelivery of the goods invariably will place it in a difficult position. First, it has contracted to buy the goods so as to resell them to its customers. No goods, no resale, no profit! But by not supplying customers, the distributor may be in breach of contracts with these customers and exposed to damages claims. Second, can the distributor look to the supplier to cover the distributor’s liability to its customers? Where the supplier-distributor relationship is poor, late or non-delivery of the contracted goods may give the distributor the opportunity to assert that the distributorship contract is at an end. This may interest a distributor: faced with a declining market for the supplier’s goods; or wanting to exit from contractual commitments to purchase minimum quantities of goods from the supplier going forward; or where the law of the distributor’s country provides the distributor with mandatory rights to compensation on the ending of the distributorship contract. Principals and agents Whilst the contractual relationship between many principals and agents will be formally documented, often there will be overarching legal protection given to the agent (in the UK by the Commercial Agents Regulations, and in the EU by the EU Agents Directive). Further afield, the protection

of agents can be found in the laws of many countries in Africa, Asia, the Gulf and South America. But, for protection to arise, the agency contract must be ended either by: the principal; or the agent, on the basis that such termination is justified by circumstances attributable to the principal. In an Ever Given-type situation, the late or non-delivery of goods by the principal to a customer in respect of an order obtained by the agent is unlikely to justify the agent terminating the agency contract by circumstances attributable to the principal. But late or non-delivery may find that the customer accepts delivery only if the price is reduced – or simply refuses delivery. In this situation, can the principal reduce the commission payable or pay no commission to the agent? Contractual certainty is a good vaccine against conflict. So, hopefully the agency contract expressly allows the principal to reduce the commission in this situation. If not, where the principal has agreed to reduce the price payable by the customer, a disproportionate reduction in commission may entitle the agent to claim that the termination of the agency contract is justified by circumstances attributable to the principal. Where termination of the contract occurs, the agent will usually claim: damages for failure to give proper notice; commission accrued but unpaid at the time of termination; commission in respect of orders received by the principal after termination, where those orders resulted from the agent’s activities before termination; and commission in respect of orders accepted but unfulfilled by the principal, where the principal is to blame. But the fact that the principal was not paid by the customer does not void the principal’s liability to pay the agent commission! Whether discussing agency or distributorship contracts, 200,000 tons is an Ever Given reason to consider the impact of late or non-delivery of goods


THE BIG REVEAL Live exhibitions have finally returned, and many have welcomed the ability to trade face to face with open arms – but what if that show experience was accessible at all hours, 365 days a year? Jordan Evans, digital content manager at Clarion Retail, introduces Reveal …




As I sit here writing this piece, half of my team are in Harrogate, with the rest of us heading there in the coming days—because events are back! This is a moment that we know visitors and exhibitors of Manchester Furniture Show and Home & Gift have been eagerly awaiting just as much as we have – to see the industry reunited on the show floor is a milestone we’ve been counting down the days to reach. By the time you’re reading this, though, the shows will have already passed – four days of sourcing, selling, networking and shared learning, gone in a flash – so what’s next? How do we keep the thrill of trade show discovery alive every day of the year? These are the questions that we at Clarion Retail have been asking ourselves for the past 18 months. At a time when the ability to run live events was removed, we realised that, whilst our shows will always sit at the heart of what we do, ultimately, our job is to provide you in the industry with opportunities for connection – in any and every format that is most useful to you and your business needs. So now, for every day in between our shows, there’s Reveal. Reveal is our brand-new digital wholesale platform, which brings the UK’s largest network of sought-after buyers and sellers together, all under one roof – yours. From wherever you do your best work, Reveal is the space

for buyers to source the products their customers don’t know they need yet, and for sellers to place their designs at eye level for the industry’s most coveted retailers. With online purchasing continuing to boom, it’s of little surprise that professional buyers are turning to marketplace models at a similar rate consumers are. In fact, a study by Oracle Commerce Cloud and WBR Insights found that 73% of professional buyers are using online channels to source. But Reveal has been designed to be about so much more than just buying and selling – putting inspiration at the core of the platform. As it continues to evolve, it will be a place where both buyers and sellers across the network can continue to do great business, but also discover fresh designs and new perspectives every day, learn from some of the industry’s most knowledgeable experts and, ultimately, be united in their passion for interior, retail and design. Capturing everything Reveal is, Stoller’s Lee Stoller summed it up best when taking part in the platform’s development stage, saying: “The best thing about having a marketplace is actually having a proper trade hub. Clarion Retail events epitomise the whole of the industry, and this is 365. I think it’s absolutely essential that we have one. How have we lived without this for so long?”





THIS MONTH, WE’RE ASKING … Mike and Karen Rowley, Core Products Nothing. We’ve learned over the years the need to go to a trusted retailer, where the advice will be personally relevant, and we’ll spend what is necessary Mike Murray (Land of Beds) Customer reviews Adam Ashborn (Reborn Marketing & Design) The technology of roll-packing units within the mattress manufacturing process has been around for a long time. In the last few years, the likes of Simba, Emma, Leesa etc coming to the online market space has caused traditional business to see these new start-ups as market disruptors – who have now changed the perspective of how to buy a mattress. Consumers’ confidence in these brands has been impressive from the start, and it’s been down to the marketing presentation. The general marketing message has been the same for years, as this is a mattress, but the approach of selling the benefits of owning an online mattress with the convenience of delivery and installing makes the product more desirable to purchase. The quality of the mattress in the box still remains pristine and the comfort qualities still remain intact, so the only factoring decision to purchase would be the price and individual comfort. Whenever I purchase a mattress, the ultimate decision is based on the comfort and feel – having the ability to test the mattress first or a free trial with an easy return would be the deciding factor for me


Emma Leeke (Leekes Retail) I just wouldn’t! Gavin Boden (Rhenus Home Delivery UK) The quality of the product Henrik Pontoppidan (S2U Design Containers) Whether I needed one or not! Lee Ness (Global Upholstery Solutions) I’m not sure. I’m not in the market for a mattress Rob Scarlett (Scarlett Design) Price Peter Harding (Fairway Furniture) Price, availability and longevity

#383 August 2021



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Notes on the shipping crisis The ethics of trading out of lockdown

26/07/2021 20:36

Adam Hankinson (Furniture Sales Solutions) Customer review scores are always my first consideration – I want to understand the benefits to me and my wife, and the product’s value for money Andy Stockwell (Gardiner Haskins) If I could try it before I bought it Royce Clark (Grampian Furnishers) Nothing personally, as I wouldn’t buy a mattress without trying it. I can understand those short of time buying boxed blind, as the various sleep night guarantees mean they can send the bed back if they don’t like it – but the amount of these that are sold worldwide still amazes me Anne Davies (Room to Grow) The ease of delivery would be a factor for me. Large, bulky deliveries and lugging mattresses upstairs is never fun! Robert Bianchi (furniture retail veteran) It would be a commodity purchase led by need rather than want – the combination of price and lead time would be the big influencers Steve Adams (Mattress Online) Answering with my purchasing hat on, we now list many of the boxed mattress brands, and they have proved very popular. Their clear messaging, simplified product choice and the brand awareness they have created are resonating with our customers






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