Furniture News #373

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#373 April 2020

SPRINGS ETERNAL Harrison Spinks innovates for good

In with the new Westbridge tackles the skills shortage Ben Fowler’s design process Coronavirus – keep calm and carry on?

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Essential Summer Buying

Revitalised Refreshed Refined


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

SALES SALES AND MARKETING DIRECTOR (Furniture News portfolio) Sam Horscroft 01424 776100 Twitter @FurnitureNewsAD OVERSEAS AGENTS Casey Loo (Asia) +65 973 00123 (WhatsApp) Ailsa Yin (China) +86 13113 115335 (WeChat)

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TALES OF INNOVATION AND CONSCIENTIOUSNESS REMIND US TO KEEP THE BIGGER PICTURE IN MIND With anxieties running high, last month was the perfect opportunity to reiterate the importance of good sleep. From World Sleep Day and National Bed Month to the launch of the Wake Up Call sleep manifesto (read more on p8), messages conveying the benefits of rest (and good beds) were broadcast far and wide, supporting the efforts of bedmakers and retailers across the UK. There’s always plenty to talk about. Mattress technology is a dynamic force, its champions always striving to deliver more efficient, cost-effective and sustainable solutions for high-quality shuteye – and in this month’s issue we present the businesses at the (sprung) edge of this innovation, in a special feature starting on p34. Leading the charge, cover star Simon Spinks explains why climate change, dwindling resources and overflowing landfills make it imperative to develop products and processes fit for the future, and we chart Harrison Spinks’ journey to greener pastures. “I believe all products need rethinking for the modern era, and we’re a good decade into doing that,” he says. We also look at how Breasley pioneered RFID tracking technology in the sector, and at Vita’s new TCPP-free FR foam – and we’ll be following up these innovative examples with a more

focused look at eco-conscious product in next month’s issue. Another business taking the long view is Westbridge, which opened a new training academy last month, while simultaneously celebrating its longest-serving employees. I had the privilege of joining them in Deeside for the occasion, and saw firsthand how the sofamaker plans to bridge the looming manufacturing skills gap and keep its prodigious workforce at full strength (p10). Also in this month’s issue, Furniture Today’s Bill McLoughlin urges us not to see store closures as a harbinger of ‘retail armageddon’ (p57) while Rob Scarlett (p20) and Alexander & James (p28) remind us there’s more to life than the nine to five. Yes, the impact of Covid-19 is shaping up to be immense (see pp7, 52 and 54 for a few headlines and some practical advice), but tales of innovation and conscientiousness remind us to keep the bigger picture in mind (and sleep well!). As Next’s Lord Wolfson put it: “It would be easy for us to talk or think of nothing else, but that would be a mistake. Our sector continues to experience profound and lasting structural changes, and these changes are not on hold.”

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Paul Farley 01424 776101



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Let nature promote your sleep. CBD mattress ticking infused with CBD oils that can improve your sleep quality. CBD reduces your stress and provides restorative sleep. Chance the way you sleep with CBD.

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#373 April 2020



Harrison Spinks innovates for good





10 Westbridge / 16 Ben Fowler / 20 Rob Scarlett 22 Retail barometer In with the new Westbridge tackles the skills shortage Ben Fowler’s design process Coronavirus – keep calm and carry on?




24 Meble Polska / 26 BFM Fabric Show London 28 Alexander & James





30 Mix ‘n’ Blend Shelving / 34 Bed innovation / 42 Dining 44 Living / 46 Bedroom / 50 Trade services




52 Coronavirus – employer advice / 54 Coronavirus and contracts / 57 IAFP / 58 Feedback Bill McLoughlin, editorin-chief, Furniture Today



Stephen Sidkin, head of commerce & technology, Fox Williams LLP


Tina Chander, partner, Wright Hassall

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ScS saw gross sales up +0.5% to £160.1m in the 26 weeks to 25th January 2020, while gross profit increased +0.3% to £71.7m. LFL order intake was down -4.4%, and online sales grew +24.5% to £9.8m The Government announced emergency measures to help retail and hospitality businesses survive the coronavirus crisis last month, including a 12-month business rates holiday for firms of all sizes and £25,000 grants for small businesses

Bed industry veteran Ken Hillier passed away on March 14th at Bath’s RUH. Ken was the sales director of Airsprung Beds in the 80s and 90s, playing a significant part in the company’s success at that time

Hypnos has reported a promising start to its new financial year, plus significant growth in its associated home delivery business, Keen and Able. Additionally, CEO Stephen Ward has announced plans to step down after 13 years. He will be replaced by James Keen, while John Woolley has been appointed group MD

John Lewis Partnership’s profits were down -23% in 2019/20 (to £123m). It was the third year of declining profit across the partnership, and resulted in an annual partnership bonus payment of just 2% – the lowest since 1953. Chair Sharon White says: “We are stepping into a vital new phase for the partnership and I have no doubt we will come through it stronger.” She also states that the recovery process could take some 3-5 years


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NEXT’S CORONAVIRUS STRESS-TEST Next has reported revenue growth of +2.4% and profits up +1.9% to £610.2m for the year to January 2020 (on a statutory basis), and revealed its stresstest scenarios around coronavirus’ impact on the business. YoY, full-price online sales were up +11.9% and profits up +13%, while in-store full-price sales fell -4.3% (and total sales, including markdowns, by -5.3%), with profits down -23%. The retailer closed seven stores during the period, and plans to close another 14 this year, while adding two new trading locations and relocating five existing stores – a net reduction of -65,000ft2 (-0.8%). Despite acknowledging the unprecented nature of the coronavirus crisis, Next has modelled scenarios up to and including a loss of £1b (-25% of annual turnover). It says savings measures including the suspension of its buyback programme, delayed

expenditure, loan redemption and dividend deferral could save the company more than £835m, which would enable it to “comfortably sustain the loss of more than £1b of annual full-price sales, without exceeding our current bond and bank facilities”. Evidence from sales to date indicates that although operations will be impacted, the greatest damage will be caused by falling demand (although online is likely to fare better than in-store selling, and homewares appear to have been less affected than adult clothing). “Over and above managing the business through the pandemic we must ensure that we continue to develop the business – its product ranges, operations and online systems,” says chief executive, Lord Wolfson. “Our industry is facing a crisis that is unprecedented in living memory, but we believe that our balance sheet and margins mean that we can weather the storm.”

FURTHER DISRUPTION TO TRADE EXHIBITIONS The Covid-19 outbreak has led to the cancellation/ postponement of more industry events. Further to the March cancellations, a downscaled Spring High Point Market will now take place over just three days from 12-14th June (should conditions improve), while furnishing fabric and curtain show Proposte has been rescheduled to 23rd-25th September. In the UK, Scotland’s NorthPoint, which had already moved from January to April, will instead

take place on 27-29th September. The South West Bed Show and Spring Long Point have been cancelled, while Clerkenwell Design Week has been postponed to 14-16th July. Belgium’s Decosit has taken a different tack, giving the interior textiles market some “financial breathing space” by rescheduling from September to 9-10th June. Check the calendar on events for more up-to-date scheduling information.

LAURA ASHLEY CALLS IN ADMINISTRATORS Having reviewed its cashflow forecasts in light of the Covid-19 outbreak, Laura Ashley was forced to appoint administrators and suspend trading last month. For the seven weeks to 13th March, trading improved by +24% YoY, and the retailer’s directors were encouraged by this strong performance – yet report that the outbreak had “an immediate and significant impact on trading, and ongoing developments indicate that this will be a sustained national situation. “Discussions with stakeholders have been

ongoing and the directors are in advanced discussions for the provision of third-party debt funding. However, based on the company’s revised cashflow forecasts and the increased uncertainty facing the group, the company expects that it will not be in a position to draw down additional funds from third-party lenders in a timely manner sufficient to support working capital requirements. MUI Asia Ltd has confirmed that it is unable to provide financial support in the required timeframe.” PwC‘s Robert Lewis and Zelf Hussain have been appointed as administrators.

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La-Z-Boy UK is now supplying the Minerva Furniture Group

DFS LOOKS BEYOND DISRUPTION DFS says although the short-term outlook is uncertain, it expects latent demand to return following the coronavirus disruption. Revenues were down -5.7% in H1 2020 (to 29th December 2019), in part due to strong comparatives. Online growth continued, with gross sales up +4.5% to £117m. Group CEO Tim Stacey says: “Trading in the second half for the group has started satisfactorily, with performance in the DFS brand particularly encouraging, with order intake growth YoY and good gross margins. “However, given the uncertainty as to how the

current Covid-19 situation will develop it is not possible to give guidance with any certainty for the full-year out-turn. At present we believe our supply chain position should normalise before the financial year end. “While any disruption to order intake over the key trading periods of Easter and the May Bank Holidays is likely to impact our financial year 2020 results, it is reasonable to believe this may ultimately be transitory in nature – following periods of subdued demand we typically see much of that latent demand returning.”

