Furniture News #379

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#379 April 2021

BRIGHT AND BREASLEY The bedmaker’s new chapter

Call off the search How plans to redefine online selling SOCIAL MEDIA | CGI MARKETING BEDROOM | DINING | LIVING | TRADE SERVICES

Train to gain with Adam Hankinson How to deliver the perfect (video) pitch

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

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WE’RE SEEING A SWATHE OF FAST-TRACKED ROUTES TO AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT – AND MUCH OF IT, CONVENIENTLY, BEGINS AT HOME It’s been a long time coming, but the 12th April is almost upon us. We’re all longing to return to some semblance of normality (fingers crossed) – not to mention an end to the anxiety and frustration furniture retailers have felt throughout the past year. Whether you’ve been dormant, busily smashing those online sales records, or somewhere in between, you’ll appreciate that ecommerce is very much here to stay, and looks set to play a greater role than many expected (take a look at our columns on p72 and p76 for a little context). While last month’s Furniture News focused on the operational and technical sides of multichannel selling, April’s issue is more concerned with the digital tools and tactics that enable more effective communication, with customers right along the supply chain. From virtual exhibitions to simulated showrooms, we’re seeing a swathe of fasttracked routes to audience engagement – and much of it, conveniently, begins at home. Our lead feature, starting on p20, explores how our industry views and utilises social media. As the likes of LinkedIn and Facebook further embed themselves in our working and personal lives, we look at the trade’s perceptions of each platform, and how they can be harnessed by both supplier and stockist to drive sales. How are businesses tackling interactions, from B2C or B2B perspectives? How has the pandemic influenced their approaches, and are the lines between the personal and the professional becoming increasingly blurred? I hope you enjoy this long-overdue deep-dive into an area that’s increasingly impossible to ignore. Elsewhere, with business partners increasingly granted privileged (!) insight into the home offices/bedrooms/garden

sheds from which we’ve been working, and the casual attire that’s seen our shirts and ties relegated to the wardrobe (no, I’m not speaking for all of us), Furniture News asked Michael Collins, from communication and leadership club Toastmasters International, to explain how to deliver better video pitches (p78) – plus we’ve interrogated ufurnish. com’s Deirdre Mc Gettrick and Toni Wood on the development of the new search platform making an all-guns-blazing bid for sector dominance (p8). On p50, we revisit the immersive world of CGI marketing, and catch up with the sector’s key players to discover how much progress they’ve made in the last few months (hint – it’s a lot). The visionaries behind the CGI revolution – one of the clearest examples of technology successfully overcoming unforeseen obstacles – are rapidly paving the way for new ways of selling and more collaborative business partnerships, and doing so with artful panache. Before I forget, I’d like to introduce some of our newest advertisers and contributors – please drop them a line/email/post/Tweet if you like what you read! From across the pond, industry experts Gordon Hecht and Jesse Akre discuss in-store standards (p74) and social engagement (p28), while our cover story celebrates the return of mattressmaking stalwart Breasley – we chat with business development manager Stewart Ritchie on p16, and take a closer look at some of the brand’s new lines on p32. If you haven’t already done so, don’t forget to check in with Furniture News’ various social media personas if you get a spare moment. While there may not be so many of those spare moments come 12th April, I think we can all recognise the value of staying in touch and keeping our channels open …

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Venue - The International Centre, Telford TF3 4JH

SHOW DATES: Tuesday 15 and Wednesday 16 June 2021 ● Open to all furniture buyers ● Two large exhibition halls with free parking ● Complementary light refreshment lunch ● Comprehensive exhibitor list from all furniture trade sectors

Free entrance, please register at


#379 April 2021




The bedmaker’s new chapter


8 / 14 Furniture Sales Solutions 16 Breasley / 20 Social media

Call off the search How plans to redefine online selling SOCIAL MEDIA | CGI MARKETING BEDROOM | DINING | LIVING | TRADE SERVICES


Train to gain with Adam Hankinson How to deliver the perfect (video) pitch

FN379_Pages 1.indd 1

25/03/2021 14:18


32 Bedroom / 44 Dining / 46 Living 50 CGI marketing / 64 Trade services




Gordon Hecht, senior manager, strategic retail, Serta Simmons Bedding Co

72 Ecommerce, then and now 74 In-store presentation / 76 Search term evolution 8 Pitching via videoconference 80 Tales from the showroom floor 81 The Furniture Makers’ Company / 82 Feedback



Michael Collins, member, Toastmasters International


Jesse Akre, president, RetailSystem Global Brands




CARPETRIGHT TRIALS SHOP-IN-SHOP ECOMMERCE OFFER As part of a complete business reveiw, Carpetright is running two concurrent trials for its bed offer – an enhanced Sleepright range, and a branded ecommerce proposition with a shop-in-shop concession, Mattress Store UK. Each trial is running in 10 Carpetright stores across the country in order to garner feedback from a broad spread of customers. The proposed changes to the Sleepright range include: a refreshed range incorporating more colour, with a focus on style; a “warmer” in-store environment with new customer navigation; and 14-day delivery on selected ranges. The range is currently available in Carpetright’s Basildon, Bolton, Dartford, Ipswich, Leicester, Nottingham, Reading, Ruislip, Solihull and Watford stores. Mattress Store UK promises an exclusive, UKmade bed proposition, with an in-store branded environment supported by a website and localised digital marketing campaigns. It too will offer 14-day delivery on high-volume lines. The trial is currently taking place in Aintree, Charlton, Maidstone, New Malden, Northampton, Norwich, Portsmouth,

Plymouth, Swansea and Wellingborough. Damian Topping, head of buying, beds, says: “We’re constantly reviewing our beds offer to make sure we’re in tune with customer needs, styles and budgets, but it’s often difficult to pinpoint which elements are making the most difference. Running two trials concurrently means we can test several initiatives at once including new branding, a simplified offer, a shop-in-shop concept, improved customer journeys and an EDLP [Every Day Low Prices] pricing strategy. We’re excited to see how customers respond, and their feedback will inform our future strategy.”

Sleepeezee is donating £18,000 from the proceeds of sales of its Jessica mattress – named after brand ambassador, Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill – to The Children’s Hospital Charity, with the money going towards transforming the Cancer and Leukaemia Ward at Sheffield Children’s Hospital KBB manufacturer JJO has became an employee-owned business, and is now majority owned by an Employee Ownership Trust (EOT) Malaysia’s Export Furniture Exhibition (EFE) has been rescheduled to 30th August-1st September 2021

NEXT LAUNCHES NEW LAURA ASHLEY COLLECTION Following the announcement of its return in partnership with Next, British brand Laura Ashley has launched its SS21 home collection online and in selected Next stores. A selection of products from the home and lifestyle brand will feature in showrooms in 48 Next stores nationwide, alongside a dedicated flagship store-in-store at London’s Westfield Shepherds Bush. Following its acquisition in April 2020 by investment firm Gordon Brothers, this represents

the Laura Ashley brand’s first step in generating a portfolio of licensees to build strategic wholesale and retail relationships. Tobias Nanda, president, brands, at Gordon Brothers, says: “This is an exciting step in the evolution of Laura Ashley and we look forward to continuing to grow the brand in its new form. The Next partnership is the perfect way to reconnect the brand with its customers and develop new opportunities that will take Laura Ashley forward into new sectors.”

BED MANUFACTURERS ANTICIPATE FURTHER CHALLENGES, REPORTS NBF The impact of the winter lockdown and Brexit on the bed industry has been revealed in the latest NBF survey. More than eight out of 10 (83%) responding members said they had seen YoY sales drop in December 2019 and January 2020. Nearly a third (30%) said sales had fallen by -50% or more, while a further 40% reported being between -20% and -40% down. Worryingly, 72% said they had already made redundancies, while 56% expect to do so. Production departments have been hardest hit, with headcount reductions of 10-25% commonplace. While there is some optimism around a pick-up in sales as restrictions lift (43% anticipate a YoY rise of up to +20%), well over half (57%) of respondents expect no change, or for sales to be down overall. A huge 90% expressed concern about the ongoing impact of Covid restrictions on orders over the next six months, while 16% think the ending of Government support, and 14% the lack of clarity, will have a further effect.

Also causing concern among members are hefty material and component price rises (80%) and the volatility of materials supply – some of it linked to Brexit. 30% of those importing had been severely impacted by transport issues (63%), additional paperwork (52%) and proof of origin issues (30%). NBF executive director Jessica Alexander says: “These are bugging both importers and exporters, and there is particular concern over the increased paperwork required to send goods to Northern Ireland. And many in our sector, used to the Republic of Ireland being a seamless extension of their Northern Ireland business, feel they are now being priced out by the extra costs and duties.” Members unanimously reported that prices were set to rise, with 45% saying they anticipated increases of between +5% and +10%. These cost pressures are being met by price rises, with 43% predicting they will need to reflect the +5-10% uplift in factory gate prices.

BoConcept has partnered with Haworth, the world’s thirdlargest office furniture supplier, to open new global markets and opportunities The Furniture Makers’ Company has welcomed international luxury interior furnishings company Sanderson Design Group as a corporate member The Furniture Industry Research Association has published an exploration of alternative materials for the furniture sector which suggests alternatives to leather and wood, bioplastics, and alternatives to synthetic textiles Bensons for Beds has raised £34,810 for mental health charity, Mind.The money was raised between 1st November and 31st January through a £10 donation for each sale of its Rollo by Slumberland rolled-up mattress READ MORE ONLINE AT FURNITURENEWS.NET


DFS REPORTS STRONG PROFITS AS SALES SURGE Terrys, a home furnishings retailer that specialises in curtains, blinds, and soft furnishings, has seen overall revenue increase by +109% over the last 12 months, after a surge in demand throughout recent lockdowns MTP Group, the organiser of Poland’s Meble Polska and Home Decor trade fairs, plans to hold an online event from 24-28th May this year, in lieu of a physical exhibition SGS, a global inspection, testing and certification company, has introduced a service to help manufacturers demonstrate the quality and durability of their products through the new conformance programme from the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers’ Association (BIFMA) Mammoth, a sleep and comfort brand, has extended its partnership with the British Athletes Commission (BAC) for another year Toons Furnishers’ MD Huw Williams launched a petition in February, calling for the Government to review its timeline for the reopening of non-essential retail stores, arguing that many furniture and flooring shops should be permitted to operate on an appointmentonly basis ahead of the proposed return to trading on 12th April The Government has extended its ban on commercial evictions until 30th June.Residential tenants will be protected from enforced eviction until 31st May. The Government plans to launch a review of commercial landlord and tenant legislation later this year READ MORE ONLINE AT FURNITURENEWS.NET

DFS has announced its interim results for the 26 weeks ended 27th December 2020.The retailer achieved revenues of £572.6m (+17.3% YoY). Revenue (excluding Sofa Workshop’s) was up +18.7% YoY to £567.5m, driven by strong order intake in the period as a result of pent-up demand from the first lockdown, market share gains and a shift in consumer spending to the home. Online revenues were up 66.2% YoY. Underlying pre-tax profit jumped up £59.9m to £76.5m. DFS’ order bank is currently over £65m higher in revenue terms YoY, with the £200m higher order bank at Christmas providing resilience through the H2 retail lockdown to date. The group says that there is evidence that its market share increased by around +2%. Progress points (despite various operational challenges) included the roll-out of the Sofa Delivery Company, while new manufacturing investment is planned. Three new Sofology showrooms opened in H1, and the FY21 target of 6-10 openings remains in place. Group CEO Tim Stacey says: “This strong H1 profit and cashflow performance is a true reflection of the

supreme efforts put in by our teams right across the group since the start of the pandemic. “Our business has proven to be resilient throughout the period despite showroom closures and a significant amount of external disruption in our supply chains. The investments we’ve made in our digital channels have generated exceptional revenue growth. Consequently our order bank remains well above normal levels and, subject to showrooms re-opening by 12th April 2020, our central planning scenario is for an expected full-year profit before tax outcome of approximately £105m, with further benefits to be realised in next year’s financial results.”

EVE REBUILD COMPLETED AHEAD OF SCHEDULE, SAYS CEO D2C brand eve Sleep has issued its audited results for the year ended 31st December 2020, revealing results ahead of expectations and a strong start to the new year. Revenue increased to £25.2m, with YoY growth in the second half of +19% – despite the business cutting its marketing expenditure significantly. Gross profit grew by +14% to £14.5m. In all, the company recorded a net loss of £2m (following a loss of £12m in 2019), and is now cash flow neutral for the first time. Revenues in the first two months of this year are up +16%, representing an acceleration from Q4 2020, when growth was held back by supply constraints, says eve. Cheryl Calverley, CEO, comments: “eve’s

rebuild strategy is essentially complete, six months ahead of plan. We move now to accelerate our business, with a mind to leveraging our strong brand, efficient marketing, high-performing products and excellent customer service to allow us to diversify across markets, channels and categories. “But we do so carefully. Successful ecommerce businesses win through balancing growth, with customer experience and business resilience, and we will do the same. We seek sustainable, profitable growth, and will avoid growth at any cost, and certainly to the detriment of customer experience or business resilience.”

JOHN LEWIS CONSIDERS FUTURE OF STORES IN LIGHT OF LATEST RESULTS Against a strong backdrop of community support provision, John Lewis Partnership recorded a loss before tax of £517m in 2020/21 (to 30th January 2021), compared to a profit before tax of £146m in the previous financial year. The retailer attributes this loss to exceptional costs of £648m incurred due to the closure of John Lewis’ stores during lockdown, plus restructuring and redundancy costs from store closures and changes to the head office. According to the partnership’s chairman, Sharon White, John Lewis’ shops are now held on the retailer’s balance sheet at almost half the value they were before the recent write-downs. “Before the pandemic we judged that £6 in every £10 spent online with John Lewis was driven by our shops,” she says. “The ratio has fallen to £3 in every £10.”

The retailer plans to reshape its store estate towards a mix of destination stores and smaller service outlets, and is currently trialling the introduction of John Lewis shopping areas in Waitrose stores. “If successful, we will roll out to a significant number of our 331 Waitrose shops,” says Sharon. “Our plan is for all the general merchandise in Waitrose shops to be sourced from John Lewis. “Regrettably, we do not expect to re-open all our John Lewis shops at the end of lockdown, which will also have implications for our supply chain.” Eight stores were subsequently flagged for closure. Thanks to the Government’s support through the pandemic, profit before exceptionals was £131m. grew significantly, with revenue up +73%, accounting for three quarters of the brand’s sales (from 40% before the crisis).



SEARCH PARTY In a bid to streamline the online furniture buying journey, entrepreneur Deirdre Mc Gettrick launched, a proprietary search engine that collates product from more than 100 retailers – and that’s just the beginning, Deirdre and CMO Toni Wood tell Furniture News … Deirdre Mc Gettrick, CEO & co-founder of

9 has moved forwards in leaps and bounds in the last year – can you give us a snapshot of where the business now stands? Deirdre: is the furniture and furnishings website that is revolutionising the way consumers search and compare products for their home. Our website brings together 100+ high street names and smaller independents in one place, giving you the confidence that you’ve found the perfect item. I set up after raising £1.8m in seed investment. I used the investment to hire a team of 16 people, build a proprietary technology search engine, sign 100+ retail partners

Deirdre Mc Gettrick and CMO Toni Wood

An innovative search engine that seeks to reinvent the way furniture and furnishings are searched, discovered, compared and shopped online, brings together countless products from some of Britain’s bestknown retailers. Here, shoppers can also specify their favourite products, create design boards and receive sales alerts, plus practical advice. And, when they are ready to buy, one click takes them straight to their desired product on the retailer’s website.

including John Lewis,, Marks & Spencer, Abigail Ahern and many others – and started to build out a scalable marketing programme. Sales are growing by +200% month on month, and website traffic is doubling month on month. We have also seen account sign-ups increase over+500% since January. In 2020, I won the New Entrepreneur of the Year accolade at the Lloyds Bank National Business Awards, which recognised the hard work of the whole team across the year. We’ve also recently closed our Advanced Subscription round, and are now actively engaged in our Series A raise.


