Furniture News #403

Page 36

#403 April 2023 RETAIL TECHNOLOGY INDX BEDS & BEDROOM LIVING | BEDROOM DINING | TRADE SERVICES SYSTEM SHOCK Time to switch retail management platforms? Rebecca Maloy on INDX Beds & Bedroom Defining the retailer’s role FASHION FIRST Curated comfort from Alpha Designs

Editor's Comment

Any proclamations of ‘the death of the high street’ should be taken with a pinch of salt – coming, as they often do, from the mouths of those in the ecommerce sector’s pay. Granted, there’ll likely be further share of spend migrating online over the coming years, but, for now at least, it appears that the rampant digital dominance brought about by the pandemic has calmed somewhat. Since as far back as May 2021, online sales have been declining (with the exception of November 2022, which was flat), says IMRG. That’s almost two years of revenues falling back down from those heady lockdown heights.

Take John Lewis, which revealed last month that its online traffic was down -5% YoY, while the number of customers using both its online and in-store channels during the year was up +4% – leading to “a channel mix rebalancing from pandemic levels of approximately 70:30 online/shops back to almost 60:40”.

As the pendulum swings back in favour of physical retail, the online giants have reacted accordingly, shedding the staff and costs associated with a more ambitious growth outlook (the term ‘rightsizing’ has become de rigeur). I have little doubt that they hedged their bets accordingly – as did those store-based retailers, big and small, who, with so many landlords backed against a wall, were audacious enough to realise that now might be the perfect time for a land grab.

I can’t predict with any certainty how the future will look, but, having witnessed the peaks and troughs wrought by Covid-19, I’m confident that the watchword will be ‘balance’. It’ll be bricks and clicks. It’ll be multichannel (or, if you prefer, omnichannel). It’ll be traditional physical commerce, ecommerce, mcommerce, and whatever comes next (Metacommerce?).

Managing this multichannel melange already takes the sort of brainpower that’s beyond the ken (and patience) of us mere mortals. The ongoing need to flex one’s business model to meet changing customer demand has highlighted the importance of choosing the best retail management software, and having the right IT infrastructure behind it. After all, the customer’s always right – so you need to be wherever they choose to shop, whenever, and able to offer them a great experience.

This month, Furniture News is returning to the (at once fascinating and impenetrable) topic of retail technology, to find out how the software and platforms available to the furniture sector have changed over the years since they were first implemented, and how straightforward it might be to switch to a new one (see p36). Is your system feeling a little long in the tooth? Chances are, if you can see it, so can your customers.

Like a significant refurb or expansion to a new territory, an IT upgrade shouldn’t be taken lightly. Once you’re committed, you’re in it for the long haul, so it pays to do the research – but that shouldn’t put anyone off seeing what newer systems can offer. In an increasingly complex selling environment, both online and off, having the capability to keep all the plates spinning might be the most important investment you can make.

Elsewhere in this month’s issue, AIS’ beds and cabinet selector Rebecca Maloy gives us the lowdown on the upcoming INDX Beds & Bedroom show (p26), Bensons’ chairman Ian Shepherd shares his own take on how retailers can rise to the multichannel challenge (p58), and we ‘get personal’ with Deirdre Mc Gettrick, the founder of (p14).

There’s also the launch of this year’s Readers’ Choice Awards (p10) – vote for your favourite supply partners by visiting when you get a chance!

Paul Farley

01424 776101
@FurnitureNewsED @Furniture News
“Managing this multichannel melange already takes the sort of brainpower that’s beyond the ken (and patience) of us mere mortals
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7 NEWS 10 READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS 2023 14 INSIGHT 14 Getting personal 16 Alpha Designs Upholstery 18 EVENTS 26 INDX Beds & Bedroom 36 PRODUCTS 36 Retail technology 44 Living 48 Bedroom 50 Dining 54 Trade services 58 OPINION 58 Defining the retailer’s role 60 Confessions of a retail widow 62 Embracing new growth channels 65 Partner comment 66 Feedback Contents EDITORIAL EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Paul Farley 01424 776101 Twitter @FurnitureNewsED SALES SALES AND MARKETING DIRECTOR (FURNITURE NEWS PORTFOLIO) Sam Horscroft 07764 650655 Twitter @FurnitureNewsAD
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#403 April 2023 RETAIL TECHNOLOGY INDX BEDS & BEDROOM LIVING BEDROOM DINING TRADE SERVICES SYSTEM SHOCK Time to switch your retail management platform? Rebecca Maloy on this month’s INDX De ning the retailer’s role FASHION FIRST Curated comfort from Alpha Designs FN403_Pages.1.indd GENERAL INFORMATION No part of this publication may be reproduced without the specific prior written agreement of the Publisher and may not be stored on any type of retrieval system. Furniture News/ Gearing Media Group Ltd accepts no responsibility for variations in colour reproduction. Special colours (Pantone etc) can be catered for with prior arrangement. Some elements of the editorial content in this publication are submitted by the trade, however, all efforts are made to ensure that the editorial remains true to fact and unbiased. Monies may have been accepted to offset the costs of colour reproduction. Gearing Media Group Ltd reserves the right to alter without prior notice any content other than customers’ advertisements. No correspondence will be entered into regarding altered or adjusted editorial content. The editor’s decision is final. All material submitted for inclusion in Furniture News is done so entirely at the owner’s risk and no responsibility is accepted for the safekeeping or return thereof. Advertiser information is reproduced in good faith and Gearing Media Group accepts no responsibility in respect of adverts appearing in the magazine, and the magazines expressed do not necessarily reflect the publisher’s views. The Publisher accepts no liability for any loss arising from an advertisement’s late or non-appearance. Rebecca Maloy Associated Independent Stores (AIS) 26 58 14 65 Ian Shepherd Bensons for Beds Deirdre Mc Gettrick Imre Zilahi International Alliance of Furnishing Publications (IAFP) 5 COVER FEATURE 16 ALPHA DESIGNS UPHOLSTERY

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Devon bedmaker awarded B Corp status

John Lewis’ executive director Pippa Wicks is leaving the partnership, and has been succeeded on an interim basis by Naomi Simcock, currently its retail director

MattressTek plans to expand its Rossendale-based machinery manufacturing operation into a neighbouring unit, taking its footprint from 16,000ft2 to almost 22,000

Cox + Cox Ltd has been sold to Giomani Designs Ltd, after the Frome-based online homewares retailer was placed into administration on 27th February, securing the transfer of 65 jobs

Sterling Furniture Group (now Sterling Home) has announced that its MD Gordon Mearns plans to step down, after leading the Scottish retailer for 20 years

The Furniture & Home Improvement Ombudsman (FHIO) has appointed four new members to its standards board: Harry Yunis (DFS); Ian Studd (British Association of Removers); Anthony Kirkwood (B&Q ); and Tracey Skea (Tapi Carpets)

Vispring has achieved the ISO 14001 Environmental Standard, following an external audit by the Société Générale de Surveillance at its factory in Plymouth

The Furniture Makers’ Company’s annual Curry Night, organised by its Yorkshire regional committee, raised over £2500 for the charity

Devon-based natural bed and mattress company Naturalmat has been awarded B Corp status.

Achieving the accreditation has taken Naturalmat close to two years of rigorous assessment and the evaluation, says founder Mark Tremlett: “From day one over 20 years ago, we’ve been at the forefront of making planet-friendly mattresses with organic, sustainable and renewable materials. So, needless to say, it feels truly rewarding to be recognised as the ethical business we’ve always strived to be and join this powerful global community of organisations working together for a better tomorrow.”

Further highlighting its commitment to sustainable

practices, Naturalmat released its first Impact Report last year, which charts the company’s journey to date and sets out its current sustainability strategies, with ambitious targets it aims to meet by 2025.

Sussex manufacturer takes on Maker&Son licence

Maker&Son has pivoted its model following the sale of the company last summer, and related legal challenges. Maker&Son Licences Ltd, which owns Maker&Son’s IP, will now be responsible for maintaining the brand for the long term, by managing licensing agreements in the UK and overseas.

The first licensee announced is the team behind one of the brand’s existing manufacturers, The Hastings Sofa Company. Led by MD Danny Cleaver, OD Marc Gall and FD Mark Hillyard, the team will run the Maker&Son business in the UK and Ireland, managing customer orders and making and selling the same furniture direct to customers under the Maker&Son brand. Maker&Son says this appointment is particularly positive because part of the deal ensures that past customer orders will be fulfilled in a timely manner. The company predicts a maximum period of 16 weeks to fulfil the backlog.

Jack Mason, group CEO of Inc & Co, parent company of Maker&Son, says: “In our attempt to turn the company around having inherited its substantial debt when it was purchased, we did everything we could to deliver customer orders and find solutions

where delivery was no longer suitable.

“Unfortunately, those attempts to maintain the company’s existing structure were unsuccessful and ultimately liquidation followed. Having invested over £2m, and remaining determined to realise the success that the legacy of this brand can achieve, we therefore adapted our approach and brought forward a plan to license the brand to select global manufacturers.”

Maker&Son will now communicate directly with existing UK and Ireland customers to confirm if they would like to proceed with manufacture and delivery.

Danny Cleaver says: “We’re approaching this new licensing agreement as a separate venture from any of our other companies, but our experience of building a successful high-end furniture brand means we’ve already got strong plans to grow the Maker&Son brand in the UK. That will include investing in showrooms and events as well as reintroducing product lines back into the UK portfolio in response to customer demand.”

Other suppliers to the legacy Maker&Son business have been told that outstanding debts will not be paid.

Ipswich joinery continues to expand

Ipswich-based Apex Joinery, part of The First Interiors Group, continues to expand at pace, appointing Wayne Hines (pictured right) as joinery manager, and Ben Stiff (left) as workshop manager.

In his new role, Wayne is responsible for the day-to-day operations of Apex Joinery. He started his career as a joiner at Taylor Made Joinery before being promoted to contracts manager, followed by workshop assistant manager. He joins Apex from Monarch Joinery. He says: “I hope to help the company further its success in the coming years,

sharing my knowledge, skills and experience with the team.”

Ben, who has worked at Apex for 19 years, has been promoted to workshop manager.

With the appointment of three additional new joiners at Apex, the duo will lead a team of 10 joiners.

Mike McVey, head of group sales and operations at The First Interiors Group, adds: “Wayne is a talented joiner with excellent managerial experience. We are delighted to welcome him to the team and are confident he will play a large part in our future growth plans. Ben’s involvement with Apex Joinery is second to none, and his professionalism is superb. He is a major asset to the business.”

The newly formed First Interiors Group is a collaboration of four firms – First Install, its sister company Specialist Interiors Division, Apex Joinery and MBS Workplace Environments.


JLP appoints first chief executive

John Lewis Partnership has appointed its first chief executive, Nish Kankiwala (pictured). Nish has been a non-executive director of the partnership since April 2021, is a former chief executive of Hovis, and has held senior roles at Burger King and PepsiCo.

Partnership chairman Sharon White says: “The new structure allows me to focus on the preservation of the partnership model and our distinctive character, on the strategy for the partnership and our big commercial choices. Nish will draw on his significant transformation experience to drive performance and profitability day to day.”

The news came as John Lewis shared its unaudited results for the year ended 28th January 2023, in which it reported revenues of £3.79b (down -2% YoY). Customer numbers were up +0.5% to 11.7 million. Footfall to stores grew +34% YoY (reaching 100 million for the first time since before Covid), while online traffic was down -5%. The number of customers using both channels during the year was up +4% (21% of the retailer’s customer base). In combination, this led to a channel mix rebalancing from pandemic levels of approximately 70:30 online/shops to almost 60:40.

The retailer says it maintained its market share, with volumes up +1% for the year, supported by a strong performance from its branches, which were up +20%. John Lewis Trading’s operating profit fell by £82m to £676m, yet Home sales continued to prove relatively consistent, at 27% of the sales mix. Across the partnership, loss before exceptional items and tax was £78m, down from a profit of £181m last year. The loss before tax was £234m, down from a loss of £27m last year. The impact of inflation was felt across the business, adding £179m to costs. However, the partnership says it is stepping up its transformation, having delivered over £300m of cost savings in the last two years – and now aims to save another £600m by January 2026.