SLEEP CHAMPIONS CALL FOR ACTION The Government received a wake-up call on the importance of sleep last month as The Sleep Council and The Sleep Charity launched the Wake Up Call sleep manifesto, which calls for sleep to be pushed up the public health agenda. Policymakers and influencers attended the Westminster launch, where a raft of keynote speakers including Mental Health Foundation chief executive Mark Rowland and ex-Blue Peter presenter Zoe Salmon underlined the critical role of good sleep to good health.

The manifesto makes three key calls for action: greater understanding and recognition of the impact sleep issues have on individuals, families and societies; a right to support at the earliest possible stage for those with sleep issues; and for highquality support – underpinned by Government policy – to be made available for those with sleep issues. The Sleep Council’s head Lisa Artis says: “We believe if steps are taken to improve people’s sleep, we can make a transformational difference to the lives and wellbeing of the nation.”

Vic Smith Bedding, a north London retailer, has had an advert banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). The advert depicted a Union Jack-emblazoned mattress wearing a surgical mask, with the phrase“no nasty imports”. The ASA said the ad was likely to be taken as a reference to the coronavirus outbreak, and could be read as associating immigrants with disease Olivia’s, a luxury furniture and homewares brand and part of The Moot Group, has bought Houseology, which went into administration in January. The online business acquired all IP and assets, including Houseology’s suppliers and stock

The National Bed Federation’s latest consumer survey found that people are increasingly sleeping or living alone, with a third (32%) of all mattress sales going to people buying beds for themselves Homebase and dwell have signed a concession partnership, which will see the latter’s furniture and accessories join Homebase’s instore offer. The first concession opened in Chichester, with more planned this year

NEW CHAIR FOR PARLIAMENTARY GROUP Mike Wood, Conservative MP for Dudley South, has been appointed the chairman of the newly-formed All Party Parliamentary Furniture Industry Group (APPFIG). He replaces Maggie Throup, Conservative MP for East Midlands constituency Erewash. The other officers are vice chairs Mark Eastwood, Conservative MP for Dewsbury, Rosie Cooper, Labour MP for West Lancashire, and Conservative Peer Baroness Warsi. “The APPFIG has an excellent track record of advocating for a range of issues affecting the furniture industry including skills, education,

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trade, and environmental policies, and I am looking forward to working with my parliamentary colleagues and members of the British Furniture Confederation (BFC) in the new Parliament,” says Mike. Jonathan Hindle, chairman of the industry’s political lobbying consortium BFC, says: “With the challenges of leaving the EU ahead of us, plus tackling the climate emergency, as well as addressing the now-imminent revisions to our flammability regulations, I’m sure Mike will help us ensure the furniture industry’s voice is heard.”

JYSK broke its UK opening record when its new Oldham store welcomed almost 1600 customers on 7th March. Footfall was almost double that of the retailer’s former record debut, in St Helens


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BRIDGING THE GAP Recruitment is a familiar challenge for manufacturers. Factory work simply doesn’t offer the rewards and excitement school-leavers expect, and new immigration laws only threaten to exacerbate the industry’s staffing woes. For Westbridge, which employs around 1100 staff in North Wales, the pressure is particularly acute – but the sofamaker refuses to become a victim of its own success, writes Paul Farley …

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Last year, the ONS estimated that UK manufacturing jobs had fallen by -17% since 2006, and with Brexit promising a dramatic reduction in immigration, the sector faces an unprecedented skills crisis. While more immediate challenges have made it easy to overlook the widening skills gap, there are businesses taking the long view and building skilled workforces that are fit for the future. “We’ve grown hugely in the last six years,” says Westbridge’s MD, Nigel Hollifield, “but, at the same time, unemployment has dropped dramatically.” Westbridge’s turnover jumped from £50m-100m from 2014-17 alone, while unemployment in Deeside – which also boasts big manufacturers such as Airbus, Toyota and Iceland – currently stands at just 0.7%. “With an output of more than 10,000 units a week, I believe we’re the biggest upholstery producer in the UK,” says Nigel. “And we’re diverse – we offer more than 150,000 SKUs, right through the price-point spectrum, on relatively short lead times. But while we have a

very well-trained workforce, maintaining it requires continual investment.” Spanning around 380,000ft2, Westbridge’s sprawling Deeside and Holywell sites employ around 1100 (many others work remotely, in the company’s Romanian cut-and-sew operation). “We used to be able to rely on EU labour,” explains operations director Paul Myerscough, “which was fine when we majored on the volume production of certain models. But as our customer balance changed towards MTO [madeto-order] for a wider client base (both nationals and independents), we’ve struggled to make up for employee attrition – and the new points-based immigration system will only make things harder.” To complement its local recruitment programme, Westbridge partnered with Coleg Cambria to launch a formal apprenticeship scheme in March 2018. Overseen by academy & technical manager Leigh Ollosson, the scheme sees each intake of 16-18 year olds taught about every area of sofamaking, from cutting and sewing to framebuilding and upholstering. “We want them to get a taste of

everything,” Leigh explains. “I want these lads to learn everything I know, and instil in them a sense of quality control – they need to take ownership of what they make. The consumer demands quality, and I’ve always made furniture like it’s going to be a piece of my own – nothing slapdash!” After 18 months, the apprentices are introduced to work in the factory. “Going straight into a line environment from outside can be very daunting,” says Paul. New blood But for a manufacturer of Westbridge’s size, the apprenticeship pipeline is too narrow and prescriptive to satisfy demand. For example, of the 20 applicants that joined in 2018, only four completed the course. “It was clear early on it wasn’t going to be scalable,” says Paul. Some suggest that automation and AI could remedy the growing skills gap, but Paul argues that machines are only really effective when they’re executing the same operations day in, day out. “We can have days here when no two models made are the same,” he states. “We need manpower.”


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34 of Westbridge’s staff have worked in various iterations of the business for more than 30 years

Furniture News’ Paul Farley and Leigh Ollosson with one the apprentices, Billy

Paul Myerscough and Leigh Ollosson

The current apprentice class

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Consequently, Paul helped develop a training programme to be executed in tandem with the apprenticeships – but at a much faster rate, and with more focused course content. He calls it the ‘Green Labour’ scheme – a hybrid of target-based, on-the-line training and class-based skills development, principally targeting 18-35 year-olds. “We need them to be line-ready fast,” says Paul. “Rather than teaching them all the aspects of upholstery, like we do in the apprenticeships, we focus on certain operations.” Wednesday 4th March saw the official launch of a new training academy at Westbridge’s Unit 3. Combining the growing number of apprentices and the new Green Labour recruits, the academy is part production line, part classroom,

and offers trainees a managed and enclosed environment from which to enter the wider workforce. “A proportion of people in our catchment area leave school without any qualifications and want to go into industry,” adds Nigel Hollifield, “yet labour still isn’t readily available. I think the training academy will maximise our chances of attracting the best people, and ensure we have the capacity to keep growing.” Jobs for life Yet recruitment is just one side of the coin – after all, what’s the use of training skilled workers if you can’t retain them? Luckily, Westbridge is no slouch in this area, either, and the day the academy went live, Westbridge gathered the longest-serving members of its workforce to pay tribute to their long service. Back in 2004, Westbridge (then Deeside Furniture) was founded when several employees left the Christie Tyler Group to create a new manufacturing operation. As luck would have it, the group’s subsequent dissolution (and the support of several key retailers) provided opportunities to take Deeside to the next level, and a good number of skilled workers (and business assets) relocated from south to north Wales. Nigel is just one of 34 members of Westbridge’s team who can boast over 30 years of industry service (an astonishing 42 years in his case). “And a good deal more have done 15-25 years,” he says. “We’re going to be dishing out a lot of watches and certificates at this rate!”

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Westbridge’s commercial MD Paul Islip (who was also there at the beginning), addressed the assembled veterans over lunch, saying: “There’s over 1000 years of furniture manufacturing experience here today – I think it’s a unique occasion for the furniture industry. From our foundations in the 80s, it’s your knowledge and experience that’s been the backbone of this business. And with the opening of our new academy, we’re making sure we’re training people to take care of business for the next 30 years.” Speaking to a handful of the 34-over30 staffers present, it’s easy to see how Westbridge is bucking the trend of today’s flighty employment market and proving that there really is such a thing as a job for life. Aside from security, approachable managers and the convenience of locality, for most the appeal is a Westbridge’s flexibility – whether that’s giving employees freedom to deal with parenthood, caring, illness or bereavement – plus, crucially, the very real prospect of progression. For example, the factory manager at Westbridge’s main site started out as a sewing machinist in 1987. Senior quality and technical manager Anthony Pydiah (32 years) joined as a graduate trainee, before meeting his future wife Lynn (30