We’re guessing is one of those enterprises that has – dare we say it – benefited from Covid-19? Toni: Over the last year we have all spent more time in our homes – they are no longer the places we leave in the morning and return to at night. All those niggly little jobs have become priorities, and we have had the time to invest in them. We recently conducted a survey with our consumers, and have seen the extra willingness we all have to invest in our homes and adapt the space to better meet our new needs. Since the launch of, we have seen an influx of enquiries from over 35 new retail partners who were keen to come on board the platform – this reflects retailers’ recognition that this change in consumer behaviour is likely to stick. We have also brought on an additional partnership development manager to keep up with the extensive demand and growth. How is your approach different from any other brand looking to establish a marketplace aggregator/hub? Toni: Our mission – to help people search, discover, compare and shop the perfect items for their home – means we are obsessed with how well our website does that. Our technology roadmap is extensive, and we are constantly refining our thinking – we look at our data, listen closely to our team members and our superuser group, and we constantly look to other search engine/marketplace products to inspire and challenge us to aim higher for our users and retail partners. How we ingest and process data from our retail partners and use it to best serve the right products to our consumers is complex, and we are



building proprietary tools to manage this. We also want to ‘inspire’ and help our consumer create their dream home. There are several upcoming product launches this year that do exactly that. What industry-specific skills does your management team bring to the table? Deirdre: When building out the team, I looked at where my skill gaps are, and hired for these skillsets. My mantra is that if you want to be the best, you have to work with the best. My background is in investment banking, but I grew up working in my family business from the age of five so, unbeknownst to myself, I’ve been learning business by osmosis for years. The leadership team is also made up of chief revenue officer, Ray Wright, who was the global partnership programme director at Lead Forensics. He was part of the leadership team that expanded the business to over 17 countries and 11,000+ customers within five years. Heavily driven by data and insights gathered by the platform and continuous market research, Ray’s role within is to focus on the approach to innovation and the development of its technology and retail partners. Then there’s Toni, who brings with her a wealth of experience in building brands and driving profitable growth

both locally and internationally – and across sectors, having held senior roles at DFS, Sainsbury’s, Proctor & Gamble and Costa Coffee. Toni is also a fellow of The Marketing Academy and the Chartered Institute of Marketing, and was recognised by Marketing Week as one of the UK’s Top 100 Marketers in 2019. Next is David Marshall, our CTO, who manages the team which develops the technology behind the platform. David has long been a technology leader in online B2C, having previously held positions as CTO at restaurant booking platform, Bookatable, and online travel industry stalwart,, where he was chief technical architect. Finally, there’s Imants Krezins, the head of SEO & data, a seasoned marketing professional who has spent most of his career in advertising agencies (Interpublic Group, WPP and Dentsu). He has worked on international campaigns for brands such as Unilever, Burberry, Land Rover and HSBC, to name a few. What lessons have you learned from your previous experiences which inform how you manage ufurnish. com? Deirdre: I learned my love of business and wanting to be my own boss from an early age, as my father owned a general drapery shop in a small village in

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Ireland. I spent many evenings exploring the homes of our customers, or creating moodboards from products I loved in the Argos catalogue. The ability to put my love of interiors into practice arose in 2017, when I purchased my first home. Working in London’s investment banking industry, I was one of very few females, working on $20b+ financing deals for FTSE 100 corporates. The last thing I wanted to do after a busy working day was start the frustrating process of trawling websites to find the right furniture – I realised there was a problem to be solved. I left the world of banking to live off my savings, excited to make my mark as a female CEO in the male-dominated (77%) tech industry. I graduated from the London & Partners Business Growth Programme, where former alumni include Revolut, Monzo and Farfetch, and became the founder and CEO of Toni: Whilst in my previous role as the chief marketing and commercial officer at DFS, I was responsible for customer insight, which really helped me understand how, as a nation, we feel about our homes and the emotional, rational and often frustrating purchase journey we all go on trying to find the perfect product. I also know from personal experience, trying to furnish and decorate our own home, how tricky it can be to find the perfect items. Sometimes the choice is overwhelming, and sometimes you simply can’t find anything you like. Give us an idea of a typical staff onboarding process … Toni: As a remote team, we look to learn from the best, and we talk regularly to others who have done this successfully. We are constantly evolving and seeking feedback from our team. When new team members join, we ensure the basics are in place ahead of their start date – payroll set up, laptops, software access, etc. We have all been that person that arrives at an office to find we don’t have a desk, a laptop or the correct access to systems – we are determined to give our team the best experience from day one. We have a simple business overview document that covers all the business activities at a headline level, and the line manager walks through this. We then set up a series of onboarding


… and retailer onboarding? Toni: Our retail partner onboarding is truly a collaborative approach between us and the retailer. The focus is to ensure that we have all aspects of the partnership lined up, to ensure the retailer’s products are perfectly represented across and that we can launch their brand into our community with strength. The first step of the onboarding process is assessing and integrating the retail partner’s product data into This sees the retailer share their product data with us, which we integrate through our proprietary integration services application, which transforms the data to drive search and discovery on the website. The second step is configuring all the retailer assessment and announcement copy to launch their brand into our community. We announce retail partners broadly through email communications, social media and specific listings on our website. Our role is to help make the onboarding process as straightforward as we can for retail partners and ensure the partnership is set up for success. What tends to be the most challenging aspect of bringing new retailers onto the platform? Initial reluctance, or digital limitations, perhaps? Deirdre: Education about who ufurnish. com is and what value we can bring to a retailer is the first point of call for us. Our proposition is unique for retailers, as we are innovating the industry, so helping each retailer understand how our website works, who our consumer audience is and how our platform works

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sessions with all members of the team so that the new team member gets to better understand everyone’s role in the company – but also create that informal connection you would get if you met for a coffee in an office. We operate using OKRs, which means each team member has real clarity on their deliverables and how they contribute to the company’s overall performance. We are determined to keep everything as simple and processlight as we can, whilst creating a culture of collaboration – despite being remote. So far, our feedback from the team is strong, and as we double the team this year a great onboarding experience will remain a focus.

IF YOU WANT TO BE THE BEST, YOU HAVE TO WORK WITH THE BEST in supporting them from a technical perspective are key. Many retailers are new to online and ecommerce, so we offer as much support as is required to support digital integration into This can take time, but we see our role in the industry as one that will help retailers of all sizes grow. Does your strategy of targeting a wide consumer base and reflecting the breadth of the furniture/furnishings industry have any drawbacks? Too much choice, or lengthy search processes, perhaps? Toni: Our mission is to help everyone create their dream home, and we are confident we can make this a much simpler and more enjoyable experience. Understanding our consumers is critical in the decisions we make, and listening to them about what makes their experience a delight is our focus. We know consumers want to be inspired and discover new retailers and products. They want to have the maximum choice, but the ability to curate it to their needs – not what we define as the right selection of products for them. That is where our category filters play a key part, and will be continually refined as we learn more about our consumers’ needs. We also offer the ability to ‘favourite’ products, and, over the next few

months, will launch some new exciting developments that further help our consumers make the right decision for them and their home. Ultimately, we want to make it simple for everyone to discover, compare and buy the perfect item for their home – so we are continually looking at the onsite journey for opportunities to refine it, and this will be an ongoing focus. Is there an element of price comparison involved in what you deliver? Toni: There is an element of price comparison, but it’s not the key reason for a consumer to use ufurnish. com. Naturally, consumers want to be able to look at products they are interested in side by side, and ufurnish. com does this through our favouriting functionality. This not only aligns price as a comparison point, but also factors in product specifications like colour, dimensions, delivery details and other key product attributes that help inform a consumer buying decision. Deirdre: Bringing together over one million products from 100+ of Britain’s furniture and furnishings retailers all on one website, allows people to easily search and compare products, based on their relevance – whether that be delivering on price, colour, material or size preferences. Price filters are one



of the many ways we help consumers find the perfect product for them. We also have filters for sales, including the level of discount. How are you driving traffic? Toni: Our marketing activity is focused on paid and owned channels. We are continually testing and learning to balance activity across the full customer journey. We want to get as many people as possible to experience the website and see that we are uniquely positioned to help them turn their dream home into reality – we are the only place they can search, discover, compare and shop for amazing products for their home. Can you share an anecdote or two from retailers happy to be part of – and perhaps share some of their growth figures? Toni: We have a retailer who went through a major rebrand and repositioning last year. They have a focus of becoming more of a ‘modern living brand’ and moving their business to be split between online and offline. We launched them onto in mid-October, with a view to really help land strong brand recognition for specific categories that they wanted to compete in. This has gone amazingly well, as we’ve helped increase their online sales by +3% of overall company revenue between November 2020 and February 2021. Further to this, we’ve driven sales in key categories that they desired growth

in, such as living room furniture and dining room furniture. Our collaborative approach in working together has expanded through website search, a prime feature in the VIP member email, social media exposure and product features in home content pieces. We continue to grow sales for them rapidly each month, so our partnership gets stronger by the day. What short- and long-term targets have you set? Deirdre: We have huge ambition for the business. Our website is the product, which helps us focus single-mindedly on delivering the best consumer experience, as well as a profitable partnership for our retailers. Optimising and innovating at pace, based on realtime data, are a primary focus. Short-term targets are looking for a Series A investment raise to help continue to fund our rapid growth, whilst long-term we look to turn into the only place consumers go to search for furniture in the market – just like the trailblazing similar companies we aspire to be, such as Rightmove, Skyscanner and Trainline. Are you employing any new strategies or directions to get there? Deirdre: was launched during the Covid pandemic of 2020. Leasing our first office on 1st March wasn’t the best timing in hindsight, as we moved to working from home just two weeks later! The business adapted

Available at, by Grace and Grey


by moving to a ‘distributed working model’, whereby everyone works remotely from their own home. This has required leveraging technology to stay connected and deliver their ambition. The leadership team spends considerable time looking at tools to do this, as well as discussing how you create a culture when you don’t physically work alongside each other every day. As a tech company, ufurnish. com naturally gravitates to tech solutions to overcome any challenges. Attracting talent to a new business and brand during a pandemic where you can’t physically meet people is tough. We conducted all interviews over video technology. You realise how quickly humans can adapt when you are hosting a three-month review with a team member who you still haven’t physically met! To add to this challenge of remote hiring, I wanted to hire people that fit into the values. I also believe strongly that diversity should be part of the fabric of, reflecting the fabric of society. This requires active engagement, and doesn’t occur naturally. Across the various interviews, I set out to incorporate 1) a diverse range of applicants and 2) questions around the values of the business, to ensure the best possible fit in terms of culture as well as skillset. I am extremely proud that diversity is reflected in the ufurnish. com business, with 26% female investors and a team made up of 16 people across four countries and six nationalities. Finally, what do you most enjoy about working in this industry? Deirdre: The fact it doesn’t really feel like work! I spend my time seeing the most beautiful furniture and furnishings from fabulous retailers all day long. I see first-hand the progression of brands and products, the rise of sustainability and the adoption of technology. It’s a fascinating time to be working in the furniture industry and witness all the change. It feels so liberating to work in an industry that I have a huge passion for, and to be pushing hard as an innovator on the technical side of the industry brings the team and I so much joy. We will also continue to push the boundaries of the possibile when it comes to innovation, and we want both consumers and retailers to be the beneficiaries of that

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LIFE LESSONS As retailers ready themselves to re-open their stores, Furniture Sales Solutions is working hard in the background to upskill, refresh and incentivise the teams tasked with making sales when the customers arrive. Adam Hankinson, the exDFS staff specialist with a knack for ensuring retail businesses realise their potential, explains how he helps take a business’ most important asset to the next level …

Adam Hankinson


What’s your background? My background is all retail. My first job was a YTS (Youth Training Scheme) for Debenhams. I ended up being taken on for the furniture department. They put me in charge of rugs because they were piled up high and no-one else wanted to tidy them! I ended up selling lots, because I was happy to pull the bottom rug out and show it to the customer. From there, I was promoted to assistant manager and moved to Middlesbrough, where I worked until Harris Queensway bought out Debenhams Furnishings. I then worked with Waring and Gillow, and Maples. I was a manager with Allied Carpets for seven years – this was when they had 200 stores, around 30,000ft2 each, and we sold upholstery, cabinets, beds, curtains, and of course, carpets and rugs. At 30 I joined DFS, who at that point had 32 stores, and I enjoyed tremendous success over the next 20 years, going from manager to area manager to northern sales director. This covered Scotland, Ireland and Northern England – 55 stores, looking after 1200 people with a turnover of over £440m. Why did you gravitate towards training? I’ve always loved coaching, and the science of improving performance and seeing people grow in skills and confidence. I’m a keen cyclist, and there are absolute correlations between high performance in sports and business. People, generally, want to do well, and I found I had a knack of inspiring people – and because I’ve done all the jobs that I’m coaching, I can completely identify with the situations that my delegates are in. I can give them most of the answers and skills from my own experience. How do furniture sales methods differ to those across other sectors? There are similarities to other sectors, and then specifics, that you must know about to be able to use them at the right time in a furniture sale. Being genuine, and able to ask great questions and build relationships is the key. Also, handling the initial “I’m just

looking” is something many people struggle with, and having had this done to me early in my career I know how to handle it. It’s a knowledge of the buying cycle, in furnishings, that is most helpful when it comes to selling. Also, the successful use of finance to gain and grow sales. What services do you offer aside from sales training? We can help with anything from a sales refresher to a transformational programme and any number of management and leadership development courses, including time management, team building, managing people and performance, presentation skills, problem solving, KPIs, planning for success, all the way to a growth plan that results in stock market flotation (we’ve done this twice successfully). We give our retained customers advice about sales strategy, marketing, product range and presentation, store layout and design, processing order systems and everything to do with people management and recruitment, and, more importantly, we help them deliver. Do you help suppliers as well as retailers? We’re a people training and development business. Most businesses experience the same types of people problems. We call them the ‘3Cs’ – Communication, Culture, and Capability. We specialise

15 in communication skills, both internally and externally, and we help increase individual and team capabilities, growing people to grow the business. The key with culture is to have one that is healthy and aligned. We are uniquely placed, as outsiders, to “say it as we see it”. Most teams and leaders respond well to constructive feedback. We don’t need to be experts in IT, for example, to know how to improve teamwork and team effectiveness. Is demand for your services high? It’s very strong. Many retailers have been shocked into action – to do different things with their businesses because of how close they came to ceasing trading in March 2020. This shock has spurred them to invest in store displays, digital marketing, their internet sales strategy and, of course, their people. Where is Furniture Sales Solutions based, and who else is on the team? We’re based in Southport in North-west England. We’re an internal team of three, there’s me – I deliver and consult for each customer. Dominic Charters is our sales manager, so expect a call or email from him. And my eldest son, Denholme, runs our office and operations – he does a fantastic job of keeping things running smoothly. We also work with a network of store design companies, retail system specialists and a fantastic recruitment expert. We’re a one-stop-shop for solving real-world retail problems. Can you name some of the retailers/ suppliers you’ve worked with? We’ve worked with multinationals like DFS, Oak Furnitureland and Harvey Norman, and large and small independents like Arighi Bianchi, Lee Longlands, Glasswells, Stokers, Arthur Llewellyn Jenkins, Dreams, Natuzzi Italia, Dixons Stores, Wren Kitchens and many more. What ROI can your methods generate? We typically increase sales by over +20%, but guarantee a minimum of +10% more sales and profitability. We also measure the impact of our training, with delegates starting with their feedback from the first training session, how applicable the skills that we teach are, the ease of use, effectiveness of tools and techniques. In 2020 we scored an average

of 4.83/5 from over 500 delegates’ feedback. We constantly collect feedback about orders that our customer wouldn’t have got without our training. Much of our new business is from referrals, and all of our customers are happy to confirm their satisfaction to any interested party, either over the phone or by email. Who are you working with right now? We can’t name everybody because some businesses are very private, but we are helping Arighi Bianchi execute some really exciting plans for growth over the next three years. We spend a lot of time in Ireland helping develop managers, their assistants and teams to really become very skilled at sales and salespeople management. We also ‘drop in’, for our regular customers, at specific points during the year (such as before a seasonal business spike) to motivate and refresh sales teams. We do this for quite a number of independent retailers. What does your onboarding process look like? Our first objective is to build trust with the people and businesses we’re going to work with, and properly understand where we can add most value. We usually start with a store visit for about half a day, sometimes longer, but when we’ve conducted our discovery work we usually make a number of recommendations. These will partly be for the business to do itself, and other parts we can help with. The steps in our process are usually buy-in and discovery, recommendations, delivery, and follow-up. The following up is the part that delivers most lasting value. What kind of partnerships work best? The only way for us to work is with our customer and their team – that’s why initial ‘buy-in’ from all stakeholders is critical. We win hearts and minds first, and then work together at every stage to help you achieve what you want.

It feels like we are an equal and trusted member of the team. Large or small scale isn’t important – buy-in, communication, and commitment are. … and, conversely, what’s the biggest barrier to successful implementation? Incorrect or insufficient discovery (not learning enough about the business and its people to diagnose the problems) is a big mistake, and if you don’t get the team behind itself it’s never going to work. And a lack of proper commitment in time and resources is only going to tickle the problem rather than solve it. Can you share any anecdotal evidence of the above situations in practice? We are very clear with all our customers at the outset that we expect their commitment to helping us to help them. We won’t allow a programme to fail because of this, so we set expectations at the start and review progress with stakeholders as we go through the programmes. Sometimes it’s necessary to slow down or even temporarily pause a project to iron out specific issues or interruptions. We are being paid to deliver for our customer, so we get together sufficiently to ensure that we do – guaranteed. Aside from arranging a Zoom chat, where can readers find out more? Obviously, our website. They can call me directly on 07703 371190, or call Dom directly on 07548 354738. And they can connect with any of us on LinkedIn. Finally, can you share any performance improvement tips? My top tip, and this is seriously worth a fortune, is to separate time with a customer as ‘major’ time, and time working on anything else as ‘minor’ time. All too often, administration and housekeeping tasks keep salespeople away from ‘selling’. My advice is to ensure that, as a salesperson, your time is always with the prospect – oh, and always ask for the order!




BREASLEY REBORN Last May, Breasley Pillows’ mattress and bedding division was bought out of administration by Breasley (UK), saving 60 jobs and ensuring the brand’s continuity. The buyer – which also owns the UK arm of Chinese mattressmaking giant, Mlily – has invested in staff and facilities to ensure a bright future for the new business, explains business development manager Stewart Ritchie …

Stewart Ritchie, business development manager, Breasley (UK)


What happened to the business last year, and why was the decision made to acquire it? Unfortunately, the old Breasley lost sight of its core customer base, as it focused on larger-volume projects but also failed to develop its catalogue products – which had previously been very original and commercial. Becoming complacent was its ultimate downfall. The business was purchased with the belief that its historic reputation for innovation could be resurrected – and that the experience in the company could be utilised, giving more control to the management team and enabling it to make key decisions based on its skills and judgement. It was important to streamline the business to make it more agile and better able to react to external factors, to operate a more cost-effective model by adjusting the sourcing of raw materials, and to oversee quality control, ensuring that we were confident with the quality of product made. Has any additional investment been made? We are in the process of extending our current production facilities – premises have been secured, and machinery is due for delivery in the near future. Further storage has been acquired to increase material access and finished goods stock, meaning quicker delivery times.

