Furniture News #413

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#413 February 2024

CONNECT, COLLABORATE, CREATE At the Furniture Component Expo 24


DISTRESS CALL Meeting unexpected demand New paths to greater sustainability Mattress Online’s CEO on 20 years in beds

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Editor's Comment Paul Farley Editor-in-chief

01424 776101 @FurnitureNewsED @Furniture News

“What happens when the big shipping lines refuse to brave the shortcut between Asia and Europe? It seems that instability is a constant – but how much resilience should you build into your business to handle it? In recent weeks, Houthi rebels have launched attacks on shipping vessels in the Red Sea, effectively taking the Suez Canal hostage, and prompting violent retaliation. What happens when the big shipping lines refuse to brave the shortcut between Asia and Europe? Well, container vessels are re-routed around Africa, meaning some 5500 miles of additional travel, which takes a week or more. Consignments are delayed, and the price – and that of oil, and insurance – goes up. And many furniture businesses preparing for the year’s biggest trade showcase find they are without stock. While this particular flashpoint could significantly impact anyone importing bulky items from the Far East (and often working on tight margins and turnarounds), it should be set in context. Although the disruption sparks memories of the pandemic’s supply chain traumas, the price of some containers may have almost doubled, but it’s nothing compared to the sky-high rates seen in 2021. Indeed, retailers including IKEA and Next have warned of delays, but the latter described the likely impact on sales as “manageable”. The Suez situation is just one example of the fragility of the global economy. “When America sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold,” goes the old saying, but it’s clear that economic sickness can start anywhere, and no-one is immune. And what about the potential for disaster closer to home? Or within your business itself? It may not make for easy reading, but in this month’s issue we’re tackling the issue of contingency planning. On p40, Jane Robson explains why it’s important that businesses anticipate eventualities such as floods, fires, system failure and the death of a colleague, and have procedures they can implement to keep things running. Our latest eco-conscious feature shares a few thoughts from those looking to build truly longterm resilience (p28), and we explore the drivers, nuances and solutions for customers making distress purchases, with help from two of the industry’s most reliable manufacturing partners (p24). And there’s much more to discover. Steve Adams shares 20 observations on how Mattress Online and the wider trade have changed during the business’ 20-year history (p10), Mark Gannon takes the hotseat in our ‘getting personal’ feature (p14), and Natalie Cole explains how the industry can make use of the new Apprentice & Skills Plus Service (p12). There’s our cover story, the inaugural Furniture Component Expo, taking place in Telford this April (p20) – plus opinion columns on topics including inventive promotions and guiding the shopper’s decisionmaking process. You’ll also discover the winners of The Furniture Awards 2024 on p8 (with much more to come in next month’s issue, alongside our show reviews). Of course, you can never know for sure what’s around the corner. But to be informed is to be prepared – so please, read on!

Paul Farley

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#413 February 2024






The Furniture Awards 2024 winners




EDITORIAL EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Paul Farley 01424 776101 X @FurnitureNewsED


Mattress Online


Apprentice & Skills Plus Service


Getting personal






Distress purchases


Eco conscious






Trade services




Why contingency plans matter

At the Furniture Component Expo 24


DISTRESS CALL Meeting unexpected demand


New paths to greater sustainability Mattress Online’s CEO on 20 years in beds



Steve Adams Mattress Online


SALES EXECUTIVE Caroline Littler 07861 231461 OVERSEAS AGENT Casey Loo (Asia) +65 973 00123 (WhatsApp) PRODUCTION PRODUCTION MANAGER James Ash

Natalie Cole The Furniture Makers’ Company



Taking sales one step at a time



Delivering new promotions


The difference between CEO and MD

COPY ADMINISTRATOR Steve Merrick 01424 776108


Forecasting 2024’s visual commerce trends


Partner comment




Keith Hutchinson SGS

32, 49

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IKEA reveals correlation between home and happiness IKEA Retail (Ingka Group) has published its 10th annual Life at Home Report, which looks at how people live and what makes them happy at home. In this year’s report, IKEA has reflected on a decade of data collected from more than 250,000 research participants around the world, to identify the eight essential needs for a better life at home – control, comfort, security, nurturing, belonging, enjoyment, accomplishment, and aspirations. The report found that those who often feel their emotional needs are met are much more positive about the future. It also imagines a variety of possible futures for life at home in 2030 and beyond. “Now we have the formula for creating a better life at home, we want to help as many people as possible ease the big tensions that get in the way – whether it’s finding enough privacy or making more sustainable choices – and put home at the heart of living well,” says Belén Frau, global communication manager, IKEA Retail. “We’ve got the knowledge and the solutions to give everyone the opportunity to make a better life at home.” As part of its commitment to providing a more affordable, sustainable life for its customers, IKEA UK is lowering the prices of thousands of its products, rolling out New Lower Prices on more than 1500

items last month, with more than 2500 products to be reduced by this spring. This follows improvements to purchasing goods costs in 2023, after a challenging period in the wake of the pandemic. IKEA says the easing of cost pressures has enabled it to pass £100m in savings to customers. “New Lower Prices will be a long-term change to pricing,” says the retailer. Shoppers will see price drops on some of IKEA’s bestselling items. Michaela Quinlan, CCO at IKEA UK and Ireland, says: “By reducing the price of thousands of muchloved IKEA products, particularly at a time when cost of living pressures continue to affect so many, we’re staying true to our vision of creating a better everyday life at home.”

NBF launches mattress disposal website The National Bed Federation (NBF) has launched a website which aims to signpost consumers to the options for mattress recycling in their local town or city, in response to the results of a survey which sought to establish how councils across the country deal with the estimated 6.4 million+ mattresses that are disposed of through their services every year. Tom Williams, sustainability and circular economy lead for the NBF, says: “Not only has our comprehensive research given a clearer picture of what’s happening to those unwanted mattresses across the UK handled by local authorities, it has also enabled us to create the first-ever dedicated mattress disposal portal, providing a free local search function alongside numerous other resources, to make it easier for people to dispose of their mattresses responsibly.”

Replies were received by all 385 waste authorities across the UK, and revealed significant variations. Wales emerged as the front runner in terms of recycling rather than just sending mattresses to landfill or incineration, with all councils reporting to divert mattresses from landfill and with components sent for recycling in over 86% of council areas. Greater London was the only other area to achieve 100% diversion from landfill, with over 63% of councils sending mattress waste for recycling. Northern Ireland also performed well, with only 9% of councils transferring to landfill and over 63% sending for recycling. Tom continues: “Despite growing pressure from consumers for more environmentally friendly mattress disposal options, it is disappointing to see such disparity across the UK.”

Winter sales exceed expectations at Next In a trading update, Next has shared “better than anticipated” full-price sales results for November and December, up +5.7% YoY in the nine weeks to 30th December – £38m higher than the retailer’s previous guidance for the period, of +2.0%. Next subsequently increased its full-year PBT guidance by £20m to £905m, up +4.0% YoY, stating that, of the £20m increase, £17m came from the additional sales to date, and £3m from an upgraded forecast for full price sales in January. Guidance for full-price sales on continuous

business is up +2.5%. After accounting for the effect of recent acquisitions, Next expects group sales, including subsidiary companies, to be up by +6.0%. Guidance for group PBT for the year ahead is up +5.0%. “On the face of it, the consumer environment looks more benign than it has for a number of years,” says Next, “albeit there are some significant uncertainties” – the retailer cites the possibility of a weakening employment market, expiring mortgage deals and supply chain risks among them.

John Lewis Partnership has announced two senior appointments at John Lewis: Peter Ruis (ex-Indigo, Anthopologie, Jigsaw) returns to the business as executive director, to lead the retailer through the next phase of its transformation; and interim executive director Naomi Simcock has been appointed to the new position of operations director

Papaya Trading’s sales agent team has been bolstered by the addition of Philip Gant, who will cover the Midlands and Home Counties

Furniture Village opened a 16,920ft2 store in Staples Corner, London on Boxing Day, replacing its space in Friern Barnet

Sterling Home is mourning the loss of buying director Lesley Graham, daughter of the business’ founder, George Knowles Snr. She passed away peacefully on 23rd December, after being diagnosed with an interstitial lung disease

GlobalData forecasts that the UK furniture resale market will grow by +40.8% between 202227 to reach a value of £1101m – outpacing the total furniture market, which is set to increase by +7.9% in the same period

Gaze Burvill furniture designer Charlie Dedman is taking time out of work this spring to complete a 630-mile trek to raise funds for the Woodland Heritage charity

Mammoth has secured a sixfigure investment from the North East Growth Capital Fund through regional firm NEL Fund Managers



Acctim Clocks has acquired fine art manufacturer Brookpace Lascelles. The latter’s founder, Gerard Bendien, will remain in the business

Sofas & Stuff will open of a new showroom on the King’s Road in Chelsea on 1st March has welcomed Rob Pierre, co-founder and former CEO of digital marketing specialist Jellyfish, to the business as an advisor and investor

Next will appoint Amy Stirling, CFO of Hargreaves Lansdown, as an independent non-executive director on 2nd April

Heimtextil 2024 attracted some 46,000 visitors from around 130 nations, and 2838 exhibitors from 60 nations (+25% YoY), reports organiser Messe Frankfurt, adding that the show overcame difficult travel conditions due to nationwide rail strikes and regional demonstrations

ScS opened its 101st store on Boxing Day, in Tunbridge Wells. The opening, a 17,000ft2 store on the Great Lodge Retail Park, created 10 jobs

The Furniture Makers’ Company is accepting nominations for its Young Professional Industry Experience, which aims to give candidates a wide perspective of the trade

Sleepeezee has produced a limited-edition series of its own children’s book, Watch Me Glow!, to accompany the launch of its children’s bed range, Little Bedz


M&S invests in Scottish stores after strong quarter Marks and Spencer Group reports that its Clothing & Home sales increased +4.8% over the Christmas period (the 13 weeks to 30th December 2023), with LFL sales also up +4.8%, driven by growth in average selling price – partly a result of reduced promotions YoY. Market share increased, supported by improved customer perceptions of style, quality and value. Store sales increased +2.0%, with new full-line stores performing ahead of plan. Online sales grew +10.9%, with improved carrier service levels YoY and strong demand for click and collect. Full-price sales mix improved, and stock into sale reduced -6% YoY. “With a deeper initial cut in line with our objective of a shorter clearance sale, sell-through rates have been encouraging,” states the retailer. Chief executive Stuart Machin comments: “In Clothing & Home, style perception continued to improve, and we maintained our lead on quality and value, delivering an increase in full-price sales mix and our highest full-price market share for over a decade.” The retailer also unveiled plans to invest £30m in bricks-and-mortar stores across Scotland, an investment that will deliver more than five new store openings and expansions over the next 18 months,

supporting over 6500 jobs across the country. Operations director Sacha Berendji says: “This is our biggest-ever investment in Scotland, putting £30m into transforming the shopping experience for customers in Aberdeen, Largs, Dundee and Linlithgow – bringing new jobs across the country with bigger, better, fresh market-style foodhalls and new opportunities for Scottish shoppers to access our best-ever, most inspiringly presented clothing, home and beauty range.” Across the UK, the retailer is aiming to rotate from a base of 247 stores across to 180 higher-quality, higher-productivity full-line stores that sell its Food, Clothing & Home ranges, while also opening over 100 bigger food sites by FY27/28.