Profits down at DFS despite market share gains

DFS has announced its interim results for the 26-week period ended 25th December 2022. Profit before tax, excluding brand amortisation, fell by £16.2m to £7.1m (1.3% of revenues), which DFS says reflected a weak market environment, (particularly in Q1).

However, it says higher AOVs, driven by range innovation as well as some retail price increases to counter input inflation, more than offset the impact on revenues of a decline in market volumes compared to FY19 – revenue from continuing operations was £544.5m, down -2.2% YoY (but up +9.4% compared to the pre-pandemic FY19 period).

The retailer says it achieved record market share, extending its position as “the clear market leader”, and that the first phase of its Home strategy is progressing well, with the extension of its upholstery exclusive brand partnerships to bed frames, and the completion of IT development and logistics enabling activities contributing to beds and mattresses to achieve YoY online order growth of +70%.

Full-year profit before tax and brand amortisation is expected to be in a range of £30-£35m – in line with market consensus, but towards the lower end of the retailer’s previous guidance.

Group CEO Tim Stacey says: “The share gains have gone some way to alleviating the impact of the weaker market we have observed in 2022 overall. Profit margins have reduced over the last year due to a combination of significant cost increases and our commercial strategy to ensure that we continued to offer great value for customers in an environment where consumer discretionary spend was under pressure.

“We have, however, improved our gross margins in the first half of this year from H2 of FY22, and further still in the second half to date, through product innovation and selected retail price increases. Cost headwinds are reducing and in some cases reversing, and we expect our upward gross margin trajectory to continue as we execute our margin build-back plan.”

ScS makes good progress despite losses in H1

In its interim results report for the 26 weeks ended 28th January 2023, ScS says it performed in line with expectations during the half, with the acquisition of boxed sofa brand Snug bringing further diversification and market share potential to the group.

Delivered sales increased +3.4%, with improvements in the supply chain reducing lead times, yet ScS suffered an underlying loss before tax of £4.7m – which was, it says, nonetheless £0.9m ahead of the prior period and typical of H1 performance.

Gross profit was £67.8m (up +0.3% YoY), not counting any contributions from Snug – the set-up and

acquisition of which were largely accountable for the £0.8m costs incurred during the half. Excluding stock sales, gross margin was in line with the prior period. ScS ended the half with cash of £76.9m (was £87.9m for H1 FY22). It also completed its share buyback programme, returning £7m to shareholders.

ScS’ expectation for underlying profit before tax for the year is £7.7m, which excludes the impact of the acquisition of Snug, which it believes will be earnings accretive in FY24: “We intend to invest in the business throughout H2 and expect Snug will report a second half loss before tax of £1m.”

MattressNextDay has started work on its new, purpose-built showroom in Kent, which is set to open later this year and will also offer the online retailer additional storage capacity

Silentnight has appointed Tracey Bamber (ex-Culligan International, a global water treatment company) as CEO. She succeeds Neil Anderson, who led the business from 2019

M&S has committed to investing almost £60m in store staff pay – its biggest ever investment in front-line staff reward

J Sainsbury plans to close the three remaining standalone Habitat showrooms – in Leeds, Westfield (London), and Brighton – from 1st July, as part of consolidation measures across the group

Harrison Spinks has made a six-figure investment in a new distribution centre in LA – its first US facility – which will stock four of its British-made mattresses for clients across North America

The BFM reports that Furniture Village and ScS are among the businesses which have joined its new approved retailer category

Mattress Online has been identified as one of the 50 fastestgrowing companies in Yorkshire by the Ward Hadaway Yorkshire Fastest 50 Awards, and named one of the UK’s Top 100 SME Businesses by Elite Business Magazine


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Who gets your vote?

Credit where it’s due … our Readers’ Choice Awards are back, and we’re asking every one of you to cast your votes and nominate your choice of today’s top suppliers!

In business, it’s essential to forge strong partnerships – particularly when you’re part of a supply chain.

Each month, Furniture News shares the latest products and insight from furniture and furnishing suppliers (and service providers) eager to engage with our huge network of readers, both in print and online. Many boast best-in-class approaches, the freshest designs, or the most competitive prices – there’s no lack of choice out there for retailers, suppliers or interior designers wishing to get ahead of the crowd.

But what happens once those partnerships are initiated? Which qualities are need to ensure these relationships endure?

The Furniture News Readers’ Choice Awards are an annual celebration of the suppliers that are going above and beyond to keep and support your business. The suppliers that are reliable, honest, flexible, personable, and always willing to go the extra mile if required. The suppliers whose products are the stars of your shop floor, the winning component

in your furniture, or your optimum business platform or network.

Since their launch in 2021, the awards have gone from strength to strength, with huge numbers of trade professionals casting their votes through our online form. You can vote for one of the suggested nominees in each category, or suggest your own. You can share links to the entry form with your customers and colleagues, too – we’re looking for the most representative selection of the trade’s voters, so the more, the merrier!

We designed the Readers’ Choice Awards to celebrate the suppliers that are leading the pack, and to let you have your say. Please take a few minutes to recognise the industry partners you couldn’t do without.

Orbital Vision created a moodboard display to mark its win in the Best CGI Visualisation Provider category last year
“Please take a few minutes to recognise the industry partners you couldn’t do without
Hypnos’ chief executive James Keen proudly celebrating
his company’s win in the Best Bed Supplier category FIRA International, winner of the Best Testing Services/Certification Provider category, 2021-22 Sales Solutions has topped the Best Sales/Marketing Services Provider category for two years running

How to vote

You can cast your votes in a number of ways:

* Visit to cast your votes quickly and easily through our online entry form

* Fill out the form over the page, then photograph or scan it, and email the image to paul@ (don’t forget to add your name and the name of your business to the bottom of the form)

* Fill out the form over the page, then post it to: Furniture News Readers’ Choice Awards, Gearing Media Group, 4 Red Barn Mews, High Street, Battle, East Sussex TN33 0AG

Voting closes at midnight on Friday 9th June –any submissions received past that date will not be counted. We’ll only consider one set of nominations per reader (and yes, we do check!). Please nominate one relevant supplier in each category. Who’s the best in the business right now? Let us know what you think – we’ll reveal the winners in August’s issue.

Last year’s winners

Best Buying Group/Association: Associated Independent Stores (AIS)

Best Bed Supplier: Hypnos

Best Bedroom Cabinet Supplier: Welcome Furniture

Best CGI Visualisation Provider: Orbital Vision

Best Children’s/Nursery Furniture Supplier: Julian Bowen

Best Decorative Accessories Supplier: Coach House

Best Dining Furniture Supplier: Gallery Direct

Best Display Support Provider: Gregor Ryan

Best Component Supplier: Leggett & Platt

Best Fabric Supplier: Edmund Bell

Best Fabric Upholstery Supplier: Westbridge Furniture Designs

Best Flatpack Furniture Supplier: Core Products

Best For Innovation: Chilli Pepper Designs

Best For Sustainable Thinking: Harrison Spinks

Best Fulfilment/Transport Provider: Rhenus Home Delivery (UK)

Best Furniture Care/Repair Provider: Homeserve Furniture Repairs

Best Garden/Outdoor Furniture Supplier: Home Junction

Best Home Office Furniture Supplier: Jual Furnishings

Best Importer: Bluebone Imports

Best International Exhibition: Salone del Mobile.Milano

Best Leather Upholstery Supplier: Hydeline (At The Helm)

Best Lighting Supplier: där lighting

Best Living Room Cabinet Supplier: Kettle Interiors Agencies

Best Mattress Supplier: Sleepeezee

Best Newcomer: Meridian Upholstery

Best Occasional Chair/Recliner Supplier: Ekornes (Stressless)

Best Rug Supplier: Think Rugs

Best Sales/Marketing Services Provider: Furniture Sales Solutions

Best Soft Furnishings Supplier: Abbeylands Furniture (Scatter Box)

Best Software/Technology Provider: RetailSystem

Best Testing Services/Certification Provider: FIRA International

Best UK Exhibition: January Furniture Show

Best UK Manufacturer: Millbrook Beds

11 Homeserve Furniture
Delivery UK, two-time winner of the Best Fulfilment/Transport Provider category
Repairs, two-time winner of the
Furniture Care/Repair Provider category
“Who’s the best in the business right now? Let us know what you think – we’ll reveal the winners in August’s issue

Best (complete) Bed Supplier:

Best Bed Component Supplier:

Best Bedroom Cabinet Supplier:

Best Boxed Mattress Brand:

Best Boxed Sofa Brand:

Best Buying Group:

Best CGI Visualisation Provider:

Best Children’s/Nursery Furniture Supplier:

Best Decorative Accessories Supplier:

Best Dining Furniture Supplier:

Best Display Support Provider:

Best European Exhibition (outside the UK):

Best Fabric Supplier:

Best Fabric Upholstery Supplier:

Best Flatpack Furniture Supplier:

Best for Innovation:

Best for Sustainable Thinking:

Best Fulfilment Provider:

Best Furniture Care/Repair Provider:

Best Furniture Component Supplier:

Best Garden/Outdoor Furniture Supplier:

Best Home Office Furniture Supplier:

For email/postal entries, add your name and business name here:

Cast your votes at, or fill in the form below and return it per the instructions on the previous page.

Best Importer:

Best International Exhibition (outside Europe):

Best Leather/Leather-Look Upholstery Supplier:

Best Lighting Supplier:

Best Living Room Cabinet Supplier:

Best Machinery Manufacturer:

Best Mattress Supplier:

Best Newcomer:

Best Occasional Chair/Recliner Supplier:

Best Product Protection Supplier:

Best Rug Supplier:

Best Sales/Marketing Services Provider:

Best Sofabed Supplier:

Best Soft Furnishings Supplier:

Best Software/Technology Provider:

Best Testing Services/Certification Provider:

Best Trade Association:

Best UK Bed Manufacturer:

Best UK Exhibition:

Best UK Upholstery Manufacturer:

Best Upholstered Bed Supplier:

Best Vehicle Manufacturer:


GETTING PERSONAL Deirdre Mc Gettrick

Together with her husband Ray, Deirdre founded (previously Kuldea), an online search and comparison engine which presents consumers with a wealth of products from across the furniture retail sector. The business recently raised £3.4m in seed funding, bringing the total funding received since the platform launched to over £5.2m. Prior to 2019, Deirdre worked in the banking sector.

How might a child describe what you do? Deirdre lists all the furniture on her website.

What’s the biggest long-term challenge you face? Making every person in the UK know that ufurnish. com exists, and the choice, value and time saving it can bring to them.

If you had 10 x your working budget, what would you spend it on?

Bringing the team together more often, expanding the team to deliver more product features, and marketing, marketing, marketing.

What would be the title of your autobiography? ‘Honestly’.

What does ‘work/life balance’ mean to you?

I’m firmly in the work balance at the moment, but planning to bring the life balance into play more.

Who’s been your most influential professional mentor?

My chairman Pat McCann. He’s come from a similar upbringing to myself, and has grafted hard in his life to rise up through the ranks, yet he manages to remain so humble. I’m still learning, so having someone who you can ask how to manage something or observe firsthand how they deal with business is very useful.

What advice would you give your younger self? Don’t take on as much work – do fewer things, and do them to a higher quality. I was always rushing to get onto the next thing but would have been better doing less but to a higher standard.

What’s been your best day in business to date? A toss-up between when got its first investment to start to build the business, and when the first sale was made, showing that the business proposition had value and was going to work.

What’s the biggest myth about our industry? That the cheapest item is better value than something twice the price. I think we need to educate consumers on quality and value. Value does not mean the lowest price. Think of it as a cost per wear – a sofa that you

keep for two years is not better value than a sofa at twice the cost that you keep for seven.

What should everyone in our industry either stop or start doing?

Start always keeping the consumer in mind for all decisions, and stop thinking that the hard sale is the way to create long-term brand loyalty (and therefore sales). Using data insights to provide the most compelling service to individual consumers will help differentiate the winners from the rest.

Where do you see the industry going in the next 5-10 years?

I think omnichannel will become more important than ever. People are viewing retail as an experience, entertainment, something to find enjoyment from. Events and activity in stores will help to drive brand awareness and footfall, whilst online will continue to grow its share of actual purchase.

What question do you wish we’d asked? How would you have answered?