We have completed the full set-up of a second shift to double our production capabilities, and have increased our staff numbers by +20% – combined with the implementation of an internal restructuring programme to provide the best platforms for our team to drive the business forward. There are further short- and medium-term plans to strengthen the manufacturing process and widen the product offering, pushing the boundaries but remaining strong in our areas of expertise. What new products/directions can customers expect from Breasley this year? Breasley has been a very successful business for a number of years, which was admired by the current ownership – but it is clear there was a reduction in innovation in recent times, so we’ve challenged ourselves to reignite passion in the products made at Breasley. We are on the brink of unleashing all-new collections to the trade, which have been created using an engineered process of logical specifications – we’ve defined the differences in comfort levels through the ranges, adopting the latest technologies in foam production while, critically, focusing on the visuals to attract consumers. From the entry models to the pinnacle of our upmarket collections, we’ve used the same thought process, and there are planned developments under way for the rest of the year. Our emphasis is on the products’ look as much as their comfort – we want them to stand out on shop floors, and to draw consumers. Will you continue to make the ranges established by the previous owner? As previously noted, we believe in innovation, and seek to push the boundaries in the marketplace – so we’ve reached out to our retail partners to explain the changes, and we plan to fully develop all the collections over the coming months to ensure we’re providing the most commercial offerings that we can to all retail outlets – while providing support through our marketing channels.


How do you plan to take your product to market this/next year? We’re in the process of rolling out showvans to enable previews of the new collections that we’ll start to launch over the coming weeks. We have increased our showcasing on multiple social media platforms to generate interest, which will be supported by new websites that are currently in development (Breasley’s homepage at www.breasley. will be updated shortly). Recently, we’ve secured stands at upcoming trade shows – that I personally feel we all took for granted prior to Covid. I will be genuinely thrilled to be back in the atmosphere of a trade event, and look forward to presenting new ranges alongside a sales team who are fully on board with all of the developments and changes that have taken place in Breasley. Are you ready for the potential challenges which could arise? We’ve spent time building new

Breasley’s manufacturing facilities in Ilkeston, Derbyshire, are undergoing expansion

What can customers expect in terms of service and support? I think it is fair and right to note at this stage that we’re aware of recent upsets that we’ve caused to many retailers – we’ve come through the business’ transition in the midst of Covid and Brexit, with the subsequent raw material shortages, shipping costs spiking, foam prices increasing +50% and retailers forced to close, all in a very short space of time. I would like to take this opportunity to publish an apology, and to note that we’ve used the lockdown period to our advantage, by implementing new processes to ensure we’re able to exceed retailer expectations moving forward. We have plans to amend our production set-up, so we will be producing for stock to reduce our lead times on mattresses, and this will allow us to better monitor demand, and more prepared to call on components more efficiently to replenish our own stock. Current operational changes will allow us to hold in excess of 3000 mattresses at any one time, spread across a wide commercial collection to suit all needs. We are in the process of signing off on new PoS to maximise the visuals of the products in-store. It will emphasise the key selling points and differences across the ranges, giving clarity and enabling easily understood collections.

WE’VE USED THE LOCKDOWN TO OUR ADVANTAGE, IMPLEMENTING NEW PROCESSES TO ENSURE WE’RE ABLE TO EXCEED RETAILER EXPECTATIONS relationships with suppliers – some old and many new – in an attempt to have a better insight into the shortages that face the industries we rely on as a buyer of materials. Retailers rely on us to produce the product, but we need the materials from our suppliers, many of whom have had their own supply chain concerns. I think this past year has demonstrated how reliant we all are on each other, so we have prepared as much as possible, with investment into additional storage for materials and finished stock to cover ourselves for months of orders in advance. It is a different challenge during lockdown, as a reduction in retail sales clearly means that we then face the issue of keeping production in operation. I’m proud to say that we’ve not had to furlough anyone in production since the end of the first lockdown, or had to lay staff off during the downturn, as we are passionate about the investment in the staff, and are ready to embrace the welldeserved busy periods that retailers and manufacturers strive for. What are your personal thoughts on Breasley’s position and potential? For me personally, Breasley has been a huge influence, as I saw the initial launch

and success of roll-up mattresses when I was in retail, and recall seeing the buzz around the company at trade shows over years gone by. It is great to be a part of a business that has been at the forefront of the industry, and I believe that, against healthy competition, we can push forward under the guidance of the new ownership to provide the best-value, stand-out mattresses, without losing sight of the core customer who put Breasley there in the first place. How can potential stockists find out more? The first step to contact your local agent/representative: Adrian Lonergan (Northern Ireland and Eire,, 0035 387 2578936); Andy Clarke (South East and Anglia,, 07916 282683); Bob Ritchie (Scotland,, 07721 380877); Mark Allitt (Yorkshire/North East,, 07709 435381); Paul Gammon (South West/ South Wales,, 07741 628260); or Tom Williams (East and West Midlands,, 07717 434756). Alternatively, contact us directly on 0115 944 5604, or email

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THUMBS UP? Social media has become an essential weapon in the marketeer’s arsenal. With the steady growth of online adoption – and its rapid acceleration throughout the pandemic – opportunities to reach out to potential buyers are there for the taking. This month, Paul Farley explores the trade’s perceptions of social media marketing, and how these tools can be harnessed to drive sales for both supplier and stockist …


According to marketing agency Sprout Social, over 3.6 billion people worldwide use social media – and this figure is set to reach 4.41 billion in 2025. Statista found that internet users spend an average of 144 minutes on social media each day – that’s over two hours spent scrolling, reading, watching, commenting and messaging. Nowhere else can brands enjoy such access to consumers. And it’s not just B2C operations making use of these channels. The Content Marketing Institute contends that social media advertising is employed by 83% of B2B marketers, and that it comes second only to search engine marketing in its efficacy. Of course, that effectiveness varies wildly from platform to platform – Facebook might boast the biggest number of active users, but will it enable your business to reach the right people, in the right manner? And is it the most cost-effective route? The furniture industry is rich with inspiring examples of consumer-facing social media channels – brands which have reached out with engaging content, strategic advertising campaigns and definitive paths to purchase conversion. Yet, as is so often the case, there remains some disconnect between the worlds of B2C and B2B selling, which can undermine efforts to establish a clear strategy that benefits both retailer and supplier. In recent years, a growing number

of manufacturers have gone to considerable lengths to establish a credible and successful presence on social media – without necessarily selling directly to consumers. These suppliers recognise that, like any other form of marketing – a showroom, PoS or above-the-line advertising – a strong social media presence can prove hugely beneficial to their stockists, driving brand awareness, footfall and market intelligence, and adding significant value to a partnership. Of course, there’s some distinction between how branded and unbranded offers can operate – but even whitelabel suppliers are finding new ways to support and communicate with their customers via social media, eliciting consumer interest from a position of anonymity. So, should a manufacturer reach out to the end-consumer, or is that the retailer’s job? What can such initiatives achieve? Who suffers if things go wrong? What is the likely ROI, and what risks are involved? Perhaps most importantly, how should a business work with the platforms and services available to it, given the realities of available time and spend? While it does not purport to answer all these questions, this month’s special feature explores some of the views prevalent in the trade around social media – its use, its limitations, how to achieve the best results, and how Covid-19 has affected its application …


SOCIAL CLASS According to Statista, as of October 2020, the top social media platforms worldwide (by number of active users) were Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger (in that order). However, that ranking principally reflects consumer use. Statista also found that most B2B marketers (66%) identified LinkedIn as the most effective social media platform their requirements – with only 30% finding Facebook effective. But what does the picture look like in our industry? In order to better understand our contributors’ social media preferences, we asked them to rank their preferred platforms, and to define whether they utilised them from a B2B or a B2C perspective.

Facebook came out on top, principally for its B2C potential. Behind the scope to build personal relationships, many companies use Facebook as a business tool, and appreciate the ability to execute successful, measurable advertising campaigns therein. However, one respondent did note that profiles can fall victim to negativity and ‘trolling’ more easily on this platform than on others. LinkedIn scored most highly from a B2B perspective. It, too, has B2C applications (“everyone’s a consumer”, notes one respondent), but elicits the greatest enthusiasm as a forum for voicing opinions, sharing business advice and opportunities, and networking with business purposes in mind. Some noted that while it can work well for individual professionals, LinkedIn delivers the best results for businesses when staff get behind a strong company page and work together to maximise its effectiveness, ensuring it accurately reflects an operation’s people and work ethic. Instagram scored highly for B2C engagement, and many expect it to grow in importance. One respondent described it as “the most inspiring, influential and visual channel” for their business. Instagram is owned by

Facebook, so shares some of the latter’s marketing tools, making it more accessible for existing Facebook marketeers. Twitter enjoys a good spread of B2C and B2B use, and although rarely a business’ principal platform, it can create huge reach and enable consistent engagement. Many companies use Twitter as a customer service communication channels – although, like Facebook, its reach means it too is more vulnerable to unhealthy exchanges. YouTube is employed by significantly fewer businesses than the four platforms above, with some failing to even recognise its potential as a social channel. However, from a purely B2C angle, YouTube can be a useful hub for product videos and other visual demonstrations. Pinterest (again, generally B2C) enjoys relatively little use. One respondent found it difficult to engage the audience through, and saw it more as an image repository than anything else – while another recognised how influential the channel is, but was yet to get to grips with it. Finally, Snapchat (“for the kids”) and WhatsApp (for communications) received honourable mentions. A common theme throughout the survey was that the effectiveness of any social media channel depends very much on the nature of the brand in question. It takes time to ensure a given platform matches the brand’s audience, offer, skillset and ambitions – whatever the majority view, it has to work for that business.




HOW IMPORTANT IS SOCIAL MEDIA TO YOUR BUSINESS? Gavin Boden (Rhenus Home Delivery (UK)): The integration of bricks and mortar and online is the most important thing to concentrate on now, and will be for the next five years. Jerry Cheshire (Surrey Beds): Social media is vital. It’s a cost-effective way of putting our business in front of people. Kate Pilling (January/Manchester Furniture Show): Social media is increasingly important to the show. Mike Murray (Land of Beds): It is an important part of the overall marketing mix as it offers good PR and brandbuilding opportunities. If done well, customers can understand what the brand stands for and means to them.

Rachel Marshall (Bensons for Beds): Social media is a very important channel for our businesses. It has allowed us to target younger audiences and transform Bensons into an inspirational lifestyle brand. Tom Bourne (Select First): It’s increasingly important, but it’s also increasingly difficult to make yourself heard without significant investment in boosting. Also, remember that a smaller, engaged audience is always better than a large following. Paul Galley (Symmetry CGI): I’m a bit old fashioned – most of my new leads and contacts are made at trade shows. Peter Harding (Fairway Furniture): It has a role to play, but at the moment harnessing its full potential is difficult as content creation is something which takes time and skill. Steve Adams (Mattress Online): We are

credit istock/Onion

Rhian Griffiths (Leekes Retail): Social media is becoming increasingly important to our business – particularly when trying to reach a younger audience. When we first launched our social media channels we used Facebook and Twitter most often – however, since the launch of more image-based social media, such as Instagram and Pinterest, we have switched some of our attention to these channels, which offer a good fit to our brand, being both aspirational and inspirational. We are also working

on new campaigns and opportunities for social media using tools within the platforms to reach new customers and drive footfall in-store and to our website, as whilst social media is becoming more important, it is only a small proportion of our overall marketing activity.


still in our infancy with social media, but the bed-in-a-box phenomenon has forced us to look harder at social as a route to market. Steve Pickering (Sussex Beds): It is important to have a presence as part of our advertising mix, though it’s not a media we rely on for sales and revenue. That said, we have developed to deliver much more varied post types, including videos, polls and competitions. Rob Scarlett (Scarlett Design): It’s not important to me in terms of its regularity – it operates more like a depository of design and just generally supports my brand. Ross Beveridge (Archers Sleepcentre): We have ‘dabbled’ at best in the past, and found that the exercise is time consuming and produces very little results in terms of payback. In my opinion, the ethos of brand-building through social media is relatively wasted in our industry for independents like ourselves, where there is no great requirement or benefit for ongoing interaction with customers who purchase from us once every 8-10 years. My feeling is that Google searches are still king. Thomas Small (TCS): It’s not overly important to us as a business, but we’ve found more people are using it to contact each other. Anon: I’m personally a bit ambivalent about social media. It’s probably a very unfashionable view, but we are principally a B2B brand and therefore the people we need to influence are well known to us, and efforts to persuade them are far more traditional. In my opinion, social media, being content hungry, needs a dedicated team whose ob is to feed it. I totally get it for FMCG categories and consumer brands – but I don’t see it as a priority for our key brands. And, personally, I hate Twitter – I think it’s the root of a lot of society’s evils (but that’s just me).




Adam Ashborn (Reborn Marketing & Design): Social media – especially LinkedIn – has been a huge asset to individuals and businesses throughout the pandemic. Reborn primarily supported our customers with the social media graphics and content creation needs/requests. Adam Hankinson (Furniture Sales Solutions): Yes – people aren’t in stores to answer the phone, so we have really focused on LinkedIn as we believe that’s a good platform for building industry connections. Andy Stockwell (Gardiner Haskins): Our social media messaging has adapted to reflect the situation at the time. There are far fewer promotional posts and far more about keeping safe, our Covid safety measures and our support for the community. It’s a difficult balancing act – as a large portion of our business is hardware and we are classed as essential retail, we have remained open through most of the pandemic. However, we halted our winter sale as soon as lockdown was announced after Christmas. We don’t feel it’s right to be actively encouraging the public to visit us via a sale during a pandemic, but also need to retain enough business to cover the costs of staying open. Anne Davies (Room to Grow): I think Covid-19 has definitely pushed more people to use social media in different ways, so brands have had to follow suit. Where we used to see certain spikes of our followers being online, this changed in 2020, and we could see a lot more users were active throughout the day, potentially due to furlough schemes or home schooling. We definitely took advantage of this, as well as the ecommerce boom – with so many people shopping online, we were keen to keep our brand under people’s noses and encourage more interaction. Dids Macdonald OBE (ACID): Not as

COVID-19 HAS PUSHED MORE PEOPLE TO USE SOCIAL MEDIA IN DIFFERENT WAYS, SO BRANDS HAVE HAD TO FOLLOW SUIT such, but it has focused our minds, and we’ve introduced six successful IP basics webinars, which have been well-attended and received excellent feedback. Emma Leeke (Leekes Retail): No, but it’s definitely increased in importance and become a more ‘mainstream’ channel for us. Gavin Boden (Rhenus Home Delivery (UK)): Not at all. Henrik Pontoppidan (S2U Design Containers): Not changed, but rather intensified ... Lee Ness (Global Upholstery Solutions): Indirectly. We used to have multiple marketing channels, but we’ve had an opportunity to consider our core business, and this does not need social media marketing. Mike & Karen Rowley (Core Products): Surprisingly no. It is a good way to interact, but as a B2B tool you always have to consider the potential intrusion into your customer’s personal space.

Mike Murray (Land of Beds): Yes, it has become a far more important communication channel – being able to interact with our customers through social media has been so useful for our business. Peter Harding (Fairway Furniture): We have focused our social media more on what our customers can still do, rather than what they can’t – promoting ways that customers can still purchase, including our new video shopping service. Royce Clark (Grampian Furnishers): Not really, as we’ve been using social media successfully for some time – but it has proved extremely valuable to have a platform to reach out to our customer base while closed. Steve Adams (Mattress Online): Our social platforms are contributing to our customer interactions more than ever with Covid-19. We also used these channels to communicate how we are handling the pandemic to keep our customers and employees safe.




WHICH CONTENT LEADS TO ENGAGEMENT? Gavin Boden (Rhenus Home Delivery (UK)): I once wrote a piece about treating your staff with respect and making sure they felt valued. It generated more than 30,000 views. Jerry Cheshire (Surrey Beds): On our website, we have a free-to-download PDF called ‘The 7 key mistakes people make when buying a bed’. This allows prospects to consume our content at their leisure and become more familiar with us before coming into the store. Kate Pilling (January/Manchester Furniture Show): We see high levels of engagement when we share industry news. The shows exist as a space for the industry to get together, so it’s important that our content reflects that. Mike Murray (Land of Beds): For the best engagement, offer a competition and link it to what your brand stands for – if it’s selling a great night’s sleep, then offer something related to that.

Steve Pickering (Sussex Beds): The highest engagement come through competitions or giveaways. Increased engagement comes from people’s posts about staff and the team (or dogs and other animals!). Paul Galley (Symmetry CGI): Images on LinkedIn seem to get the most interest. Peter Harding (Fairway Furniture): The most commented-on and shared content we have produced relates to specific items – for example, end-of-line stock, cancelled order clearances, etc. Rob Scarlett (Scarlett Design): Posting about food always seems to work best. Rhian Griffiths (Leekes Retail): Our highest levels of engagement usually come from Facebook. Usually our most engaging posts are where we share images of new and exciting things to see in-store, and also anything we do on a more personal level, such

as raising money for charity, local community involvement, and images from trade shows featuring new products. Video content also sees high levels of engagement, as did our #loveleekes campaign on Instagram, which encouraged users to share their purchases on our site – we recognise Instagram as a growth area for revenue and brand awareness, particularly with younger audiences. Tom Bourne (Select First): It varies, but the most effective on Instagram is tying in with an influencer, a genuinely good stand-out product or collaboration with established talent. We’ve seen good engagement with notoriously hard-to-reach trade audiences through Facebook, just by being visible on the channel, commenting and engaging with the content they post. Clare Taylor (Apricus Marketing): Anything video related. Social media channels love short, snappy videos.

DO YOUR NETWORKS CROSS THE LINE BETWEEN PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL? Gavin Boden (Rhenus Home Delivery (UK)): Yes, it’s very important to get the real ‘you’ out there. Jerry Cheshire (Surrey Beds): Yes. If people watch our videos, they see me. People buy people, and it allows us to give a more personal service. Kate Pilling (January/Manchester Furniture Show): Personally no, but some of the more exhibitor-facing members of the team do Mike Murray (Land of Beds): Yes, we sell beds and pretty much everyone needs one – so we always mix business and pleasure. Peter Harding (Fairway Furniture): Very, very rarely.