Dunelm’s value continues to resonate with consumers In a trading update covering the 26-week period (H1) to 30th December 2023, Dunelm Group reports strong sales growth, with total sales increasing by +4.5% to £872m, driven by volume. Q2 saw continued sales growth in “a challenging market”, with total sales increasing by +1.0% against very strong comparatives (underlying Q2 growth was +14% last year), and the proportion of digital sales up to 37% (from 35% in Q1). PBT expectations for the full year remain in line with market expectations (£202m). During Q2 the group opened three new stores, extending its portfolio to 183. The retailer has opened a total of four stores so far this financial year, in a variety of formats and sizes. Dunelm also increased choice by expanding ranges across its categories, and continuing to optimise its website, while launching the Home of Homes brand platform, with a

marketing campaign which ran until November. Dunelm is confident that it continues to gain share in a market which has been characterised by volatile week-to-week trading patterns, particularly through Q2, reflecting the ongoing pressures on consumers’ discretionary spend. CEO Nick Wilkinson says: “The breadth of our range and outstanding value of our proposition continues to be well received by customers, resulting in a strong sales performance for the first half despite a tough market backdrop. “Consumers remain under pressure and are actively seeking true value at all price points. Our customer offer and positioning as the Home of Homes resonates particularly well in this environment, and we are confident we have continued to gain market share.”

Furniture manufacturing wages set to jump again A survey of UK furniture manufacturers by British Furniture Manufacturers (BFM) has revealed that 91% of participants plan to increase wages in 2024, despite concerns about economic uncertainty. The BFM Wages Survey 2024, which looks at pay across 24 job roles including foreman, upholsterer, cabinetmaker and mattressmaker, as well as standard hours and holidays, predicts that the average increase will be +4.9%. Over the last two years, average production wages in the industry will have increased by around +10%

due to high consumer inflation and skill shortages. BFM MD Phil Spademan says: “Our survey this year has found that economic uncertainty is the most significant factor influencing wage awards, followed by margins and the new National Minimum Wage – 91% are planning to increase wages by an average of +4.9%. “The survey also showed that 45% of participants believe the rise in the National Living Wage will reduce the difference in wage levels between skilled and unskilled workers.”


The Furniture Awards 2024 winners revealed Last month, at an after-party at the NEC Birmingham convened for the January Furniture Show’s exhibitors and attendees, the winners of The Furniture Awards 2024 were revealed …

Exhibiting suppliers were asked to put forward their case in one of five categories, and their entries were assessed by a panel chaired by awards co-ordinator Paul Farley (editor-in-chief, Furniture News), and comprising Malcolm Walker (owner, FIRST MW), Sarah Bianchi (MD, Arighi Bianchi), Alice Rowan Hall (founder, Rowen Homes), Peter Harding (MD, Fairway Furniture), and furniture designer Adam Daghorn.

Best of British Winner: Alpha Designs Upholstery Alpha Designs is a rare example of how a relative newcomer can make an impact in an industry dominated by long-established names. Having started life in a unit in Bilston in 2010, Alpha Designs now runs two fully operational factories, employs some 200 people and makes around 2000 sofas each week, fuelled by an in-house design and development team. Flying the flag for British-made upholstery, and demonstrating that young blood and fresh ideas can make a difference, Alpha Designs is an inspiration. Highly Commended: Lebus Upholstery Lebus is the UK’s largest manufacturer of value upholstery. Based in Scunthorpe, Lebus makes over 10,000 seats each week, and employs close to 500 members of staff. In 2021, it become employee owned. Admirable for its progressive outlook, Lebus has embraced a new attitude and design handwriting, ensuring it remains an industry favourite.

“Our top players truly deserve recognition through accolades like The Furniture Awards

Global Player Winner: Qualita Qualita’s story has it all – cost engineering, manufacturing efficiency, effective fulfilment partnerships, and eminently commercial product. Supplementing its modern manufacturing facility in Lithuania, Qualita works closely with third-party manufacturers across the globe, enabling it to meet demand in the most appropriate manner. In the UK, its Qualita, Stockholm and Shadows collections represent a varied cabinet furniture portfolio with oak at its heart. The business also operates across Europe and further afield, fuelled by its licensing deal with Laura Ashley. Highly Commended: Tomasella Industria Mobili Highly commended in this category for a second year running, Tomasella boasts a tradition of innovation and excellence dating back to 1948, and today offers custom-built, well-marketed furniture on rapid turnaround times. The Italian company recently opened a 110,000ft2 automated facility and distribution warehouse specifically for the US and UK markets, demonstrating significant scalability potential.

Superior Service Winner: Iconography A technical agency specialising in web-based business solutions, Iconography boasts a growing roster of satisfied customers, and its recent project for Haskins Furniture demonstrates just how much the operations behind furniture retail can be streamlined by embracing an integrated IT system with the right partner. With capabilities spanning ecommerce, operations, store and stock management, and a view on front-end performance as much as back-end efficiency, Iconography also shines for its excellent customer service and industry-specific expertise.

Design Innovation Winner: Whitemeadow Furniture Classy, high-spec and functional, Whitemeadow’s latest models reflect just part of what makes Suttonin-Ashfield’s upholstery giant a design powerhouse. Whitemeadow’s design studio has a knack for creating commercially viable product that hits the right price points, often putting new slants on old ideas, but always among the first to embrace new approaches, with an eye on the next generation of furniture designers. Highly Commended: A.L.F. UNO The stylish new Hera collection from A.L.F. is just the tip of the iceberg. At its impressive factory and design centre, the Italian innovator employs modern materials and components to deliver cost-effective furniture fit for many of today’s homes. No businesses were shortlisted in the Sustainability category this year. The Furniture Awards were established by Furniture News and the January Furniture Show in 2015, to celebrate the furniture industry’s champions. “This year’s winners reflect what makes our industry so special,” says Paul Farley. “Anyone quick to dismiss the trade as slow-paced or insular should just look at what some of the best among us are accomplishing. They may not shout about it, but our top players truly deserve recognition through accolades like The Furniture Awards. “Thanks again to our judging panel for taking the time to assess each entrant’s story, and for offering valuable context for their achievements – and well done to everyone shortlisted, and to this year’s winners in particular.” The Furniture Awards will return for 2025 – find out more about why these businesses emerged triumphant in next month’s issue.

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“Now it’s a space where ecommerce is part of the furniture

Mattress Online and me

From storing mattresses in a garage to being the UK’s largest bed stockist – underpinned by increasingly creative technological solutions and a daring ‘clicks-and-mortar’ strategy – ecommerce pioneer Mattress Online is celebrating 20 years of business. To mark the occasion, Furniture News asked CEO Steve Adams to share 20 key observations of his time in the industry, and the changing face of bed retail …

INSIGHT 11 1. The popularity of rolled mattresses changed the landscape of the industry. We started selling them back in 2003, and it’s been great to watch them become ‘normal’. 2. More springs doesn’t mean more comfort – it’s a big misconception in the mattress world. 3. Since 2003, we’ve moved away from faux leather and metal beds, and they’re now (thankfully) in the graveyard of home furnishings. 4. Recycling has become super important over the last 20 years. Mattress Online was one of the first to launch a non-profit service, so it’s been great to see. 5. Building a strong team has been a learning curve over the last two decades. I’m lucky enough to employ some of the best and most loyal people you could meet. 6. Learn to delegate – as your team grows, it’ll make life easier. I’ve done literally every job in the business over the years, and having a specialised team to lighten the load is pointless if you don’t let go of the reins when you need to. 7. It’s bloody difficult, and if you’re not all-in, giving it 100%, then it’s going to be impossible to build a successful business. 8. Sustainability is key to consumer choice now, but 20 years ago I don’t think it was a consideration for many people – it’s a very positive change. 9. It’s now almost the norm that a customer will look at an ecommerce store first, even if they’re going to buy in the high street. Twenty years ago, that simply wouldn’t have happened. The high street and online now complement each other. 10. I’ve made lifelong industry friends along the way, and met some extraordinary characters – it’s never been dull. 11. People buy from people, and this is reflected in the many successful supplier and manufacturer relationships I’ve encountered over the years. 12. In the early days we weren’t popular, us e-tailers – you could almost say we were the ‘black sheep’! However, times have changed, and now it’s a space where ecommerce is part of the furniture (pun intended). 13. I don’t know about anyone else, but if, 20 years ago I’d had access to the analytics, insights and data we do today, I’d have wet myself with excitement! 14. The 2008-09 recession was pivotal. We expanded our brand offering and it helped us get through. I think in tough times customers like brands they know and trust.

15. The MBO in 2019 saw a new dawn for Mattress Online. It was a little daunting going it alone after the partnership of Steve Kelly for so many years, but it’s gone from strength to strength for us both since. 16. The pandemic reinforced what an agile business Mattress Online is. We were able to regroup, using our knowledge and business model to pivot quickly, and make the most of the ‘black swan’. 17. My health has become a personal non-negotiable in the last decade – the 2003 Steve was a totally different man to the 2024 Steve. 18. Of course, sleep education has become a slight obsession – I got a lot less of it back at the beginning! However, now it’s a constant area of learning for me, and the team. If there’s a new sleep gadget out there, I’m trying it! 19. I love to take time out to travel, but I’m happy to admit that I’ll always look for a bed shop in whatever destination I’m visiting (in between trying out the local food and beer!). 20. It was a family affair in the beginning. My dad built the packing tables we still use to this day in our Rotherham warehouses, and my mum packed pillows for some of our very first customers.

“If you’re not giving it 100%, it’s going to be impossible to build a successful business


You’re hired! It’s not too late to close the growing industry skills gap, says Natalie Cole, who was appointed to co-ordinate the newly launched Apprentice and Skills Plus Service this autumn – a free resource which aims to help companies recruit and retain new talent, upskill existing employees, and act as a central resource for information, advice and guidance on apprenticeships. Furniture News asked Natalie to explain her role in more detail …

Apprenticeships are an amazing training route, says Natalie

“The sector has a huge amount to offer, and perhaps we need to shout about this more

What were you doing before this appointment? Before taking up this role I was working in education as a lecturer on the BA (hons) Product and Furniture Design degree course at Birmingham City University. It involved teaching students to think creatively and to consider user centred design, social context and commercial understanding. Key to this was encouraging students to explore materials, techniques and processes in relation to scales of manufacture, from one-off bespoke design to design for standardised mass production.