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years), who pioneered the use of CAD in the business. Meanwhile, group leader Sally Lee (32 years) joined as a product checker, while the aformentioned Leigh Ollosson came on board at the tender age of 16. It’s a timely reminder for anyone entering the business that there are so many places to go within it. “There’s definitely a poor perception of industry labour in general,” says Paul Myerscough. “People don’t really want their kids going into upholstery, or joining a production line – but if they knew more about the scope of this business, they might change their minds.” Quality control Naturally, every one of the 34over-30 were there 16 years ago when Westbridge was Deeside Furniture, making furniture for M&S – a partnership which helped lay the foundations of a successful business. When M&S formulated its Plan A project towards sustainable production in 2007, Westbridge was the first factory in the world (alongside a Sri Lankan lingerie producer) to become compliant, under Anthony Pydiah’s guidance. The sofamaker went on to devote a huge proportion of its production capacity to IKEA, but also pioneered MTO mass production – M&S was the first major retailer to introduce an ‘any fabric, any shape’ proposition. Both developments would strengthen Westbridge’s hand immeasurably. When production started to move away from Britain in the 90s, it became

clear to Nigel Hollifield that domestic manufacturers would no longer be able to compete on labour costs – but that they could deliver USPs that the Chinese could not, such as great service, quality, and speed of delivery. And with a growing number of people choosing to specify their own models from a broad range of options (à la M&S), local manufacture was the only model which could effectively fulfil demand. From an auditing POV, working to such exacting standards from the outset (“at a certain point, jumping through hoops becomes the norm”, jokes Paul Islip), Westbridge went on to become the natural choice for blue-chip nationals including Next, Sofology and John Lewis, plus a growing number of independent retailers. “Today, people want furniture quicker, and expect better prices and quality,” says Nigel. “And, returning to my original point, to achieve this, the standards our workers must reach are exacting. We have to look at where we’ve come from and where we’re going, and make sure every member of our team has the knowledge and confidence to deliver what our customers have come to expect.” Success requires investment – in plant and machinery, materials, strategy, and more. But, with a skills shortage looming ever larger, Westbridge has acknowledged that holding onto its market-leading position truly requires investment in people. Why not join that family?

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TOP MARQUES With a new collection just launched through creative collective Marque Furniture, Sussex-based furniture designer Ben Fowler shares his take on workloads, commercial demands and the place of design in the wider industry …


17 Fueled by a childhood fascination with boatbuilding and a father who designed furniture and lectured at the London College of Furniture, Ben trained under the Bauhaus ethos and developed a design handwriting characterised by clean lines, unfussy functionality, classic joinery and expert craftsmanship. In 1986, Ben founded bespoke furnituremaker Fowler & Co, and went on to work for high street brands, architects, and private and corporate clients, creating bestselling ranges for ercol (Bosco) and Marks & Spencer (Sonoma), plus others for John Lewis and Habitat. Ben’s love of rowing and firsthand knowledge of boatbuilding informs much of his work – notable commissions include a quirky boat seat for Sir Terence Conran, and the doors and windows for the Royal Barge Gloriana. Other commissions include the interior of a major opera house in Germany and a giant operational sundial for Melbourn Science Park near Cambridge. In 2020, Ben launched his own-brand collection (on sale through Design

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Masters at the Futon Company) with sister company Marque Furniture, which also features work from likeminded designer-makers Simon Pengelly and John Weaver. PLANE SAILING Where did you study? Leeds Polytechnic and the RCA. What was the most valuable part of your education? Meeting my much more talented fellow students and realising how much there was to learn from both them and the tutors (such as Fred Scott, and professor Robert Heritage at the RCA). What was your first design job? Drawing interiors for Mary Shand Associates, and after that, space planning for a London office furniture firm. I then went to work for my friend Mark Edwards, now a notorious Thames boatbuilder. With Mark, I learnt how to build boats, which has been a lifelong pleasure and hobby. I also met the extraordinary cabinetmaker Andrew Brace, with whom I set up my first workshop in 1986.

Where might I have heard your name before? You probably won’t have! I’m a backroom boy really, but I did once get invited to dinner with Terence Conran, who liked my design for a boat seat so much that I designed and made a batch of six for a show of his favourite things at The Conran Shop. What are you working on right now? We recently launched our own-brand retail range for Marque Furniture at the January Furniture Show. It includes designs from Simon Pengelly and John Weaver, and as part of the collection I’ve designed a range called Chamfer, where the comb joints feature as part of the design. The dining table features my unique spring-leaf extension mechanism, which I designed a few years ago – it allows the table’s central extension to pop up from the middle, and is very easy to use. As well as all that, I’m working on designs for a staircase made from walnut and oak, with an abstracted butterfly motif picked out in gold leaf at the first-floor balustrade level.

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BRIGHT SPARK How do you mentally prepare yourself for work each day? Cup of coffee and a walk with Dusty the dog – then pick up some poo, which grounds me! A blank sheet of paper can be daunting – what inspires you to fill it? Ideas are always there – it is mainly the problem of refining them into something worth making that’s difficult. I attack clean white paper with pencils and simply draw until something starts to emerge. The idea is the spark, then the design process is the interesting part of resolving problems and refining the possibilities. Edison used to say genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration. True that …

Which area of your work do you enjoy the most – and the least? Drawing is a pleasure, but prototyping less so as I’m an impatient cabinetmaker! I wish I could improve my making skills. However, I have highly skilled colleagues who work hard in the workshop, making up samples and realising the products in three dimensions. This is a process that brings an enormous amount to the design process. Name one of your favourite designs, and explain why it inspires you The Fritz Hansen Ax armchair by PeterHavidt and Oria Molgaard Neilsen. This is the most sophisticated piece of bentwood and ply laminated joinery I have ever seen.

HATS OFF! Ben has designed bestselling ranges for Willis & Gambier, M&S and ercol, plus the auditorium seating and interior spaces for the Ludwig Musical Theatre in Bavaria. In 2014, Ben received a Design Guild Mark and Wood Award for his Hat Tree hanger, which he subsequently licensed to The Futon Company. More recently, his business was Highly Commended in the 2019 Wood Awards for its Hanging Dovetailed Staircase.


Which is your favourite designer retailer, and what is it doing right? The Conran Shop has consistently sold lovely stuff, and flies in the face of the idea that everything should be cheap.


We often compromise designs to make them commercial – how do you maintain your quality despite such pressures? In itself, design is the business of careful, informed compromise. If you are open-minded, the problems (and

sometimes the so-called compromises) can lead to harder thinking and a better product in the end.

AGAINST THE GRAIN Pick three words that sum up UK domestic furniture design today Cost. Engineered. Dissatisfaction. What aspects of it make you despair – and, conversely, hopeful? I am constantly amazed at the callous reliance on underpriced tat shipped halfway round the world for the sake of a competitive price point. Oak Furnitureland should be prosecuted for crimes against woodwork and trees. On the upside, ercol still thrives, thank heavens! Do you feel the industry adequately supports designers? Only up to a point – there is little understanding by both sides. The commercial is unappreciative of design, and designers tend not to recognise the importance of commerce. What’s the last design that really caught your eye? It’s a while ago now, but it’s the beautiful Ribbon rocking chair by Katie Walker.

Chamfer table details

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Chamfer joint details

What’s the future of furniture design? Home-grown and locally sourced

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CROWD PLEASER Forget trade events – for three days each July, Rob Scarlett, the founder of furniture design consultancy Scarlett Furniture & Print, really puts on a show to remember …


Out of hours, I am the creative director of 2000trees Festival, a multi-awardwinning, three-day extravaganza set in the stunning Cotswold Hills. You get three nights’ camping, a friendly, intimate atmosphere plus amazing food and locally produced ciders, ales and lagers. It’s been described as one of the friendliest festivals you’ll ever go to.

It asks that I commit to a largely seasonal workload that actually fits in really well with the furniture calendar. Originally it saw me working 9-5 at my furniture job, driving home and then working on the festival until I went to bed – but when I went freelance it became much easier to handle, and I was able to balance the two jobs.

I became involved in this because me and a few friends went to Reading Festival for around 10 years, and were tired by the ever-spiralling costs, poor service and creeping corporatisation. In 2007 we decided (rather naively) that we could do a better job ourselves, and created an event which was more about the music and the fans. To tell the truth, I was a bit terrified by the prospect initially, but the only thing I could think of that was worse was my friends all doing something I wasn’t involved in! Thirteen years later, here we are – an award-winning event that’s an established part of the festival calendar.

I’m most proud of being named Best Medium Festival at the UK Festival Awards [2018]. This was really big for us, as we’re competing with a number of illustrious and larger events. To be at the top of a really strong pile is the culmination of all our hard work and creativity. Ten years down the line, I see myself continuing to balance creativity, hard work and family time. Generally, my key metric is simply to create things of which I’m really proud. Pride in an accomplishment or a new design is worth more than the actual money. I have learned that design strategy, and being able to look forward a year to make an actionable plan, is the biggest thing. Festivals have a very tight relationship with their customers, so understanding that connection and working with it has been immensely useful in my design work. As a creative designer, the technical skills I’ve learnt over 15 years have enabled me to be everything from a T-shirt designer to a stage decking planner. You might not know this, but the UK leads the world in the festival industry, and the diversity of events is absolutely incredible. There are many more events in a year than there are days. The most important thing to get right is the toilets! If an event has bad toilets, then it can ruin even the best of musical experiences.