Q. What’s your superpower?

A. Underestimation. It’s amazing what you can learn from insights when people have dismissed you and don’t view you as important.

“Don’t take on as much work – do fewer things, and do them to a higher quality
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Personalised comfort, without the price tag

For its new Curated range, Alpha Designs Upholstery set out to deliver a new level of quality and personalisation in an affordable package – writes sales director Nichola Bell, who joined the business in time for this year’s January Furniture Show (JFS), and hasn’t looked back since …

“Well, what a few exciting months it’s been! A new year, a new role, and some fabulous new products,” begins Nichola. “I’ve been most impressed with the fantastic, positive attitude of Alpha’s team, and the flexibility of our manufacturing process.”

The star of Furniture News’ front cover this month, Alpha launched four new models at JFS, and many are already on shop floors across the UK – and, thanks to their unique qualities, those models are likely to sell fast, Nichola continues: “As consumers are starting to feel the pinch in the current financial climate, we wanted to bring added value and something different to our customers, to allow them to offer a more bespoke feel. It’s all about value for money, and choice.”

Nichola says that Alpha’s new range, Curated, is inspired by fashion, and features a mix of materials and unique detailing, fused with generous proportions and superior comfort. “The superior comfort comes from a fantastic new seat interior of coil springs surrounded by a foam wrap, giving the user support, longevity and low maintenance.”

She adds that the “curated” detail, whether it be contrast cuffs, piping treatment or metalwork, has been carefully selected to enhance each product, and is a flexible choice for the end-customer that delivers a more bespoke feel.

“Consumers want flexibility without the ‘bespoke’ price tag,” Nichola continues. “Alpha offers so much choice, and we try to say ‘yes’ as many times as possible! By offering any fabric on any shape, we’re giving consumers choice – and for those homes with tight spaces, we’ll even split a sofa for access purposes where possible.

“We will match fabrics on request, and we will fully finish modular pieces to meet most customer needs.”

Nichola adds that Alpha has introduced its own in-house CGI department, so is now striving to provide its stockists with as much content as possible, enabling them to fully replicate their shopfloor presence online.

“Flexibility, choice, value and competitive lead times make Alpha Designs an easy choice for customers looking for a good British supplier,” Nichola concludes. “We look forward to seeing our new ranges on the shop floors over the spring, and are already working on new products for the summer!”

For more information, contact

“It’s all about value for money, and choice
corner with contrast piping and quilted arm detail Atlas four-seater
Atlas snuggler with contrast arm cuff


For more information contact
Titus Snuggler

A pan-industry take on sustainability

The inaugural Routes to Greater Sustainability Industry Day, delivered by The Furniture Makers’ Company in association with the British Furniture Confederation (BFC) at Furniture Makers’ Hall, London on 16th February, offered insight into how the UK furnishing industry is mitigating climate change.

The free event, which was sponsored by FIRA, Ocee Design, Panaz and SATRA, was the first pan-furnishing industry conference of its kind, and welcomed businesses and delegates from all sectors of the domestic and contract markets, with the aim of sharing knowledge and best practice.

Delegates watched nine short presentations, which included: an overview of potential new Government legislation by the BFC; a focus on the Furniture Industry Sustainability Programme (FISP); and information about how to measure a company’s carbon footprint, by SATRA. The schedule also included case studies from companies including Carpet Recycling UK, Hypnos, JPA Workspaces, Panaz and Silentnight. Between the presentations, networking sessions offered delegates the opportunity to learn from one another.

Joanna Knight, The Furniture Makers’ Company’s climate change and sustainability committee chair, says: “Our Routes to Greater Sustainability Industry Day offered a unique opportunity for colleagues from throughout the furnishing sector, from retail, office, bedding and flooring, to come together to share knowledge and experiences. We were delighted with the attendance and the extremely positive feedback. We intend to build upon this success and develop a range of initiatives to promote greater understanding.”

The industry day was supported by trade associations including the British Furniture Manufacturers (BFM), Carpet Recycling UK, Commercial Interiors UK, FIRA International, the National Bed Federation (NBF) and SATRA.

Furniture News’ Paul Farley adds: “It was great to hear a balanced take on the key sustainability issues affecting our industry, as well as the experiences of those striving to stay ahead of the curve. The industry needs to change, in many ways – hopefully this experience brought a few of the delegates a little closer to realising it.”

The presentations can be viewed on YouTube, at

“It was a unique opportunity for colleagues from throughout the furnishing sector to come together to share knowledge and experiences
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Polish fair back to pre-pandemic scale

Meble Polska, the largest furniture show in Central and Eastern Europe, reportedly recovered to its prepandemic scale at this year’s edition, which took place in Poznan from 21st-24th February.

The event was similar in size to that held in 2020, and the number of participants increased by +19.6% compared to the edition which took place last May.

The fair was attended by visitors from 71 countries, and, according to registration data, 51% of all visitors came from abroad. The largest group was from Germany (15.9% of the international buyers), while other significant groups of guests came from Lithuania, the UK (8%), the Czech Republic, France, Ukraine and the Netherlands.

The total number of fair participants amounted to 13,744 people, says show director Józef Szyszka, who adds: “The Meble Polska fair has clearly become a global brand in the furniture industry. More than 10 years of an intensive promotional campaign abroad have made the Poznan furniture fair known practically all over the world, and foreign furniture buyers know

that it is the best place to see the offer of the Polish furniture industry.”

A total of 263 companies from 14 countries presented their offers during the fair. The exhibition covered a total area of 55,000 sqm of the MTP venue, with exhibitors presenting products from all price segments across upholstered furniture, cabinet furniture made of board and solid wood, chairs, tables and mattresses.

This year, the exhibition was attended by suppliers from China, Cyprus, Denmark, Lithuania, Germany, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Italy. Like last May, a large national presentation was organised by the Ukrainian Association of Furniture Manufacturers.

“The next edition of the Meble Polska fair will take place as usual in the last week of February – from 20th-23rd February, 2024,” concludes Józef, “and it promises to be very positive.”

“Foreign furniture buyers know that it is the best place to see the offer of the Polish furniture industry
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EFE brings international sourcing to life

Malaysia’s annual Export Furniture Exhibition (EFE) ended on yet another high, reports the show’s organiser …

From 7-10th March, the Kuala Lumpur Convention Center (KLCC) was home to the international furniture exhibition, which was presented by the Malaysian Furniture Council (MFC) and organised by EFE Expo, a wholly owned subsidiary of the MFC.

As one of the prominent international exhibitions in South-east Asia, EFE brings together industry stakeholders while enabling the sourcing of furniture based on innovation and quality, across a variety of categories and designs.

This year’s exhibition drew extra attention from international buyers, who were offered a three-day, two-night complimentary stay prior the event. The show was also graced by Malaysia’s Deputy PM, YAB Dato’ Sri Haji Fadillah Yusof, who delivered a speech

at the opening ceremony.

“EFE 2023 received positive feedback from exhibitors and visitors alike, as well as praise from the industry,” states the organiser, “and some exhibitors have already reserved and increased their space for next year’s event.”

The appeal of this year’s show was broadened through the introduction of new product areas including office furniture, which promises to create future growth, says EFE Expo, adding: “At EFE 2024, visitors can expect to find a wider range of furniture from more exhibitors, as well as a larger exhibition area. We look forward to welcoming you there!”

“At EFE 2024, visitors can expect to find a wider range of furniture from more exhibitors, as well as a larger exhibition area

Fly the flag this May!

May’s Furniture News will celebrate all that is creative and good in British furniture – and more.

Best of British – shining a light on the bene ts of buying British, as the King’s coronation marks the dawn of a new era

Innovation in Bedding – from component breakthroughs to sustainable initiatives, we’re highlighting the bed industry’s pioneering spirit

We’ll also preview Minerva’s Spring Furniture & Bed Show and Spring Long Point, alongside our regular Bedroom, Living, Dining and Trade Services features.



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NBF invites bed buyers to annual showcase

Hundreds of bed buyers and specifiers are now looking ahead to the UK’s biggest bed exhibition, the Bed Show – taking place at Telford International Centre from 26-27th September, and organised by the National Bed Federation (NBF).

The Bed Show celebrates the coming together of some of the best in British and Irish bed manufacturing, their component suppliers, and bed retailers from across the UK. It is a place where they can demonstrate their latest products and innovations, and take the opportunity to speak face to face with the experts.

This year’s show promises some of the biggest names in beds, as well as smaller niche players –visitors will find the likes of Breasley, Deluxe Beds, Harrison Spinks, Highgrove Beds, Hypnos, Kaymed, Sealy, Silentnight and Vogue Beds, to name just a few.

The Supplier Innovation Zone should be the first port of call for all purchasing managers of bed

manufacturers, and those that run their own mattress production units. The zone will host a selection of key component suppliers, including Apropa, Boyteks, Enkev, Handy, John Cotton Nonwovens, Legget & Platt, Spinks, Wolf Components, and many more.

Once again, visitors will receive complimentary refreshments vouchers to use at the many on-site cafes. There is plenty of free parking on site, and entry to the Bed Show is free of charge, too – any visitors wishing to bring young children into the halls with them are encouraged to do so on the 27th September.

The bed trade’s glittering event of the year, the annual Bed Industry Awards and gala dinner, returns on the night of Tuesday, 26th September. The NBF states: “We’re delighted to bring back the 11 awards categories this year which proved a huge hit in 2022. Winning an award is much coveted, and competition is always very keen, so start thinking now about the individuals, products, stores and campaigns that all deserve recognition.”

Details of the awards and gala dinner, including this year’s celebrity compere, will follow in due course on the Bed Show website.

“We’re delighted to bring back the 11 awards categories this year which proved a huge hit in 2022
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Calling all bedroom buyers ...

INDX Beds & Bedroom returns to Cranmore Park, Solihull this month, giving Associated Independent Stores (AIS) members (25th April) and the general trade (26th) an opportunity to discover the latest products and services in an intimate, welcoming environment. AIS’ beds and cabinet selector Rebecca Maloy, an instrumental member of the show team, tells us more …

Give us your elevator pitch for the INDX Beds & Bedroom …

Make sure you join us for the April edition of INDX Beds & Bedroom, organised mid-spring with buying cycles and product lead times in mind. Curated by buyers for buyers, our selection of suppliers has been specially selected to deliver a varied product mix with a range of price points, with exclusive product lines and discounts for members.

This April sees new ranges launching from a large number of established suppliers, and the addition of new suppliers to the mix. Hosted at our dedicated exhibition venue, Cranmore Park, we’re easily accessible via Junction 4 of the M42, and have free parking, complimentary refreshments and in-house catering services on site.

[AirDrops registration details upon leaving the elevator] We look forward to seeing you at the show!

What did last year’s shows achieve?

The obvious backdrop for our last show was Christmas, with the all-important winter sales just on the horizon. With this in mind, our goal was to provide a platform for retailers and suppliers alike to unite and plan for this bumper season. On this front, I’d be happy to call our last INDX Beds & Bedroom exhibition a success – the timing of the show allowed enough time for shopfloor displays to land, and feedback suggests that retailers were able to take full advantage of winter sale opportunities as a result.

Can visitors to this month’s show expect anything new?

Many of our existing exhibitors are set to introduce new ranges at our April show – including Willis & Gambier, Rauch, Sleepeezee, Harrison Spinks, Hypnos, and Millbrook. We have also invited guest suppliers Kayflex, and The Original Bed Company, and will be launching new AIS suppliers Mattsons, Staud, Lifetime Kids, and Bell & Stocchero. In short, yes!

Why did AIS settle on April and September as the right times for the show?

Our show dates have been specially selected in response to customer feedback. Specifically, April and September shows are well placed in regards to buying cycles and product lead times, allowing shop orders to be taken and delivered ahead of peak trading periods. Our June furniture show does the same for upholstery and cabinets, as these products face longer lead times.

What’s likely to be the hot industry topic on everyone’s lips this month?

Whether you have registered for INDX Beds & Bedroom, of course! Jokes aside, sustainability remains high on the agenda, and rightly so. Change is coming – not just in terms of expectation, but legislation, so it’s important that the industry is future-proofed against this. However, it would be fair to say that bed suppliers are ahead of the game

“We’ve always prided ourselves on adapting our show offering in line with the needs of the industry

in this regard, with many focusing on sustainability as a pillar of their business. It’s critical that we work together to share this knowledge and do everything we can for a more circular, sustainable future.