Beyond supporting employers, I gather data and insights about the skills gap, training provision and recruitment challenges within the sector, and disseminate this to key stakeholders.

What does being the Skills Plus co-ordinator comprise? My role involves managing the Apprentice & Skills Plus Service, which supports employers in the furniture sector to train, support and retain the next generation of talent. It’s co-funded by The Furniture Makers’ Company and Furniture, Interiors, Education, Skills and Training Alliance (FIESTA). This primarily means demystifying apprenticeships for employers and supporting them to find the right training provider and appropriate apprentice standards for the skills gaps in their business, as well as signposting relevant funding and recruitment avenues.

What’s the single biggest challenge facing furniture industry recruitment today? I believe a lack of awareness among school leavers about the furniture manufacturing sector is the main hurdle we need to overcome. This is not in any way the students’ fault, but rather a symptom of the gradual decline over the past 30-40 years in the teaching of workshop-based skills in schools. Thirty-plus years ago, when I started at my local secondary school, there was both a wood workshop and a metal workshop and I had lessons in both, with staff who had specialist subject knowledge and skills. This is now incredibly rare in comprehensive schools. There is a myriad of reasons for this, but without the

What’s the most rewarding aspect of the role? Bringing new blood into the sector – whether that’s through an apprenticeship or an alternative training path. I’ve recently supported an upholstery business to recruit a person who has gone from working in property management to upholstery!


Natalie Cole

“A huge number of children are missing out on the chance of discovering something they excel at opportunity to enjoy and learn from making things in workshops, a huge number of children are missing out on the chance of discovering something they excel at. Can you suggest any steps that might help remedy that situation? That is an enormous challenge – our discipline requires space, expensive equipment, teaching expertise and materials, and that’s before considering the health and safety concerns schools have. However, something that could make a huge difference is schools placing equal emphasis on apprenticeships as A Levels and university, as a viable career pathway. T Levels may go some way to addressing this, but apprenticeships need shouting about. They are an amazing way to get trained (with no fees) while earning money. There is a guaranteed job at the end of it, and great career prospects for working your way up through a business. Many of the operations managers, directors and technical directors I’ve spoken to over the past few months started their careers as apprentices. The apprenticeship levy has attracted a good deal of criticism since its introduction. What is your response to it? It has detractors and some supporters, but if you are a business that pays into the levy, I’d say make the most of it and get your money back by taking on an apprentice, or even multiple apprentices. The apprenticeship levy can also be used to upskill existing members of staff, so employers should also consider this option if they don’t want to bring in new apprentices. And if there is no requirement in your organisation for apprentices, then consider transferring part of your annual levy fund to a business in your supply chain.

assessment organisation Achieve + Partners, providing a wealth of experience focused on raising awareness and tackling this important issue. Do you fear that the delivery of any significant change or initiatives may come too late to address the looming skills crisis in our industry? The Chinese proverb, ‘The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, the second-best time is now,’ seems apt. I don’t believe it is too late, but it is urgent. There is clear recognition in the sector that this needs to be addressed, and a definite willingness among many to make this happen. Appealing to young people is going to be critical. Compared to other creative industries – particularly digital ones such as games design and interface design – the perception of the industry is maybe a little old-fashioned. This, of course, is not true – the sector has a huge amount to offer, and perhaps we need to shout about this more.

“Schools placing equal What are you doing to bring stakeholders together emphasis on and communicate the issue? The issues of an ageing workforce and a looming apprenticeships How can interested parties find out more? skills gap within the furniture industry are well Visit the FIESTA Learning website and go to the documented. Fortunately, I have the full support of as A Levels and Apprentice & Skills Plus page, receive news about the The Furniture Makers Company, as well as FIESTA, service by signing up to a free newsletter at https:// which includes the directors of the main furniture university could, or email me to arrange a trade associations (AMUSF, BFM, NBF, CIUK and conversation, at KBSA), as well as representatives from colleges and make a huge independent furniture training providers, WorldSkills difference UK, and the specialist awarding and end-point



Mark Gannon As the MD of both Sofa Source and Image Furnishings, Mark heads up an international upholstery empire, while finding time to organise the annual Irish Furniture & Homewares Show (IFHS), Ireland’s principal furniture trade event.

How might a child describe what you do? Make furniture for people to sit on. What’s the biggest long-term challenge you face? People thinking too short sighted. There is a tendency in this industry for customers to slow down just because they had a few quiet weeks, when they should be thinking and planning much more long term. If you had 10 x your working budget, what would you spend it on? Meeting people, trade shows, and bringing customers in-house. We have found the key to selling in the furniture industry is an in-person approach that gets you, your customer and your products in the room together physically. What would be the title of your autobiography? I would do it again! What does ‘work/life balance’ mean to you? Enjoy what you do, and the work/life balance falls into place. Who’s been your most influential professional mentor? Verne Harnish [founder of the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation and the Association of Collegiate Entrepreneurs]. What advice would you give your younger self? Scale the business from the start.

What’s been your best day in business to date? Setting up the IFHS in 2014. What’s the biggest myth about our industry? That it is a small one. What should everyone in our industry either stop or start doing? Start communicating and sharing experiences. Where do you see the industry going in the next 5-10 years? Online retail will change the landscape of our industry. We think it’s important to face it and its challenges head on, creating new ways to sell online, be it images, videos, or virtual/augmented reality. There will still be a place for bricks-and-mortar stores, but they will need to take a mixed approach to their sales to survive.

“The in-person approach is key to selling in the furniture industry



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5 ESSENTIAL WAYS TO MAXIMISE YOUR SALES AND PROFI T • ADVERTISING – Most advertising does not work very well. If yours isn’t, stop wasting your money now. Don’t blame the media, blame the message. Re-design your advertising in a benefits-orientated-style. Call Greenwood for effective copywriting know-how.

The season’s trade shows demonstrated that there’s no

• PRODUCTS – Be ruthless with your precious floor space. If a product or collection isn’t performing after being given a fair trial, then clear it and replace it with a faster selling line. Test and measure the selling potential of all your products in a Greenwood Sale.

shortage of newness in our trade, and our March issue will give January’s launches a chance to truly shine – alongside dedicated product features for all! • January Furniture Show Review

• SELLING SKILLS - Get good at selling. Most retailers don’t employ a proper retail sales process for big ticket goods. The most successful ones

• INDX Furniture Review

do. Invest time and money in quality sales know-how. Call Greenwood to arrange an effective sales training course for your team.

• The Furniture Awards 2024 • Aftersales Care & Repair

• COMPETITION – Check your competition to find out what they are offering. Avoid all-out price wars. Out-perform your competition on the most relevant beneficial points including choice, quality, value and service. Call Greenwood to mystery shop your competitors.

• Plus the latest In Bedroom, Living, Dining and Trade Services

Looking for the best results in 2024? Look no further!

• PROMOTION – Promote your business effectively. Every good retailer from Aldi to Harrod’s does. Consider using a Greenwood Sales Promotion to increase sales, turn stock into cash and win future market share, while protecting your profit at the same time. Call Greenwood!

Book by Wednesday 14th February Furniture News Cover SEL_ART.pdf






Take a look at our website or call us now on 07771 700247, or, send an e mail enquiry, and we’ll gladly call you to discuss the exciting possibilities we can offer you, without obligation.



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Lebus set to impress at JFS



Hypnos guarantees comfort with integrity




Join At The Helm’s bold adventure



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#393 June 2022



Westbridge wows at JFS

We are now booking Greenwood Sales right across the UK and Ireland from summer 2024 to spring 2025 on a first come first served basis.

Sleep smart with Emma


The voyage continues …

Illuminating approaches from Chilli Pepper Designs



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Tackling theAWARDS CGI fabricSUPPLEMENT challenge BED INDUSTRY BED SHOW LIVING |eyes TRADE SERVICES The Hastings Sofa |Company expansion

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Celebrating this year’s Bed Industry Awards JANUARY FURNITURE SHOWAlice Hall Growing glam with Rowen Homes’ INDX BEDS & BEDROOM | DINING shopper segmentation LIVINGRethinking | BEDROOM | TRADE SERVICES

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A man’s world?

Gender equality in the furniture industry

Loaf’s Nick Holmes steps up JANUARY FURNITURE SHOW


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CAN’T GET THE STAFF? The industry’s recruitment and retention challenge BED SHOW | LIVING BEDROOM TRADE SERVICES Arighi|Bianchi’s family values



Negotiating the cost of living crisis

Book your sales event early to guarantee exclusivity for your business.


Hypnos’ new group MD beds in JANUARY FURNITURE SHOW THE FURNITURE AWARDS Get ahead with predictive SEO INDX BEDS & BEDROOM | OUTDOOR Haskins’ Jade Farthing talks shop BEDROOM | TRADE SERVICES

Back in Action’s perfect posture

ECO CONSCIOUS new directions LIVING |Devonshire’s TRADE SERVICES

King’s CEO on design from down under

World Furniture’s clarity of vision Fresh formats from inspirational indies

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Want to be part of the furniture trade's favourite read? Contact Sam Horscroft on 07764 650655 or email or Caroline Littler on 07861 231461 or email

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GREENWOOD RETAIL LTD UK & Ireland’s Leading Experts in Retail Sales Promotion



From 6-9th March, at SECC Ho Chi Minh City and White Palace (Pham Van Dong Street, also in Ho Chi Minh City), HawaExpo will introduce a new trade fair model that combines two concepts – the Connect Hall and the Create Hall – in one event. The show will reflect the ongoing global shift towards furniture manufacturing in Vietnam, and promises to be the biggest business platform upon which to meet manufacturers from Vietnam and the wider ASEAN region.

Understanding that a healthy visitor experience fosters increased levels of business, HawaExpo is known for its buyer-oriented services, which have been “levelled up” this year. A highlight is the free shuttle bus system, which will transport visitors from listed hotels and other specific stops to the fair. All services will adhere to international standards at the exhibition centres, states the show’s organiser,

to meet the diverse needs of the some-700 exhibitors and 30,000 visitors attending the event. The show’s timing is also convenient, as it is running in the middle of the ASEAN Furniture Exhibition Chain, making it a straightforward stop for international buyers sourcing from the Far East this spring, concludes the show’s organiser.



Bespoke training courses covering various topics, such as Health & Safety and tailored management courses.

We offer internal and external AITT (Association of Industrial Truck Trainers) accredited manual handling training courses.

Growing training team with dedicated warehouse training officer.

Purpose built training centre equipped with classrooms and showrooms replicating real-world home environments.

Specialised 2-person delivery crew training ensuring compliance with Rhenus Home Delivery’s 5-star service standards.

Employee growth and development schemes at all levels of the business.





CIFF invites global buyers to join the club The 53rd China International Furniture Fair (CIFF), also known as CIFF (Guangzhou) 2024, is set to take place from 18th-21st and 28th-31st March – with the InterBiz Club (International Business Club), initiated by CIFF (Guangzhou) ready to provide comprehensive services to global buyers in attendance.