Every Time I Die, performing at last year’s 2000trees Festival

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If you want to know more, visit www.twothousandtreesfestival. or drop me an email on rob@, quoting code ‘FurnitureFestival’ for ticket discounts!

23/03/2020 12:54

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1 Wilmslow SK9 5AG 05/11/2019 15:06House,1 Grove Way, Wilmslow, Cheshire, GreenwoodRetail_Apr20.indd 16/03/2020 15:40 23/03/2020 12:55



What’s selling, and where? Each month, Furniture News surveys a sample of our readers to see how each product category is performing from month to month …








DOWN 38%


Myriad influences combined to make February’s sales very much a game of two halves. While the big-ticket categories were always likely to pale in comparison to January’s sale-driven achievements, a degree of post-election optimism helped many retailers hold the line from month to month. However, the latter weeks saw store footfall blighted by serious weekend storms, plus mixed reactions to the creeping onset of coronavirus, dampening any confidence in a ‘Boris Bounce’ and paving the way for a dramatic downturn in March. Joe Staton, client strategy director at GfK, comments: “Against a February backdrop of rising wages and house prices, low unemployment and stable inflation, we reported another healthy uptick in consumer confidence – the third monthly increase in a row.” Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard, notes that the weather affected each retail model to a different degree: “If further proof of the fragility of high streets were needed, it was provided in February when the impact of the severe and ongoing rain led to a drop in footfall of -7.8%”



UP 25%




25% 40% 26% 36%

20% 33% 26% 47%

30% 34% 26% 36%





15% 47% 26% 48%

16% 46% 26% 48%

13% 48% 26% 49%

16% 51% 26% 31%

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23 GFK CONSUMER CONFIDENCE INDEX Overall Index: 7 (+2 MoM, +6 YoY) Major Purchase Index: +6 (+5 MoM, +1 YoY) SPRINGBOARD FOOTFALL MONITOR Store footfall: -4.9% YoY Retail park footfall: -1.1% YoY Shopping centre footfall: -2.5% YoY High street footfall: -7.8% YoY BRC-SHOPPERTRAK FOOTFALL MONITOR Total footfall: -2.0% YoY Retail park footfall: -1.5% YoY Shopping centre footfall: -7.0% YoY High street footfall: -2.5% YoY BRC-NIELSEN SHOP PRICE INDEX Overall prices: +0.4% MoM,-0.6% YoY Non-food prices: +0.4% MoM, -1.9% YoY


BRC–KPMG RETAIL SALES MONITOR Total sales: +0.1% YoY (2019: +3.2%) LFL retail sales: -0.4% YoY (2019: +2.6%) Online non-food sales: +3.6% YoY (2019: +5.4%) Online non-food penetration rate: 31.1% (+2.0% YoY)


BARCLAYCARD REPORT Consumer spending: +2.2% YoY Consumer positivity: 42% (+10% YoY)


50% 46%




43% 45% 50% 62% 50% 42%


WOULD YOU LIKE TO SHARE SALES FEEDBACK WITH FURNITURE NEWS? Contact the editor on to join our survey pool

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23/03/2020 15:38



POLES APART With coronavirus forcing the cancellation of Asia’s furniture exhibitions, the decision to run this year’s Meble Polska a few weeks earlier than usual proved fortuitous, writes Paul Farley …


The Polish and UK furniture markets have long been partners. Eastern Europe’s manufacturing powerhouse may not be a particularly cheap source of imports, but its high-quality fabric upholstery and on-trend flatpack cabinet feature in many a retail portfolio, driven by the exporter’s fast-evolving industry and attractive lead times. In recent years, Meble Polska defiantly took place in mid-March, clashing with various Far East fixtures – but this year saw it pulled forward to 25-28th February, in a move calculated to entice global buyers. “Meble Polska’s main strength is its visitors, who come to Poznan every year from all over the world,” says show director, Józef Szyszka. “That’s why it’s so important that the fair takes place when it’s most convenient for them.” Pre-registrations saw a +20% uplift, which was borne out in the show’s opening days, before flattening somewhat as coronavirus reared its ugly head. The outcome was a total of 21,949 attendees (up almost +2% YoY), 38% of them from abroad (from 69 countries).

“Judging by our conversations with exhibitors (and despite earlier declarations of individual retail chains cancelling their involvement at the last minute), most furniture manufacturers participating were satisfied with the number and quality of visitors,” says Józef. “This is confirmed by the fact that we’ve already accepted a large number of enquiries and reservations for the next edition [scheduled for 23rd-26th February 2021].” Crucially, the show’s earlier staging enabled it to deliver a solid performance, when it may not have taken place at all. It also offered buyers already suffering the adverse effects of China’s disrupted supply chain an opportunity to explore alternative sourcing options. However, for most, this year’s excursion would have been a return visit. This was my third time in Poznan, and I’ve seen the show become more representative, more content-rich and better attended at each turn. This exhibitors (around 500) are almost exclusively Polish, and very

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much export-oriented, adding solid wood cabinet and mattresses to those product mainstays already referenced, plus an array of home decor lines and design-led creations. Meble Polska unashamedly champions original Polish design, and various seminars, installations and competitions reflect the country’s vibrant creative community. Panel discussions and presentations on topics such as international branding, start-ups, interior design trends and visual merchandising added depth to the proceedings, while organiser MTP Group’s decision to host the International Alliance of Furnishing Publications’ (IAFP) AGM ensured the cream of international trade media was present to experience Meble Polska’s unique qualities for themselves. Yet the real draw of any trade show is its exhibitors – and when it comes to Polish suppliers, Meble Polska boasts the most comprehensive roster around. Exhibitors include sector giants Black Red White, which sees the UK and Ireland as “developing markets”,

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and the ever-expanding Szynaka Meble, which has grown as IKEA’s favoured partner to having a €250m turnover and some 3500 employees. Meble Wojcik showed off its latest 3D-effect printed foils, while Bydgoskie Meble revealed new upholstery lines filled with hidden storage and subtle mechanisms. Meble Polska is also home turf for businesses with clear visibility in the UK marketplace, such as Lenart, whose stylish pull-down Bed Concept saw it highly commended in The Furniture Awards at this year’s January Furniture Show, and Gala Collezione, whose comprehensive range of sofas and sofabeds (plus COM service) is fast finding favour in our marketplace. In short, there’s no better place to see what Poland’s furniture manufacturers are capable of, all of it set within easy reach in a welcoming environment. But prospective buyers should not wait too long, warns Józef, as the country is looking to match the quality – and prices – of German and Italian goods in the not-too-distant future …

23/03/2020 15:42



FAB FIVE The 2020 BFM Fabric Show returned for a fifth year to Chelsea FC’s West Stand for two days in February, treating visitors to the latest high-quality upholstery fabrics from an exclusive set of exhibitors.

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Attended by many of the UK’s best-known upholstery and bed manufacturers, plus large retail groups and contract buyers, the event saw 38 exhibiting companies from around the globe show off their latest designs. Returning exhibitors included British Velvets, Mobus, Warwick and Woven Art from the UK, plus 11 prestigious exhibitors from Belgium (including Beaulieu, Greenstreet and Symphony Mills), and Turkish brands Adoksan, Aydin and Kets. They were joined by Spain’s Aqua Clean, Germany’s Eurotex and Italy’s Imatex, among others. Six new exhibitors joined the line-up, expanding the event’s international flavour – Antiprima and Aurim Home Décor from Italy, Audejas from Lithuania, Edinburgh Weavers from Scotland, Kacar Textile from Turkey and Morgan Fabrics from the US. Open to BFM members and nonmembers, the show gave UK fabric buyers an opportunity to select luxury and high-grade fabrics including wools, jacquards and linens, plus the latest fabric technologies in stain-, water- and fire-resistant treatments. Fabric treatment specialist AquaClean presented its new ecofriendly developments. “AquaClean

had another very successful show at Chelsea this year,” says sales manager James Lowe. “This show works every time, we are able to reach a great number of important and knowledgeable buyers in one go. Meeting our buyers face to face is essential, and we can do that here in a relaxed and comfortable environment. We will definitely be back with more new developments next year.” The show’s sponsors (including AquaClean, Orbital Vision and Lancashire Testing Services) added an extra dimension to the event, giving demonstrations of their respective systems and services. Orbital Vision, for example, demonstrated its impressive large-scale scanner, which can digitally replicate fabric textures in a multitude of colours from one small sample. As the event drew to a close, BFM MD Nick Garratt said: “It has been a very successful show and I am delighted. The format works for both exhibitors and visitors, and although we had some difficulty finalising the dates, we have welcomed a large number of upholstery manufacturers from all over the UK, and everyone I spoke to has praised the quality and choice of the fabrics on show. Planning for 2021 starts now”

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Considering the advice we are all receiving from the Government regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and restrictions on the movement of the population, we have taken the decision to postpone our exhibition until later in the year.