What are the biggest changes you’ve seen since you joined AIS?

While product makeup remains an important factor, when it comes to beds there has been a large move away from a reliance on talking solely about spring count and fillings. Wellbeing, improved sleep and choosing the right bed has become more of a focus –in my view, a bed is the one piece of furniture that can fundamentally change a person’s life.

It’s great to have choice in terms of filling, feels and technologies, though it’s the retailer’s role to guide the consumer through the selection process. Some consumers will want to know every detail of the mattress, down to the gauge of the spring – though the majority just want to be sold a great night’s sleep.

Have the INDX shows been shaped with any of these changes in mind?

Here at AIS, we’ve always prided ourselves on adapting our show offering in line with the needs of the industry. We have recently introduced a dedicated retail insights section at shows, with the last edition featuring focuses on sustainability and sleep. We have plans to include these in a series of webinars to keep this front and centre throughout the year, not just at shows!

Do you feel the shows are succeeding in balancing the needs of AIS members with those of the wider trade?

Customer feedback is essential to us. For this reason, every show is followed by a survey sent to every visitor, and we use this insight to help shape the shows going forward. We always strive to reflect the wants and needs of both audiences, and are committed to a ‘test and learn’ approach – you win some, you lose some!

Having been a buyer for the likes of Furniture Village and Dreams, how easy was making the transition to selector/showrunner?

My journey from buyer to selector has been an interesting one, no doubt. The structure of the role is very similar, with the main difference being that the ‘final mile’ decision sits elsewhere. Given that I’m no longer in that front-line retail position, it’s more important than ever to build relationships with suppliers and members to ensure I’m as close to what’s going as possible.

In relation to products, it’s the same principles, in terms of delivering the right selection at the best price – I’m just not placing orders any more. As for the shows, I really enjoy the process of putting them together. It’s not too dissimilar to delivering a new store – operations, strategy, and some general hard graft!

What’s been your proudest achievement within the buying group to date?

It goes without saying, but Covid was challenging for everyone, and particularly tricky to navigate, as it was uncharted territory. I think this period really showed what buying groups are all about – pulling together as members and suppliers to provide support so that we can minimise impact on business and the wider industry. Thankfully, this period is behind us now, and the bedroom sector seems to have returned to a position of strength, despite various ongoing challenges.

It might be too early to ask, but where do the shows go from here?

Across our entire portfolio of shows, we are always looking at how we can take the next step to improve upon the previous year’s edition. Ultimately, we need to ensure we have the optimum selection of suppliers and product mix so that bedroom category buyers save the date and visit the show.

Every day is a school day, and we will continue to take on board member and visitor feedback to ensure the show remains fresh and relevant.

To register to visit INDX Beds & Bedroom, visit

“Change is coming – not just in terms of expectation, but legislation
Curated by buyers for buyers Visit or Exhibit Scan and secure your place Brought to you by 25-26 APRIL 2023* Tuesday 25 April* 08:30 - 17:00 Wednesday 26 April 08:30 - 16:00 *Members only

Sleepeezee – exclusive and expanded

Sleepeezee is excited to be attending the INDX Beds & Bedroom show, where it will launch several AIS-exclusive models, as well as showcasing some of its bestselling ranges.

Brand new for 2023, Sleepeezee will launch a collection of beds named Ecologic – a range of mattresses that are both budget and eco-friendly. Each mattress is made using environmentally friendly materials, including fibres made from recycled plastic bottles and natural latex derived from the sap of the rubber tree, providing unique comfort during the night. Each mattress is also made using over 75% recycled fibres within the ticking and border.

Aware that a good night’s sleep should not cost the earth, Sleepeezee’s new Ecologic range has been designed to hit key price points for the budgetconscious consumer.

Also launching for 2023 will be a new range of memory foam mattresses featuring Sleepeezee’s next-generation Graphite memory foam, which provides soft comfort, while the unique graphite element helps reduce the heat build-up traditionally associated with foam. Sleepeezee says the graphite memory foam layers allow for the movement of air and moisture, dispersing heat away from the body to prevent overheating – and resulting in a more comfortable night’s sleep.

Alongside these two new collections, which have been designed exclusively for AIS members, Sleepeezee will present some of its bestselling collections, including: the Jessica collection, named after and developed with the bedmaker’s brand ambassador, Jessica Ennis-Hill; Ortho Bespoke, a range of firmer beds for those who need additional support without compromising on comfort; and finally the Gel and Crystal collections, which feature a unique, cool-touch mattress cover and Sleepeezee’s popular StayCool gel foam.

Visit Sleepeezee at INDX Beds & Bedroom to see these new ranges and discover exclusive offers.

“A good night’s sleep should not cost the earth

Quality comfort, naturally



New product Denver is proving an eye-catching hit for award-winning German bedroom manufacturer, Wiemann.

The new-for-2023 range will be on show at forthcoming spring exhibitions Northpoint (23rd –25th April), INDX Beds & Bedroom (25 -26th April), Long Point (8-10th May) and the Spring Furniture & Bed Show (16-17th May).

Featuring a unique decking-style panel which adds interest to this sliding and hinged VIP wardrobe, Denver is available in a range of bestselling finishes.

Simon Hewitt, MD of Wiemann’s sole agent for the UK and Ireland, Litmus Furniture, says: “Denver has already established itself as a bestseller, alongside our ever-popular VIP Monaco range. We are looking forward to showing off these two and more.”


Sleepsense International is a fast-growing name in the bedding industry, specialising in the design and manufacture of bedding products, with a varied portfolio available in both the UK and international markets.

The company’s mission is to provide brands with “the ultimate sleep environment through a onestop solution”, working closely with their partners to expand product portfolios to drive sales and profits – most recently reflected in its partnership with Sleepeezee, with which it launched a range of premium bedding.

MD Mike Hobson says: “We are thrilled to partner with Sleepeezee, and to bring our wealth of knowledge in sleep to a wider audience. Our goal is to provide customers with the perfect night’s sleep, and this collaboration will allow us to achieve that by offering a premium bedding range that is second to none.”

The range includes pillows, duvets and mattress protectors.

Monaco Denver 32 EVENTS INDX BEDS & BEDROOM | made in germany Denver - Wiemann’s best selling new addition for 2023 Total bedroom solutions from Wiemann Bedrooms of distinctive style, quality and value Don’t miss us at Northpoint, INDX Beds and Bedrooms, Longpoint and the Spring Furniture Show!

Protecting product and profit

This month’s INDX Beds & Bedroom, and next month’s Spring Furniture and Bed Show, represent timely opportunities to review new lines following the winter sales, says Gowsh Shan, national sales manager at mattress protection specialist Protect-A-Bed – which will be present at both …

Protect-A-Bed has helped numerous retailors significantly grow sales throughout the winter sale, says Gowsh – adding that, with footfall uncertain, maximising every sale for the rest of the year is vital.

“Protect-A-Bed help support and drive sales growth through our Platinum Club rewards programme,” he continues. “This spring would be a perfect time to join if you’re not already a member.”

The Platinum Club has been extremely successful since its creation, adds Gowsh: “We continuously build frameworks that are simple for retailers to implement in order to achieve extremely high sales within the category. The Platinum Club is an in-store rewards programme designed to build, recognise and reward this success. We create energy and excitement in a category that’s often overlooked, and our ability to turn this into sales growth is phenomenal.”

Yet, Gowsh explains, the Platinum Club is but one element that sets Protect-A-Bed apart from its competitors.

“Every Protect-A-Bed protector also includes a 1015 year product guarantee, and when bought with a mattress, a 10-15 year anti-stain guarantee. Protect-ABed will have the mattress professionally cleaned to the customer’s satisfaction, or buy the customer a new

one if it fails and the mattress was bought with the protector. This promise is significantly powerful and is at the core of our philosophy.

“It’s in both the store’s and the customer’s interest to purchase Protect-A-Bed mattress protectors. Our speciality is driving in-store performance, so linked mattress and mattress protector sales are extremely high. The customer benefits from a healthy and hygienic sleep zone, while the store benefits from increased sales revenue. Every customer who walks through the door, if buying a mattress, needs to buy a mattress protector. It’s in their interest to do so for many reasons.”

Gowsh concludes: “Protect-A-Bed’s ability to upskill your team and increase your sales revenue by maximising every sales opportunity has been well documented. We can manage every step of the process for you, and build a reward scheme through the Protect-A-Bed Platinum Club.

“Visit our stands at the upcoming shows to see our advanced therapeutics range and TV display bays, and to find out how we can significantly grow sales for your store.”

“Linked mattress and mattress protector sales are extremely high

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Overcoming system shock

This month, Furniture News explores the opportunities and challenges multichannel retailers face when upgrading their retail management system to meet modern demand …

It’s official – bricks work better when supported by clicks. Going multichannel gives furniture retailers access to new avenues of opportunity – yet it also adds layers of complexity to a business, and any attempts to scale up (and out) into the digital space are likely to falter without the presence of a robust IT platform to manage the details and join the dots.

From inventory management and order processing to ecommerce, PoS and resources for sales staff, retail management systems promise to integrate the numerous tasks involved in running a multichannel retail business, ensuring accuracy, transparency and insight across both in-store and online operations.

But what happens when that system starts feeling a little bit long in the tooth, and the technology that once enabled growth begins to create frustration?

In line with changing customer behaviour, retail management platforms have evolved a great deal in recent years, so a business may find that its current

set-up simply isn’t up to scratch.

This month, we’re exploring how retailers can go about selecting a new provider, and the opportunities – and pitfalls – of switching over. Most of us have experienced difficulties when moving from one telecoms, insurance or energy provider to another –the pressure is all the more intense when a business’ future is dependent on a successful outcome.

For this month’s retail technology feature, we asked some of the sector’s leading tech providers to share their thoughts. They would all concur that an upgrade can make a business faster, more productive and more profitable – but also that the undertaking requires careful consideration and planning.

Thanks to this month’s feedback panel for their feedback: Wayne Robbins, director, Iconography; Sarah Friswell, CEO, Red Ant; and Duncan Fergusson, MD, Sci-Net Business Solutions.

“Retail management platforms have evolved a great deal, so a business may find that its current set-up isn’t up to scratch
This month’s panel – Wayne Robbins, Sarah Friswell and Duncan Fergusson Switching from one IT system to another is far from straightforward, but the benefits can be huge (photo courtesy iStock/joshblake)


Duncan Fergusson: We’ve found that retail management and ecommerce software have undergone significant evolution in recent years, driven by technological advancements and changes in consumer behaviour. In particular, we’ve seen the rise of omnichannel retailing – so deep integration between ecommerce, marketplaces, PoS, back office and any thirdparty warehouse is essential.

Our ERP>Retail software has evolved to provide or integrate with multiple channels, including traditional brick-and-mortar stores, online marketplaces, social media platforms and mobile apps. This allows retailers to create a seamless shopping experience for customers across different touchpoints, so customers can now basically shop as they go, 24/7. It’s all about giving the customer choice and a great journey.

Sarah Friswell: Since the pandemic accelerated ecommerce, retailers have been employing cross-channel retail strategies to reach customers both online and in physical stores –but with technology advances, and tech-savvy customers and their expectations continually driving change in retail, only the most consistent, personalised customer experiences will win

favour. Today’s shoppers might pivot from social media to the website, to the store and back to the app to checkout.

Retailers must enable a seamless journey between all channels, enabling customers to complete transactions rapidly whenever they’re inspired to make a purchase. It’s no longer an option to have siloed data sitting in disparate locations – omnichannel reigns supreme.

Where omnichannel platforms have been in existence for some years, it’s now imperative for retailers to adopt this strategy, which integrates clients’ existing technology with innovative solutions, unifying the tools, content and insights store associates need to provide outstanding customer experiences, in-store or online.

Building a clienteling app that unifies this data will empower store associates to guide customers through the browsing and buying experience with relevant recommendations that will capture sales and enable them to cross- and upsell. With data-driven insight into the customer’s activity, brands can improve customer service and loyalty, creating trusted

allies of store associates and setting them up for new levels of success.

Wayne Robbins: We now provide a unified platform, called OMNIS. This is a single piece of software that provides ecommerce, EPoS, and a suit of head office and retail operations functionality – covering back office aspects like purchase ordering, warehouse management, delivery, returns, repairs and CRM, and generating key business and KPI reports.