Rhian Griffiths (Leekes Retail): No, not as such, but our tone of voice is generally more casual and friendly via social channels compared to more corporate and structured marketing campaigns, and we actively engage with customers with comments and likes. On the rare occasion we receive complaints via social media, they are always handled with a more professional tone.

Steve Pickering (Sussex Beds): Try not to. Tom Bourne (Select First): I try to cross the line, but if there’s a bit of branding work that makes my job looks sexy, I’ll probably post it.

Rob Scarlett (Scarlett Design): I try not to. It can get confusing.

Rachel Marshall (Bensons for Beds): No, never. We have clear and robust strategies in place which we do not deviate from, but the strategy is constantly tweaked depending on results and engagement levels.

Steve Adams (Mattress Online): I try to keep both separate, but that is not easy. I have friends on LinkedIn who see my professional activities. I have deleted my personal Facebook account – this alone helps keep the two separate.

Clare Taylor (Apricus Marketing): Linkedin for business, Facebook/ Instagram for personal, but inevitably the two worlds do collide at times – not sure that’s the best thing from a wellbeing perspective!


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JOIN THE CLUB Lockdown may have come down hard on traditional networking opportunities, but where there’s a will – and a social media platform – there’s a way, discovered Ben Womack, the industry veteran and importer behind Facebook’s private-yet-popular Trade Only Furniture Group UK … groups/227161672476624

Ben Womack


What’s the group’s purpose? The group is an online platform that enables the home and garden furnishing industry to come together, share news, source product or services, offer stock, show new designs, and generally keep in contact with the industry, 24/7. It’ll soon connect to a trade-only website, upon which suppliers will be able to control their own virtual stores, with features such as live chat and video links – basically, a continuous (virtual) industry trade show. What’s your background, and why did you decide to create this forum? I first got into the furniture industry 15 years ago, straight in at the deep end, importing furniture from Indonesia. I’ve had retail shops, I’ve also done a bit of wholesaling, but now I work with factories all over the world selling containers directly to wholesalers and retailers. I chose to launch the forum as an experiment. Facebook was an ideal platform to start with because of its popularity and closed private group feature – it’s perfect, because I can choose who gets in. It’s strictly trade only. A lot of people in the trade have more pictures of furniture on their profiles than their family (!) – but I check Companies House and, if all else fails, I message the applicant to request proof of trading identity. Once in, members can invite other tradeassociated people or business pages to the group – but they’re still vetted. What sort of transactions/activities are conducted there? In such a short time, there’s been a lot of business done on the site. To be clear, this isn’t intended to replace trade shows, but even in normal times they’re just 1-2 a year, and it can be a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’. This group is perfect for all involved in the industry to have a voice to a relevant, growing audience, 365 days a year. They might be a supplier and want to get the group’s opinion on stock before purchasing, or a retailer looking for stock. Agent group members are doing really well, especially during a time in which they’re struggling to make contact with retailers.

It’s got a great vibe – it’s just what the industry’s needed when we haven’t been able to come together at trade shows. I’ve received so many messages from agents, wholesalers and retailers saying what a difference it’s made to their business. How do you engage with social media on a personal level, and how does that inform how the group is managed? On a personal level, I don’t take Facebook too seriously. But I’ve learned that it reaches a big audience, and you have to respect other people’s views – so I keep out of politics, and don’t tend to tell people when I can’t sleep! Because I didn’t want to swamp the UK site with posts that weren’t relevant to the majority of the buyers, I’ve actually created an additional Facebook forum – the Trade Only Furniture Import/ Export Group ( groups/3142738582620253/) – to address growing interest from international buyers and sellers. Can you tell us more about the tradeonly website the groups will feed into? The groups are great, but the busier they get, posts are soon lost down the feed – the website, as an add-on, will be the ideal place to go to find more details, chat in private with suppliers or have a good look at what they have to offer. The groups are free – no charge will be made to join or use them. The website will launch this month, and will be free to join until the 2nd February 2022, and then it will cost just £35 a year (with half the money going to the Woodland Trust charity). Supplier posts will be free for the first six months, and 50% off for the next six will if they sign up before that date. Like the Facebook groups, the website will have an international angle – you’ll be able to click on a country of interest, and everything related to it will be there. It’s really taking off. As I write this, I’m in Turkey, having just met with the president of the Turkish furniture association in Inegöl. They’re looking to put 200 manufactures on the site – and if you order through it, you’ll get free QC services from our independent team. The factories will be verified and audited, with video verification of who they are



PACESETTING POSTS Social media engagement can deliver impressive results – but it won’t unless your interactions are defined by a strategy and delivered at a set frequency, says RetailSystem’s Jesse Akre …


Have you ever been in a conversation where someone cuts you off? How about an actual in-person conversation (socially distanced, of course), and the person just stops mid-conversation to do something else? Ever been in a conversation where the other person never finishes a complete thought? Welcome to ‘social engagement’ for most businesses. Look at your social media channels. As you look at your posts (your attempts at engagement), is there any rhyme or reason, or strategy? Do you evoke a conversation, a form of engagement? Does it leave the reader anxious for what’s next (yep, engagement)? Does it deliver value through key actionable tips? Or does it just fall flat? Here are a couple of quick tips to make sure you are on the Social Media 101 track to success … Velocity To have a constant velocity, an object must have a constant speed in a constant direction. Think about your social media content. Is it of a constant quality with purpose and direction? Constant, or ‘thematically’ related in nature? If you spend a week on refinishing tables and then switch to planting a garden, that is fine if your theme is home improvement. You have a direction with purpose – betterment of the home and things within. But what if your followers are interested in woodworking? Whatever your direction, make sure your content is on point (direction) and consistent in quality of workmanship, depth of thought, worthy takeaways, etc (speed). Frequency Frequency is the number of occurrences of a repeating event per unit of time.


Think again of your social media efforts as a soundwave. Sound is a perfect repeating sequence. Social media, for the desired result, must be the same. Your readers need a regular and predictable frequency (as it relates to your social media postings). How many social media sites do you visit (blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, any and all) that have a post and then nothing … and then a couple more, and then again nothing. Or the last post was 14 months ago. Will you ever go back? Is that engaging to the reader? Turn off the lights – why even bother?! You must pick an acceptable and achievable frequency of social media activity – and stick to it! I reiterate, it is constant and consistent. Not a sprint then a rest (often seen with shinyobject initiatives and resolutions). Start small, and then improve – but again, consistency wins. Once a week, on a set day and set time. Once you achieve that milestone for 90 days, then look to improve. Maybe keep the frequency, and add a second direction. Maybe your first topic is woodworking, and planting a garden fits as well. Now do a post on each once a week, set day, set time. So, to reiterate: velocity – pick a relevant topic or theme and stick with it, delivering a rich (and targeted) reader experience, them, upon mastering that, pick a second and add to the depth; and frequency – pick a set delivery frequency, and hit it without exception (set day, set time, clap, clap, clap, clap, like a metronome). Do this, and you are on your way to an engaging conversation. But wait, there’s more – never, ever make “The Big Sale Sale Sale Sale Sale” part of you velocity and frequency!


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Poro outdoor extending dining table with Gomera outdoor chair, Granada outdoor bench and Milos outdoor reclining chair

Rimini outdoor lounge set

The variety of styles ensures there are solutions to suit different outdoor spaces and tastes – from rattan-style lounge sets to contemporary wood and concrete pieces and practical bistro sets for smaller spaces. The new collection can be used to transform a patio, balcony or larger garden area to create a place for entertaining or relaxing. James Hudson, commercial director, comments: “Our SS21 Collection offers a fantastic range of products, including our new outdoor furniture collection, which we are really excited about. We’ve developed a selection of design-led pieces to bring the Gallery style touch to outdoor spaces.” The collection includes a selection of furniture crafted from eucalyptus wood, which is ideal for outdoor use as it is naturally resistant to moisture and so offers durability and resilience to colder, wetter climates. It also offers a sustainable resource, thanks to its rapid growth. For entertaining, the Poro outdoor extending dining table comfortably seats six, but features two butterfly leaves so it can be extended to two longer lengths, seating up to 12 when needed. The Poro table pairs well with the Granada outdoor bench, Gomera outdoor armchair, Milos outdoor reclining armchair or Athens outdoor folding chair. The Kos outdoor extending dining table offers an alternative solution for smaller groups.

Almeria outdoor dining table and bench

Gallery Direct’s new collection of outdoor furniture and accessories has summer firmly in its sights. Whether customers want to dine or relax outside, the range offers classy design, combined with practicality …

There are also two small, bistro-style folding tables, as well as a folding bench and a folding side table. And, for relaxing in style, there is the Syros lounger, with its integrated footrest, reclining back and comfortable cushions. All work well paired with the Tarifa drinks trolley. This practical piece features a removable top tray. For those who prefer a more contemporary look, the Almeria outdoor dining table and benches feature simple geometric design, pairing concrete tops with angular wooden bases, to make a real statement. For relaxing, there is the Montril chair and two-seater sofa, with a matching coffee table to complete the look. Other pieces offer a more traditional rattan look, but with a contemporary twist. The Melbourne outdoor chair features a curvaceous design and deep padded cushion. The Rimini outdoor lounge set and Geneva outdoor dining table, chair and bench feature acacia wood and poly rattan, in a washed grey finish to give a subtle hue. Where space is limited, the metal Montoro bistro-style table and chairs, available in a choice of four colours, work well, as they can be folded away when not in use. To complement the furniture, Gallery has launched a selection of outdoor accessories, including a range of large planters, to add height and interest to patios. To find out more about Gallery’s new outdoor collection, contact the sales team on 01795 439159 or at


NEW FOR 2021 We’re delighted to introduce our new collection, featuring over 1,300 new lines with a huge extension to our Accessories collection. The teams here have worked hard to Our Como Collection offers a

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IN WITH THE NEW Breasley has been synonymous with bedding innovation since its inception – more recently taking up a position at the forefront of the rolled mattress sector. Fresh challenges may have laid the brand low last year, but its new owner has embraced Breasley’s pioneering mindset and redeveloped its business model, and has its sights set on industry leadership once more …

Angelica, one of the new Salus models


“The new Breasley has been built on a belief that we must not stand still in this fast-paced and constantly developing industry, which requires investment and innovation to provide high-quality, commercially viable solutions,” says business development manager, Stewart Ritchie. “We have aggressively expanded our production lines and capital growth as we continue to grow our factory and invest in the future of UK manufacturing. “We all know that these times have been a test, putting the squeeze on all of our margins, and unfortunately there will be businesses who have shut down during lockdown that will never reopen again. But we also believe that with this crisis comes an opportunity, and we are positioning ourselves to be a leader and to capitalise on a reopened and reimagined world once more.” This quest for innovation has heralded a revamp of Breasley’s product lines, explains Stewart. The Salus brand, a Breasley mainstay for many years, is set to continue to uphold the manufacturer’s

traditional values of comfort and luxury, but will benefit from a unique modern twist: “We’ve introduced new, cuttingedge technologies including Aero-Cloud, Aero-Flow and Black Diamond Memory Foam to help create a healthier, antimicrobial sleep surface that relieves stress and provides you with the deep sleep you need to recharge and refresh. “Our Uno Select Series also takes advantage of new Silver Ice Memory Foam to help enhance thermal comfort, whilst combining with our Zoned Pocket Spring system to relieve core pressure at your body’s most vital points. We’ve also introduced a newly improved Uno Range and Online Range to adapt to the customer needs and logistical challenges of an ever-changing modern world.” Taken together, the result of these changes is a brand and mattress offer to suit any budget or preference – enabling the maximisation of margins and unlocking fresh consumer appeal. Behind the scenes, a more robust production infrastructure promises to guarantee greater continuity and availability. “We’ve worked hard to establish new supply chains that aim to be more robust and adaptive to the demands of Covid on shipping,” says Stewart. “We are also moving towards a model that works direct from stock, allowing us to supply all bestselling sizes within a few days. “As the economy evolves, so do we. We’re excited to unveil a new era of sleep innovation that’s set to enhance everyone’s lives.” Read more about Breasley’s reinvention in an interview with Stewart on p16



BANG FOR THE BUCK British manufacturer Millbrook Beds has partnered with US bedding giant Eclipse International to deliver new brands here and across the pond. Furniture News asked Millbrook’s marketing and operations director, Ross Thurston, to explain how new mattress range Chittenden and Eastman (C&E) complements Millbrook’s existing offer, and what will follow it …

Designed in the US and made in Southampton, C&E debuted with three mattresses – from 1000-3000 pocket springs, incorporating Ocean Blue Gel-infused cooling latex, alongside Millbrook’s Hampshire Wool. But what does the new brand mean for Millbrook’s existing stockists, and what further developments can they expect to see as a result of this tie-up? Ross Thurston explains … Why bring a new bed brand to the UK marketplace? By bringing the C&E brand to the UK we are able to offer a completely different type of mattress compared to the traditional Millbrook mattress, incorporating different production techniques, new components and an extremely fresh and new look compared to what people expect from us.

How does C&E fit into Millbrook’s existing handcrafted portfolio? The C&E product and brand is built on over 150 years of mattressmaking experience and complements the Millbrook Beds brand perfectly. It does not replace anything we already offer, it instead enhances our offering and enables us to introduce new fillings such as Ocean Blue cool latex. Apart from access to a broader product range, how might existing UK stockists benefit from the partnership? C&E is just the start of our journey with Bedding Industries of America – we will be collaborating on a number of joint product ranges both in the UK and USA, and we are already working on future product ranges that we are looking forward to announcing in the coming months. How do you plan to take C&E to market this year? Like everyone, we are waiting to see how the coming months unfold as the country returns to normality. We are hopeful that in the not-too-distant future we can begin to welcome retailers back to our showroom to present the new ranges and product developments, along with seeing them at some of the trade exhibitions later in the year.

Hampton 3000, Chittenden and Eastman

Are there any updates you can provide around the wider Millbrook business? We have an awful lot of new product developments and innovation that we will be announcing in the coming months







For further information call 023 80 866111

millbrook sleep technolgy for earth & ocean



ALL SYSTEMS GO Manis-h daybed with safety rail and two drawers, in dusty rose

Next-day delivery supplier Furniture To Go has bolstered its already impressive roster of exclusive European partner manufacturers with the addition of production powerhouse Manis-h, a Danish-owned company that combines years of experience with drive and initiative …

Manis-h daybed with safety rail and three deep drawers

Manis-h high sleeper with safety rail, in snow white

Since 1972, the family-owned Manis-h, business has produced commercialquality children’s products under wellknown brand labels including Thuka and Flexa. This depth of experience ensures its products are safe – not only safeguarding children during impulsive games, but also ensuring their products comply with applicable legislation. The standard and quality of these products is not coincidental, states Furniture To Go – everything has been done for a reason. “To be modest, this will be a market-leading product in the UK,” says a spokesperson for the supplier.

“Designed and produced in Denmark, every single aspect is fully realised in the production. Product development happens in close co-operation with experts, to reveal the real effect and durability of the product.” Beechwood legs help ensure each the robustness of each bed, whether high or low. Beech is a slow-growing tree, and tough enough to withstand wear and tear from years of daily use. “It is not without reason that this is Manis-h’s preferred material,” the spokesperson continues. “You will never find any knots sweating through the surface or weakening the strength of the wood, as there are no knots in the beechwood. Meanwhile, all the bedsides, safety rails and so on are made from MDF – and the paint is water-based and does not contain any chemicals harmful to children.” Children love colour and creativity, says Furniture To Go. Offering a selection of play curtains, pockets, cushions, shelf units, and even a chalkboard, the Manis-h ranges enable children to express themselves in their own way. If the space beneath the bed is not used, it is the ideal space in which to store toys – while underbed drawers have clever drawer guides that make them roll back and forth seamlessly. “It is with great excitement that we welcome you to Manis-H,” the spokesperson concludes

ARE YOUR FURNITURE PHOTOSHOOTS BREAKING THE BANK? … TOO TIME CONSUMING AND FAR TOO EXPENSIVE? Do you still rely on traditional photoshoots to sell your furniture? There’s a better way to get the shots you need – and you don’t even need to raid the piggy bank. Our CGI experts create detailed, scalable digital 3D furniture models, which can be placed in a scene of your choice, anywhere, and used in any way. That means unparalleled flexibility, huge cost savings, and you can take your products to market right away in a fraction of the time you would usually associate with a traditional photoshoot.

In today’s world, time and money matters… … Just don’t tell Porky!





Manis-h White Day Bed with Safety Rail and 2 drawers in Light Rose

Manis-h White Day Bed with Safety Rail and 3 deep drawers in Silver Grey and a canopy to create a cozy cave.

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


Flexible bed shelf for mounting in the head-board or on the front

The exclusive Manis-H children’s bedroom collection is guaranteed to get the mums talking in the school playground!


Versatility is at the heart of this design with its modern and practical styling that will

compliment kidsliving rooms. room, Let their little imaginations run wild by adding a matching Create a unique atmosphere inallany play curtain, cushions and bed with impressive integrated lighting included.pockets to their bed adding character to your little

one’s bedroom. All configurations of bed styles are available in many child friendly fashionable colours for girls, boys and neutral bedrooms. In stock for next day delivery.