“The InterBiz Club functions as a comprehensive service ecosystem for international visitors

CIFF (Guangzhou) is one of the world’s largest and most influential trade fairs dedicated to home furniture, decor and textiles, plus outdoor, office and commercial furniture, furniture machinery and raw materials. CIFF describes the InterBiz Club as “a premium global platform for the home furnishing trade, tailored specifically for multinational purchasing groups, international traders, cross-border ecommerce retailers, distributors, designers, and end-users worldwide. It functions as a comprehensive service ecosystem for international visitors to CIFF from over 200 countries and regions. “Drawing on CIFF’s more-than 25 years of extensive global market experience, the club aims to create a new home furnishing trade environment through multichannel integration.” The club employs a twofold approach, consisting of service for eight-day offline exhibitions and year-round online engagement for a broadened international market. Its exclusive VVIP reception programme, designed specifically for international buyers, covers full access to the CIFF events in Guangzhou, Shanghai and Tianjin, and provides swift entry, and privileged access to trade activities, theme

exhibitions, and the VIP lounge throughout the eightday exhibitions. Extras such as complimentary lunch vouchers, show guides, trade matching and shuttle bus services between selected hotels and the exhibition venues are also included. Additionally, the club actively promotes global business networking throughout the year through various activities, such as conducting a Greater Bay Area factory tour, operating virtual showrooms, and hosting online and offline networking events. By leveraging its official websites, international social media platforms, email marketing, and other multimedia channels, the club promises to broaden both online and offline international trade opportunities, “enabling suppliers and buyers to connect accurately, thereby facilitating trade transactions”. Last September, the club launched a global tour to bridge gaps, bring people together and promote international exchange in the furniture market. This March, the programme will continue to host promotional events and discussions, fostering a global network for the home furnishing industry, providing Chinese businesses with international opportunities, and helping overseas companies better understand the Chinese market. For more details, visit CIFF’s website.



Connect, collaborate and create

Telford International Centre will house the inaugural event this April

Photo courtesy iStock/SDI Productions

industry experts who delve into topics like sustainable practices, emerging technologies, apprenticeships and skills, exporting and new trends. Look out for the Innovation Trail, where new products and services will be pitched! Networking opportunities will abound throughout the event, fostering connections with potential partners, customers, and suppliers – and the show has been designed to meet the needs of all furniture manufacturers, including makers of beds, mattresses, cabinet furniture and upholstery. Alan Payne, MD of upholstery restorer The Dorset Chairman, says: “The opportunity for small businesses such as ours to attend the FCE and network with suppliers in the industry that we would not normally have access to is invaluable. I’m also honoured to take part as a member of the Automation vs Skills seminar panel taking place during the expo.” But the Furniture Component Expo is not just about sourcing and learning, says the BFM – it is about staying ahead of the curve: “Many exhibitors have chosen this platform to unveil their latest offerings,

Photo courtesy iStock/shapecharge

“Mark your calendars, register your attendance and prepare to be inspired

The exhibition promises a one-stop shop for manufacturers seeking to streamline their supply chain and discover the latest industry trends, providing “a vibrant and efficient platform” for businesses of all sizes to connect with leading suppliers, source innovative materials and explore cutting-edge machinery and tools. Although the show is called the Furniture Component Expo, it will comprise more than just components. The BFM’s aim is to see the supply chain represented from end to end, including logistics, home delivery, insurance, IT and software, and training providers, alongside transport, packaging solutions and fleet information. “Expect a diverse exhibitor landscape showcasing everything from hardware and finishing materials to furniture components and advanced manufacturing equipment,” states the BFM. “Immerse yourself in informative seminars led by

Photo courtesy Freepik

The Furniture Component Expo (FCE) – taking place at the Telford International Centre on 24-25 April, and sponsored by Vita Group, BeA and Carpenter – will be the first show of its kind in the UK specifically focused on the supply side of the furniture industry, says organiser British Furniture Manufacturers (BFM) …

ensuring attendees are among the first to experience the industry’s newest innovations.” Ian Peers, operations director at Ercol, comments: “The event should bring together a rich concentration of suppliers that are specifically targeted to our needs. We expect to find new suppliers for our business that we’ve not met before. Furniture manufacturing in the UK is sizeable, and this event will help us all find and work with the best suppliers to our industry.” The BFM concludes: “Whether you’re a seasoned manufacturer or a burgeoning entrepreneur, the Furniture Component Expo has something for everyone. It’s an opportunity to save precious time and resources by consolidating your supply chain under one roof, stay at the forefront of industry advancements, and forge valuable connections that can propel your business forward. “Mark your calendars, register your attendance and prepare to be inspired at the Furniture Component Expo – your gateway to a thriving and dynamic furnituremaking landscape. Registration is free – head to our website for more information, and let the expo be your compass to success in the world of furniture manufacturing.” There is still time to join the event as an exhibitor – enquire via, or find out more at

22 PRODUCTS Marlowe bedstead


Holm armchair with Borden round dining table

Gallery Direct’s SS24 Collection includes a varied selection of ‘ready-made’ upholstery. The range features sofas, armchairs, sofabeds, occasional chairs, dining chairs and bedsteads. All will be held in stock in the UK for quick delivery from Gallery’s Chesterfield DC, by the company’s dedicated delivery fleet – enabling customers to benefit from significantly reduced lead times and costs compared to traditional MTO manufacture. The collection includes the Holm armchair, a vintage-inspired piece which is ideal as a dining or occasional chair. The curved back seamlessly transitions into the base, to create a chic chair


Bluebird Agents & Consultants has exclusively launched Outerra’s Italian collection of outdoor kitchens to the UK market. With an emphasis on sociability and a refined, quality finish, there are model options to suit any outdoor space, including kitchens such as the Dafne and the Venere. Bluebird is happy to announce an exclusive offer for the beginning of the year to get retail displays ready for summer. Items are available in singles, with good lead times and easy installation. For details, contact katie@ (or call 07823 514952).

suitable for both modern and eclectic interiors. As well as the rich rust colour pictured, it is

corners and button detailing on the headboard, while a large double drawer at the foot end adds

available in classic cream, green or grey. Gallery’s Asko armchair, which is available in cream, green and grey, offers a similar style, but in a more relaxed format, with a footstool that fits neatly under the chair when not in use. One of the new bedsteads available is the Marlowe, which offers “timeless elegance”. The simple yet classy design features softly rounded

practical storage space. Marlowe is available as a double or kingsize, in a choice of a subtle taupe fabric or a deep green. To find out more about all Gallery’s new products, visit the supplier at Spring Fair (taking place at the NEC Birmingham from 4-7th this month) on stand 7A30-B31, or take a look on its website.

Join us at Spring Fair Stand 7A30 - B31 for a look at our stunning new SS24 Collections. The introduction of our new furniture has further enhanced our Furniture ranges, developing a fully rounded collection of products to suit all budgets and bring any interior to life. With an offering of over 6,000 lines in our collection across seven categories, we’re proud to say we’re the complete home and outdoor supplier.


STAND 7A 3 0 - B3 1 4 -7 FEB Scan the QR code for more | 01795 439159


Here to help When consumers encounter an unexpected or urgent need for furniture, that need should be addressed in a helpful and timely manner. This month, Furniture News asks two UK manufacturers operating in the distress purchase segment what this means for their product and service offering …

Although furniture tends to be a considered purchase, there are numerous instances in which consumers encounter an unexpected need for it, which must be rapidly addressed. Perhaps an elderly relative is discharged from hospital suffering from drastically reduced mobility, guests are coming to stay, and need somewhere to sleep, or a broken piece of furniture needs to be immediately replaced. In all these cases – and many others – a solution is required in a hurry, and speed of delivery is of the essence. The customer may not have time to shop around or consider their purchase, but it is up to the manufacturers and retailers operating in this segment

to offer them a clear proposition that reaches them as soon as possible. Guest beds, rise-and-recline chairs, sofabeds, mattress protectors and adjustable beds are just a few of the types of furniture that are often required with little or no warning. This month, Furniture News looks at some of the challenges and opportunities involved for those working in the ‘distress purchase’ segment of the furniture industry, with help from leading UK manufacturers Celebrity Motion Furniture (riser/ recliner and reclining chairs) and Jay-Be (mattresses, sofabeds, folding beds and accessories).

The need for new furniture can be unexpected or urgent, and should be handled sensitively (photo courtesy 123RF/zinkevych)

“It is up to those operating in this segment to offer the customer a clear proposition that reaches them as soon as possible



WAYNE HOLLIS MD, CELEBRITY MOTION FURNITURE Woburn, available through Celebrity’s super-fast delivery service

What products/structures do you offer that cater to distress purchase demands? We offer a wide selection of riser/recliner chairs to cater to our customers’ needs, in various styles, and sizes tailored to fit. Specifically, we offer a super-fast delivery service, which allows us to deliver a chair within five working days to our retailers. We offer this on two of our ranges, Woburn and Westbury, in three different sizes (petite, standard and grande), in two of our most popular fabrics, on both the Dual Motor or Cloud Zero riser/recliner. Can you suggest who the typical customer might be? A typical consumer of our products is someone who has just been released out of the hospital or has a medical condition where they require a chair urgently. Other causes include falls, difficulty standing alone, and a need for comfort. We offer chairs on super-fast delivery to be able to provide this service.

Westbury, available through Celebrity’s super-fast delivery service

What’s the most important consideration when selling in this market? The most important considerations are the chair’s speed of delivery, and the functionality.

Someone who buys this product needs the chair quickly. That is why we keep up to 120 units in our cut-and-sewn stock, ready to be upholstered, as well as up to 30 complete chairs available for immediate despatch. We work closely with our couriers to guarantee that the chair is delivered to our retailers as soon as possible. We also have a partnership with Mammoth – their naturally cooling Medical Grade foam is proven to relieve pressure, deliver postural support and regulate temperate, and this allows greater comfort and faster recovery. Alongside this is our innovative Cloud Zero mechanism, which has enabled us to create a new riser/recliner that offers next-level comfort shaped around the needs of every individual, with greater tilt to aid relaxation, and almost infinite positions for enhanced comfort. As a business we are constantly innovating to

help meet new demands, to cater for distress purchases. How do you help your stockists reach out to the relevant customers? We provide this service to all our retailers, and assist them in promoting our offering through PoS on their shop floors. In addition, we work with some of our retailers on bulk stocking of our products. They will order chairs in large quantities across multiple models, fabrics and actions, to provide an increased variety of chairs for consumers to choose from. In addition to this, our ZipSPEED delivery service is now down to 3-5 weeks for any action, with over 150 fabrics and 30 leathers to pick from across five of our most popular ranges, for those customers who can wait a little longer.