We believe OMNIS is unique in the market, and offers a large number of tangible operational efficiency benefits for retailers. To distil these down to a couple of points in terms of operational efficiency, using OMNIS means: smaller teams can do more; creating and maintaining a complex product catalogue is easier; and collating customer special orders and placing orders with suppliers is easier, as all your orders are there in real time. It all adds up to better access to key information, optimised and connected workflows, fewer mistakes and increased accuracy.


Duncan Fergusson: Retailers look for a new system for various reasons, but most commonly, they do so to overcome the limitations of their current system. For example, they may have experienced a period of growth and need a system that can scale with their business, or their existing system is outdated and lacks key features and flexibility, hindering their ability to grow and compete with other businesses. A new system should bring efficiencies and automations as well as far greater integrations, enabling businesses to give a much better customer journey, upsell, and potentially open in new marketplaces and enhance existing channels.

Sarah Friswell: Retailers realise they need to invest in the right tech to update their retail operations for modern digital retailing. If they have relied heavily on in-store experience, this means repositioning themselves to have a single view of customers across all platforms and allow a checkout process which is flexible enough to allow them to complete sales wherever they choose. Consumers’ furniture-buying needs have changed, and customers are favouring a

hybrid shopping approach, and to shop in ways that fit in with their lifestyles.

In particular, brands approach Red Ant as they are looking to personalise the process and speed up transactions and service, because it can all be done on one platform. RetailOS gives the store associates more time to sell rather than do admin, and has an industry-leading ROI. Clienteling has become key to delivering improved customer engagement.

Retailers are typically looking for a system which is easy to use – if an app can’t be adopted widely across the retail business, it won’t be fit for purpose. If the app requires minimal training, store associates are able to simply pick it up and start using it with a simple training manual and some top tips for use. It must be flexible enough to cope with the demands of a modern retail business with features that are ready for deployment, and future-proofed for a long-term development roadmap.

Wayne Robbins: Retailers who currently work with an integration between their ecommerce site and a legacy retail management system contend with many issues on a day-to-day basis.

It is retailers with this experience and regular ‘integration issues’ who are interested in what we are doing.

Often we see other vendors talking about ‘seamless integrations’ between their core retail management system and their bolted-on ecommerce system. This, in our view, is not helpful for retailers looking to improve their software – as it attempts to muddy the waters. Integrations are essentially ‘digital seams’, plain and simple. Talk of ‘seamless integrations’ is marketing flannel. Which is why we built a unified commerce platform – with one database underpinning ecommerce, EPoS, CRM and the retail management/operations functionality.

Integrations can throw up many and varied issues – things like inaccurate stock and lead time being displayed online, where that data is being pulled from another system and they are not truly in sync. Or the need to manage aspect of the product catalogue in different ways in different places – a consequence of web products needing more information to sell online than legacy systems often cater for. These are the sort of things retailers are interested in addressing to help improve their business.

“Customers can now shop as they go, 24/7


Duncan Fergusson: Switching from one system to another can be a complex and challenging process. Three of the key challenges clients have in making a switch include:

1. Data migration. Retailers may have a large amount of data stored in their existing system, such as customer information, order histories and product data. Migrating this data to a new system can be a challenging and timeconsuming process. We help clients through this and their data cleansing by giving them the training, tools and support to achieve it.

2. Change management and staff training. Switching to a new system often requires change management and process improvements. Staff members need to learn new processes and workflows, as well as a new system. This can be a significant challenge. Managing this change is an important part of the project, and at Sci-Net we help our clients with implementation.

3. User Acceptance Testing (UAT). This is a critical aspect of the process and implementation – there is no such thing as too much user acceptance testing. We communicate to the clients how important this is, and work with them to ensure there is enough time in the

project plan for this, and to ensure they have the resources and scripts in place to achieve it. Doing UAT properly ensures: your team members know what they are doing and how to use the system, while giving them hands-on training at the same time; the system works as designed with no errors or issues; that the risk is taken out of the project before it goes live; that everyone is confident in the system and processes; and that the go-live process is relatively stress-free and smooth.

We help and support our clients to overcome these challenges by working with them from the very beginning, and at every step of the project. Our project managers help to carefully plan and prepare for these challenges, ensuring that the switch is well organised and on schedule, while mitigating any risks or issues that arise during the process. We have a robust process to thoroughly test the new system before making the switch, to ensure it functions properly, meets the client’s business needs, and ensures staff are adequately trained.

Sarah Friswell: Personalisation is only made possible with the right data quality and

integration, so retailers must take a data-first approach. This means having a clear data strategy which aligns to business goals, shared with stakeholders business wide. Data must be compliant, high quality and integrated with all systems to maximise the potential from any retail tech investment.

Integration is key – it’s vital to check all infrastructure is connected, and sharing data sources to provide a single source of truth, otherwise the transformation will not deliver the results retailers are looking for. For it to be effective, retailers must harness data from multiple sources – legacy, third party and new –into one platform, and ensure it’s embedded into the whole business.

Wayne Robbins: Without doubt, the key challenge is data – customer and order data (current and historical), and also product information, especially for complex made-toorder products where there are options/priceaffecting variables to content with.

We have a skilled team to work with clients and help export and re-purpose data from legacy systems.


Duncan Fergusson: Our onboarding process can vary depending on the system and the client’s specific needs, and as a Microsoft partner, we have stringent guidelines to adhere to. However, these are the typical steps:

1. The first step is a discovery and analysis phase, working closely with the client, where we run on-site workshops to understand their processes, business needs, requirements, and any gaps in our system capabilities. We document this in a workshop write-up that both sides comment on until completion and sign off. This is done department by department and is, in essence, written documentation of what is agreed upon to be delivered as part of the implementation and new system.

2. Design and Development. Once we understand the client’s needs, we can begin configuring and setting up the new system, and developing any agreed-upon customisations.

3. As the system is being set up, we can carry out show and tells, providing training and support to help the client’s project team members learn how to use the system effectively from the beginning and throughout the project.

4. Once the system is set up, we will typically perform testing and validation to ensure that the system functions properly and meets the client’s requirements. This is before we hand it over to

the client for user acceptance testing.

5. Go-live is carefully planned and agreed, and support is then provided during the go-live period to ensure a smooth transition, and we will provide ongoing support. A final quality audit will be conducted after the launch, before handing the client over to our support team.

Sarah Friswell: Working in close partnership with our clients is key to our success, and our agile business approach ensures great teamwork and excellent results. With everything lined up for success, the time from starting to finishing up and having a working pilot can be achieved within as little as three months.

By ensuring that the right decision-makers from across the retail business are involved from the outset, we can fully understand their challenges and objectives. Engaging with the people who will actually be using the technology is vital in delivering an effective solution for store associates as well as customers.

The first stage is to understand their data estate (data and systems), which is essential to setting mutual objectives, and from here we start to discuss what is possible for this retailer, and some measurable objectives and metrics for success. Before we move into development, we agree the scope and terms of success.

The second critical factor is to make sure we can get all their data into the technology and link up all of their data points so that we can work out the core customer journey. We’ll then design a solution which will work for this particular retailer, taking into account external factors such as the rapidly changing needs of customers in this specific industry.

Red Ant’s hybrid-agile delivery is split into six specific phases – define, develop, user acceptance testing (UAT), pilot, phase 2, and rollout. But our delivery doesn’t stop there. Following full roll-out, the team will continue to collaborate and support the product to review ongoing user feedback, prioritise the product backlog, gain further insight into product performance and identify potential future development, with the Red Ant service desk providing full support for any live issues.

Wayne Robbins: We are very process driven. We have an experienced team who take detailed design briefs (for ecommerce) and produce exacting specifications of the OMNIS software we deliver for new clients. There is of course a significant amount of testing and training ahead of going live, and thereafter a dedicated account manager to support a new client and build the relationship.


Has your old retail system seen better days?

It’s time to upgrade to a new, unified commerce & digital operations platform


Duncan Fergusson: Sci-Net has successfully implemented our award-winning ERP>Retail solution for many businesses. ERP>Retail is built within Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central and fully integrated into the Dynamics system, and we have worked with companies such as Tapi Carpets & Floors.

We initially worked with Tapi in 2015 by implementing a fully customised ERP>Retail solution capable of meeting the demands of the national flooring retailer. ERP>Retail helped Tapi make informed business decisions to drive their growth plans, potentially saving hundreds of thousands of pounds in infrastructure costs. Today, Tapi is a household name, boasting a network of 200 stores and 1000 staff.

More recently, we supported Tapi with its continued growth, introducing a flooring measuring solution and an automated tool for its 150-strong workforce of home consultants. It has significantly enhanced the Tapi customer journey and boosted efficiency, saving over 100 admin hours daily.

At the touch of a button, Tapi home consultants can now provide professional quotes, estimates and updates during the consultation stage with their customers.

We’ve worked very closely with Tapi’s CIO Jason Turner since the initial implementation, and he describes the results of the partnership with Sci-Net as “outstanding”: “Time is precious, so we collaborated on how we could refine our processes, and welcomed an estimating tool that pulls measurements into our system and automates quotes. Using it improves the customer experience, which is incredibly important to us, but it also saves a significant amount of time. We calculated savings of around 4500 hours of admin in 40 days.

“The system we have now, managed by SciNet, means we have visibility of our business with accurate reporting in real time. It is suited to every aspect of our business, from estimating, sales, supply chain, inventory management and website integrations, right through to in-store operations.”

Sarah Friswell: Red Ant partnered with Furniture Village to build a comprehensive clienteling app which would allow customers to shop across multiple channels.

Furniture Village wanted to update its retail operations for modern digital retailing, to reposition itself to connect with customers on mobile devices, to have a single view of customers across all platforms and allow a checkout process which was remote from the stores. Consumers’ furniture-buying needs had changed, and customers were keen to shop in ways that fitted in with their lifestyles.

Red Ant helped to develop a dynamic, digital, customer-centric solution, which would bring all customer channels together for a seamless customer journey. Built to deliver a truly crosschannel experience, and integrated with their full retail estate, the powerful, easy-to-use app has removed existing boundaries between online and offline.

In streamlining all aspects of the customer purchasing cycle – from marketing, to shopping, to checkout and fulfilment – customers can easily choose and customise products and obtain support right through the decisionmaking process. With pre-booked appointments, customers can access the full product range, manufacturing information and delivery times. They can create a shortlist to return to later, and can easily continue with the purchase when they’re ready, or complete it at home. The app’s ‘colleague hub’ is motivating store associates

and better connecting them with customers.

The feedback from Furniture Village shows that the app has improved the sales process for both store associates and customers, by removing the boundaries between online and offline. Customers can now shop anywhere, including completing purchases at home, with the speed of transaction reduced to less than five minutes from the previous 20–30-minute window. Store associates are more motivated and productive, and benefit from more accurate recording of their performance with the ability to check stats and receive correct sales attribution.

Mike Broughton, director of business development and IT for Furniture Village, said: “Rarely do you come across a solution which is so comprehensive, so exciting and so easy to sell internally to the business. The solution has allowed the company to serve more customers, and serve them better.”

Wayne Robbins: An early adopter of OMNIS was a furniture retailer called Julia Jones. They tell us they have benefitted significantly from using OMNIS in a number of ways – they are now an effective online and store-based retailer, focusing on brands like Fama and Bontempi.

So, they have complex, made-to-order products, and significant options to manage and keep on top of. With OMNIS, a small team has managed to do this, and in so doing has seen solid growth. In addition, having all their orders and purchase ordering processes and delivery scheduling in one place has meant improvements in operational efficiency, fewer mistakes and happier customers, because Julia Jones are streamlined and organised.

“We calculated savings of around 4500 hours of admin in 40 days
Red Ant developed a clienteling app for Furniture Village that enhances the customer’s journey across multiple channels Iconography works closely with clients to deliver the most suitable platform for their needs

Complete sales, supply, stock management, traceability and profitability reporting

Real-time analysis & management reporting

The last ERP System you will ever have to invest in!