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






Recent research by GlaxoSmithKline found that 65% of Europeans are now more likely to adopt new health habits, and to consider their health in day-today decisionmaking, states Mammoth. The same study found that 77% of people thought it was important to take their health into their own hands to relieve pressure on healthcare systems. This research also identified that consumers wanted to buy from trusted brands that were grounded in science – 82% of respondents said that the products they used must be scientifically proven. As an NHS award winner and official partner of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, Mammoth says it has done more than any other sleep and comfort brand to build trust with customers. Through rigorous testing at Northumbria University’s Centre for Sleep Research, and a close working relationship with the University of Oxford’s Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute, Mammoth says its pedigree for health and wellbeing is unrivalled. “Clinical trials on Mammoth mattresses demonstrated that participants fell asleep 29% quicker, experienced a 7% improvement in sleep efficiency and reported 21%


The coronavirus pandemic has created significant social change – among them an increased focus on health and wellbeing, reports sleep and comfort specialist, Mammoth …

more enjoyable sleep,” notes a brand spokesperson. “Meanwhile, in independent SATRA testing – the global leaders in scientific research – Mammoth’s Medical Grade foam mattresses were found to achieve 46% greater pressure relief than standard 50kg memory foam, and 69% faster cooling.” These impressive results are among the reasons Mammoth has become the go-to name for many elite athletes – a belief reflected through the brand’s partnerships with the Rugby Players’ Association, British Athletes Commission, Professional Cricketers’ Association and Tottenham Hotspur Football Club. “As customers look to make more health-conscious decisions in 2021, Mammoth’s range of Medical Grade foam mattresses and pillows can be significant contributors to both physical and mental health,” Mammoth continues. “While the role of sleep in productivity, immune system, weight management and stress management are often overlooked, there is no doubt that anyone looking to make healthy choices should start with sleep – and for consumers wanting to make the most of every waking and sleeping moment, there is no brand more relevant today than Mammoth.” Anyone interested in becoming a Mammoth stockist can contact sales@, or find out more about why Mammoth is uniquely positioned for the modern, healthconscious consumer by visiting the brand’s website

HUXIE KIDS ROOM! Huxie is a mini construction system, where all parts are built together to make the perfect bed for children. This versatile children’s collection is a practical and beautiful solution to any kids room. Style the mid sleeper with one of the two play curtain options to add fun to their room! These high-quality beds will compliment all colour schemes and there is plenty of space available to store toys, make dens and most importantly have fun! In stock for next day delivery.



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. |




PRODUCTS BEDROOM Home Office Sofia in fjord green


Home Office Ava in Springfield light oak With working from home the ‘new normal’, Trend Interiors has added the Home Office collection to its bedroom portfolio, offering both complete projects and additions to existing bedrooms. Various space-saving configurations are incorporated within the collection, which includes base units, two- and three-drawer filing units, printer tray units, drawer tidies and worktops. Depending on the price group, there is a choice of either 13, 12 or nine colours and finishes. Trend Interiors is part of the Mereway Group, a British-based manufacturer with over 30 years’ experience in creating high-quality kitchens – call 0800 028 4466 for further information.


Miami Plus in graphite carcase with pebble grey glass doors Award-winning German bedroom manufacturer Wiemann has unveiled updates to its popular ranges – and there is more to come. New colourways have been added, and a further two new ranges are expected later this spring. Berlin and Miami Plus both represent impressive value for money, and now offer new colours. Six stylish finishes are available for Berlin, as graphite joins the choice card. With options of sliding or hinged doors in a variety of widths, there is something for everyone. Meanwhile, Miami Plus now comes in pebble grey as well as graphite, soft champagne, classic white, rustic oak, dark rustic oak and holm oak.

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Photos: Oporkka/iStock, © Decker

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FLEXIBLE FRIENDS When lockdown is lifted, in-store retail will resume with gusto – but will it look anything like ‘normal’? Peter Woodman, founder of dining chair wholesaler and manufacturer Woodman Chairs, shares his thoughts on the possible market shifts ahead …

Oak Hamburg carver with jet hopsack seat

“O brave new world …. “The bricks-and-mortar retail and hospitality sectors will be eagerly awaiting the lifting of restrictions with hope and optimism – but also with some greater uncertainty than usual, as to how all of our futures will pan out,” says Peter. “It is to be hoped (and likely fairly anticipated) that the pent-up demand and savings built up over the past year will encourage many to spark a genuine bounceback through the rest of this year and on into 2022. “We are clearly not out of the woods yet, but, in retail, what have we learned so far, and what might this suggest for the future? “There are two major observable shifts. We have seen a dramatic acceleration in online shopping, whilst in-store has been disabled – but we have also seen a decent return of footfall in-between times. So, whilst online will continue to grow, and the ‘high street’ will become a different place over time, it suggests to me that in-store will remain important in the mix, and is far from dead. “We have also seen supply and price disruption, caused by both pandemic-

related factors and post-Brexit issues. Whilst these will gradually find their more natural levels, both supply and price will be significant issues of concern as we emerge again into this new world. “What I also think we can see through all of this upheaval is an emerging sea change in what shoppers will want, and how they will make choices. New online platforms will increasingly emerge, providing even greater choice, and pair up with the evermore environmental and ethical demands of us all (as consumers). “The world in which one size fits all is eroding fast, and a more bespoke, flexible thinking is needed to address it. Bricks-and-mortar and online will continue to complement each other just fine – what will change more is the much greater importance of there being a direct, involved and flexible relationship between suppliers and consumers. “At Woodman Chairs, we intend to continue to offer flexibility and choice, and further develop our ecologically sound chairs and tables in as bespoke a form as is possible – in ways that don’t cost the earth,” Peter concludes

Oak Loire chair, oiled, with natural hopsack seat

Oak Hexham spindle chair, oiled

Beech Florence chair with herringbone grey seat




NEW NORMAL New for 2021, Core Products’ Dallas collection makes a statement about the way many of us have adapted our living spaces to be more practical and functional …

Every aspect of Dallas’ design is user friendly – from the easy-to-clean, hardwearing white finish with carbon grey oak woodgrain-effect frontages, to the concealed or cut-away handles, and the stylish black metal bar legs which combine strength with a visual delicacy. With downstairs space increasingly being used throughout the day for both work and living, furniture is evolving to meet the needs of today, says Core Products, which has seen demand for its innovative and thoughtful storage pieces rise considerably – particularly those combination pieces which offer both open and closed storage.

Core’s drinks cabinets, in particular, have seen an exceptional rise in sales, states the supplier – furniture which encompasses bottle and glassware storage in a stylish yet discreet way are clearly amongst this year’s must-have designs. Joining them are coffee tables which offer both enclosed and open storage, and bigger sideboards and TV units sized to deliver the home cinema experience. Of course, no downstairs living space is complete without a desk for working from home, or homework – and Dallas’ matching bookshelves, alongside a variety of home office chairs, complete the story. “Dallas is made using the most sophisticated component engineering equipment,” says Core’s Mike Rowley, “meaning we can confidently supply in kit form direct to your customer for you in a matter of days. “We are all changing the way we live and work – enhance the experience with Dallas today.” For more information, call Core Products on 01738 630555, or visit the company’s virtual stand at The Online Furniture Show, taking place from 2630th April












t: 01738 630555

e: sales



BESP-OAK The Besp-Oak team is looking forward to the easing of lockdown measures, and concurrently plans to host an in-house showroom event throughout April. Businesses can book an appointment from Monday to Saturday, to place orders ready for the return of retail customers on 12th April. Besp-Oak’s showroom, based in the Midlands countryside, is home to a large collection of high-quality oak furniture ranges, plus on-trend recycled, reclaimed and salvaged furniture, and the company’s dedicated customer service team will be on hand to help with any enquiries. To book an appointment, call 02476 632148 or email


Griff in Columbus Gold New to Gallery Direct’s made-to-order collection are the Kencho daybeds, which are handmade by Gallery’s skilled craftsmen at the company’s Wiltshire manufacturing unit. The Kencho is available in either a single or kingsize and can be upholstered in a choice of Gallery’s full range of 80 fabric options for domestic use. All the fabrics can be treated for Crib 5 contract use if required. Both sizes feature contemporary styling including sleek, black metal feet, and include a pillow-type cushion in the same fabric as the bed. The king model offers comfortable seating when closed, but folds out to become a king-size bed, in case of lastminute guests.



PICTURE THIS … This month, Furniture News revisits the photorealistic world of CGI marketing, and asks the sector’s key players to explain how demand for their services – and the technology behind them – have changed since we last checked in with them …

The nation may be easing its way back towards normality, but, for many furniture businesses, the pandemic experience will be hard to forget. Faced with repeated lockdowns, a decisive tip of the scales in favour of online trade, restricted travel and supply chain disruption, retailers and suppliers alike have had to embrace new ways of thinking and working – and one approach that addresses these challenges on all counts is the fastevolving world of CGI marketing. CGI has been employed in product development and marketing for many years, but its benefits have truly come to the fore of late. Through the application of artistry and technical skill, products can be created, developed and sold – virtually. Digital assets are proving their transactional worth, and are also key to unlocking new means of engagement such as augmented reality (AR), product configuration and virtual showrooms. In December’s issue, Furniture News explored the latest advances from the cream of the industry’s CGI crop, quizzing the experts on the likely future of technology in furniture marketing, and asking them how the pandemic had affected business. This month, we’re following up these insights by looking at the progress they have made in the last few months, and what the demand for their services looks like today. “Since December we’ve taken two major furniture companies (one retailer and one manufacturer) into our client portfolio, and a prestigious Italian brand manufacturer,” says Chilli Pepper Designs’ Neil Buckley-Jensen. “As a point of respect to our clients, no names can be divulged at this point – but we are super pleased and proud to have picked up such large accounts! “We’ve also picked up smaller accounts and ad hoc rendering, which is great – but our overall model is to work


with bigger companies who see us as a partner of choice, and outsource all imaging/visualisations to us to create in line with their brand. “We have taken on another CGI artist, and recruited further interior designers who also manage particular clients as account managers. “We are also starting new projects for the global wholesale partners of our sister company, Indesign Furniture, creating CGI virtual showrooms for them. This is a way to safeguard against future lockdowns and travel restrictions, and a great way to present furniture offerings to any client globally, at one click of a button. You can add new ranges, paint the walls and even add extra floors to the virtual showroom, without even having to ask for planning permission!” Neil is not the only CGI specialist who has found these to be fertile times. “The past five months have been extremely busy for Symmetry, and probably the most transformational period in the company’s history,” reveals Symmetry CGI’s Paul Galley. “CGI had been evolving rapidly globally, but the effect of Covid and lockdown has dramatically accelerated the rate of change across the furniture industry and related sectors. “We have experienced a dramatic increase in demand for our core services such as CGI stills, animations and unique montage techniques, and we have now also successfully launched our Augmented Reality Portal. “We are one of the few CGI companies to have developed an app-free AR, which is already embedded in up to-date phones and tablets. This is an exciting opportunity to engage with consumers, allowing them to view products in their home environment, which has huge potential to improve online sales. “A key feature of working with virtual imagery is the building of connections, which promotes the possibility of diversity. We have found it a natural progression to work within a growing range of new sectors such as property development, video production and product visualisation (including scooters!). The majority


of this is furniture related, but the technical platforms we work on allow us to maintain a bespoke and flexible approach with our clients and their projects. “During these fast-moving and busy few months, we also designed and introduced our brand-new website, which showcases our growing range of digital services. Due to the growing demand for our services we are rapidly expanding our design team, and are delighted to have recently welcomed two more CGI artists to the studio. As a company, we believe that investing in human expertise is as essential as regularly investing in the software and technology. “At the recent Online Furniture Show it was interesting to experience how at ease exhibitors and visitors quickly became in navigating a virtual exhibition. Participating in this event offered a different way to successfully connect with new customers.” Orbital’s Rob Walker is equally enthusiastic, and able to catalogue a raft of improvements to his company’s services – and its headquarters, in time for the upcoming Spring Long Point exhibition. “In the last five months, with the promise of the world re-opening, and businesses having more scope to plan ahead with budgets, we have seen a huge influx of enquiries and new clients,” says Rob. “Looking back to February 2020, after the January Furniture Show we had a huge number of businesses approaching us to discuss the possibilities of CGI. The team and I were up and down the M1 every day, travelling the country for meetings generated from the show. “Once lockdown started, for obvious reasons, everything changed – and since the start of 2021, our enquiries have been tenfold! “In the meantime, we’ve made huge technological strides. We are in the process of building a brand-new online customiser for clients to use on their websites to hold our CGI assets, allowing end-users to design their own furniture online. It is a sleek, easy-touse plug-in, and allows customisers to create wishlists for fabric samples, and add bespoke items to an online shopping cart. “The customiser will also be compatible with AR and VR, broadening the options to allow an end-user to see

their bespoke sofa, to scale, in their own living room. We have been doing a lot of work with AR and VR behind the scenes – it goes hand-in-hand with CGI assets. “Outside of our technology progression, we have actually been busy refurbishing our space! We currently have a 3000ft2 space available next to our studio (opposite the famous Harrington Mills in Long Eaton). We have installed a brand-new cafe-style kitchen, equipped with coffee machine, snacks, and even a pool table for more casual client meetings. “The space also houses our new, purpose-built 1.7m fabric scanner, for the most accurate full-width flatshots available. “We will be showing off the space during Spring Long Point, with a little launch party from 5pm on 24th May with bubbles and snacks for all. We will also be inviting people to visit for food and coffee at any time through the show. It’s a great private place with comfy sofas to discuss findings at the show.

“We can ‘enVision’ a great year ahead for Orbital!” Paul Stott, owner of The Virtual Works, has also bolstered his business’ approach to fabric modelling. He says: “Since December, we have increased our turnover in CGI by more than +50%, and gained two new clients new to CGI (a lot of it is to do with the lockdown issues, and customers’ drive to get more images online). “We’ve just invested in an new, stateof-the-art fabric scanner, so we can cope with the volume of soft furnishing images and their requirements for more accurate and detailed fabric finishes. We are also in the process of starting two new trainees in the world of CGI and digital media.” With business booming, each of these CGI specialists is working hard to take their offer to the next level – and in the world of 3D modelling, AR and an evermore photorealistic take on furniture and furnishings, the only limit seems to be their imagination



A LONG, LONG WAY TOGETHER Orbital Vision, a creative agency based in Long Eaton – the UK Centre of Quality Upholstery Manufacture – works with national and international manufacturers and retailers to deliver some of the best CGI interiors imagery available.

The studio is well known for its fabric simulation, derived from more than three years of work. The result is a varied portfolio of impressively photorealistic 3D representations – and high demand for the team’s skills, says Orbital’s MD, Rob Walker. “The devastating effects of Covid-19 on the furniture industry have been widely discussed of late, but these massive global changes have encouraged many to embrace a more ‘tech-forward’ way of selling,” he says. “Today, given retailers’ need for effective ecommerce delivery, many furniture manufacturers are expected to provide 3D assets alongside their physical products.” Rob says that his team – based across the road from Long Eaton’s Harrington Mills – has spent much of lockdown

working on making their CGI simpler and more accessible, building a shared asset library that is already prompting introductions and sales between suppliers, manufacturers and retailers, while slashing the costs of CGI projects. “By making 3D furniture, fabrics and lifestyle shots available to clients to share, a never-before-seen approach has transpired,” explains Rob. “In simple terms, a manufacturer who buys Warwick fabrics now has access to a huge library of digital fabrics, removing the time and hassle of creating it themselves. “Also, the manufacturer has their own products built in CGI for retailers to use in their respective marketing campaigns – at a quarter of the cost of completing the project from scratch.”

CGI by Orbital Vision

CGI by Orbital Vision

53 Orbital’s revamped showroom will be a platform for inspiration and hospitality at the upcoming Long Point show

BY MAKING 3D FURNITURE, FABRICS AND LIFESTYLE SHOTS AVAILABLE TO CLIENTS TO SHARE, A NEVER-BEFORE-SEEN APPROACH HAS TRANSPIRED Find out more at Long Point Trade shows have been off the menu for a long time, but many of the product launches that were previously onlineonly affairs will come to life at Long Eaton’s Spring Long Point show, now taking place from 24-27th May. With participating showrooms spread across the town, the event guarantees a good level of social distancing, and will be among the first opportunities for faceto-face business this year. For the first time, Long Point will see three of the biggest names in the trade join forces to expound the benefits of CGI. During the four days of the show, visitors will be able to join Warwick, Tamarisk Designs and Orbital Vision at Orbital’s studio in Leopold Street, where they will discover the newest products from Warwick and Tamarisk, plus

advice, talks and demonstrations on the process and realistic costs of CGI. “Call 01332 552212 to book a onehour slot in which to learn more about the fundamentals of CGI,” says Rob. “You’ll also get a sneak peek of our brand-new, purpose-built 1.7m fabric scanner, plus an exclusive, behind-thescenes glimpse of our top-secret online customiser, which will be compatible with augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR), and has been developed with the interiors industry in mind.” Within Orbital’s 300m2 showroom (available for hire), visitors will also get a chance to unwind in a new, fully equipped kitchen and comfy private seating area, complete with pool table. “There will be hot and cold food and drinks available throughout the show for all Long Point visitors,” concludes Rob

YOU’RE INVITED … Orbital is inviting members of the trade visiting Long Point this May to book a one-hour appointment at its studio opposite Harrington Mills. “We’re opening for discussions and demonstrations about our process and prices, and to offer advice on cost-effective strategies to sell your products remotely,” says Rob. “Call to book today!” Hot and cold food will be available to all visitors for the duration of the show. “Take advantage of our private seating and pool table, and treat yourself to some great coffee!”