27th - 29th September 2020 Royal Highland Centre, Ingliston, Edinburgh

We would like to take the opportunity to thank the companies below for their continued support at this very challenging time for us all. Thanks also to The Royal Highland Centre for supporting and working with us to find these rescheduled dates. Alpha Designs Upholstery • Annaghmore • Ashwood Designs • Asiatic Rugs • Bipel Leather • Breasley Mattresses • Buoyant Upholstery • Call Salotti s.r.l. • Carter & Lewis • Celebrity Motion Furniture • Cintique • Claremont Furniture Agencies • Deepsleep Beds • Deluxe Beds • Divania International • Dura Beds • Furnico • Furniture Repair Distribution • GCL(UK) Bedroom Furniture • GIE • Gilt Edge Beds • Global Furniture Alliance • Gradi Living Upholstery • Harrison Spinks • Highgate Beds • Highgrove Beds • Honey B Limited • Kayflex • Kebe • Kettle Interiors • Kyoto • Lano Carpets • Lebus Upholstery • M A Living • Maysons Bedroom Furniture • Millbrook Beds • Mini Divani • New Trend Concept • NHC Technology • One Call Furniture • Opulent Craft Bed Frames • Platinum Upholstery • Protect-a-Bed • Rest Assured • Royams Upholstery • Salus Beds • Scanthor • Sealy • Sherborne Upholstery • Siesta Beds • Silentnight Beds • Sofa Factory • Spring Craft • Staingard • Sweet Dreams • Taylors of Scotland • Value Mark Furniture • Vogue Beds • V-Sofa • Wheatcroft Beds • Wiemann The 2020 annual SFRA Presidents dinner on has also been rescheduled to the Sunday evening of the show (27th of September 2020). Entertainment on the night is provided by after dinner speaker Eric Davidson. Set in a rural location, Dalmahoy is a mere 5 miles from the Royal Highland centre and easily accessible from the Northpoint show. Special thanks to the Dalmahoy Hotel and Country Club for their support, help and understanding in allowing us to reschedule our dinner and special rates for the duration of the show.

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SITTING PRETTY January Furniture Show, NEC, Birmingham / 20th January 2020

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Over years of NEC furniture shows, inspirational sofa brand Alexander & James has earned itself a reputation for being the last to leave the building – and 2020 was no exception, as the industry’s great and good descended on the company’s dazzling stand to enjoy after-hours hospitality and the chance to catch up with old friends.

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23/03/2020 13:34




MIX ‘N’ BLEND SHELVING Combining oak, ebonised oak, powder-coated steel and Valchromat, Mix ‘n’ Blend offers a modernist take on the Japanese display cabinet.

“Being a bespoke furnituremaker, this piece was an exploration into designing and making production furniture. I experimented with the concepts of merging the style of Japanese display cabinet, which is light of form, with a more modernist touch”

“The pieces use materials that are considered robust, such as oak panels and Valchromat, which is produced with resin in its composite and holds its form, making it ideal for sculptural shaping”

“It was my intention to create a piece that incorporated both traditional techniques and materials with contemporary ones. The combination of traditional boardmaking with quartersawn oak, plus ebonising, coupled with contemporary processes such as using CNC, creates a juxtaposed vernacular that feels contemporary but has its roots in traditional cabinetmaking”

“This shelving system combines the best of traditional cabinetry with new modern techniques. This is a piece which will stand up to use – something I believe to be missing from a lot of modern retail furniture”

I AIM FOR MY PIECES TO BE BEAUTIFUL, APPROPRIATE AND SUSTAINABLE TRAINING Luke originally studied as a graphic designer at Chelsea College of Arts to master’s level. From there he worked in the industry for many years, but, dissatisfied, Luke retrained as a fine furniture designer and cabinetmaker at the Building Crafts College in Stratford, East London. After a completing his apprenticeship, he went on to form his own furniture design and making business, Luke Ebbutt James – Furniture. With wood his material of choice, and the belief that the material can be modern, fresh and contemporary, Luke aims to combine the modern designer’s eye for form, simplicity and usability with the traditional techniques of the maker – “craftsmanship, attention to detail and a rigorous understanding of the material”.

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23/03/2020 13:35

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Pages_20/03/20.indd 31 GD Furniture News - 1103.indd 1

23/03/2020 13:35 16/03/2020 10:12:55



FLATPACK WITH FLAIR With a team of longstanding, dedicated agents calling on customers throughout the UK every week, Core constantly analyses feedback regarding consumer tastes and preferences, says the company’s Mike Rowley. “Over the past couple of years, the established buying patterns – both in product and purchase timing – have become unpredictable, which has forced upon us completely different approaches to stockholdings,” says Mike. “However, from this myriad of information a crucial buying trend has also emerged, which is that consumers are no longer led by what stores offer – the consumer now tells all of us what they want to buy. “If there is a trend, it’s that there is no single trend, other than that customers are actively looking for new ideas that encompass different materials such as mirrors, glass, stone and metal.

Established in 1986, Core Products has built an enviable reputation for flatpacked furniture, shelving and storage products – and while demand for its recognisable pine products remains strong, Core recently felt the time was right to radicalise its offer, and was proved right for doing so at this year’s January Furniture Show.

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Individual statement pieces have also come to the fore, and our new ranges also reflect this.” This year, Core embarked on its most radical shift in product direction for many years, with the introduction of 15 ranges which incorporate new ideas, materials and manufacturing processes. Ayr is a refreshing idea that incorporates real mirrors in carboncoloured cabinets.The corners and columns are made from wood, making for a far more robust product than most mirrored furniture. Being flatpacked, it is also easier to deliver and less prone to breakage – a big problem when selling mirrored furniture. Augusta offers a variety of interestingly designed pieces for the home, all made from a combination of natural wood and steel. As Core’s most affordable cabinet range, Ayr promises mass appeal. Vegas is designed to meet the need for practical and functional storage with a clean finish, and is made from hardwearing oak-effect melamine, plus contrasting grey doors and metal legs. Perth is an elegant and practical living and dining collection in a paint finish, with inset natural stone and polished steel handles. The stone-inset tops are hardwearing, and each piece has been designed using Core’s easy-to-build assembly method. All of Core’s products are available from UK stock with no minimum order, and can either be delivered to trade premises or direct to the end-customer using the company’s efficient home delivery service

23/03/2020 13:38

Full pag




Established 1986 Reinvented 2020 BROOKLYN

INSPIRATIONAL : AFFORDABLE : AWARD WINNING | 01738 630555 Pages_20/03/20.indd Full page USE.indd 1 33

23/03/2020 10/03/2020 13:38 16:21




LET’S TWIST AGAIN Blue Planet’s bombshell plastics episode may have focused consumer attention on the impact of reckless waste disposal, but some businesses were championing sustainability long before Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg made the headlines. With green thinking now integral to bed purchasing, Harrison Spinks’ fast-evolving offer has never been more relevant, writes Paul Farley …

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Simon Spinks

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“We’re investing in a new category of product,” says MD Simon Spinks, likening the business’ latest breakthrough, Cortec – a 100% recyclable, glue-free pocket spring system – to revolutionary industry advancements such as the Bonnell spring unit and memory foam. “When the world decided memory foam was a good story, we turned the other way and made natural products,” he explains. “We thought we’d swim upstream rather than down.” Simon describes the company’s attitude as “rebellious”, but there’s more to it than that. Alongside a palpable desire to improve the world around it, Harrison Spinks truly values its independence, and by creating its own materials and components, frees its products from any industry templates. Take Synergy, a new modernlooking mattress collection with Cortec technology at its heart. Previewed at last year’s NBF Bed Show, Synergy will hit shopfloors (and AIS’ bed show) imminently. Made from just three ingredients (steel, polypropylene and polyester), each bed is easy to separate at the end of its life (or sooner, should elements need to be replaced), and fully recyclable. More importantly, says Simon, it’s really comfortable, and has received “fantastic” reviews from consumer focus groups.

Harrison Spinks weaves its own chemical-free tick in-house

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Cortec mattress springs

If necessity is the mother of invention, an industry which consigns some 100,000 bulky mattresses a week to landfill (that’s nearly six million each year) has a responsibility to find solutions. Leeds-based Harrison Spinks has long been at the frontline of the war on waste. The seeds of its sustainable journey were sown with the invention of the glueless microcoil in 2005, and its acquisition of a 300-acre farm in 2009 (with a view to harvesting hemp and wool fillings). Over the last decade, the bedmaker has invested more than £20m in sustainable innovation, bringing various manufacturing operations inhouse, acquiring its own responsibly managed forest and majoring on R&D in components and materials. This year alone, Harrison Spinks has pledged to erase all foam, glue, VOCs and FR chemicals from its products, develop a 20,000ft2 mattress recycling facility, and source only from suppliers that employ sustainable materials or products made from recycled materials.