ERP Retail isthe complete end-to-end solution for aspiringBigTicket, Furniture & FlooringRetailers Builtwithin the world’s most popular mid-market ERP system, MicrosoftDynamics365 Business Central. ERP Retail is the complete end-to-end solution for aspiring retailers. Built within the world’s most popular mid-market ERP system, Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central. A solution to run your entire retail business
UK’S LEADING TICKET >RETAIL LUTION YOUR BUSINESS sm ar ter f as te r ww w.s c i- n et. c o.u k Sci-Net Ltd ERP House, DunsTew Grange DunsTew Road, ChippingNorton Oxon OX77DQ ERP Retail isthe complete end-to-end solution for aspiringBigTicket, Furniture & FlooringRetailers Builtwithin the world’s most popular mid-market ERP system, MicrosoftDynamics365 Business Central. THE UK’S LEADING BIG TICKET ERP>RETAIL SOLUTION PROUD WINNERS OF THE SUPERIOR SERVICE AWARD 26-27 April 2023
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ERP Retail isthe complete end-to-end solution for aspiringBigTicket, Furniture &
Builtwithin the world’s most popular mid-market ERP system, MicrosoftDynamics365 Business Central.


Swan Retail’s SwanFRS (Furniture Retail System) has introduced a mobile salesperson app to give sales teams the data they need on the go. Designed to enable retailers to offer the best level of service to their customers, the tablet-friendly app pulls information from SwanFRS on products, customers, orders and more.

Couple that with comprehensive inventory management, customer ordering, warehousing and CRM, and SwanFRS can take retailing to the next level, says Swan.

RandiLynn Talsma, mobile owner of Blended Furniture Market, testifies: “Every part of running the store is right in front of you. I can practically run the front of the store from my tablet.”

OrdoConnect is a powerful and versatile platform that offers a wide range of benefits for furniture and bed retailers.

It is easy to use at the PoS, and incorporating route planning, real-time delivery tracking, automated delivery time confirmation and signature capture, says Ordorite. I also offers easy integration with multiple payment platforms, accounting, web platforms and other business tools –OrdoConnect is designed to help businesses save time, increase efficiency, and drive more sales.

“If you are a furniture or bed retailer looking for a better way to manage your business, you need to look at OrdoConnect. Contact Ordorite today to learn more and schedule a demo of this innovative platform,” the supplier concludes.


In today’s fast-paced retail landscape, it is crucial for retail businesses to stay competitive and meet the evolving needs of their customers.

Sci-Net’s award-winning ERP>Retail solution, designed and built from the ground up for the retail industry, can help retailers streamline operations, enhance customer experience, and boost their bottom line.

As a long-standing partner of LS Retail, a world-leading provider of business management software solutions, Sci-Net is looking forward to showcasing both of these solutions at the upcoming Retail Technology Show, taking place at Olympia, London from 26-27th April.

“Don’t miss your chance to see us on stand 6B78, and learn how we can support your entire retail business and help you navigate through these uncertain times, and beyond, with ease,” states Sci-Net.

ORDORITE Phone: +44 203 2861 202 Route builder & capacity planner Automated customer communication Action & prompt based customer service Department KPI dashboards Online customer delivery scheduling & payment Advanced product management & auditing THE FUTURE OF FURNITURE RETAIL COMPLEX BUSINESS PROCESS MADE EASY Phone: +44 203 2861 202 Route builder & capacity planner Automated customer communication Action & prompt based customer service Department KPI dashboards Online customer delivery scheduling & payment Advanced product management & auditing THE FUTURE OF FURNITURE RETAIL COMPLEX BUSINESS PROCESS MADE EASY

Gallery’s bright ideas for outdoor living

Gallery Direct has bolstered its outdoor living catalogue with a new selection of furniture, along with accessories, lighting, textiles and mirrors, enabling customers to create an outdoor area that truly suits their style …

“Over recent years, people have become more focused on designing their outdoor areas, as they do their homes, so they can spend more time outside in stylish additional living spaces,” says Carole Nolan, category manager – outdoor furniture at Gallery Direct.

“We have therefore developed our range of designled outdoor living products to cater for this, with not only furniture but a whole range of accompanying products, to help customers make the most of their outside spaces.”

Gallery’s high-quality Messina pergola is designed to allow users to enjoy their garden for longer. They can let the sunshine in by tilting the roof louvres open, using the handle winder, or close them to offer shade and cover from the rain. The clever design also features a drainage system – the louvres overlap when closed and incorporate drainage, so water runs from them into the frame and then down the inside of the legs, making the roof watertight.

Two sizes of slatted side screens are available separately to accompany the pergola, with different options for position, allowing them to be placed to suit. The pergola and screens are crafted from aluminium with a contemporary black powder-coated finish.

Ideal for use with the pergola or on their own, Gallery offers a varied range of outdoor furniture, including dining sets which have a built-in bioethanol fire pit, so users can enjoy their outdoor space when the sun goes down and on cooler days.

One of these is the contemporary Ancona dining set, which is offered in two seating layouts and two colours. Matching lounge sets and sun loungers are also available, and all feature all-weather fabric on the seats, which is stain, mould and fade resistant, and is padded with quick-drying foam.

For those that prefer rattan, there are more traditional styles, as well as the Ragusa collection which offers a contemporary look. Wide, large seats and extra-thick cushions are combined with 9mm, full rounded weave rattan, to create stylish, chunky pieces. The collection offers two lounge sets, one of which has a corner sofa, and there is also a oneseater module which can be used to extend this.

Gallery’s outdoor lighting and solar lamps are ideal for adding ambience to outdoor areas, while the supplier’s mirrors can be used to make smaller spaces appear larger and to brighten darker corners – before adding warmth and cosiness with outdoor cushions, throws and rugs, and completing the look and adding a touch of personality with accessories.

All of Gallery’s outdoor living products are displayed on its website and in its Outdoor Living Guide, which is available to view online. “So, with warmer weather around the corner, take a look at our offering or contact our sales team to find out more,” concludes Carole.

“With warmer weather around the corner, take a look at our offering
Ragusa lounge set Adanero hanging chairs Messina pergola and Ancona dining set


The beautiful Vandra and Champillet dining tables and the coordinating chairs and benches are crafted from teak, which is an ideal material for outdoor furniture because of its incredible durability and water resistance. Both tables feature a builtin lazy susan, inset so it is the same height as the table top for added practicality.

Vandra offers a more traditional round shape, whilst Champillet has a stunning unusual oval top. The Champillet benches are designed to work perfectly with the table, echoing the curve of the table top, but the Vandra chair, which is stackable for easy storage, can also be used to offer an alternative look.


View our full collection online at the QR code for more 



Following the acquisition of SITS by Denmark’s Actona Group last August, and the subsequent formation of a new B2B upholstery unit, family-run furniture agency Westgarth Furniture has been selected to launch the group’s Flexlux brand in the UK this spring.

Boasting Danish style and a focus on craftsmanship and comfort, the group’s new Flexlux brand has been growing steadily around Europe, says Westgarth’s director Phillip French, and will shortly be launched in the agency’s Altrincham showroom, supported by showvan visits across the UK and Ireland.

“This is an exciting time for the agency,” says Phillip. “We are looking forward to the future with Flexlux as the brand takes on a new life in the coming years, focusing on the relax market, and taking the fight to some of the industry’s biggest names.”

These are just the first of the synergies envisaged by the Actona Group – itself part of Lars Larsen Group, the owner of JYSK – with planned growth in the UK market from this year.

La-Z-Boy UK has created an interactive digital experience of its stand at the January Furniture Show.

Retailers who were not able to visit the event in person can still feel part of the action by viewing a 3D model of the furniture brand’s stand and products, including those of its Furnico-branded furniture product

The digital flyaround has been designed to be a useful tool for sales agents and retailers alike, allowing access to view the displayed product and show potential customers the new collections in more detail. To learn more about this tool and the ranges on display, contact the relevant La-Z-Boy UK sales agent for further information.

New from Furnico for 2023, Cantwell and Kinsley’s off the floor design and mix of traditional & contemporary styles delighted crowds at the January Furniture Show and are now ready for your showroom floor.
Suppliers of handmade furniture to retail 01282 869888 •
Manufacturing, Bradford House, Phillips Lane, Colne, BB8 9PQ

Huddersfield manufacturer/importer H Living offers stylish upholstered bed bases, headboards and bed frames that are “bursting with high-margin possibilities”, says MD Biny Hyder.

The Buckingham ottoman is one of H Living’s bestselling bedframes, and comes in a variety of sizes. Featuring a strong and durable base board for extra storage, and a tasteful Chesterfield-style winged headboard, the Buckingham ottoman’s operation is supported by hydraulic gas-lift mechanisms.

The model is upholstered in an easy-care fabric, in a plush charcoal and light grey colour (pictured).


As the charity for the furnishing industry, we have been supporting the welfare of people working in the trade since 1903. We help furnishing industry people by providing financial grants and practical, useful advice. 020 7256 5558 07366 568 458 SUPPORT
The Furniture Makers’ Company the furnishing industry’s charit y Struggling financially? We’re here to help! The Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers’ Charitable Funds incorporating the Furnishing Trades Benevolent Association is a registered charity in England and Wales (no. 1015519) and a registered company (no. 02759359) in England and Wales Supporting Furnishing Industry 1-2 page.indd 1 24/08/2022 16:01 48 PRODUCTS BEDROOM


Wolverhampton-based Shankar prides itself on being one of the UK’s leading designers, importers and distributors of quality furniture. The business has a solid reputation within the furniture industry – not only for offering a quality product, but also for adhering to high standards in customer service and direct home delivery.

Core Products’ new Aspen grey oak dining sets offer a practical, everyday solution for a market in which space and affordability are important.

The tables are available in a choice square or rectangular, and feature soft, rounded corners with a gentle waterfall edge – ideal for tight spaces and to avoid bumps and bruises. The legs are made from sturdy tapered steel with a matt black painted finish, and built-in floor levellers are included for the finishing touch.

A selection of complementary chairs are available, either upholstered in a variety of fabrics, or as easy-to-clean, solid, coloured, plastic-moulded chairs in a choice of designs and colours.

Monaco dining table with Lisbon chairs
PRODUCTS Tomasella_JA.indd 1 21/02/2023 10:47

Pointhouse – a meeting of product and planet

Established for over 30 years in one of Italy’s key industrial regions, and operational in over 40 countries, Pointhouse is a furniture designer/ maker with a difference – and its products are now coming to the UK and Irish markets …

“At Pointhouse, designing and creating furniture isn’t just something we do,” states the Italian brand. “It’s our mission at every level of the business.”

Designed and made in Italy, Pointhouse’s products combine high quality, contemporary style, functionality, and Italian flair, resulting in a varied portfolio that puts sustainability first.

Using an array of materials – from wood, ceramic, glass, polypropylene, to PEFC- and FSC-certified

timber, aluminium and steel, Pointhouse creates stylish and sustainable furniture, driven by a constant search for increasingly greener materials and technologies, recycled and recyclable materials, and resources derived through certified processes and carefully selected partners.

“Planning and implementing business strategies based on sustainability and a circular economy ensure an effective, stable, secure and futureproof supply chain,” states Pointhouse.

Products include Tata, an “iconic” Pointhouse product, and a familiar design that has been reimagined with the circular economy in mind: “Proof that you can have both style and sustainability”.

The Tata chair is made with an aluminium and steel structure, and coated with environmentally certified powder, avoiding the use of chemical solvents. The backrest is produced using FSC-certified wood, while the elegant, comfortable seat is padded with recycled fabric and padding obtained from the recovery of post-industrial waste. Available for sale in a limited edition, Tata for the Planet comes in a vast selection of colours.

The T!pa chair, meanwhile, “represents strength and uniqueness, through simple but decisive lines”. In Italian, the term ‘tipa’ indicates strong, decisive women – “women who lead change, rather than waiting for it to happen”, explains Pointhouse:

“As a brand led by women, with diversity at its core, we wanted a product to represent our social sustainability values, and so T!pa was born.”

Pointhouse will exhibit at Milan’s I Saloni, taking place from 18th-23rd this month, on stand C06-C10 in Hall 18.