CGI CGI UN R E A L C R E AT IVE S UNREA U N REA L L C REAT C REAT IVES IVES | | 01332 552 212 | | | | 01332 01332 552 552 212 212

Warwick Fabrics are at the forefront of fabric sales in the UK, and it undoubtedly rooted in their adaptation in technology over the past two years. And namely, their partnership with CGI agency, Orbital Vision. Warwick Warwick Fabrics Fabrics areare at the at the forefront forefront of fabric of fabric sales sales in the in the UK,UK, and and it undoubtedly it undoubtedly rooted rooted in their in their adaptation adaptation in technology in technology over over thethe past past two two years. years. And And namely, namely, their their partnership partnership with with CGI CGI agency, agency, Orbital Orbital Vision. Vision. Before venturing into the world of CGI fabrics, Warwick were lacking sales tools on their website. For each collection, they

could only show one fabric on a product, and on their collection pages, were only able to show a single flatshot for every Before Before venturing venturing into into thethe world world of CGI of CGI fabrics, fabrics, Warwick Warwick were were lacking lacking sales sales tools tools onon their their website. website. ForFor each each collection, collection, they they colourway in a range. Any customer visiting the site would have a limited idea on the texture and sheen of a fabric. If you could could only only show show one one fabric fabric onon a product, a product, and and onon their their collection collection pages, pages, were were only only able able to to show show a single a single flatshot flatshot forfor every every look at Warwick’s Website today, you can see every fabric in a collection as a flatshot, a close up wave shot and on a prodcolourway colourway in a inrange. a range. Any Any customer customer visiting visiting thethe sitesite would would have have a limited a limited idea idea onon thethe texture texture and and sheen sheen of a offabric. a fabric. If you If you uct. The only thing a customer can’t gauge from Warwick’s website, is how the fabric feels. look look at Warwick’s at Warwick’s Website Website today, today, you you can can seesee every every fabric fabric in a incollection a collection as as a flatshot, a flatshot, a close a close upup wave wave shot shot and and onon a proda product. uct. The The only only thing thing a customer a customer can’t can’t gauge gauge from from Warwick’s Warwick’s website, website, is how is how thethe fabric fabric feels. feels. The furniture industry is seeing somewhat of a revolution in technology, with Covid -19 restrictions only accelerating this

move into CGI. Warwick Fabrics, being ahead of the curve, already have their entire catalogue converted into 3D assets. The The furniture furniture industry industry is seeing is seeing somewhat somewhat of a ofrevolution a revolution in technology, in technology, with with Covid Covid -19-19 restrictions restrictions only only accelerating accelerating this this Aside from making their website more of a successful sales tool, Warwick have taken advantage of the 3D imagery that is move move into into CGI. CGI. Warwick Warwick Fabrics, Fabrics, being being ahead ahead of the of the curve, curve, already already have have their their entire entire catalogue catalogue converted converted into into 3D3D assets. assets. improving their marketing, to also lure sales from manufacturers. Purely by having 3D assets available to customers. Aside Aside from from making making their their website website more more of a ofsuccessful a successful sales sales tool, tool, Warwick Warwick have have taken taken advantage advantage of the of the 3D3D imagery imagery that that is is improving improving their their marketing, marketing, to to also also lure lure sales sales from from manufacturers. manufacturers. Purely Purely by by having having 3D3D assets assets available available to to customers. customers. Any furniture Manufacturer now has easy access to ready-built Warwick fabrics for their CGI lifestyle shots and cut-outs.

For any manufacturer who has been through the process of 3D, will know the amount of time it takes to get a CGI fabric Any Any furniture furniture Manufacturer Manufacturer now now hashas easy easy access access to to ready-built ready-built Warwick Warwick fabrics fabrics forfor their their CGI CGI lifestyle lifestyle shots shots and and cut-outs. cut-outs. looking completely photorealistic. Warwick has taken the time and hassle out of the CGI process for manufacturers using ForFor any any manufacturer manufacturer who who hashas been been through through thethe process process of 3D, of 3D, willwill know know thethe amount amount of time of time it takes it takes to to getget a CGI a CGI fabric fabric CGI Imagery. looking looking completely completely photorealistic. photorealistic. Warwick Warwick hashas taken taken thethe time time and and hassle hassle outout of the of the CGI CGI process process forfor manufacturers manufacturers using using CGI CGI Imagery. Imagery. Warwick’s collections will be permanently based in Orbital Vision’s recently renovated showroom, next to Harrington Mills

in Long Eaton. The supplier will also be showing their collections at Longpoint 2021. Warwick’s Warwick’s collections collections willwill bebe permanently permanently based based in Orbital in Orbital Vision’s Vision’s recently recently renovated renovated showroom, showroom, next next to to Harrington Harrington Mills Mills

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““ “

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Tamarisk Designs may describe themselves as a small specialist furniture company based in the Cotswolds, but their name precedes them. The company is well-known by retailers and manufacturers in the trade for their quality designs Warwick Tamarisk Fabrics Designs are at may thedescribe forefront themselves of fabric sales as ain small the UK, specialist and it furniture undoubtedly company rooted based in their in the adaptation Cotswolds, in technology but their and personal touch. over name the past precedes two years. them.And Thenamely, company their is well-known partnershipby with retailers CGI agency, and manufacturers Orbital the trade for their quality designs and personal touch. Knowing the benefits to retailer sales, Tamarisk got in touch with Orbital to build their catalogue of products in CGI. PartBefore venturing into the world of CGI fabrics, Warwick were lacking sales tools on their website. For each collection, they nering up with Warwick, Tamarisk were able to receive rendered imagery that looked like photography, but without the could Knowing only show the benefits one fabric to on retailer a product, sales, Tamarisk and on their got collection in touch with pages, Orbital weretoonly build able their to show catalogue a single of products flatshot for in CGI. every Partpain of building fabrics. colourway nering up in with a range. Warwick, Any customer Tamariskvisiting were able theto site receive wouldrendered have a limited imagery idea that on looked the texture like photography, and sheen of but a fabric. without If you the look pain at Warwick’s of buildingWebsite fabrics. today, you can see every fabric in a collection as a flatshot, a close up wave shot and on a prodThe Chilson range, including the supersize, super comfy, luxury corner unit (opposite) has been launched in a number of uct. The only thing a customer can’t gauge from Warwick’s website, is how the fabric feels. Warwick fabrics. By using a shared CGI agency, Orbital Vision, Tamarisk had access to a simple process of lifestyle imagery The Chilson range, including the supersize, super comfy, luxury corner unit (opposite) has been launched in a number of creation. Not only did the manufacturer not have to think about photoshoots under social distancing restrictions, but they The Warwick furniture fabrics. industry By using is seeing a shared somewhat CGI agency, of a revolution Orbital Vision, in technology, Tamarisk with hadCovid access -19torestrictions a simple process only accelerating of lifestyle imagery this also had access to a library of ready-made Warwick fabrics in CGI. move creation. into CGI. NotWarwick only did Fabrics, the manufacturer being ahead notofhave the curve, to think already abouthave photoshoots their entire under catalogue social distancing convertedrestrictions, into 3D assets. but they Aside alsofrom had access makingtotheir a library website of ready-made more of a successful Warwick fabrics sales tool, in CGI. Warwick have taken advantage of the 3D imagery that is Tamarisk have seized the opportunity to capitalise on the 3D assets they’ve gained to become a more favourable supplier improving their marketing, to also lure sales from manufacturers. Purely by having 3D assets available to customers. to retailers. Tamarisk have seized the opportunity to capitalise on the 3D assets they’ve gained to become a more favourable supplier Any tofurniture retailers. Manufacturer now has easy access to ready-built Warwick fabrics for their CGI lifestyle shots and cut-outs. Any retailer that buys Tamarisk products, can use ready-made models, and lifestyle shots that Tamarisk have taken the For any manufacturer who has been through the process of 3D, will know the amount of time it takes to get a CGI fabric time and money to create. More than this, independent retailers can restyle any of Tamarisk’s studio shots to align with looking Any retailer completely that buys photorealistic. Tamarisk products, Warwick has cantaken use ready-made the time and models, hassleand out lifestyle of the CGI shots process that Tamarisk for manufacturers have taken using the their own branding. When you buy a Tamarisk sofa, you get a package of web-ready assets that are unique to your brand. CGI time Imagery. and money to create. More than this, independent retailers can restyle any of Tamarisk’s studio shots to align with

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their own branding. When you buy a Tamarisk sofa, you get a package of web-ready assets that are unique to your brand. CGI is a new realm for us, but we can already see the invaluable benefits this is going to have on our sales and relationWarwick’s collections will be permanently based in Orbital Vision’s recently renovated showroom, next to Harrington Mills both retailers in ships Long CGI iswith Eaton. a new The realm supplier for us,and will butsuppliers. also we can be showing already see their the collections invaluableatbenefits Longpoint this2021. is going to have on our sales and relation-

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EYE FOR DETAIL From its origins in furniture design, Paul Galley’s creative studio has embraced CGI services, and is now one of the leading UK businesses in the field. Here, Paul explains how his design experience informs the quality and realism of his team’s digital renders, and reveals some of the paths its 3D assets open to marketeers …

Symmetry CGI created this lifestyle image for JC Derbyshire Builders (CGI by Symmetry CGI)

Kettle Interiors Agencies (CGI by Symmetry CGI)

Paul set up his furniture design business in 1990, focusing on cabinet products. Over time, his reputation and client network grew – and then, upon recognising the unstoppable momentum of online selling, Paul decided to take the studio down a more digital direction. “Working as a designer provided the ideal background for developing CGI,” explains Paul. “It gave me an insight into the design and manufacturing process, and how to relate to the needs of clients in the furniture industry.” The studio’s extensive experience was tested when the pandemic struck – but, thanks to careful planning, Paul’s virtual CGI services were already up and running. As the market adapted to new ways of doing business, Symmetry CGI truly took off. “Playing to our strengths and experiences derived from working with cabinet and kitchen design, we ensure that our clients benefit from the team’s eye for detail,” says Paul. “When reproducing realistic woodgrains, colour and texture with CGI, our in-house expertise in cabinetmaking techniques and knowledge of timbers and finishes has proved invaluable.

“This focus on detail has become the hallmark of Symmetry’s work, and is now being applied to our expanding range of projects in other sectors. In addition to furniture, my team is currently working on a variety of consumer products and property development. The rapidly evolving technology stimulates the opportunities to access other markets and develop new ones. “When Symmetry first started creating CGI imagery, the industry’s perception was that this was just another version of a photograph – but it’s actually far more than that. A CGI model is an incredibly versatile asset, with unique qualities of its own. The 3D model which is the foundation of every CGI image is the link to a world of endless marketing possibilities.” Unlike a studio set or location shot which is over when the photography crew packs up and goes home, a CGI set is a lifelong asset, says Paul: “Once you have the 3D assets, you can keep returning to that model to create new digital images at any time in the future.” Another major advantage of CGI is that renders can be inspected before a piece of furniture is even made. “Clients who

59 Detailed handle images for Nathan Furniture (CGI by Symmetry CGI)


Kettle Interiors Agencies (CGI by Symmetry CGI)

(focusing on a single piece of furniture); cut-outs (precision product images on a plain background for hardcopy or online use); cut-outs with dimensions (visually relating the image to its size); 360° rotating images (allows product images to be viewed in detail, from any angle); AR interactive models (a smartphone or tablet can be used to view products in the home or showroom environment); video (adds movement and greater audience engagement to a website); and montage images (product shots can be revitalised by creating new backdrops). “CGI opens a whole new world for the consumer,” says Paul. “Alongside great imagery, they can see all of the colour options, rotating images, video and AR – all of which builds a complete picture of the product and gives them the confidence to buy. Also, the better

This image for Kettle Interiors Agencies (CGI by Symmetry CGI) enables the supplier to present the model’s exterior and interior at the same time

have commissioned furniture designs are posting the product imagery on Facebook and Instagram to test out the market and gather feedback,” explains Paul, “saving them months in development, and cutting back on trips to the factory – which is invaluable right now.” To date, Symmetry CGI has worked with a broad range of clients, including Kettle Interiors Agencies, Carlton Furniture, Nathan Furniture and Frank Olsen. Today, Paul says Symmetry is receiving an increasing number of requests for its interactive solutions – Augmented Reality (AR), 360° presentations and video, all of which incorporate elements of animation. The studio currently offers eight digital asset categories for its customers in the furniture industry: roomsets (a full range of furniture pieces in one room); cameo shots

a consumer understands a product, its colour and size, the less chance it’ll be returned.” A selection of images and an introduction to our services can be found on Symmetry CGI’s website, while Paul invites anyone who would like to find out more to call him on 01229 400211. “I love the process of creating CGI imagery,” he concludes. “Creating digital imagery is a highly technical and creative skill, and I’m proud of the amazing images the team’s creating. “However, what’s getting me really excited at the moment is AR – I believe it will transform the internet, and that we will soon expect to see an AR for virtually everything we buy. My take on it is that a picture tells a thousand words – but AR tells the whole story”




CGI by D Cube

D Cube specialises in creating hyperrealistic visualisations for the furniture, flooring and lighting industry. With a team of highly experienced artists and stylists, along with a library of over 6000 pre-created scenes, D Cube is able to provide a top level of service to help take its customers’ products to market faster and more cost effectively. “We help you #standoutfromthecrowd,” states D Cube. Reach the business on 01509 276161, or email


CGI by Chilli Pepper Designs

East Sussex-based Chilli Pepper Designs may be relatively new to the scene, but it has won an enviable client roster since its launch last spring. One of the reasons for its success is its roots in the owner’s sister company, Indesign Furniture, which has long worked in close partnership with manufacturers and wholesalers. But how do these partnerships look now a CGI service is on the table? “When talking about Indesign Furniture and Chilli Pepper Designs, I’m sometimes asked which leads which,” explains founder, Neil Buckley-Jensen. “Does the furniture company generate business for the CGI company, or vice versa?” Neil offers an example of work he carries out on behalf of one partner wholesaler based in New Zealand: “We (Chilli Pepper Designs) design, model and render products/images based on their brand, then they approve these,

or send them to clients to see what the buying retailers would like to stock, basically canvassing opinion of the CGI images in lifestyle settings. If the images are approved, line drawings, etc, follow … but they already have their sales imagery, and can get selling before the products have even been made, let alone shipped! “In this example, we (Indesign Furniture) make the products in our factories, and use our own QC company

to check the items before shipping them out to New Zealand – knowing that the products on the container are already pre-sold. “This means more orders can be put in, lead times reduced, and nobody has had to travel to factories or shows – they don’t even have to leave the house. It’s a perfect customer service model, and we go above and beyond as a furniture company to offer such robust additional services.”

D Cube specialise in creating hyper-realistic visualisations for the furniture / flooring & lighting industry. With a team of highly experienced artists & stylists, along with a library of over 6000 pre-created scenes, we are able to provide a top level of service to help you take your products to market faster & more cost effectively. We help you #standoutfromthecrowd.

+44 1509 276161 37 – 40 Church Gate, Loughborough, Leicestershire, LE11 1UE




Why let photoshoots hold up sales?

Get ahead of the supply chain and create market-ready CGI product shots

Effective, hassle-free image generation without having to leave your office

Our hyper realistic CGI is up to 80% cheaper and is up to 90% faster to produce compared to traditional photoshoots …



BUILDING BRANDS When Ryan McNeish was enlisted to reinvent an upmarket upholstery brand, his studio drew upon historical influences, unique technologies and an accomplished design team to create a truly distinctive look for this competitive marketplace …

Bardot, Spink & Edgar Upholstery


In 2018, Spink & Edgar Upholstery launched a new brand in the marketplace. A collaboration between creative agency Gregor Ryan and Preston-based sofamaker Tetrad paved the way for the establishment of a brand taking a more daring and modern approach to classic upholstery design. Designer Ryan was tasked with creatively and strategically establishing Spink & Edgar’s new brand identity in the market, and to work with its design team in Preston to create something even more inspiring than what had gone before. It would involve using spring technology that has long been integral to the brand’s DNA – across beds, mattresses, and the established upholstery collection. It would entail the creation of models with less foam, yet more comfort – something the manufacturer strives to achieve in every sofa and chair it produces in Lancashire. “Creating the new brand values for Spink & Edgar meant stripping back all the classic tags that it stood for

previously, and repositioning its identity – carrying through some classic design traits, but adding a quirky twist,” says Ryan, who went on to work with the team to create an attractive range of classic pieces that remained true to the essence of Spink & Edgar Upholstery. “Art deco is a style that is close to my heart,” explains Ryan, “as the glamour of the roaring 20s and 30s captured a 20th-century arts and social culture I very much admired. “My personal design style has always influenced by the first half of the 20th century – what was new art, fashion, media and colour back then influences how we approach design today.” Cut to the 2018 January Furniture Show, where the brand launched its new look, enlisting the sales direction expertise of Tina Reilly. Tina boasted over 20 years’ experience in the trade, previously working for Tetrad, Halo and Sofas & Stuff before making the move to Spink & Edgar Upholstery. She says: “I was thrilled to be given the chance to establish a higher-end quality British upholstery collection, that strides across the influences Ryan

INFORMING INDUSTRY, BUILDING BUSINESS 65 Monique, Spink & Edgar Upholstery

and the team consider in the selection of shapes and cover choices. I loved the idea of its uniqueness, and its ability to allow the customer to choose their own colour and pattern combinations.” With distribution channels across the UK, Europe and the Middle East, Spink & Edgar Upholstery is now taking steps to launch a new range which features the iconic GP&J Baker prints, which

are already proving popular with fans of the brand. The sumptuous, high-end fabric swatch, coupled with clever spring technology and style references from 20th-century Hollywood glamour, has certainly helped Spink & Edgar Upholstery create its own niche in the marketplace, states Ryan and Tina. “We look forward to the continued

development and flexibility the brand offers the more daringly authentic, colour-conscious consumer, who wants choice and great-quality, produced in the heart of the UK,” they add. For more information about Gregor Ryan’s services, contact Ryan McNeish on 07557 226337, or email info@

Tiffany, Spink & Edgar Upholstery



EXECUTIVE DECISION Offering a range of transport services dedicated to furniture, Executive Home Delivery says it is the only logistics partner a business needs …

Executive Home Delivery is a wellestablished furniture distribution company that offers home and retail deliveries to Scotland and Northern England, as well as UK-wide furniture logistics. The company’s modern warehouse has the latest technology to ensure full traceability of orders throughout their journey. Thanks to years of experience in the industry, the business has developed a strong understanding of the needs and expectations of its clients, both from the UK and Europe. Consequently, Executive Home Delivery’s various divisions offer a vast array of services to ensure that any delivery can be handled within its own network, reducing the need for more than one logistics partner. Home delivery The company’s white-glove home delivery service boasts a modern fleet of 12 and 3.5 tonne vehicles, with highly trained, conscientious crew, and all deliveries are electronically tracked. Executive Home Delivery understands that when it is chosen as a business’ delivery partner, it is representing that business, and therefore places great emphasis on ensuring each delivery is carried out to the highest standard. The company also understands that this must be a trusting partnership, and that each partner’s business matters.