“The most important considerations are the chair’s speed of delivery, and the functionality. Someone who buys this product needs the chair quickly




Revolution folding bed with e-Pocket mattress

Can you suggest who the typical customer might be? Folding Beds are a practical product that fulfil a very specific need – providing a convenient and comfortable hideaway bed solution. In reality, the customer or end-user can be anyone, from a parent wanting a guest bed for their child’s regular use, to a caregiver who requires one for occasional sleepovers at their client’s home, or an individual in need of a temporary solution while their home is being renovated.

Supreme folding bed with e-Pocket mattress

What products/structures do you offer that cater to distress purchase demands? Jay-Be is very well known for folding beds, which are arguably one of the most time-sensitive purchase items within our industry. Typically, individuals tend to consider buying a folding bed right at the point they need one, so finding one conveniently and receiving it quickly is critical. Over the years, this demand has driven our company to not only provide the best guest bed solutions that we can, but also deliver the fastest and most efficient service possible. Achieving a swift and reliable service has had a very positive impact, as we now offer this standard across our entire range of products – including our vacuumrolled mattresses, which can also be a distress purchase at times.

In the case of a folding bed, we’ve encountered all kinds of reasons for urgent requirements, ranging from homes flooding to individuals having an accident and being unable to climb the stairs to their bedroom. For example, during the pandemic, we delivered folding beds to hospitals for nurses and doctors to sleep on overnight, and to power stations, enabling essential workers to stay on-site. Folding beds are used in a wide range of scenarios, so I could probably give you a list of reasons why people need them that would add several pages to your magazine! What’s the most important consideration when selling in this market? The key is to offer a clear, honest, and realistic service promise at a fair price. When an individual is making an urgent purchase, a reliable service is as crucial as the product itself.

“When an individual is making an urgent purchase, a reliable service is as crucial as the product itself

Over the years, we have dedicated our efforts to enhancing our service, and we’re extremely proud of the feedback that we receive. We have an amazing team spirit throughout the company, and everyone takes immense pride in working together to satisfy each consumer, always striving to go beyond their expectations. How do you work with your stockists, and help them reach out to the relevant customers? Since folding beds are often required at short notice, it’s crucial that individuals can easily find one when they need it. As such, we partner with a wide cross-section of retailers, each offering various service options to meet a wide array of consumer needs. Some of our retailers sell online, taking advantage of our next-day direct home delivery service, while others use their own carriers to offer same-day delivery. Additionally, we have retailers who stock our product in-store, allowing consumers to collect immediately. Ultimately, our goal is to help consumers in finding and receiving a bed solution as soon as they need one, as easily as possible. We offer a free next-working-day delivery service to all of our stockists as standard, and our in-house marketing team enjoys creating artwork for our retailers’ websites, flyers, adverts, and PoS materials. Additionally, our operations team collaborates closely with our retail partners to tailor the ideal service offering. It’s very much a team effort to provide the best product and service for the consumer, which satisfies their needs in the fastest and most convenient way possible.

HUGE UK Stock Holding EXPERIENCE Over 15 Years Of Trading FAST Nationwide Delivery


How the EU is tackling greenwashing The European Commission has proposed a Green Claims Directive, which it believes will tackle greenwashing and help consumers make better-informed buying decisions – a development which any business selling or distributing product to the EU should take note of. Here Keith Hutchinson, business manager at testing, inspection and certification company SGS, and a member of the TIC Council Working Group on Product Sustainability, explores the reasons for (and potential impact of) the directive, which is expected to be voted on by the EU parliament later this year – and will become effective in 2027. By Keith Hutchinson

In its European Green Deal, the European Commission sets out to tackle false environmental claims and ensure that buyers can access reliable, comparable and verifiable information to reduce the risk of ‘greenwashing.’ The commission’s intention is to regulate the use of environmental claims by setting minimum requirements on the substantiation and communication of voluntary environmental claims and environmental labelling in B2C commercial practices. This will be achieved through the establishment of solid and harmonised calculation methods, verified by approved third parties, that cover the full value chain. This is something to be applauded. As a marketleading TIC company, we are witness to the wide assortment of voluntary eco-labelling schemes that have appeared in recent years. Established to seemingly ‘help’ businesses meet consumer demand for more sustainable products and services, their variety and abundance is, however, more likely to increase consumer confusion and cynicism. The EU Commission rightly recognises that environmental claims will only help consumers if they are consistent and based on scientific evidence that can be trusted. Tackling consumer uncertainty Empowering the public to take action to consume in a more sustainable way by preventing misleading practices such as greenwashing is a logical next step for industry. There exists a plethora of surveys that reflect that whilst consumers are becoming more environmentally conscious, they are also becoming more environmentally skeptical. The Global Consumer Insights Pulse Survey undertaken by PwC in June 2021revealed how 58% of core millennials (those aged 27-32) say they have become more eco-friendly. Core and young millennials (those aged 23-26) are the most likely to agree that they consciously consider sustainability while shopping. In addition, the Global Sustainability Study 2021 found that 85% of people indicate they have shifted their purchasing behaviour towards greater sustainability in the past five years. Meanwhile, the GreenPrint Business of Sustainability Index survey, undertaken in 2022, revealed that: 64% of consumers are happy to pay

more for sustainable products; 78% of consumers are more likely to buy products that are labelled as environmentally friendly; and 74% do not know how to identify eco-friendly products, with nearly half confessing that they seldom or never actually believe eco-claims. This demonstrates that, in spite of consumers’ willingness to contribute to a greener and more circular economy in their everyday lives, their active role in this green transition is being hampered by a lack of trust in the credibility of environmental claims and the proliferation of misleading commercial practices related to the environmental sustainability of products. The need for industry action In 2020, the European Commission carried out an inventory looking at a sample of 150 environmental claims for a wide range of products. Findings showed that over 53% of those claims provided vague, misleading or unfounded information about environmental characteristics across the EU and across a wide range of product categories. The 2020 inventory of environmental claims also analysed the extent to which the claims were substantiated with evidence that can be verified. The analysis found that 40% of claims were unsubstantiated. These results were supported by a sweep by the Consumer Protection Cooperation authorities in November 2020. Out of the 344 sustainability claims assessed, authorities considered that in over half of the cases (57.5%) the trader did not provide sufficient elements allowing for judgement of the claim’s accuracy. In many cases, authorities had difficulties identifying whether the claim covered the whole product or only one of its components (50%), whether it referred to the company or only certain products (36%), and which stage of the product’s lifecycle it covered (75%). This clearly needs addressing by governments and industries that aspire to support the growing number of consumers who want to be better informed on the environmental impacts of their consumption, and make better choices. What’s in the directive? Applicable to large and transnational companies in the EU with more than €2m turnover and 10 employees,

“Consumers’ active role in the green transition is being hampered by a lack of trust in the credibility of environmental claims


Image courtesy 123RF/jmimagefactory

the directive sets out to create a level playing field by providing a legal framework that will underpin the credibility and transparency of voluntary environmental claims. It introduces minimum requirements for the substantiation and communication of environmental claims, which are subject to third-party verification. This robust and independent third-party certification process to verify claims and labelling should go a long way towards minimising, if not eradicating, the practice of greenwashing at any stage of the consumption journey – from advertising to purchasing and product use. The approach is also likely to accelerate the move to a circular and climate-neutral economy and have a positive impact on global value chains involving production processes in third countries. As a result, I believe it could incentivise third-country companies to contribute to the green transition, particularly those businesses trading within the EU internal market. By introducing minimum criteria for all environmental labels, consumers will be more likely to trust that products holding a sustainability label will meet requirements on transparency and credibility. Supporting business and industry The introduction of the EU’s proposed Green Claims directive is a logical next step on the road towards more sustainable consumption. I welcome the provision of a legal framework to improve the credibility and transparency of voluntary environmental claims. Day to day, I see how companies that offer truly sustainable products are disadvantaged compared to those that do not, and believe it’s vital that a level playing field is created for all. At SGS, we’ve been encouraging companies to adopt sustainable practices and to integrate sustainability information into their reporting cycle for decades. In 2022 we launched the SGS Green Mark to

support a diversity of businesses and brands who are striving to meet the escalating consumer demand for greener products and services. This independent, third-party certified and verified mark delivers analytical testing to support specific, quantifiable environmental attributes which cover the following claims: industrial compostable; biodegradability; biobased; hazardous substances assessed; recycled content; and PVC free. Based on the ISO 17065/17029 framework, the Green Mark ensures products have passed all environmental claims/information as defined in: ISO 14021 Environmental labels and declarations – Selfdeclared environmental claims (Type II environmental labelling); ISO 14025 Environmental labels and declarations – Type III environmental declarations – Principles and procedures; ISO 14065 General principles and requirements for bodies validating and verifying environmental information; ISO 17067 Conformity assessment – Fundamentals of product certification and guidelines for product certification schemes; US Federal Trade Commission’s Green Guides; and relevant national requirements (to the best of our knowledge). Grounded in testing, audit and evaluation within independent, approved laboratories brings third-party credibility to single-attribute environmental claims. In addition, each SGS Green Mark is fully traceable, providing a QR code to enable customers to easily access the details of the relevant information via their mobile phone. Whilst we await the outcome of the EU parliament’s vote on the directive in mid-2024, there’s certainly many practical steps that organisations can take now to ensure a smoother alignment with any new legislation likely to come into force in 2027.