“Sustainability is definitely newsworthy, but it’s rarely at the top of the consumer’s shopping list,” he says, “so our ultimate raison d’être remains making fantastically comfortable mattresses for people to sleep on. “But when it comes to the bigger picture, things need to change, and fast. It should be a given that our mattresses are sustainable.” Engineered to last Although Simon is full of admiration for champions of innovation such as James Dyson and Elon Musk (“I love the absolute ambition of him!”), he’s a far more grounded individual than his CV might suggest. Born in a Leeds suburb before moving to the countryside at the age of 10, Simon had some notion of the simple life, but was much more interested in how machines worked. “I was an inquisitive kid, and enjoyed taking things apart,” he explains. “I just wasn’t very good at putting them back together again!” When the family business called, any notion of pursuing a career in IT or engineering was dispelled – but Simon soon turned his creativity towards sleep, and the breakthroughs came thick and fast. Today, his business boasts a 15-strong team of experienced spring and machinery engineers. “I’m an ideas man, really,” he says, “but none of them would get anywhere without so many extraordinarily talented people behind them, from metallurgists to CAD engineers.” With Cortec under their belt, Harrison Spinks’ innovators are turning their attention to further improving both

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product and process. The former calls for even greater durability, and increased use of recycled content, while the latter is about exploring ideas for more sustainable construction at volume – such as inventing a system that re-pockets springs when the fabric around them wears out. “We’re also looking at making spring machinery faster,” says Simon. “At the moment, we can make 700 full-height Cortec springs a minute, but I think we can get up to 1000. “Although we’re not planning to offer our proprietary technology to our competitors, we do have more patents on the sidelines, so that scenario could change. After all, we’re not going to make the world a greener place by keeping everything to ourselves.” Choose life Simon believes Cortec could benefit any number of sectors (it’s now finding its way into John Lewis’ upholstery), and even though it’s been in development for five years, the invention is very much of the moment. Thanks to David Attenborough et al, there’s more will than ever to live and buy sustainable, so Harrison Spinks’ historic efforts are truly starting to pay off. “If you look at the mattresses of 60 or 70 years ago, they were all sustainable and recyclable,” says Simon. “Before foam, glue and plastics, they were all biodegradable, and most were actively recycled or restuffed – you could just wash them and put them back together. But as the disposable economy started to gain ground, mattresses became harder and harder to recycle. “I believe that at certain points in history there comes a fork in the road. We’re only just now seeing the advent of reasonably priced electric cars with a good range – but if you could go back

and modernise people’s thinking in 1890, they could’ve arrived much sooner. I believe we’re at another fork right now. “When it comes to bedding, foam is brilliant in some respects, but it has too many negative attributes, and it isn’t going to be fit for the future. What’s needed is initiatives that contribute to a more circular economy – reduce, reuse, recycle. “Contrary to popular belief, plastics play an important part in achieving that. Polyester can be used again and again, and polypropylene is endlessly recyclable – did you know that paper bags take more energy to recycle than plastic ones?” According to Simon, the crux of the challenge lays in reclaiming product at the end of its life – so, through a new facility in Scunthorpe, Harrison Spinks will offer to recycle all returned Cortec mattresses free of charge. “It’s about putting your money where your mouth is,” says Simon. “Most retailers are trying to do the right thing, but are forced to pass the costs onto their customers. What we’re offering calls for different relationships between retailers and consumers, but it’s absolutely the right thing to do.” Time to act If those 100,000 mattresses going to landfill each week were laid end to end, they’d stretch some 120 miles – roughly the distance from London to Birmingham. “It can’t be right,” says Simon, “and the facts make for some pretty grim reading. Today’s younger generations have been schooled in climate change. They have a very different view on life, and know the threat is real – if it turns out the scientists have misjudged their estimates by just a couple of degrees … there goes London. Once these things


GOING GREENER 2005: Invents glueless microcoil springs 2010: Harvests first hemp crop from own farm 2013: Receives first Queens Award for Sustainable Development 2014: Installs on-site wire-drawing machinery 2015: Starts developing glueless core spring system, Cortec; commences in-house tick weaving 2018: Receives Queens Award for Innovation 2019: Receives fifth Queens Award, for Sustainable Development; awarded NBF Component of the Year for Cortec; awarded Carbon Neutral + classification 2020: Becomes first foam-free bed manufacturer; starts final testing on chemical-free mattress tick (woven in-house)

have been set in motion, they can’t be stopped. “But I think as a species we can react before it’s too late. Look at me – I wasn’t born wearing sandals and hugging trees, but as my awareness has grown, the more passionate I’ve become about change. I believe all products need rethinking for the modern era, and at Harrison Spinks, we’re a good decade into doing that. Innovation drives us, and we’ve made massive strides to deliver something better – without compromising on comfort. “As an industry with such high output, we’re part of the problem. I’m glad Harrison Spinks is now part of the solution”

23/03/2020 13:44

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23/03/2020 05/12/2019 13:44 09:52



LEADER OF THE TRACK The use of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags in mattresses is transforming customer service in the bed industry, thanks to Breasley’s pioneering work.

Mike Crowshaw

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The East Midlands-based company believes it was the first UK bedmaker to trace its mattresses from production line to bedroom in this way, having introduced the technology more than 10 years ago. Joint MD Mike Crowshaw says: “We had the initial idea in 2008 from a marketing email trying to sell systems for asset tracking on production lines. The following year we took delivery of our first printer and batch of labels. Since then we have developed our own systems to communicate with RFID readers and writers, and as technology has moved on, we have tweaked and improved our use of the system to be more efficient.” Breasley’s version of RFID tags works on ‘passive’ ultra-high frequency (UHF). This means the tags have no battery and rely on power from a reader to generate a magnetic field around an internal coiled antenna to power its circuit. Mike explains: “The data encoded within the tag’s memory is then read or written. In our case, this data is a unique serial number which is also printed

on our barcodes. RFID tags allow us to identify each mattress uniquely and quickly without having to worry about adhesive product labels falling off or becoming damaged. It also means we can identify every return, even if the packaging or external labelling is removed. This helps to speed up customer response times considerably. “It’s particularly useful for white-label customers who source their mattresses from multiple manufacturers – we can identify any warranty claims specific to Breasley. We are pleased to say these remain well below 1% of our total output.” Innovation is second nature to this family-run firm, which was also one of the first in the UK to move into the rolled-and-boxed mattress market. Today, more manufacturers in the sector are taking up its RFID approach. “RFID technology is becoming cheaper and more readily available every year,” says Mike. “Smartphones are now able to read less sophisticated tags than ours, and it won’t be long before they can read UHF. This could potentially help us identity a Breasley mattress from a customer’s address using a smartphone. From the serial number we can tell exactly when, where and how the mattress was built. It can also assist with guarantee registration and end-of-life mattress recycling, making it easier for recyclers to identify exactly what materials are coming in for processing.” As well as helping production by enabling its Material Requirements Planning (MRP) system communicate with RFID readers and writers, Breasley has also seen the technology benefit its marketing activities. “Most customers, including retailers, like the idea, and it has been used effectively as a selling tool,” says Mike. “Full traceability from raw materials to delivered item is a powerful benefit for everyone in the supply chain – it gives peace of mind and reassurance.” Breasley now uses RFID tags on all its products as standard, including its flagship Salus range and its rolled-andboxed Uno collection

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THE VITA GROUP Vita created a step change for foam components when it launched its TCPPfree range of foams. Its significance was recognised at this year’s Bed Show, where the initiative was awarded NBF Innovation of the Year 2019/20. For some time, concerns have been raised about flame retardants in household items, and Vita chose to lead the industry in seeking a solution. It created foam with the expected level of comfort at affordable prices, and with the added benefit of reduced odour. The initial uptake has been from within the bedding industry, yet this foam offers these benefits to furniture manufacturers, too. To find out more, visit

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THE DEVIL’S IN THE DETAIL Across its three brands – Essentials, Kettle Interiors and Signature – Kettle Interiors ensures its collections remain competitive with the best on the market. Whether wallet-friendly collections in the Essentials brand, family-oriented styles in Kettle Interiors, or the premium-quality ranges of Signature, value is assured …

IE Dining

IA Dining

IB Dining

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How does the supplier engineer value into its ranges across such a broad price spectrum? As sales director Simon Ainge explains, it’s all in the detail: “From a distance, other than the wood and styling, most furniture looks comparable. It’s only when you get up close that you begin to understand how it’s possible to add value higher up the chain, without compromising quality. “At Kettle we’ve always stood for quality and that remains the case, and with Essentials we’ve been able to really home in on what makes a collection great value – it’s entry level furniture with a little bit extra. Using veneers or paint finishes helps to engineer in value, without comprising overall solidity, and adding simple details, such as bevel detailing on tops or antique-effect handles, helps to lift the quality. “Moving on to our Kettle Interiors collections, we’ve focused on family and made furniture robust enough to withstand busy life and the odd knock or two. Then, by increasing the thickness of hardwood features, such as thicker oak tops, we build on the solid base set by Essentials, adding in pieces with fuller proportions more suited to larger family homes.” Styling too becomes a little more refined for furniture within the Kettle Interiors brand, as the supplier is able to offer more impressive details, and deliver finishes such as aged-effect

oaks and a choice of paint colours. Importantly though, the collections remain impressive value so that they are affordable on family budgets, and certainly as a longer-term investment. It is under the Signature brand that Kettle Interiors can really let fly on detail. Take the IB Dining Collection as an example – while there are similar industrial styles in IE (Essentials) and IA (Kettle Interiors), IB really lifts the level of craftmanship, with handdesigned parquet inlays on fronts and tops. Using a grey aged oak finish just adds to the quality feel. “From the very first impression, we’ve tried to make it clear to customers exactly why they’re spending more,” continues Simon. “IB really does look very special, and with some more unusual items, such as an impressive wine cabinet that offers mirrored and spotlit internals, it’s clear to see that the Signature ranges are aimed at a more discerning buyer – perhaps affluent families with older teenage children, or a mature couple making the most of life after the children have left home.” The three distinct brands are perhaps best considered as a way of ensuring Kettle Interiors can remain the preferred choice through every stage of life – from starting out through to raising a family and enjoying retirement, there is a range of highvalue furniture to suit, and plenty of temptation for customers to spend that little bit more for a little extra quality

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COLLINS & HAYES All of Collins & Hayes’ sofas are upholstered in 75% (or more) natural fibre fabrics, made without using any harmful chemicals. The brand’s hardwood frames are made with wood from sustainable sources and come with a lifetime promise, ensuring the furniture will last. All of Collins & Hayes’ sofas and chairs are handmade to order to minimise waste.