Retail delivery Executive Home Delivery has a fleet of articulated vehicles and trailers dedicated to delivering goods direct from manufacturers to furniture retailers. Its Brian Adam’s Transport retail delivery team is also highly trained – not only in customer care, but in the manual handling of furniture, ensuring deliveries are made with the same white-glove service offered on home delivery items. Trunking and warehouse services The company’s trunking services are available nationwide, and it can collect and deliver goods from anywhere in the UK. Executive Home Delivery prides itself on only ever carrying furniture, which means there is no groupage with items other than furniture. Its large warehouse has the capacity to hold stock on behalf of manufacturers, importers and retailers, ready for subsequent distribution. The business can also carry out quality control checks of items upon arrival at the warehouse. Technology Executive Home Delivery feels that any business should have suitable systems that are accessible anytime, from anywhere. Therefore, it invests heavily in the most up-to-date software and hardware available. Partners have access to their own dedicated site, through which they can track every booking detail, live. Executive Home Delivery’s software provides real-time data 24/7, 365 days of the year

Brian Adam’s


BRIAN ADAM’S TRANSPORT IS A FAMILY RUN FURNITURE DELIVERY SPECIALIST WORKING THROUGHOUT SCOTLAND & NORTHERN ENGLAND FOR CLIENTS ALL OVER THE UK & EUROPE OUR SERVICES INCLUDE: • 1 & 2 person deliveries • White glove delivery • Retail deliveries • Assembly services • Old item disposal • Stock control • Storage & trunking Full service can be tracked live 24/7 via customer specific portal Exceptional levels of customer communication Real time stock levels & data Solutions tailored to exact customer needs We can collect from any UK warehouse on our own trunk vehicles

0141 952 7222 Brian Adam’s Transport Ltd, Unit 6, The Alpha Centre, 10 South Douglas Street, Clydebank G81 1PD





The new eco-friendly Fibrefill Blue cushion


In the last 70 years, the world’s consumption of plastic has increased dramatically. Indeed, half of all plastics ever manufactured have been made in the last 15 years, states Fibreline. In 1950, the world had a population of 2.5 billion and produced 1.5 million tons of plastic. In 2016, the world had grown to more than 7 billion people, producing over 320 million tons of plastic – and this is set to double by 2034. Along with single-use straws, cutlery, food containers and other plastic items, water bottles have become an important source of plastic waste – and Fibreline has found a way to convert the equivalent of 100 plastic bottles into each cushion. “Plastic pollution has become one of the most pressing environmental issues of the day, as rapidly increasing production of disposable plastic products overwhelms the world’s ability to deal with them,” says a spokesperson for Fibreline. “Plastic pollution is most visible in developing Asian and African nations. However, many developed countries have low recycling rates and have trouble collecting discarded plastics.

Fibreline has found a way to convert plastic bottles into cushions

Faced with a global plastic waste crisis, Fibreline recognises the need to offer cushion manufacturers an environmentally friendly solution using recycled plastic …

“How did this all happen? Plastics made from fossil fuels are just over a century old. Production and development of thousands of new plastic products accelerated after World War II – modern life would be unrecognisable without plastics. Plastics revolutionised medicine with life-saving devices, made space travel possible, lightened cars and jets – saving fuel and pollution – and saved lives with helmets, incubators, and equipment for clean drinking water. “However, the conveniences plastics offer led to a throwaway culture that reveals the material’s dark side – today, single-use plastics account for 40% of the plastic produced every year. Many of these products, such as plastic bags and food wrappers, have a lifespan of mere minutes, yet they may persist in the environment for hundreds of years. Plastic rubbish has become so ubiquitous it has prompted efforts to write a global treaty negotiated by the UN.” Fibreline hopes that by offering manufacturers comfortable cushions derived from plastic waste, it can, in some small way, help to provide an ecofriendly alternative. Call Fibreline on 01535 606846 to find out more


THE FURNITURE INDUSTRY RESEARCH ASSOCIATION The Furniture Industry Research Association’s refreshed Knowledge Hub hosts technical knowledge and information for the furniture industry, with everything from standards updates to guides and research. Knowledge is free to members, while non-members can purchase certain publications. Contact membership@fira. or call 01438 777700 for further details.

WORLDWIDE FURNITURE SOURCE Liverpool’s Worldwide Furniture Emporium is a secondgeneration wholesaler, importing a diverse collection of quality-made furniture to the UK market from all over the globe. The supplier states that its large base of global manufacturers comes together to ensure it will never be beaten on price, and offers the cheapest prices in the UK.


Seat product testing at SATRA “Through talking to our clients, we are aware that the costs of raw materials and logistics are all increasing, affecting the bottom line,” says Phil Reynolds, divisional manager for furniture & floorcoverings at SATRA. “That’s not forgetting the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the retail and hospitality sectors. “We want to do what we can to support our industry and ease the cost burden for the supply chain. That’s why we are offering -20% off on seating product testing for the next two months.” SATRA has extensive experience in both testing to, and developing, the British, European and International standards for domestic, contract, office and educational furniture – giving peace of mind that products are fit for purpose. To take advantage of this offer, email, quoting SATRA2021.




Caliber Edge


“Leggett & Platt has a number of exciting technology advancements and product launches/introductions planned in the months to come – all of which are proprietary in nature and comfort-driven in terms of performance,” says David. Building on existing technology “At Leggett & Platt, we not only enhance our own product offering and industry leadership position, but also that of our customers. 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. Innovating for today’s consumer demands “Leggett & Platt improves quality of life through innovative comfort technologies. It is our mission to work closely with customers to ensure this happens for the end consumer. We focus on enhancing comfort through application, performance and convenience in the way consumers shop, purchase and receive products. We provide solutions from component level to semi-finished, fully finished, rolled and boxed. Caliber Edge “Caliber Edge is part of our ActivEdge line of innerspring products, which form a steel coil perimeter around select pocket systems to deliver consistent

Inside Leggett & Platt’s Barnsley facility

When it comes to innovation, few businesses are more future-oriented than bedding component giant, Leggett & Platt. In this article, UK sales manager David Nuttall discusses the company’s latest developments, and how existing ones are set to revolutionise the industry …

support across the entire sleep surface. All our ActivEdge solutions deliver great engagement levels across the market, and, since it’s an exhibition year – interzum Cologne and the UK Bed Show – product launches centred around this technology and other exciting innovations are planned, with more information soon to come. Sustainability “Our new technology and product innovations are developed in line with all manner of customer requirements and wider market demands. Many of our products benefit from attributes that place performance only where it’s needed, increase material handling efficiencies, reduce mattress build times, and simplify construction to save time and cost and increase overall recyclability. Global, yet local “Our eyes are always set toward the future. Leggett & Platt’s approach and product innovation are driven to meet the demands and challenges of our ‘global, yet local’ strategy. The L&P Springs UK facilities form a state-ofthe-art, vertically integrated branch that serves as the primary, locally based supplier of high-quality innerspring and micro-coil comfort layer solutions to the region. “Whatever the future holds, as a proud UK manufacturer and employer, our commitment to our partners and the market remains steadfast,” David concludes. For more information, call 01226 707500, visit the company’s website or find it on LinkedIn


OPINION THINKING AHEAD 72 ECOMMERCE, THEN AND NOW Iconography’s Wayne Robbins studies the progress online buying has made in the last decade, and suggests what its future might look like

74 FINISHING TOUCHES Gordon Hecht, senior manager, strategic retail for Serta Simmons Bedding Company in the US, offers some vital store presentation tips ahead of the lifting of lockdown

76 TERMS OF ENDEARMENT Interiors PR specialist John Warburton looks at the online search terms that have stood the test of time, and those which have flourished during the pandemic

78 PERFECT PITCH Struggling to Zoom ahead? Teams letting you down? Toastmasters International’s Michael Collins shares his tips for selling via videoconference

80 TALES FROM THE SHOWROOM FLOOR This month, Furniture Sales Solutions’ Adam Hankinson looks at how to overcome customer objections

81 PARTNER COMMENT David Woodward, the master of The Furniture Makers’ Company, reveals the next big step in the charity’s fundraising strategy

82 FEEDBACK This month, we ask our panel if they’ve found the time to pick up any new skills or qualifications



ECOMMERCE, THEN AND NOW To better understand what the future of furniture ecommerce might look like, Iconography’s Wayne Robbins looks at online buying adoption trends, and how furniture ecommerce developed before – and during – the pandemic …


Starting with ecommerce generally, graph 1 shows how UK internet sales have gradually evolved over the past 15 years. Notice the steady increase each year, with the peaks beginning to develop from 2009 in November. One explanation for this is Amazon introducing the Black Friday buying bonanza in November 2010. Curiously, there’s a plateau in November 2019, with no increase YoY. And then in Q2 and Q4 of the pandemic year – boom! What’s consistently also changing is the age profile of online buyers. A significant addition to the furniture ecommerce community has been the over 65s – even before the pandemic restricted movement outside the home, more than half were shopping online. The ONS reported that in 2019, for the first time, more than half (54%) of adults aged 65 years and over shopped online. So, what does this mean for the future of the furniture industry, and, more specifically, the future of furniture ecommerce? Will things ever be the same? And if not, what will shape the peaks and troughs of the next decade?

Even the pandemic-led category demand spikes in areas like home office furniture have a precedent. For example, similar increases occurred when sustained rail strikes in 2016 prevented people from travelling into work. So, how do we make sense of the historical data? What next, after the uncertainties and disruptions we faced last year? The global trauma is behind us – does the prospect of a vaccine-led recovery and pent-up demand mean ‘a roaring 2020s’ is upon us? Let’s look at the data. This bar chart from Statista (graph 2) shows how the total annual expenditure on furniture and furnishings in the UK fluctuated from 2005-19. The latest figure, tantalisingly, is only for 2019, when UK households purchased approximately £17b worth of furniture and furnishings. In this context, furniture ecommerce as a phenomenon is informed by the results of the 2020 Statista Global Consumer survey. It reports that 21% of UK consumers were estimated to have bought furniture and household goods online in the last 12 months. And, significantly, 32% claim to mostly look online for information about these products. Relative to other categories of product, there’s room for growth in these numbers, and that’s an opportunity for furniture ecommerce.

Fifteen years of retail in five minutes The furniture industry acts as a bellwether for other parts of the UK economy. What we spend on our home furnishings indicates a great deal about our feelings for the world around us, and reacts to underlying social and economic trends – like the growth in single-occupancy households and the increase in rental accommodation.

The current state of retail furniture ecommerce and stores Retail overall has taken a body blow in 2020, no argument, and here’s the

INTERNET SALES AS A PERCENTAGE OF TOTAL RETAIL SALES (RATIO) (%) Internet sales as a % of total retail sales. Source: Office for National Statistics (ONS) %






0 6

0 20



0 20





0 20



0 20




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INFORMING INDUSTRY, BUILDING BUSINESS 73 TOTAL RETAIL SALES BY 1.9% IN Britain, 2020 WHEN COMPARED WITH 2019 Total retail volume sales VOLUMES (seasonallyFELL adjusted) in Great 2010-20.

evidence, in a bar chart from the ONS (graph 3). The quantity bought in retail sales decreased by -1.9%, the largest annual fall since records began in 1997. Drilling down into the detail of 2020, the pandemic is expected to have mixed results on furniture, lighting and homeware retailers in the UK. We find the evidence for this once again in the ONS’ retail sales index. They report the downside was in April 2020, when demand plummeted (YoY) by -78.7%, and by -64.5% in May 2020. However, on the upside, trading is seen to recover soon after – up by +11.8% in July 2020 and +3.8% in August 2020, compared with the same months in 2019. This is because of pent-up demand and people getting used to social-distancing measures. So, how does this inform the picture? We can’t argue with the record annual declines in sales volumes in 2020 when compared with 2019. But it’s such a ‘black swan’ year, that the decline sits alongside another extreme and positive statistic. That is where total online retailing values saw an increase by +46.1% in 2020 in comparison with 2019 – the highest annual growth since 2008. So, whatever the yo-yo effect on retail sales of the lockdowns, the facts show that furniture ecommerce has the potential for a greater role to play. After all, UK furniture, bed and furnishings manufacturing and retailing remains a substantial and important industry, employing over 339,000 people, and we know that in 2019 expenditure on furniture and furnishings reached a high

Volume sales, Britain, 2010 sales to 2020 Source: ONS seasonally (Monthlyadjusted, BusinessGreat Survey – retail inquiry)


Growth rate (%)

5 2.5 0 -2.5






of £17b. That’s a sizable market, and you only need a small share of it to thrive. The future of furniture ecommerce Revenue in the online home furnishing retailing industry in the UK will benefit from growing demand for online shopping over the next five years. The surge in ecommerce during the pandemic, and the trend for increased online purchasing by all age groups, will fuel this growth. The forecast for 2021 is a sharp rise in demand, as more people buy through furniture websites. This rosy picture extends over the next five years. IBISWorld predicts that furniture ecommerce revenue in the UK will increase at a compound annual rate of +11.2% to £2.7b. Compare that with the annual growth rates for all types of retailing (from stores and online), which range from 1.5-3.5% per year, and it looks like a sound investment. But what does the combined future of furniture ecommerce and bricksand-mortar furniture retail look like?

Annual expenditure (in £m) on furniture and furnishings in the UK from 2005-19 by volume, courtesy of Statista. Source: ONS 40 000 16 730

17 500 15 000


14 874 14 746

17 012

15 141 14 040

14 077 13 484

12 705

13 062

12 729

13 252

13 528

11 669

12 500 10 000 7 500

5 000 2 500 0 05




































Here’s a few key themes to think about: innovate your physical space by training shopfloor staff to be responsive to ecommerce customers – rethink the layout to include tablets and computers for interactive tools and buying guides; device access to ecommerce websites is dominated by smartphones, so having a mobile-friendly website is a must – even for tablet browsing at home; Unified Retail Management Systems – if your IT ecosystem is characterised by multiple legacy systems held together with some string and a rubber band, you need to understand how a Unified Commerce platform will deliver your omnichannel ambitions; online marketplaces offer greater visibility – look outside the obvious ones for more margin-healthy niches; and enhancing visual communication via furniture ecommerce platforms is essential to bridging the gap between the online and in-store shopping experiences – start with high-quality graphics combined with 3D product modelling to deliver AR (both are increasingly affordable). Retail and furniture ecommerce never stand still, and the only constant is change. The pandemic year is an extreme example of how change has been forced onto people and businesses, and under circumstances beyond normal control. Over the past 18 months, estimates show that shopping online has accelerated its rate of growth and advanced by at least five years. It remains to be seen if that boost is sustainable, but clearly the changing trends in shopping habits have become better understood and more widespread. At Iconography, we’ve had some great feedback from clients on just how well their websites have performed. Several have told us that 2020 fast-tracked them several years in terms of the contribution online sales now make to their business



FINISHING TOUCHES The White Glove Inspector is heading to your store, and her experience can make or break your business – so why risk being let down by your store’s appearance when lockdown is lifted? US bedding retail expert Gordon Hecht shares nine tips for passing the inspection …


It should be no surprise that The White Glove Inspector is heading to your store. After all, you invited her! She doesn’t work for your landlord or suppliers, but her opinion of your store’s appearance is vital to success … If you haven’t guessed by now, The White Glove Inspector is your next shopper (and the one after her)! She determines your success – and, worse than that, she’ll rarely share her opinion with you. She simply walks out and buys at the next store (or website) she visits. You’ll never get a medal for passing inspections, but you will close more sales due to your shoppers’ confidence and trust in your business – here’s how you can affect the outcome … 1. Exterior signage is clean, up to date and not faded. Old-fashioned letter boards or newfangled electronic displays are complete and current. Pavements and entry door are clean. Decals on windows are at a minimum, and fresh. If you have a ‘no food or drink’ or ‘no mobile phone’ warning on your door, remove it – shoppers hate to see the word ‘no’ before they even walk in. 2. The first 10ft inside your store is critical – your shopper makes her mind up about you within six seconds of entering. Remove clutter, and make sure the floors are clean – use mats during bad weather. Floor samples should have fresh PoS and be spotless. 3. Use music to set the mood. Your shopper is likely to be 25-49 years old, meaning they enjoy 1990s and Y2K music – Lonnie Donegan will bore them and headbanging tunes will send them running. Talk radio or news will alienate 50% of them. Volume should be at 3-5/10 – clearly audible, but enough to enable a private conversation to stay private.