“Established to ‘help’ businesses meet consumer demand for more sustainable products and services, the wide assortment of voluntary eco-labelling schemes is more likely to increase consumer confusion and cynicism


Sustainability – why partnerships matter It’s not easy being green – but furniture businesses must face up to the challenge. In the seventh of an exclusive series exploring the whys and hows of becoming a more eco-conscious furniture business, Richard Naylor, group sustainable development director at Hypnos, explains By Richard Naylor

I wanted to use this month’s column to talk about partnerships or collaborations and how important they are in the context of sustainability, credibility and commercial success within the UK furniture industry. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (UNSDG) No. 17 stands for ‘Partnerships for the Goals’, and in my opinion is the most important goal, whilst also seeming the most vague. As a quick reminder, 17 UNSDGs were agreed to by world leaders in 2015. The goals were devised as plan to build a greener, fairer, better world by 2030. But why do I believe ‘Partnerships for the Goals’ to be the most important one? The term should be viewed through a global and local lens – a ‘glocal’ focus on the challenges and how collaborations can be a force for good. On a global level, international investment and support is needed to ensure collaboration on innovative technological developments, fair trade and market access – especially for developing countries. To build a better world, we need to be supportive, empathetic, inventive, passionate, and above all, co-operative. On a local level, we should be encouraging more effective collaborations that help build partnerships on a global level. These partnerships could be public, public/private, NGOs, civil society, academic, charitable, or anything else that has a positive impact related to the UNSDGs. So what? I hear you say. How can I apply the above to my furniture business? What partnerships should I be looking for? Will I get a return on my investment? These are all good questions that I will touch on through the following areas of the value chain: the consumer; the retailer; and the manufacturer/raw material supply chain. The consumer wants to buy a product they can trust. They want a quality product made in an ethical and environmentally friendly facility with raw materials that don’t negatively impact people and planet. Yes, not all consumers are like this today, but this consumer is the voice of future generations – our actions today impact their future tomorrow, and it’s our obligation as tenants of planet Earth to learn from our mistakes and satisfy the expectations of this consumer, or face commercial extinction. Our furniture retailers want products that are desirable to the above ‘consumer’. They want a greatquality, well-designed product that is commercially

viable and that ticks the ‘trust’ box of the consumer. Strong third-party and consumer-recognisable product, charitable and raw material partnerships help deliver excellent trust messages for products and brands (avoiding greenwashing). Great examples of successful partnerships I have established include: the Eden Project endorsement for plant-based products; British Responsible Wool Standard via Textile Exchange; Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) Products via The Soil Association; British Red Tractor farm assured wool; and Waitrose Wool for the John Lewis Partnership. These collaborations have not only provided thirdparty assurance, but they have given unique selling features that are commercially valued and, more recently, demanded by the retailer and trusted by the consumer. Yes, there will always be investment, but that investment ensures commercial success in a rapidly changing landscape of what is acceptable and what is not! Finally, there is a symbiotic relationship between manufacturer and supply chain in our industry. We buy or specify timber to make beds, sofas, tables and chairs. We buy fabric and ticking to make curtains, mattresses, beds and all forms of upholstery. We buy many components and materials to manufacture and assemble goods to sell to retailers, to meet the demands of the consumer. In this sense, we are the intertwined value chain. In this area of the supply chain there is opportunity to collaborate with organisations that help determine the provenance, quality and ethical nature of raw materials, which in turn builds the credibility of the finished product. A few examples of successful partnerships that I have established within the supply chain include: the Better Cotton Initiative; GOTS raw materials such as wool, cotton, flax, hemp, coir and silk; Global Recycling Standard (GRS) materials; and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). I don’t have the column inches to explore business certification partnerships such as Planet Mark, B-Corp and SEDEX (to name but a few) – needless to say, they (and the others I have mentioned) all can add a level of credibility and trust to your businesses/brand, and they all demonstrate that your business is collaborating to meet the global challenges listed in the 17 UNSDGs.

“There will always be investment, but that investment ensures commercial success in a rapidly changing landscape of what is acceptable and what is not

Comfort with Integrity

Legacy Origins Collection Elegantly refined, expertly handcrafted mattresses that celebrate 120 years of British bedmaking heritage and expertise. Carbon Neutral | Inspired by Nature | 100% Recyclable


How the US furniture industry keeps score Over the pond, the Sustainable Furnishings Council (SFC) and the National Wildlife Federation have released their latest Wood Furniture Scorecard, a joint initiative that assesses North American furniture retailers on their wood-sourcing policies – and reflects some interesting trends in sustainable practices, writes the SFC’s executive director, Scarlette Tapp … By Scarlette Tapp

This year’s scorecard highlights that more retailers are searching for manufacturers that use certified or reclaimed wood in their furniture, while some are severing ties with vendors that are not offering sustainable wood products. The goal of the Wood Furniture Scorecard, now in its sixth year, is to encourage furniture retailers, big or small, to implement policies that drive responsible wood-sourcing practices through their complex supply chains. Since its inception, the scorecard has tracked a noticeable, more sustainable shift in the behaviour of some home furnishings retailers. This year, as in every year, several scored retailers adopted corporate policies that help protect forests. These companies acknowledge the value in taking the time to perform due diligence regarding the source of the materials in the furniture they sell. Top- and high-scoring retailers are requesting more documentation from their vendors, such as where the wood comes from, chemical inputs, and social equity aspects regarding conditions of the manufacturing facility. These companies are searching for more certified or reclaimed wood vendors than those with lower scores. The related flipside of the 2023 trend is that topand high-scoring retailers are not only seeking out more sustainable partners, but are cutting ties with manufacturers that make furniture with wood that is not certified, FSC-certified, or reclaimed. While some retailers have built sustainability into their public corporate policies, others are listening to their customers who have followed the scorecard over the years, understanding the need to buy furniture that has been built with wood that does not contribute to deforestation. The Wood Furniture Scorecard was designed to move the proverbial needle in an industry that has been a major contributor to illegal wood sourcing and deforestation. It is is a tool that helps push the industry from the inside, as well as from the outside, through consumer awareness. The furniture-buying public increasingly wants to know about the origins of their furniture. “The 2023 Wood Furniture Scorecard demonstrates that more furniture retailers are taking responsibility for their role in wood harvesting, understanding how they can contribute to the wellbeing of forests and the

“The Wood Furniture Scorecard was designed to move the proverbial needle in an industry that has been a major contributor to illegal wood sourcing and deforestation promotion of sustainability,” says Barbara Bramble, VP of international conservation and corporate strategies at the National Wildlife Federation. “These instances underscore the vital influence that consumers and retailers possess in tackling the ongoing issue of unsustainable logging, which poses a constant threat to forests across the globe.” This year, of the 127 companies assessed, nine earned Top scores, 26 earned High scores, and one earned Most Improved. The methodology of the Wood Furniture Scorecard, updated every year, focuses on information available in the public domain on corporate websites regarding wood-sourcing policies, goals, and practices. In addition, the scoring team reaches out individually to each retailer to ensure all relevant scoring information has been considered. Through this outreach, we offer recommendations and resources for developing and implementing robust wood-sourcing policies, including the elements necessary to ensure that the company addresses the problem of deforestation and forest degradation. The Wood Furniture Scorecard website ( provides consumers with sustainability information on their favourite retailers, and offers guidance and tools for companies to improve and implement their wood sourcing policies.

“The Wood Furniture Scorecard is is a tool that helps push the industry from the inside, as well as from the outside, through consumer awareness

Cut from a different cloth We’re passionate about making luxury mattresses and beds in the most responsible way. And for us, that means caring where everything comes from. It’s why we grow natural comfort fillings on our Yorkshire farm, weave fabrics in-house and make our own award-winning springs. Our unique approach to luxury bed making makes us different. It’s why each and every one we lovingly handcraft is proudly cut from a different cloth. HARRISONSPINKS.CO.UK


Technology boosts efficiency at GNG KomfiMed combines medically proven foam with TrueGel technology, plus the environmental benefits of Ecofoam

GNG Group, one of the UK’s leading mattress manufacturers, continues to go from strength to strength with further product innovations planned in the coming months as well as additional investment in the latest machinery to enable it to stay ahead of the market …

GNG continually invests in its manufacturing facilities

KomfiMed Pro

“It’s vital that we continue to invest in the latest technology Following the launch last year of the most recent addition to its popular Komfi collection, which features GNG’s unique Ecofoam, the new KomfiMed range has got off to a strong start, says the group, with retailers now having received in-store displays and reporting that the range is selling well, with customers particularly enjoying the ease of selection and quality provided by KomfiMed. An industry first which combines medically proven foam with TrueGel technology, plus the environmental benefits of Ecofoam, the product has been designed to deliver “excellent” pressure relief while minimising motion transfer and regulating temperature to provide a peaceful night’s sleep.

With sales increasing and further growth expected as GNG’s in-house team develops new ranges to target other gaps in the market, the company is continuing to invest in updating and expanding its manufacturing facilities, recently adding a second mattress line which is four times faster than its traditional line. The latest £250,000 investment at GNG’s purposebuilt 40,000ft2 West Yorkshire manufacturing facilities includes a state-of-the-art automated glue line, enabling the company to further increase capacity and improve production efficiency. “As one of the UK’s most innovative mattress manufacturers, we are in frequent contact with our agents and stores, and are always keen to respond to feedback by developing new products that meet customer needs,” explains MD Darren Potterton. “As part of this process, it’s vital that we continue to invest in the latest technology to ensure that we can provide a wide range of products as efficiently as possible. “Having seen rapid growth in recent years, we have a clear vision for the business, and ensuring we invest in the most up-to-date machinery available is at the heart of our strategy, enabling us to continue to innovate and respond to market needs while safeguarding the outstanding levels of service our customers have come to expect.” GNG is also continuing to focus on environmental concerns. Building on the success of its unique Ecofoam, which is made from 100% recycled and re-engineered foam and can be entirely recycled, the company is exploring new developments and options to meet demand for sustainable materials.



Ox-Bow table


Woodman Chairs would like to thank everyone who visited its stand at last month’s January Furniture Show: “For those who would still like to place orders at the show prices, these will be held until the end of February. “Followers of the show (or these editorials) will know that we don’t just make our own chairs, but also make bespoke tables, chairs, frames or stools, plus components for many applications outside of these broad types. MOQs may apply for bespoke orders but we can try and work with you on this, and lead times will be good. “Our emphasis is on full sustainability, quality and an ability to offer choice – of styles, finish and seat coverings. This choice can give you a decided edge with your customer, over a oneoption-fits-all supplier, or if you are buying direct by container. We hold good stocks and have short lead times otherwise so you don’t need to

Beech chair frames

have all that cash tied up in your warehouse or in delayed shipping. “We make, and we wholesale. We bring new ideas to market. We are one step from the raw wood. Try us.” Woodman Chairs can be reached by calling 01884 841789.


Core Products launched its 2024 product offer at last month’s January Furniture Show, with an emphasis firmly on delivering even bettervalue-for-money products – while many of Core’s existing products have been held at last year’s prices. Among the new offering is a revitalised range of solid wood casual dining and breakfast sets with a ‘live-edge’ design feature. There are new breakfast sets designed to provide spacesaving solutions for small-space living, while Core’s range of solid wood casual dining sets offer a strong transition between dining and

living spaces, and are available with a choice of seating including wooden chairs and benches, and upholstered chairs in a choice of colours. Also new this year is Curve, a real-wood bedroom range with softened edges, midcentury design-style handles and legs, and a subtle, white-washed finish which emphasises the natural characteristics of the wood itself. Shelving and storage products have always been an important part of Core’s product offer,

so a significant number of new items in natural wood (and new pre-finished wooden products) have also been added to its portfolio. Since 1986, Core Products has pioneered the design of products specifically for direct home delivery. With large UK stockholdings, fully integrated online ordering and customer support, it is easy to see why Core scooped the Furniture News Readers’ Choice Award for Best Flat-packed Furniture Supplier in 2023.