BUOYANT UPHOLSTERY Since 1909, Buoyant has led the way in the manufacture of upholstered furniture, producing high-quality, designled product with an emphasis on comfort. Its design and production processes blend with years of experience, resulting in unique, quality product.


KETTLE INTERIORS IB is just one of the premium furniture collections offered in the Signature by Kettle Interiors range. Crafted to bring enduring industrial style furniture to the home, IB comes with hand-designed parquet inlays on fronts, and tabletops crafted from aged grey oak for a sophisticated appearance. Discreet, top-mounted handles further add to the quality feel, with soft-close drawers and doors making a strong first impression. Available for both dining and bedroom areas, the IB collection promises to bring quality and style to any furniture store display.

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Cosmos Comfort

The contemporary Bari, from award-winning German bedroom manufacturer Wiemann, offers a mix of semisolid wood furniture and trims. Launched at this year’s January Furniture Show and available new finish bianco semi-solid oak, Bari is a comprehensive collection of hinged or sliding robes, available with a matching on-trend bed and a range of headboard options, plus the choice of secret supporting feet and recessed support for the bed, which offers the popular ‘floating’ look. These are complemented by floating or standing bedside cabinets and storage dressers.

SWEET DREAMS Cosmos Comfort is a divan with broad appeal, specifications that suit many and a keen price to match. It features the universally popular 13.5 gauge open-coil springs, the turnable mattress has knitted, tufted fabric to both sides, and the border comes in a smart microquilted damask. In five base colours and with diverse storage and headboard options, Cosmos Comfort will be launched at AIS’ upcoming members’ show.


Trailblazing bedmaker Breasley is rolling out its refreshed Uno collection following a successful launch in January. One of the UK’s first rolledand-boxed mattress collections, Uno boasts 12 models, including four new value products. At the premium end of the collection, Uno’s three rolled-and-boxed mattresses – Spirit 1000, Tranquil 2000 and Halcyon 3000 – continue to

Salus Autumn


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prove favourites for consumers looking for convenience and comfort. The boxed models all feature natural sleep surfaces made from cashmere, wool and silk, plus pocket springs. There is also Breasley’s highquality Salus collection, a range of stylish, comfortable mattresses. The new iteration features eight models, comprises the most stylish Salus beds yet, and combines two unique

technologies: Viscoool, a pressurerelieving, breathable, next-generation memory foam made from sustainable, natural soybean oil; and a 4cm-deep Salus Comfort layer, which brings increased softness and comfort. Like all Salus beds, Tawny, Iris, Topaz and Autumn are stylish and comfortable. Ranging from 1900 to 2900 pocket springs, they come with Breasley’s 10year warranty.

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For years, big companies have been using vehicle telematics to help manage their vehicles remotely. Now, that technology is available to businesses of all sizes, thanks to Mercedes PRO connect. Enhance vehicle security

Mercedes’ class-leading connected vehicles system is free for up to three years (with Mercedes’ latest Sprinter and Vito vans, and for two years with the electric eVito models), and it has been designed to keep businesses moving with better insight – delivered instantly to a mobile, tablet or laptop. Reduce maintenance and fuel costs Mercedes PRO connect helps businesses plan and optimise routes, and enables them to send navigation details direct to their drivers’ vehicles and co-ordinate journeys in the most fuel-efficient way. The system can also reduce downtime. From critical safety concerns to routine maintenance issues, users can see unexpected faults remotely, enabling them to proactively plan repairs and servicing. Most of Mercedes’ dealers work until midnight, so vehicles can be back on the road in no time.

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With GPS tracking, each van’s location can be seen in real-time. Businesses can also set geo-fences which trigger alerts if their vehicles go outside defined areas, and they will receive theft warning alerts if the anti-theft alarm system detects an attempt to steal the van. The business and its drivers will also have remote access via the mobile app, so the van can be lock or unlocked and it will be possible to see if the windows are closed, or switch on the auxiliary heating (if fitted). Improve driver safety Mercedes PRO connect adds an extra layer of protection for drivers. If they are involved in a serious collision, MB Emergency Calling automatically contacts the emergency services. Roadside assistance can also be summoned, in the form of a MercedesBenz MobiloVan technician, while the Drive Style Analysis featureenables overseers to assess individual driving styles, so they can see if any improvements can be made to improve safety. According to Mercedes PRO, no other manufacturer offers all this for free, adding: “When your choosing your next van, why not visit one of our dealers and ask for a demonstration? Find out more by searching ‘Mercedes PRO connect’”

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A connected vehicle system that’s perfectly crafted for your business. Delivering greater security, efficiency and safety. Get Mercedes PRO connect for free* When you’ve got a lot on, you don’t always have time to keep an eye on your vans – which is where Mercedes PRO connect can help. This innovative vehicle monitoring software comes free with our latest vans and includes GPS tracking and theft alerts, so with a quick glance at your phone or laptop you’ll know everything’s ok. Enhanced security is just one of the wide variety of features – go online to find out more…

Search ‘Mercedes PRO connect’

*Free for 3 years with our Sprinter and Vito vans. 2 years with the electric eVito.

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CORONAVIRUS ADVICE FOR EMPLOYERS The Government has confirmed that statutory sick pay will now apply from the first day off work, not the fourth, as greater efforts are made to stop the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19). Understandably, this decision has raised more questions about sick pay and working from home, writes Wright Hassall’s employment law expert, Tina Chander.*



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From an employer’s perspective, an important first step is to ensure the official advice is taken on board and shared effectively throughout the workforce. This includes designating an available space as an ‘isolation room’, so sick employees can remove themselves from the proximity of other colleagues before contacting 111 for further advice. Other steps to take include: updating the contact numbers and emergency contact details of employees; ensuring managers are aware of the symptoms of the virus; disseminating information across management on issues such as sick leave and sick pay; ensuring facilities for regular and thorough washing of hands are in place; and dispensing hand sanitisers and tissues to employees. Thorough handwashing has been recommended as an effective way to prevent the spread of coronavirus, so employers should encourage staff to take their time in doing so, without fear of being penalised. If an employee becomes unwell If an employee exhibits the symptoms of the virus, they should isolate themselves immediately, either by going to the designated room or going home. Uncertainty over the seriousness of the virus, the exact nature of the symptoms and concern about the situation regarding issues such as sick pay may lead to some employees coming to work despite having contracted the virus, without necessarily feeling unwell. If this does happen, an employer should contact the local Public Health England (PHE) health protection team, and they will discuss the details and outline any precautions which should be taken. The position on sick pay If an employee is off sick with the virus,

then the legal situation regarding sick pay is the same as it is with any other illness – however, the employee is now entitled to statutory sick pay from the first day of work, not the fourth. The Government has stated that if NHS 111 or a doctor advises an employee or worker to self-isolate, then they should receive any statutory sick pay due to them (or contractual sick pay if this is offered by the employer). In some cases, employees may be able to work from home while in selfisolation. However, in many cases, if an employee cannot attend their place of work, they will be unable to work. Ultimately, there is no obligation on an employer to allow an employee to stay away from work and, if the nonattendance causes issues or extends beyond an emergency precaution, then an employer is entitled to take disciplinary action. No time to be divisive Employers must also take steps to ensure that no members of staff, customers or suppliers are treated differently because of their race or ethnicity. It may be appropriate to remind staff that jokes and banter, even if lighthearted, may easily slip over the line to become unlawful harassment and/or discrimination, for which an employer may be liable. Taking reasonable steps can include having well-publicised diversity and harassment policies, and training all staff on the issue. Managers must also be trained about their responsibility to identify and prevent discriminatory behaviour

* Please note that this advice may have changed by the time of publication

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CONTRACTING THE DISEASE Given the scope of the coronavirus pandemic, it is inevitable that some contracting parties will look to the outbreak to justify non-performance of contractual obligations, justifying their decisions by citing force majeure or frustration, writes Stephen Sidkin.