4. Your sales team can be a turn-off. Freshly cleaned, ironed shirts, shiny shoes and a name badge will get you a lot of credit. Mustard-stained shirts and ties, cigarette smoke and overwhelming perfume or aftershave will cost you points (and pounds). Facial hair needs

to be clean and groomed, and jewellery needs to be kept to a sensible level. 5. Floor samples are clean and accessible (the less on the bed, the better). Price tags are crisp and clearly available. Pillows neatly at the top, that mimic how you’d make your bed at home. Remote controls can be hidden, but accessible, and all adjustable beds need to be in the flat position. 6. Wall art and signage also should be fresh and timely. Again, let the merchandise – not promotional signage – be the star of your show. 7. Your toilet reveals your attention to detail. Clean bathrooms mean a clean operation. Think about the bathrooms in a nice restaurant or hotel. A fresh coat of pastel or muted paint, air freshener, upgraded soaps, paper towels and toilet paper go a long way to getting you extra points. Be sure the door lock works. And don’t forget the men’s room! 8. Accessory racks need to be full (or look full). At Sainsbury’s, Tesco and M&S, employees ‘front’ the shelves – they move items to the front, so when you walk down the aisle you see a fully stocked selection. Your team should do the same at the end of every sale. 9. Office and desk area – this is where at least half of all stores fall below average. Keep the area clutter-free and remove all handwritten signs. Destroy all the negative material that informs the shopper of what you won’t do – ‘no evening deliveries’, ‘no exchanges or refunds’ and ‘you are responsible for …’ signage will send her running. You can rephrase each of these negative statements into positive ones. If you are compelled to share them, you can do it privately via a short handout. How did you score? Will you pass or fail on the next customer visit? And what would you add to the list? After spending money on building costs, displays and advertising, don’t lose your shopper because of the store’s appearance

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TERMS OF ENDEARMENT It’s no secret that online searches for furniture and furnishings have gone through the roof since the UK first went into lockdown – but which terms have outperformed the rest, and where does consumer interest currently stand? John Warburton investigates …



It’s been a mad old 12 months – but those of us in interiors have had the chance to experience a little of the silver lining of this horrible cloud. To be more precise, online has seen some record-breaking growth – from those retailers with the infrastructure to fulfil orders remotely and continue operating throughout the pandemic. An interesting way to look at how consumer activity has changed over the last 12 months is via the Google Trends platform, which shows data relating to specific search terms – there are 3.5 billion Google searches per day, and while these aren’t actual sales, they’re a great indicator of consumer interest and purchase intent, as well as increased use of online platforms for researching and buying furniture. The following findings are based on normalised Google data from the last five years (normalised data measures the popularity of a term, not the actual number of searches – a value of 100 is its peak popularity). The data is specifically for UK searches within Google’s Home and Garden category. This is important – when we look at the keyword ‘home office’, we’re not seeing data skewed by people trying to find out how to send rude letters to Priti Patel. Dining furniture Immediately after Lockdown 1, interest in dining furniture fell off a cliff. For the previous three years, searches for ‘dining chairs’ and ‘dining table’ had been increasing steadily at around +3% YoY, but in March 2020 they plummeted to a new low – which is understandable, as entertaining was at the bottom of pretty much everyone’s list. However, in May, as soon as the end of lockdown was in sight, people started looking to refresh their dining spaces (we’d had a long time to look at them!) and began searching for these items again, taking ‘dining chairs’ to a new high and showing a +45% YoY increase. The term ‘dining table’ followed a similar trajectory in June, showing an identical +45% increase YoY as it became a hot search term. But that wasn’t the end of it for

dining furniture – this year, things have continued at a rate. December 2020 saw ‘dining table’ reach peak popularity. Q1 2021 has seen a drop in interest, but the term is still being searched more than any other time in the last three years. Searches for ‘dining chairs’ have followed an almost identical trajectory. Cabinets As far as furniture search terms go, ‘cabinet’ is a great one to look at – it can be combined in Google searches with many terms, such as ‘kitchen’, ‘bathroom’, ‘maker’ and ‘wooden’. In a similar manner to dining furniture, ‘cabinet’ saw a drop-off in March 2020, but then an immediate pick-up, reaching its highest-ever popularity as a search term in December 2020/January 2021. With only a couple of exceptions – August and Christmas week – searches including the term ‘cabinet’ have been consistently at their highest point for three years since March 2020. Home office Searches for ‘home office’ began to grow steadily after the first lockdown and then jumped to a high in October 2020 – a +78% increase YoY. Interest then dropped sharply in November and December, until the announcement of Lockdown 3 took it to another high – +2% over October’s figure. Interest is now waning, but still higher than almost all the previous three years. Home accessories Searches for ‘home accessories’ declined through H2 2019 and the start of 2020, but lockdown saw interest surge. Within three weeks, searches had doubled, and the trend has continued, peaking at a five-year high in January. Bedroom furniture The term ‘bedroom furniture’ traditionally peaks in the last week of December, but had been in decline for the last three years – falling an average of -8% YoY. That is until December 2020, when it bucked the trend and saw +24% growth YoY


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PERFECT PITCH You may be used to pitching to customers in person, but what if video conferencing is your only option? Toastmasters International’s Michael Collins shares his tips for selling through the screen …



In the furniture and interiors sector, you’ll be used to pitching to customers at in-person meetings. This is particularly the case when you have samples that you want them to touch and see in all their glory – but how can you get your pitch across most effectively when using video conferencing? Know your audience Ensure you research the client or clients you will be presenting to. What will be most motiving for them? Avoid a long biographical introduction. A better idea can be working elements of your background into the pitch. For example: “What my MBA didn’t teach me are the lessons learned from failures – these came from industry experience.” Ultimately, if the pitch is good enough and a client feels the need, they will research your credentials afterwards. What’s most important is to get to what’s most important to them, as quickly as you can. Stay in control If you know in advance or are concerned that an individual may derail your pitch or ask an awkward question at the outset, using a simple phrase like “if there are no objections, I’m going to give a brief overview for five minutes before inviting questions” is appropriate. This shows you are in control. Encourage questions Many business schools will teach you the traditional flow of how to deliver a pitch. The classic five-step elevator pitch includes the introduction, the problem and solution, a call to action, and closes with the presenter maintaining control of the next steps of any future engagement. While this approach may work in person, it is based on an attentive client who is in the elevator. When delivering a pitch in person, there are tell-tale signs of a disengaged audience, including people looking at their phones or their eyes glazing over. It is more difficult to judge interest levels through a remote presentation, as attendees may be working on something else in parallel. For this

reason, it is important to create a pitch that encourages questions throughout. If they have questions – about materials, colour, or the latest trends, for example – let them ask as you go along. Authenticity will help build rapport In person you can catch up over tea or coffee before a meeting starts – video conferencing offers alternate ways to build rapport. The initial few minutes while attendees may be joining the video call offers you this opportunity. Ask about your client’s business, or share hot-off-the-press industry news that’s relevant to them. Make it about them, and not you. Finally, ask “let me know when you are ready to begin.” It can be easy and convenient to hide behind technology, but take opportunities to show you’re as human as your audience. Encourage them to relate to you. As an example, if the call is facilitating a different time zone, add to your good morning/afternoon/evening by sharing something personal that your audience can empathise with. Using technology well Performing a sound check of your mic and speakers in advance is important. Soft furnishings can help address any echo – and in your business, you may have plenty of that to hand! Don’t draw attention to issues around video technology – instead, mention that you look forward to meeting the client in person. While stock images are available as a background for use with video conferencing tools, these lack authenticity. It is important that your background complements your pitch without being distracting. Remember that it’s you as the speaker who should stand out and be remembered, not the painting on the wall in the background. Another tip is to wear clothes that don’t blend in with the background. Also, your clothing needs to be appropriate. We’ve all become accustomed to wearing more casual clothing while working from home, but it is important to show that you have dressed for the occasion.


BRIGHT IDEAS May’s issue aims to illuminate and inform

When confronted with material shortages, delivery delays, cancelled trade events and emerging customer demands, we’re all having to work both harder and smarter. The camera and eye contact Think of the camera lens as your sole audience (this is counter-intuitive to much of what you may have learned about including the whole room as part of an in-person presentation). The camera should be horizontal with your eye level, and you framed from the chest upwards. It is important to remember that although you may be presenting to a number of people, each individual member of your audience is experiencing a one-to-one situation. In a room full of people, you can become both the presenter and part of the audience by joining them in looking at a slide, but in an online presentation, if you read from a source to your side, you are not looking directly at the camera. Maintain eye contact with your camera lens. Having notes in bold font, close to the camera, may be helpful, but treat them as a back-up. Time for preparation Avoid falling into the trap of assuming that preparation means working on PowerPoint slides. This should be the last thing that you consider. Verbalising your ideas before attempting any script is crucial, as the spoken word is different from the written word. Develop your muscle memory by delivering your pitch out loud many times. Everyone has a different style of delivery, and the more you practice, the more you will be comfortable with discovering your own natural style. If you are more comfortable standing and using charts in your home office, this approach can offer a welcome diversion from slides, while also allowing you to use appropriate hand gestures as you speak. Online, you don’t have the opportunity for your audience members to sit on your latest chair or sofa, or directly experience the texture of new fabrics. However, all your in-person presentation and pitching skills are equally applicable when delivering a pitch virtually


Alongside the latest expert insights and new product, May’s issue will look at how the industry is overcoming the Covid-19 challenge by employing creative, credible and cost-effective solutions. Together with the latest Bedroom, Dining, Living and Trade Services coverage, we’re planning the following special features: Innovation in bedding – the businesses creating more effective, sustainable and sellable sleep solutions The new normal – new furnishing concepts catalysed by the pandemic, from flexible home offices to virus-inhibiting fabrics Virtual shows – what approaches are online shows taking, and which fixtures should you watch out for? Switching suppliers – with widespread supply chain disruption and diversification, we’ll explore alternative sourcing options and the subject of stockist loyalty Long Point – previewing Long Eaton’s showroombased event Whether your proposition has evolved or was robust enough to start with, our readers want to hear from you – so reach out to them through the most effective channel available. Call Sam Horscroft on 07764 650655 or email to find out more




DON’T ASK, DON’T GET What’s the biggest mistake a salesperson can make? Failing to overcome customer objections can be costly, so it’s crucial to make sure all the bases are covered, writes training specialist Adam Hankinson …



“Did you ask for the order?” asked Les Ewings. He was the assistant manager, around 60 years old at the time, the top salesperson – and I was his protege. At least, that’s what I thought I was. It turned out later that he thought I was a giddy and excitable 16-year-old pain in the a**e that needed training, but was probably going to cost him more money than I made him! “Oh no,” I said confidently, “they were just looking.” His whole head went purple. “You stupid little *****! They all say that!” Les proceeded to re-educate me, by asking me all the questions I should have asked the customer. That was 39 years ago, but I can still remember his coffee breath as he ‘explained’ things to me whilst standing two inches from my face. I laugh now, but I’m eternally grateful that my first, best, and strongest lesson in sales was delivered at the very start of my career. So, what’s the potential cost of failing to ask for the order and close the sale? Across our industry, an average order is approximately £1500. If five salespeople miss a chance to close one order per week over the year, that’s over £350,000 missed. Ten people means over £700,000 … you get the point. How can you solve this problem? It’s simple, but not easy. We have to agree upon a number of basics: that we might be missing some opportunities, and that it’s our fault (1); that sometimes customers will tell you they need to go away and think about it when, really, they don’t (2); that sometimes they’ll say it and really mean it! (3); that it’s our job to find out what ‘it’ is, before they leave, every time (4); and that no-one ever died because they asked for the order (5). By agreeing that there are some extra opportunities (1), it means that we have a positive challenge – to win additional sales. When we accept responsibility and don’t blame the customer, it’s the first step to finding a way of solving our own problem. This makes us think ‘Okay, what do I need to do differently with my next customer?’ This is the beginning of change and improvement. Often, when customers say they need to go away and think about it (2), they

really believe that’s what they need to do – and leave the building. What they actually need, though, is some time, and sometimes space, to consider the facts/ options/pros and cons, etc. We should definitely not just accept that they need to leave and give them all they need on a card or piece of paper (in effect giving them a ticket out of the store). We need to help the customer think clearly and feel good by asking them clarifying, qualifying and disqualifying questions: “Are you happy with x?”; “You said you didn’t want x, is that right?”; “You wanted your new x to do y – do you feel this one does that?” With an industry average first-time visit conversion of less than 30%, we know that the majority of customers will want and need to ‘go home and think’ about it (3 and 4) – meaning discussing sizes, finances, suitability, and any other reason. Our job is to learn more about what the ‘it’ is, and ensure we’ve clarified their priorities, needs and wants. We must create a checklist in both our minds that we can tick-off, first confirming their concerns, then addressing them to their satisfaction. It’s doubt and uncertainty that stops them going ahead. Smile and ask for the order (5) – every single time. If you’ve asked all the relevant questions and matched wants and needs, you’ve earned the right. Then just say: “How would you like to pay?”; “Let’s write up the order”; “Let’s go ahead”; or “That’s £1500, please – are you paying cash or card?” How you ask is far less important than actually asking every time. Ask yourself the following questions to decide if you’ve done enough to ask for the order: have I been genuinely interested?; do I have a full understanding of the customer’s situation, needs and wants?; have I solved the customer’s problems?; is it affordable? (this is not a budget question); have I discovered the customer’s priorities?; have I removed sufficient doubt in the customer’s mind?; and is this the right product or service for them? If you can answer ‘yes’ to all of these, you must ask for the order. You have absolutely nothing to lose


TIME TO STEP 2 IT! As Covid-19 continues to wreak economic havoc in people’s lives, The Furniture Makers’ Company announces its biggest fundraising campaign to date …




As I’m sure you’re aware, over the past year our charity has stepped up our welfare support and helped many people from the trade who have been financially disadvantaged by the Covid-19 pandemic. The impact that our charity has had on the lives of those people who have needed support throughout this difficult period is immeasurable, and it has been truly heartening to hear some of the stories of how we’ve made a difference. For example, single parent Layla was sadly made redundant from her customer service advisor job at a national furnishing retailer when it went into administration. With two children to care for and no income, Layla immediately applied for universal credit but, like many, was told that she would have to wait a frustrating five weeks before receiving anything. Fortunately, the redundancy package that she received covered her rent and outgoings for a month, keeping the family afloat in the short term. However, realising that her universal credit payment would only cover her rent, Layla was under pressure to find funds to meet her other outgoings and living costs. We were able to help Layla during this stressful time by awarding her a shortterm grant while she looked for a new job. There are thousands of ‘Laylas’ out there, and many more we need to help. We anticipate that the economic impact of Covid-19 will mean there will be many people working across the various sectors of the domestic and contract furnishing industry who will continue to need support for some time to come. In response to this, we are launching Step 2 It, the largest fundraising campaign in our 120-year history, and I need your support to make it a success. The past year has seen us cooped up and separated from our friends, family

and co-workers, with many having led much more sedentary lives than normal. With Covid-19 restrictions soon to be in the rearview mirror, it is our ambition to inspire the industry to organise and take part in a sports-based activity or challenge to generate vital funds for our charity so we can continue helping those in the trade who are struggling. I am determined to get us all moving for money, cycling for cash, dancing for dosh, walking for wonga, and every other euphemism you can think of! I want to put the ‘fun’ in fundraising, and, after the year we’ve just had, who doesn’t want to be outside, enjoying life with no restrictions, while doing something to raise money for our fellow industry colleagues going through tough times? The Step 2 It campaign officially kicks off in May 2021 and will run until 2022, giving you plenty of time to get involved, but please pledge your support now so we can send you a toolkit with advice and guidance on planning a fundraiser. What’s more, thanks to a benefactor, every penny you raise will be matched, effectively doubling your donation. Don’t worry, I won’t be letting you have all the fun, though, as I too will be going the distance, and plan to walk a combined total of 1000 miles at designated events throughout the campaign, culminating in an epic 100 Mile Challenge across the four days of the 2022 January Furniture Show. Visitors will get to watch and cheer me on, as all the walking will be done on a treadmill at The Furniture Makers’ Company’s stand. It’s my hope that in a few months’ time, we will have an incredible calendar of events happening around the country – so, please, Step 2 It and support your industry charity by signing your company up now at step2it, and start turning those calories burnt into cash earned!



THIS MONTH, WE’RE ASKING … Adam Ashborn (Reborn Marketing & Design) Design-led ecommerce website requests have made Reborn readjust its business mode from trade showand showroom-led design to online immersive spaces. We have also invested in the latest CGI/3D virtual space/imaging software during 2020, which our customers can take advantage of Adam Hankinson (Furniture Sales Solutions) In January 2020 I’d never heard of Zoom! Now I’m pretty adept at it. We can now deliver all our training virtually Andy Stockwell (Gardiner Haskins) How to manage staff and public safety in a pandemic!

Rob Scarlett (Scarlett Design) Ninja-level zoom skills

Steve Adams (Mattress Online) I’ve been upskilling on my understanding of above-the-line marketing, specifically in relation to linear broadcast TV Dids Macdonald, OBE (ACID) I have been fortunate to be part of a three-year governance review of The Furniture Makers’ Company, so it has taught me a lot about managing transformation change (for the better!)

Lee Ness (Global Upholstery Solutions) I learned to sew


Anne Davies (Room to Grow) Zoom! We’ve all had to adapt over the past year, and working from home has been a big learning curve for myself and my team. Our online conferencing skills are now second to none! Emma Leeke (Leekes Retail) Zoom/Teams expert! Mike & Karen Rowley (Core Products) Virtual trading – 12 months ago there was no business guide, so we’ve had to learn on the go

Peter Harding (Fairway Furniture) Outside of work, I have just completed training as a volunteer vaccinator, so I’m now able to play my part in the Covid-19 vaccination programme over the coming months

Gavin Boden (Rhenus Home Delivery (UK)) The understanding of a traffic management system, and how important it is to be part of a strong management team Henrik Pontoppidan (S2U Design Containers) Learning Vietnamese – language, in-depth culture, business practices, business law and history. Fascinating!

Royce Clark (Grampian Furnishers) I now have a degree in Covid retailing … as a business owner, you generally do all the jobs in your business – and with pretty much our whole team furloughed, this was certainly put to the test in my business. During lockdown I sent out a Monday motivational message to our team every week to keep everyone’s spirits up, which was challenging – but I can now add ‘motivational writer’ to my CV … Mike Murray (Land of Beds) Temporary supply teacher at home!

#379 April 2021



The bedmaker’s new chapter

* Join the conversation on Twitter @FurnitureNewsED * Message the editor at * For advertising and subscription enquiries, see p3

Call off the search How plans to redefine online selling SOCIAL MEDIA | CGI MARKETING BEDROOM | DINING | LIVING | TRADE SERVICES

FN379_Pages 1.indd 1

Train to gain with Adam Hankinson How to deliver the perfect (video) pitch

25/03/2021 14:18






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