Into a new era with Emmiera

Emmiera’s accomplished team has been pivotal to its success

“This celebration is more than a reflection on the past – it’s a promise for the future

James Lane, the CEO, owner and founder of Emmiera Group, says: “Two decades ago, we embarked on a journey to redefine the standards of furniture care. Today, as we celebrate our 20th anniversary, I am immensely proud of what Emmiera Group has become – a symbol of reliability, quality, and customer satisfaction.” The transition from Homeserve Furniture Repairs to Emmiera Group represents more than a name change, says James: “It encapsulates two decades of continuous growth and evolution. Throughout this journey, the company has consistently delivered top-tier furniture repairs and insurance services, positioning itself as a leader in the industry. “Our evolution into Emmiera Group is a testament to our adaptability and commitment to staying ahead in a dynamic industry. While our name has transformed, our core values and dedication to delivering exceptional services have remained constant.” Emmiera Group’s foundation is built on reliability, customer-centric solutions, and maintaining the highest standards. The group’s name is significant, paying homage to the CEO’s daughters, Emmie, Rosie, and Abbie, and this family-oriented ethos has been a driving force behind the relationships cultivated between the team and its clients, James explains. As Emmiera Group expands its services beyond core offerings in furniture repairs and insurance to include property repairs, commercial re-upholstery and projects, this anniversary provides an opportunity to reflect on the company’s journey, as diversifying into new sectors signifies a forward-looking approach to meet clients’ evolving needs, says James. Following a recent management restructure, James has every confidence that his new team is the best it can be. “With Jason Grinnall as operations director, Emma Gowland as financial controller, Dav Pattar as IT director, Suzanne Aylmer as chief admin officer,

Emmiera’s management team in the company’s dedicated Training Academy

This month, Emmiera Group (formerly Homeserve Furniture Repairs) commemorates two decades of dedicated service in the furniture care industry – a remarkable milestone that not only signifies the company’s longevity, but also reflects its commitment to excellence …

and Craig Hart as marketing and training director, we have a formidable team ready to lead Emmiera Group into a new era,” he adds. Emmiera Group’s transition does not alter the ownership or functionality of the company, ensuring a consistent commitment to the standards it has upheld for the past two decades. The company remains dedicated to regulatory adherence, with over 15 years of being Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) registered, providing clients with essential coverage. With the unveiling of a new and improved website, Emmiera Group is embracing the technological advancements of the 21st century with an enhanced online presence that reflects the company’s commitment to offering even better customer experience, and showcasing the full spectrum of services now provided. “As Emmiera Group expresses sincere gratitude to staff and clients for two decades of unwavering support, this 20th-anniversary celebration is more than a reflection on the past – it’s a promise for the future,” James concludes. “The company looks forward to the next 20 years with enthusiasm, innovation, and an enduring commitment to excellence in furniture care. Thank you for being an integral part of Emmiera Group’s remarkable journey.”






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Why contingency plans matter Contingency should be a priority for every business, but it is not always given the attention it deserves, writes Jane Robson, CEO of the National Association of Licensed Paralegals (NALP). If you run a business, what unexpected event could leave the business reeling? Here are a few scenarios to consider … By Jane Robson

Floods and fires With a business based in the UK, you’ll be lucky not to fall victim to the weather at some point. Transport seems to be becoming increasingly vulnerable to unusual weather – we’ve had the wrong sort of leaves, the wrong kind of snow, and recently an Environment Secretary claiming flooding happened because rain came from the wrong direction. Whatever nature throws at us (from whatever direction) and whatever gets the blame, there are going to times when it is difficult or even impossible for staff to make it to work (while flooding at your premises could make it impossible for staff to do any work). In the 12 months to June 2023, Fire and Rescue Services attended 173,872 fire incidents in England alone. Not all incidents were businesses, but many were. Insurance will take care of the likes of stock being damaged – but how quickly will there be a payment, and how soon can you source replacements? And, if you rely on staff having a space to work in, what does a fire mean for the future of your business – short, medium, and long term? It is important to draw up plans to cope with a situation where circumstances beyond your control result in your office/shop/warehouse being short of bodies, or even empty. Also consider how your plans will need to change the longer the situation persists. It is important to have an idea of how long you can go without staff (or a workplace) before you have a serious problem, and to come up with possible options to help avoid getting to that point. Remote working If your business has decided not to have a permanent office address but rather have all staff working remotely, you may be thinking that the risk of your business being impacted by bad weather or fires has reduced. But is that really the case? If you haven’t shifted your contingency planning from focusing on a single address to multiple locations, you may be in trouble. And don’t forget that those extra locations are not limited to your staff’s kitchens, back bedrooms or sheds. The internet connections that allow you to work seamlessly as though you are in the same building are potential weak spots, even more so if an employee is relying on mobile data – phone masts

are even more exposed to the wrong kind of weather than train tracks. When everyone is based in one workspace, it is easy to ensure that staff are cross trained on multiple duties so that there is always cover. That can sometimes be more difficult to implement when people are working remotely. The advent of remote working can do great things for flexibility, productivity and even staff retention, but we do have to recognise that this model is not without risks, and we need to ensure that our contingency plans fully reflect this new way of working. Training, and reinforcing company policies and procedures, are vitally important, particularly when you have a remote workforce. Systems You should already have systems in place to ensure you have backups of documents. If storage of your important work is cloud based, consider keeping a copy of your most vital data in at least one other place. It may feel a little luddite-esque, but no organisation or technology is foolproof, and while you may expect a cloud service provider to take full responsibility if anything goes wrong, consider the size of your company and the size of the cloud service provider. Are you a big enough customer to merit more than an, ‘Oh dear, how sad, never mind’? If you really can’t function without certain data, it’s best to take a beltand-braces approach. And if huge service suppliers can be fallible, so too can you and your team. Regular reminders of how and where to save work may feel tedious (for all concerned), but taking processes for granted, or not taking seriously the need to have processes, can lead to huge problems. This is even more important when staff work remotely. Remote workers should also have a backup to cover loss of internet connection, such as using mobile data, even for just long enough to email documents to a colleague. Remember to think through the consequences of your planning. For example, don’t assume that every remote worker will have spare data on their phone. You may need to supply your remote staff with work phones or separate SIM cards (these days many phones have double SIM card slots). Losing staff suddenly

“If huge service suppliers can be fallible, so too can you and your team


Communication is important Inform your staff about the death of a colleague with sensitivity. This is particularly important if a team is small but, regardless of the size of your workforce, always bear in mind that close friendships may have developed. Provide staff with contact details for sources of support. If possible, speak to people in person, prioritising the deceased colleague’s immediate team. Be respectful of any limits on information requested by the person’s family. Consider how you and your team will pass condolences on to the deceased person’s family. Decide if you will organise sending a condolence card and/or flowers from the team, or leave it to individuals to pay their respects in their own way, in which case you will need to organise passing on contact details. Inform staff about funeral arrangements and decide on your preferred arrangements on the day. It may be that you give everyone time off to attend the funeral service or to reflect and to mark the day in their own way. Or, if that is not possible, perhaps the company can be represented by two or three people at the service? Whatever route you decide to take, it will be easier to implement if you have thought about it in advance. Practical aspects Dealing with clearing the deceased’s colleague’s desk or cubical can be difficult – there may triggering reminders such as handwritten notes and personal effects (perhaps a favourite pen or mug). If your company employs a large number of people, it’s likely there will be an HR department to deal with this, but in smaller organisations it may fall to you to organise this. Be cautious about delegating this task, but it may be something that another colleague takes some comfort from. Also consider if the family of the deceased wants to be involved in some way.

In business, as in life, it pays to expect the unexpected (image courtesy iStock/dra_schwartz)

Loss of a member of your team can happen for any number of reasons, and most of the time you will have a month’s notice to find a replacement, organise any necessary training, and work out any tweaks needing to be made to maintain your service or production of your product. But what happens if the loss is sudden and unexpected? It is not something anyone is keen to consider, but the sudden death of a colleague could have a massive impact on your business. As a boss, you will be in the uncomfortable position of dealing with staff grief and managing logistics. Often when people deal with the loss of someone close, work can be a welcome distraction, but when a colleague dies, the workplace offers less opportunity to escape grief. Grief can affect people in different ways – physical, emotional, psychological – and you will need to navigate a course that simultaneously looks after your staff and keeps the business running. You will find this task easier if you have already planned as much as possible for this eventuality.

If the deceased colleague worked remotely, you will need to consider how and when you contact the family regarding such things as business keys, files, and computer equipment. If work is stored to the cloud, then retrieving a work laptop will be less urgent. However, you may need to prove that equipment belongs to your business. Keep, store and have easy access to receipts and any relevant serial numbers. While you don’t want business equipment to be included in the estate of the deceased, you will need to mindful of approaching this with sensitivity. The impact of the sudden death of a colleague on the business itself can be mitigated by safeguards such as sharing calendars and contacts lists, but this will vary from business to business. You need to plan ahead to ensure that your customers continue to receive your services and/or products. You should also consider how work will be re-allocated in the event of a member of your team passing away unexpectedly. This may vary from colleague to colleague. The burden of looking after your staff while keeping the business on track will rest on your shoulders, but do remember to include yourself in the mix. Being in crisis management mode may spare you from the initial emotional impact of the loss of a colleague, but grief has a way of catching up with you. Make sure your contingency planning includes looking after you.

“The sudden death of a colleague could have a massive impact on your business


Taking the sales process one step at a time Buying furniture, or any big-ticket item, is a considered purchase. This means that there isn’t an immediate transactional decision to buy, but that the process involves some type of thought process, as you ‘tick’ various things off in your mind – such as wants, needs, essentials, affordability, overall cost, value, etc. Let’s imagine we’re thinking about a new sofa. Some of the quyalifying questions we might ask ourselves before we purchase are:

By Adam Hankinson

• Is it leather/pleather or fabric?

There are many steps involved in choosing furniture (photo courtesy iStock/Bim)

It takes most consumers a good deal of thought before they buy a big-ticket item like furniture – and if you can guide them through that decisionmaking process, you’re much more likely to secure the sale, explains industry training specialist, Furniture Sales Solutions’ Adam Hankinson …

• When do we need it?

Most customers haven’t got these questions written down, and they don’t come in a linear list. They come out as questions if we get into a conversation with the customer – or may not come out at all if we don’t engage with the customer or ask them the right questions. The art of selling – the right approach to our customer – is to ask them good questions before we download any product knowledge, and ensure that our solutions (or potential solutions) for consideration match the answers they’ve given us. After asking great questions, we should always be narrowing or funnelling the customer options effectively, to help them see things more clearly. If we do this one step at a time, the approach might look something like this:

• How urgently do we need it?

• “Is it leather or fabric you’re thinking of?”

• Do we trust the retailer?

• “Definitely fabric.”

• What are the guarantees?

• “OK, great. And what combination are you thinking?”

• How will they get it into my home?

• “Probably a three-seater and a cuddler chair.”

• Is it good quality?

• “OK, great …”

• Will it stand up to our family usage?

And you then carry on narrowing down the wants, needs and must-haves. By doing this, we will make it easier for the customer to make small decisions one at a time, that lead them to make the final decision to go ahead and order – they’ve ticked all their boxes, so they now feel confident and comfortable to proceed with the purchase. Simple!