For more information, visit the website, contact agent Lianne Lacken on +353 867 786475, or email

Fusion T!pa Tata
“You can have both style and sustainability
We revolutionised furniture assembly with a simple click. Now we’re doing it again. Don’t miss the premiere of our brand-new solution. It’s a brilliant IDea! See us steal the show at Interzum, Cologne 9–12 May, Hall 10.2, Booth H–021 G–020. We make furniture assembly an easy road to success. From idea to creation Licensed by The groundbreaking Core-click Threespine® is the first click furniture technology that finally makes assembly effortless and with rock-solid results. With Threespine® Core we reshaped the way furniture is assembled forever and with the launch of Threespine® ID you can be sure that nothing will remain the same. Come meet the future with us at Interzum, Cologne, 9–12 May.

Making cleaner, greener interiors with MDF

Wood remains a popular material for furniture and joinery, and with sustainability high on the agenda, any designs that use reclaimed or sustainably produced wood are highly sought after – says MEDITE SMARTPLY, whose environmentally conscious products ensure a sustainable building material, storing carbon throughout their lifetime …

Sourced from the company’s sustainably managed forests in Ireland, MEDITE SMARTPLY’s engineered wood panels are proof of the brand’s commitment to creating products that contribute to sustainable and healthier environments.

Joiners, furnituremakers and carpenters can benefit from the durability and flexibility of engineered wood panels to meet the project aspirations of their clients.

The MEDITE MDF range includes: MEDITE MR, a moisture-resistant MDF panel designed for use in humid conditions; MEDITE PREMIER, a multi-purpose MDF ideal for furniture, shelving and domestic applications; and, for applications where flame retardance is required, there is MEDITE PREMIER FR.

The range also includes MEDITE CLEAR, an MDF panel manufactured with no added formaldehyde, which has been developed specifically for environmentally sensitive interior applications such as nurseries, schools and museums.

Lee Thompson, director of Lee’s Custom Woodwork, says he loves working with MEDITE MR: “I use this in my jobs as I find it has a superior, smooth finish, is easy to router and is much better to use than standard MDFs I have used in the past.

“I also use MEDITE MR as it is less likely to fluff up when applying a paint finish, and I’ve found that the panels can be spray finished with a lot less prep. The moisture-resistant materials are perfect for using for some of the items I’ve made, as a lot of my work includes bars and areas susceptible to moisture.”

In addition to being sustainably produced, MEDITE MDF products are also CARB2 compliant, which puts the company at the forefront of ‘low formaldehyde’ innovation in Europe.

Further inspiration for the products can be found on MEDITE’s exclusive MDF community site, MEDITE Makes It Real ( Those who sign up can share work, gain inspiration, and win prizes that will enable them to “build bigger and better with MDF” – as well as receiving a free gift, says MEDITE SMARTPLY.

Discover more about MEDITE SMARTPLY’s innovative range of MEDITE MDF products on the brand’s website.

This bar
by Infinitus Bespoke Interiors employs MEDITE MR
A games room, created with MEDITE MR by Lee Thompson of Lee’s Custom Woodwork
“It’s much better to use than the standard MDFs I’ve used in the past


Following two previous sets of business templates aimed to support companies across the furniture sector, the Furniture Industry Research Association (FIRA) has just launched a new series of templates,

The first is a Facility Space Planning Template – which aims to help companies with a need to redesign their facility, and includes an overview document explaining the methodology that can help with space planning – and the second is entitled Space Planning and Affinities Tools.

Members have free access to this new resource alongside the full catalogue of 14 business support documents as part of their membership package. Non-members can purchase copies. Future templates to be released in this third series include a focus on various specification templates and a flammability checklist.

To find out more about becoming a FIRA member of FIRA and accessing all the business templates and more, contact


Välinge Innovation says its Threespine technology represents “the future of furniture assembly”: “You know the feeling when everything clicks into place, right? This is what Välinge Innovation’s Threespine technology makes furniture assembly feel like,” states the Swedish furniture and flooring pioneer.

“Suddenly it’s possible to assemble furniture with a simple click, with no need of tools or fittings, and with rock-solid results.”

Välinge says its Core solution changed the game completely, and paved the way for design and production opportunities that were not possible before – and at interzum, taking place at Koelnmesse, Cologne from 9-12th May, the innovator will premier a brand-new solution, Threespine ID. It says the assembly for this solution is just as effortless as its predecessor’s, and the results still solid, but the design is different: “ID takes the Threespine technology to new heights, and makes it even easier to implement in both design and production.

“See the amazing benefits, and discover how it will change the way we assemble furniture forever, at interzum, Hall 10.2, stand H–021/G–020.”


Image courtesy iStock/Prostock-Studio

Adding value with confidence since 2006

When Staingard entered the market in 2006, its founders were adamant that the business wouldn’t be “just another warranty provider”, says MD Paul Aiston …

Today, Staingard offers a range of products, including: five-year insured care plans; fabric, leather, cabinet and carpet care kits; mattress protectors; leather repair products; furniture glides and pads; and its very own Staingard fabric protector.

However, says Paul, at the outset, the business had to work hard to set itself apart from its existing competitors. “The FCA hadn’t long been involved with furniture warranties at that stage, and it’s fair to say the reputation of the industry could have been better,” he says. “So, with Staingard, we aimed for a policy without ambiguity, with exceptional service, and supported by outstanding care products. If we introduced clarity for both customer and salesperson, we would have a product that delivers the very best service.”

Over the 17 years since, the business has retained those values, enabling growth in various areas and allowing it to diversify with the many different care products described above.

“For the furniture retailer, Staingard is now the place to go for all value-added products, supporting their margin and augmenting their customers’ purchases,” Paul continues. “Whether they need insured care plans, Mattressgard mattress protectors, Floorgard floor protectors and glides, furniture repair products or leathercare kits from the most extensive range, Staingard can provide the solution.”

Paul goes on to explain that working with Staingard offers various other benefits, too. “Staingard holds extensive stock in the UK,” he says, “and in most cases we can receive your order, fill, label, assemble, pack and dispatch products (personalised to your brand if required!), within just 48 hours.

“And that’s another area where we’ve led the way. After years of development, our brand is strong. The Staingard name inspires confidence – but so too does your brand. That’s why we championed personalisation for short-run orders, be it care kits or mattress protectors, to enable you to have the benefits of one of our great products, but carrying your own company’s name.

“It hasn’t always been an easy journey, but we’ve made some great friendships along the way with great people, and now, Staingard has been awarded both Interiors Monthly awards for both Best Protection Product and Best Mattress Protection Product – the first company to be awarded both titles simultaneously!

“These awards were voted for by you, our retail partners, and I can’t thank you all enough for showing the appreciation and recognition for our products and our service. Furthermore, I would like to thank my family – who all work in the business – for their unstinting support, and to my fantastic team of employees for their hard work and dedication.”

To find out more, call Staingard on 01244 888658, visit its website, or email

“The Staingard name inspires confidence –but so too does your brand

Home Care


Go to or call 01244 888 658 to learn more about how Staingard’s comprehensive furniture care products can enhance your consumer experience and your margins.
FURNITURE CARE & REPAIR LEATHER CARE & REPAIR Mattressgard mattress and pillow protectors are perfect for all the family. Display instore our complete bed care range for total customer peace of mind. Sleep well, live well

Why should I buy from you?

With the rise of the ecommerce marketplace, retailers are having to work harder to define their offer and justify their place in the consumer’s shopping journey, writes Bensons for Beds’ chairman, and author, Ian Shepherd …

A post I wrote recently for my regular Moving Tribes newsletter was designed for a general retail audience, but got me thinking about the implications for our sector in particular.

Once upon a time a lot of the value that retailers generated came essentially from ‘place’ – from their role as part of the distribution chain connecting manufacturers of product with consumers. At least some part of the margin that they generated came from the fact they were there, and were probably one of only a few retailers in a particular neighbourhood selling that particular product.

In that world of a few decades ago, ‘transaction costs’ for consumers were high. In economist speak, transaction cost is a broad term encompassing how expensive, time-consuming and generally bothersome something is. And in the retail world before the internet, being a consumer involved significant transaction costs – getting to the retailer selling the product you wanted, finding it on their shelves and getting it home again were all time consuming, and if you wanted to compare prices by going to other stores too, those costs just multiplied.

But to consumers who have come of age in the last 20 years, all of that sounds bizarre. We now live in a world where every product, from every brand, is available to us almost instantly through the internet, and where price comparison is just a mobile search away.

Your customer can be on their phone comparing prices with an online-only retailer based at the other end of the country whilst they are standing in your store – and indeed, that is an increasingly common behaviour.

So, in most circumstances, the answer to that most fundamental customer question – why should I buy this from you, right now? – can no longer be, “Because you are here, and you can’t be bothered to go anywhere else.”

In a world of infinite customer choice, we need a different and better answer to that question.

The good news is there are plenty of great answers we might choose. I think of these answers as different retail ‘archetypes’, because they each lead to different strategies for the retailer trying to bring them to life.

To get us started, here are two classic retail archetypes with particular resonance in our sector.

Curators and experts

There are some types of retailing where there is simply a huge amount of choice of different types, designs and colours of product available – so much so that customers are in danger of being overwhelmed by that choice and struggling to find what they want.

In response to that, a retailer might have scoured the market and carefully selected a subset of products that they think will appeal to their customers, cover all of their most frequent needs, but be simpler and easier for them to browse.

If that’s the case for you, you are earning your margin from the retail archetype we might call the ‘curator’. Your success will be driven by your ability to read the market, understand consumer trends, understand your own target customer segments, and find and display the products they want.

Now let’s consider a different scenario. There are some sectors where products are quite complicated. There is a lot of terminology involved. Customers don’t buy the product all that often, and therefore arrive in store worried that they will buy the wrong thing.

If that scenario fits your business, your response to that will have been to make sure your store colleagues are well trained in the products they sell and in the kinds of questions customers are likely to ask.

You’ll work hard to demystify some of the terminology in your PoS, and your whole sales process will be designed to reassure customers that you are giving them the right product for them.

In this scenario, the retail archetype you are living is one we might call an ‘expert’. Your success (and most directly, your profit margin) will come from your ability to put customers at ease. Your sales cycle will

“It doesn’t matter where you think you are on the expert/curator spectrum. What matters is what your customers think
The ‘expert’ retail archetype sees salespeople bring deep product knowledge to life in-store (photo courtesy 123RF/Elnur)

be longer, as customers need time to consider their options, and you still face the challenge of closing the sale rather than ending up in the horrible position of offering expert advice and then seeing the customer turn to an online provider at the last stage – but fundamentally it is your product knowledge, and the way you bring that to life in-store and online, which is the driver of your success.

These ‘retail archetypes’ are not binary, of course, and there are many more out there than just ‘curator’ and ‘expert’, but I think these two are of high relevance to our sector.

That’s true at the upholstered furniture end of the market, where colours, fabric choices and designs give us something in common with the clothing boutiques, in needing to read fashions and give customers what they want.It’s also true at the technical end of the sector, with products like mattresses which come with potentially confusing terminology and choices for the customer.

One way or another, your business’ success is probably some kind of blend of choosing (or making) the right set of products for your customer base, and then making the sale to the customer based on your product knowledge and sector expertise.

Making it matter

So far, perhaps so obvious. We should finish, however, with a health warning, because there is a trap in the retail archetype model.

Whenever I talk a retail team through this way of thinking about their business, they find it easy to fit themselves into one of the archetypes.

The sting in the tail is this – it doesn’t matter where you think you are on the expert/curator spectrum. What matters is what your customers think. And making the archetype that you want to apply to your business actually come to life for your customers is more of a challenge than you might think.

If you think that’s an exaggeration, consider the story of the specialist retailer in a complex market (outside our sector) which discontinued the product training programme for its store sales colleagues as an unnecessary expense. I won’t give you a prize for guessing who that was, because I’m sworn to secrecy (it is a real story about a major UK high street brand), but there are also no prizes for guessing how well that strategy went!

To say that we are at our best as retailers when we deliver for our customers is obvious – but to really engineer our businesses to curate products and act as trusted and expert salespeople for our customers is harder than it appears.

As I look around our sector (both chains and independents), I see many excellent examples of these archetypes being brought to life – a real skill that will surely drive success.

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“Consider the story of the specialist retailer in a complex market which discontinued the product training programme for its store sales colleagues

Confessions of a retail widow

Long hours. Longer journeys. Inconvenient calls. Cancelled meetings. Problem customers. The life of a furniture industry professional can be tough, especially when you’re in sales – but have you ever stopped to think about how this challenging (but rewarding) lifestyle can impact their loved ones?