Force majeure is usually treated as meaning the occurrence of an event outside of the control of the parties that prevents a party from fulfilling a contract. It is a provision often found in commercial contracts. But how it works will depend on: the terms of the force majeure clause itself; and the circumstances which it is said have resulted from the occurrence of the force majeure event. In contrast, whilst the frustration of a contract is a recognised concept of English law, the English courts have repeatedly shown themselves reluctant to decide that a contract is frustrated. As such, it is inevitable that contracting parties focus more on force majeure rather than frustration. The force majeure clause War, strike and riot are often listed in a force majeure clause. Their meanings can be considered to be quite clear – equally, ‘act of God’, whether it be hurricane, flood or earthquake. But epidemic? Whether or not the coronavirus will come within a force majeure clause will vary depending on the words used, the subject matter of the contract, and the event in question. The circumstances


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If the coronavirus does come within the force majeure clause, can it be said that the circumstances flowing from it justifies non-fulfilment of the particular contractual obligation? For example, given the timeframe that has elapsed since the effects of the coronavirus became public, can it be said that an event is out of the control of the parties in circumstances where the parties could have taken steps to mitigate its effects by now? Could it be argued that a supplier should have already lined up an alternative source of supply, foreseeing that supply lines could be impacted by epidemics? It is the case that an event of force

majeure may be outside the control of the parties, whether or not it was unforeseeable. The issues Relying on force majeure to justify your own non-performance? A party considering relying on force majeure to justify non-performance should give thought as to how it will be possible to demonstrate that it is legally or physically impossible for it to perform its contractual obligations, and not simply unprofitable or more difficult to do so. Is your counterparty looking to rely on force majeure? If a party is concerned that there is a risk that its counterparty may seek to rely on force majeure (for example, due to the location or industry that the parties are in) it may want to consider ways in which its counterparty can continue to operate. In doing so, it may make it difficult for the counterparty to demonstrate that its obligations under the contract have become impossible. Usually, the force majeure clause will provide that the occurrence of a force majeure event suspends the performance of the contract for the duration of the force majeure event. It follows that it is possible to envisage, for example, that whilst an instalment of a production run might be affected, other production runs will not be. As such, even if reliance can be placed upon the occurrence of a force majeure event, this may provide only temporary or limited relief to a party looking to exit the contract. However, it is also likely that the force majeure clause provides for a right to terminate the contract if the force majeure event continues past a certain period of time. Take-home points Whether it be a delay in goods being manufactured, travel plans disrupted, or the signing of a contract being delayed, the consequences of the coronavirus are likely to be with us for a lengthy time. As

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READ MORE AT WWW.FURNITURENEWS.NET 55 such, here are a few points to consider, now and in the coming weeks, in relation to the coronavirus, force majeure and your business: Check your contracts that you consider may be impacted by the coronavirus, so you can readily point to the rights and obligations under the contract if necessary. Is there a force majeure clause in the contracts? If so, would coronavirus come within the definition of a force majeure event? Is there an obligation to give notice

if a force majeure event occurs? Is there a maximum period of time during which obligations of the parties are suspended? Does this apply to both parties’ obligations or only the party whose actions under the contract are impacted by the coronavirus? Is there a right to give notice to terminate the contract if the force majeure event continues for a certain period of time? Is this a right for both parties, or only the party that is no longer receiving the benefit of its counterparty’s performance under the contract?

Check whether your contracts provide for certain payments to be made to you, or by you, if there is a breach of certain performance obligations. However, keep in mind the risk of such payments being categorised as unenforceable penalty payments under English law! If you receive a notice from your counterparty that it is seeking to rely on force majeure, or you give such notice, you should consider what steps you can take to mitigate your loss. If you and your counterparty are in agreement as to the coronavirus constituting a force majeure event, whilst this may offer you an opportunity to bring an unfavourable contract to an end ahead of schedule, be careful what you wish for. Consider what your back-up plan is. Do you have another counterparty in mind that can step into the contract at short notice? Do you need to conduct an audit on your new counterparty – if so, how long will this take? And what onwards contractual obligations are you tied to that could be impacted by a change in your contractual relations?


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DON’T CONFUSE STORE CLOSURES WITH RETAIL ARMAGEDDON News of store closures may be coming thick and fast, but – in both the UK and the US – it doesn’t mean retail’s dead, writes Bill McLoughlin, editor-in-chief of trade magazine Furniture Today, the US member of the International Alliance of Furnishing Publications (IAFP) …


And you wonder why HomeGoods is eating their lunch? If a consumer can sit in their home and mentally walk through your store simply out of familiarity, there’s no reason to visit the store. It’s no longer about a shopping experience, it’s about a transaction. And Amazon wins that game, every single time. Retail is not dead. Boring retail is dead. This may seem harsh, but like it or not, business is harsh. It is the ultimate in economic Darwinism. It is survival of the fittest – which in this case means those most attuned to changing consumer desires, the most compelling, the best at adapting to a changing marketplace. Amazon and Wayfair are not unique. Or at least, not any more unique than Sears was in the 1890s. And certainly no more unique than Walmart was when it was swamping small businesses across America with its fantastic deals and huge assortments. Every generation sees the emergence of new retail concepts, and even mighty Amazon is one day likely to confront its own demise. That’s not a criticism, just a simple statement of evolutionary reality. So let’s not waste a bunch of time bemoaning a demise of bricks-andmortar retail that isn’t actually happening. Instead, let 2020 be the year we focus on celebrating the unique, exciting and noteworthy new concepts that will define the future of retail – wherever the final transaction may occur



The announcement this January that Pier 1 will close nearly half its remaining stores, taken in concert with other notable closings on tap for 2020, is almost certain to spark another round of panicked chatter about ‘retail armageddon’. Others planning to close stores this year include AC Moore, Office Depot, Bed Bath & Beyond, CVS, Sears, Kmart and Macy’s, to name just a few. Some will look at this list and proclaim it a sign that bricks-and-mortar is dead – funny that nobody said that when each of these concepts put hundreds of mom-and-pop operators out of business as they were emerging 20, 30 or more years ago. It’s also intellectually convenient, if not openly misleading, that names like Sears and Kmart get added to lists like these as if it’s the internet and not epic greed and mismanagement causing their demise. Bed Bath & Beyond, the prototypical category killer of its day, still looks the same today as it did when it was putting hundreds of local stores out of business by copying the home departments of major department stores and offering their brands at -20% off. Today they are the retail definition of insanity, having done the same thing for the past 25 years while expecting different results. Anyone reading this can probably close their eyes and picture a walk through the average Bed Bath & Beyond store, department by department, gondola by gondola, category by category.

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THIS MONTH, WE’RE ASKING … David Ashton (JYSK) New ideas – but generally I sleep really well Jerry Cheshire (Surrey Beds) Nothing, I sleep like a log. Although I sometimes dream about old foam mattresses floating in the ocean – it’s my worst nightmare

Clare Taylor (Breasley) Various things – multitasking, mainly. There’s always so much going through my head – as a working mum it can be hard to switch off!

Simon Ainge (Kettle Interiors) Ensuring we fulfil the promises made to our customers

Paul Galley (Symmetry CGI) Work rarely does – it’s usually the drink!


Peter Harding (Fairway Furniture) The challenge of marketing independent businesses in the digital age, where large multiple competitors have such scale advantage Thomas Small (TCS) Brexit and the Irish border. As someone who lives on the border and deals with southern Ireland, I can see it being a major problem James Hollas (Bensons for Beds) If I’m not careful, quite a lot! I think it’s important to have a bedtime routine that involves relaxing and winding down. Modern life can be very busy, and it’s very easy to be awake for half the night! Gavin Boden (Rhenus Home Delivery) Thinking about new opportunities

#373 April 2020

SPRINGS ETERNAL Harrison Spinks innovates for good

Rob Scarlett (Scarlett Furniture & Print) My kids! Seriously though, new designs keep me up if I work too late. I’m like a dog with a bone and can’t let go till I get the idea down on paper properly

Mike Murray (Land of Beds) Cyber security and the risk of being hacked by cyber criminals. This is a complex area that needs careful expert consideration, as the impact can be significant to a business and its reputation

Steve Adams (Mattress Online) My circadian rhythm – as a night owl I’m happiest going to bed after midnight. Unfortunately, my work schedule and alarm clock do not agree! Steve Pickering (Sussex Beds) I generally sleep very well. However, if I do stir early, rather than worries or concerns it would be new ideas and then creative planning that would keep me awake Tom Bourne (Select First) Mainly, the bed hopping of my two daughters. By the end of the day and after watching a couple of episodes on Netflix, I’m generally pretty beat James Hudson (Gallery Direct) My active mind. I seem to be at my most creative at night, so often wake up with a ‘lightbulb moment’


In with the new Westbridge tackles the skills shortage Ben Fowler’s design process Coronavirus – keep calm and carry on?

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