I am the wife of a retail lifer.

We have spent over 30 years together. About half that time he was a retail salesperson and manager. The other half has been on the manufacturing side, showcasing products to retailers.

When we first started dating he was a selling manager. Every once in a while we’d meet for lunch. It was inevitably delayed because he was working with a customer. I didn’t mind because I loved to watch him sell. He told a story with passion and conviction. If the customer said “no”, it just made him work harder. In his dictionary, the word no means “tell me more”.

After we were married, I kind of started to dislike the retail world. It meant a lot of nights and weekends alone. Plus, I had to hear those dreadful stories about whiny shoppers or delayed shipments, or people not getting approved for credit.

But the next morning the sun still came up and the store still opened. Another day of opportunity.

When my hubby moved from retail to manufacturing we knew there would be overnight travel. We figured we’d give it a try for a year. That was over 15 years ago, and it has worked out well. Sure, I have a couple of empty nights each week, but we make the weekends count.

I’ve lived the life of a retail spouse and a road warrior’s spouse. If I could give some advice to those of you working in this business, here is what I would say …

If you work at a retail store, make sure there are no surprises. It seems every other week is the ‘Sale of a Lifetime’. That means extra hours or extra days at work. Let your wife or husband or main squeeze know your schedule a couple of weeks in advance to avoid disappointments. And if you own the store or set the sale schedule, for the love of Pete, help your workers’ families by letting them know when extra hours are required. We spouses have commitments that we have to keep, too!

On the other hand, you, like me, may be related to a retail owner or manager. Have some understanding. Building a business means fixing up or closing that late customer. It’s a pain to re-warm dinner or put the kids to bed by yourself, but it doesn’t help to complain about it.

Yes, you will have to listen to unending stories of customers, other salespeople and bosses. Embrace the story and have some empathy.

If you travel for work, be a good partner. The people you left behind are worried about you. Take a moment to text or call when you arrive at your first stop. We think about you, and a couple of texts during the day let us know you are OK.

To the people who are left at home like me, you’ve got to trust your husband or wife or main squeeze. They are out there making a living. Sleeping in another Premier Inn or eating a dinner of convenience store sushi isn’t as glamorous as it seems. Be sure to clear away some of the chores during the week so you can have the weekend to yourselves.

To you ladies and gents who own stores – please understand that our spouses often drive or fly (or both) up to seven hours before they start their work day. If they show up late for an appointment, it’s probably because some airline can’t figure out their own schedule. And when they do arrive, please give them some of your uninterrupted time. They have many war stories that they call selling and marketing advice, and one of them might help your business become a little bit better.

That’s about all I have to say. I hope that the retail business has been as good to you as it has to us. We’ve made it through recessions and wars, bad times and good. Take care of each other and we’ll all be OK.

Michelle is happily married to a 35-year veteran of the furniture industry. She can be reached at

“I’ve lived the life of a retail spouse and a road warrior’s spouse
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Embracing new growth channels

Whatever challenges stand in the way, new markets, whether overseas or online, represent growth opportunities for ambitious furniture professionals, writes

In recent years, the British furniture industry has faced numerous challenges, including shifting consumer trends, rising production costs, and increased competition from both domestic and foreign brands. The uncertainty brought on by the pandemic has only intensified these challenges, with brands in many instances losing market share and reducing profitability.

Whilst recovery long term is a certainty for those willing and able to ‘batten down the hatches’, I believe there are exciting opportunities for manufacturers and importers to grow exponentially despite the current climate by looking to new markets.

Go global

Expanding globally, for example, is a powerful way to access new markets and customer segments. The US and Europe are particularly attractive markets due to their large size and high consumer demand. According to a report by Statista, the furniture and home furnishings market in the US is projected to reach $357b in 2022, while the European furniture market is expected to grow to €128.5b by 2023. By tapping into these markets, British furniture manufacturers and importers can significantly increase their revenue and profitability.

There is a perceived high level of quality, history, tradition and luxury toward British brands in the hearts of the American consumer, which often allows for higher margins and greater demand across the pond. And in reference to our closer neighbours, whilst it may seem a logistical nightmare to sell in Europe post Brexit, we’ve now lived with it for three years, which is time enough to have got to grips with the associated challenges. Organisations with the determination to succeed and maintain sales in Europe have a distinct advantage and dramatically reduced competition. However, expanding globally requires careful planning and execution. Companies need to understand the local market dynamics, customer preferences and regulatory requirements in order to succeed. This may involve adapting products and marketing strategies to suit local tastes, establishing partnerships with local distributors or retailers, and investing in logistics and supply chain infrastructure. But for those that can successfully navigate these challenges, the rewards can be substantial.

Embrace online

Another way for British furniture and homeware companies to grow is by pivoting to sell online. The category is still very old fashioned compared to many others, and there is a stalwart community who believe entirely in maintaining the traditional supply chain hierarchy. Whilst this is honourable, and I do champion the supporting of bricks-and-mortar retailers, I believe that the omission of a direct-to-consumer (D2C) strategy today is incredibly risky. Most major brands across all industries now incorporate this dynamic, and the furniture industry should be no exception. Carefully considered pricing and marketing positioning can allow for an all-inclusive strategy for the most forwardthinking brands.

Covid-19 has accelerated the shift towards ecommerce, with more consumers shopping online than ever before. According to a report by eMarketer, UK ecommerce sales are expected to reach £141.33b in 2022, up from £105.26b in 2020, whilst the US and EU combined will reach almost £2t this year! By embracing ecommerce, furniture companies can reach a wider audience, reduce their reliance on physical retail channels, and create new revenue streams.

Of course, pivoting to sell online is not without its challenges. Companies may need to invest in new technologies and processes, such as ecommerce platforms and logistics systems, and may need to train employees to adapt to new ways of working. But for those bold enough to embrace change, the revenue and margin rewards can be immeasurable.

Calculated risk

While the British furniture and homeware industries are facing challenging market conditions, the outlook is far from bleak, and there are many ways for companies to grow and thrive. By expanding globally, or indeed pivoting to sell online, companies can access new markets and customer segments, reduce their reliance on physical retail channels or traditional wholesale routes, and create new revenue streams.

Whilst these strategies require careful planning and execution, the key is calculated risk, and finding the right partner will help you to navigate new markets, and should offer a 360° view of the entire market, sales and supply chain process to define the correct placement strategy to optimise your brand’s success.

“The outlook is far from bleak, and there are many ways for companies to grow and thrive

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A professional, conscientious and proactive approach is central to advancing the Company’s reputation and brand.

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The opportunity comes at an exciting time for the business, and this position presents excellent opportunities for the right candidate to grow and develop the business across the respective regions.

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New board, new directions

At its AGM during Malaysia’s MIFF exhibition this month, the International Alliance of Furnishing Publications (IAFP) elected a new board, and set out its goals for the future, writes its new chairman, Imre Zilahi …

If you haven’t heard of the IAFP before, it’s an alliance that comprises 17 leading furnishing publications from around the world, all of which co-operate to help businesses in the respective territories access information and opportunities in foreign markets.

At our recent AGM – kindly hosted by Informa Markets Malaysia (the organiser of MIFF) on 3rd March in Kuala Lumpur – outgoing chairman Casey Loo (Furniture & Furnishing Export International, Singapore) thanked his fellow board members – Paul Farley (Furniture News, UK), Takyoshi Nagashima (The Home Living, Japan), Urszula Ditrych (Biznes., Poland) and Bill McLoughlin (Furniture Today, US) – for helping him maintain the alliance during the pandemic and its aftermath.

He then conferred management of the alliance to a new board, comprising: myself, chairman Imre Zilahi (Magmob, Romania); vice-chair Nesip Uzun (Furniturk, Turkey); secretary general Liyakat Ali Khan (IFJ International, India); treasurer Takyoshi Nagashima; and marketing director Paul Farley.

Following the meeting, Paul asked me to share some of my thoughts on the role of the alliance, and its likely directions. Here goes …

Nowadays, every new business move, every new furniture design, and all furniture-related events, make their easy way to the overwhelmingly immense internet, and sometimes the amount of information confuses even the furniture industry’s most experienced professionals.

The role of the specialised media – the members of the IAFP – is to filter the ocean, and fish out the most relevant information for their audience. This is what I think of as being our main purpose – the furniture media must help their readers/viewers to navigate the challenges, to be the lighthouse they trust while making decisions. General information can be published by anyone – relevant information must be selected by someone who knows the trade.

The very reason the IAFP exists is to maintain a global network, a working co-operation among

the most important furniture publications from five continents. In the next two years, the alliance’s board will try to invent new methods to be used by our members, so we can lend a helping hand to each other in our international journey.

We’ll also increase the number of the trade events where the IAFP is visible, and in order to do so we’ll stay open to creating new partnerships with trade fairs from every relevant continent – Africa must be added here, along with our existing co-operation with fairs in Asia, North and South America, Europe and Oceania.

My personal business tagline is ‘deadline and quality’, so I’ll do my best to offer this to my colleagues and the alliance’s partners. I’ll be happy to receive the same in return.

You can contact the alliance at, and find out more about our members on our website.

“The furniture media must help their readers/ viewers to navigate the challenges, to be the lighthouse they trust while making decisions
Young Furniture kers exhibition.
MIFF’s GM Kelie Lim welcomed the alliance’s members to this year’s AGM


What’s the best sale you ever made?

Every sale is special, but one of the most memorable is selling an Axminster carpet to a USAF camp commander for his office in the command centre for submarine detection. An interesting site visit as well …

John Northwood (agent)

Thirty years ago, I sold my first mattress for over 1000 ( and got a £50 bonus), it felt like I’d scored a penalty for England!

Martin Seeley (MattressNextDay)

The first sale I ever made

Neil Barker (Barkers Furniture)

The first person who purchased on a retail partner after using when we launched the website

Deirdre Mc Gettrick (

The next one

Shane Harding (Highgrove Beds)

The one where a customer had gone to a competitor who let them down. Not only were we able to give them exactly what they wanted, but in line with the original lead time we had quoted!

Mike Whitman (Iconography)

My first-ever sale, of a 2-over-3 Georgian chest of drawers when I was five years old. Bought for £50 and sold for £100 the same day. This sparked my love for buying and selling

George Sinclair (Nimbus Beds)

I don’t know about the best, but the oddest was a huge, life-sized Santa’s sleigh complete with decorative trim and flashing lights. We actually bought one for our own use for our annual Christmas tree parties that we hold for our customers. As soon as we put it on the shop floor we took an order on it. It was very awkward to move and deliver, but our Peter Green ‘elves’ managed it!

Wendy Martin Green (Peter Green Furnishers)

Probably selling the senior roles in Swyft early on to people that have so much talent. We were very lucky to have got such a great team early on, and it is something I am grateful for

In 1992 I made a sale of a swimming pool and two conservatories to the same customer. The value was 30,000, which was a lot in the 1990s!

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What’s the best sale you ever made?

pages 66-67

New board, new directions

pages 65-66

Embracing new growth channels

pages 62-64

Confessions of a retail widow

pages 60-61

Why should I buy from you?

pages 58-59

Adding value with confidence since 2006

page 56


page 55


page 55

Making cleaner, greener interiors with MDF

page 54

Pointhouse – a meeting of product and planet

pages 52-53


pages 49-51


pages 45-48

Gallery’s bright ideas for outdoor living

page 44


pages 42-43


pages 40-42

Overcoming system shock

pages 36-39

Protecting product and profit

pages 34-35

Quality comfort, naturally

pages 31-33

Sleepeezee – exclusive and expanded

page 30

Calling all bedroom buyers ...

pages 26-29

NBF invites bed buyers to annual showcase

pages 24-25

Fly the flag this May!

page 23

EFE brings international sourcing to life

page 22

Polish fair back to pre-pandemic scale

pages 20-21

A pan-industry take on sustainability

pages 18-19

Personalised comfort, without the price tag

page 16

GETTING PERSONAL Deirdre Mc Gettrick

pages 14-15

Who gets your vote?

pages 10-11

ScS makes good progress despite losses in H1

page 8

JLP appoints first chief executive

page 8

Devon bedmaker awarded B Corp status

page 7

Editor's Comment

page 3
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