• What combination do we want? • What combination will work in the room? • Corner or sofas? • High back or low back? • Scatter back or standard? • What colour? • How practical, with the kids and pets?

• Will it look fantastic? • Will it have the ‘wow’ factor? • How long will it last? • What size will fit in the room?

“Make it easier for the customer to make small decisions one at a time, that lead them to make the final decision to go ahead and order


E S T. 1 9 8 6





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Deliver new promotions and spread the word Retailers can entice new customers to visit their stores this year by implementing – and broadcasting – unmissable promotions (photo courtesy 123RF/vadimgozhda)

A new year means a blank slate, full of opportunity to build your business – but meeting today’s retail challenges also requires a new take on promotions, writes our US correspondent, business growth and development consultant to the retail home furnishings industry, Gordon Hecht … By Gordon Hecht

This year should be a return to normalcy. New products are arriving. Incoming shoppers have budgets to spend. Hiring has moved from the impossible category to the difficult but do-able category. The challenge is bringing those shoppers through your doorway. More than likely, foot traffic will be steady or lower this year. The primary reason is that people can research and compare merchandise and stores online – they can choose the product and the place without leaving their BarcaLounger. In the last century, shoppers would visit three stores before making a buying decision. This year it will be about 1.5 (but it’s impractical to visit a ‘half store’). Essentially, shoppers buy in the first or second store they visit. Your goal is to be the first or second place they stop. Your shop may have the nicest products, happiest salespeople, best bargain pricing, and spotless white-glove service. But people won’t put you on their shopping list if you’re the best-kept secret in town. You gotta advertise to get that message out. Four truths about advertising Advertising is not an expense. It is an investment in your business.

The job of advertising is to attract shoppers to your door or website. The job of your sales team is to convert those shoppers into buyers, creating revenue. It costs you about six times as much to attract a new shopper to your shop compared to bringing back an existing customer. To increase revenue, you need to attract shoppers who are not your typical customer. That means promoting products, services or financing offers appealing to a different demographic segment than your current customer base. My (not-so) top secret promotion ideas Under no circumstances should the following advertising ideas be kept secret. These are not in-store promotions. Shout it from the rooftops. Depending on your ad budget you can use traditional media, billboards, social media, email, snail mail, or phone calls. Half the store – half off If you missed clearing out old stock last month, now is the time to do it. New merchandise is rolling out. You may want to refresh your floor samples. Drag out the old, tag up the tired, and create an atmosphere of savings.

“People won’t put you on their shopping list if you’re the best-kept secret in town. You gotta advertise to get that message out

45 BOGOF Free is a hot buzzword in adverting, and buy one, get one free is an understandable offer. Buy a queen mattress set, get a twin free. Buy a premium mattress, get a guest room mattress free. Buy any mattress, get the base or box at -50% off. The list goes on. Mattress included Few things are sadder in a furniture store than delivering a bedroom set without a mattress. Boost your bedroom set prices by $400 and include a queen mattress. Give the shopper an option to upgrade the comfort level or size for an additional price. Promote the bedroom set with a burst, ‘Includes Mattress’. Packaging products works for McDonalds and Taco Bell. It will work for you too. Supersize me Promote a free or reduced-price upgrade. King for a queen, queen for a twin. Sofa for the loveseat price. Seven-piece dining room for the five-piece price. Add a $299 accessory bundle for $59 with any purchase. Bigger is better! (Note – the word ‘Supersize’ may be copyrighted for advertising purposes, consider using ‘upgrade’!) Cash is king Consumer financing has become darned expensive! This year, instead of promoting 60-and 72-month financing at 20%, why not offer 10% to your shoppers

who use debit cards, or 7% for bank cards? Trade in, elevate and save A super-easy promo done through email and snail mail. Research which customers bought a flat bed over the last 24 months. Offer a trade-in on their boxspring for an adjustable base. Give them full value and free delivery. Prepare a letter or phone script and have your sales team send it out. Weddings and graduations Check your calendar. It happens in June, but the planning started last year. Start your own gift registry. The bride and groom pick their gift and let people know where to pay for it. Be a hero and offer to kick in the first $100 on any $1000 or more gift selection.

“Shoppers buy in the first or second store they visit. Your goal is to be the first or second place they stop

More gifts Promote a gift with purchase, and change with the season. Hotel and fuel offers for the summer. Fill your fridge for special occasions. Free pizza for a year, or smartwatches and coolers any time. You gotta promote every day. Run something. There are dozens of other advertising promos you can run. Factory reps know the best and brightest ones. I’d love it if you share your favourite one with me. I won’t keep it a secret, I promise. Gordon can be reached at

The difference between CEO and MD What’s the difference between a CEO and an MD, and why does it matter? This month, Steve Pickering, the ‘unorthodox’ CEO of fast-growing South East independent bed retail chain Sussex Beds, looks at the difference between creation and execution …

I am a great CEO, but not such a great MD! Do you know the difference? I must admit that I always thought that they were the same thing. However, there is a significant difference between the two roles, as explained in detail in the book, Rocket Fuel, by Gino Wickman and Mark C Winters, which delves into the concept of the ‘VisionaryIntegrator’ partnership as a key factor in entrepreneurial success. The authors suggest that every successful business requires two fundamental roles: the Visionary (or CEO), who generates new ideas, sets long-term goals, and drives

innovation; and the Integrator (or MD), who is responsible for executing the Visionary’s ideas, managing day-to-day operations, and ensuring the organisation’s stability and efficiency. The reality is that most businesses, including our own, have a single person covering both CEO and MD roles. In my case, I serve as both CEO and MD. According to the Rocket Fuel assessment tool, I lean more towards the former – the CEO/ Visionary – and less towards the MD/Integrator. I am well aware of my shortcomings as an MD/Integrator.

I am not great at keeping people accountable, I struggle to maintain focus on long, detailed projects, and I do get distracted by shiny stuff. Ultimately, my goal is to move towards establishing a VisionaryIntegrator partnership when growth allows. Are you in the role of a CEO or an MD? Do you agree with the dual Visionary-Integrator leadership theory? Discover more of Steve’s thoughts on his blog, at

“Rocket Fuel delves into the concept of the ‘Visionary-Integrator’ partnership as a key factor in entrepreneurial success


Forecasting 2024’s visual commerce trends This year, tough competition and new innovations will see retailers seek resource-efficient ways to enhance the customer experience, with many turning to the latest technologies in order to shake up their traditional workflows – says Jostein Pedersen, VP product ecommerce for product, production and services at Chaos Cylindo, who shares four predictions for 3D commerce in furniture retail in 2024. By Jostein Pedersen

One of the technologies being explored is 3D visualisation, including augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), with nearly two-thirds (60%) of furniture firms surveyed by us last October (in partnership with Forrester Consulting) expanding their use of such technologies. Seventy percent of firms identified ‘revenue growth’ as a critical priority enabled by 3D visualisation, alongside increased sales and reducing returns. 3D and AR are not just for online It’s obvious to see the benefits of using 3D product visualisations during the online shopping journey. But for many furniture retailers, the showroom is also a vital element of the experience, which can be further enhanced. Space in any showroom is at a premium, so in the past furniture retailers have had to carefully select only a few models or colour options to be available to view IRL. Over the past few years – especially during lockdowns – ecommerce has seen massive growth. But moving into 2024, we’ll see those online technologies bring enhanced experiences to blended online/in-store shopping. Some retailers, like Wayfair, have introduced new interactive elements in-store which use 3D product visualisation – for example, screens where customers can visualise their chosen finish or colour of a product, or even place it in a virtual room similar to their home. Rising customer expectations meet rising costs 3D visualisation tools are rapidly becoming industry standard, a status we’ll likely see cemented next year. Retailers are seeking to grow their brands in an increasingly competitive market, characterised by reduced consumer spending and growing expectations for unique retail experiences. In a world of shrinking retail margins, increasing conversions and reducing returns is therefore a top priority. Personalising product imagery for an entire catalogue across a growing number of shopping channels is a huge challenge. This is especially true in the furniture retail business, where customers need a range of product and lifestyle imagery to make remote purchase decisions with confidence. 3D visualisation can help retailers to meet this customer expectation, without increasing their costs related to photography, studio time, or shipping samples in for photography.

For example, outdoor furniture retailer Yardistry doubled its ecommerce sales while reducing photography costs using our product visualisation. AI can help share the burden Like in many other industries, furniture retailers are excited about the potential of AI technologies to ‘work smarter, not harder’, with many firms already piloting or fully implementing AI in their workflows. AI tools are becoming an integral part of product and lifestyle imagery creation, automating manual tasks which don’t require human creativity, such as image resizing, recolouring, or switching out lifestyle backdrops. This year, we can expect to see furniture firms explore the potential of AI through the whole visualisation process. AI will not only help to speed up repetitive tasks and drive insights based on customer data, but also help brands and retailers to generate content at scale. This will allow ecommerce and marketing professionals to focus more on overall business strategy and creative direction. Scalability will be key By embracing the power and scalability of cloud platforms, retailers can turn around massive volumes of assets quickly without the need for lots of additional resources. Once a master asset has been created, it can also be used in a range of marketing channels, such as Google Ad listings, display ads, and email newsletters. 3D visualisation can therefore deliver experience improvements across an omnichannel retail operation. It’s little surprise that a majority of furniture firms think that 3D visualisation will be critical to helping them extend their influence and brand reach over the next 12 months. Our recent study found that nearly two-thirds (60%) of furniture firms are expanding their use of visualisation technologies. A majority (68%) are allocating 10-25% of their budget towards adopting AI and 3D visualisation technologies. Furniture firms identified some of the top benefits of 3D visualisation technology as: improved customer experience, online or in-store (66%); increased sales, online or in-store (62%); and increased customer engagement, online or in-store (52%).

“Furniture retailers are excited about the potential of AI technologies to ‘work smarter, not harder’




The centre of

Location: Church Lawford, Rugby Salary: £26,000 - £35,000 (depending on experience) Job Type: Permanent, Full Time


for the furniture industry

NEJ Stevenson are recruiting Cabinet Makers to join our growing team based in Church Lawford, near Rugby. We are a privately owned, Midlands based furniture manufacturer delivering exceptional bespoke high quality, freestanding and fitted furniture to our varied clients. Since 1992 we have worked continuously with the Royal Household becoming Royal Warrant Holders in 2003. Other clients include conservation charities, English Heritage and The National Trust, as well as public schools, interior designers, architects and construction companies and some private clients. We work on a variety of projects, varying from small individual pieces to large architectural installations in high end residential properties and in many styles from contemporary to historic. As an experienced Cabinet Maker, you must be highly skilled and forward thinking in regard to working effectively and efficiently. You will need to have the drive and confidence to lead projects either on your own or with a small team of makers. You will be passionate about your work, with excellent attention to detail. You will also be highly organised and methodical and have a demonstrable ability to work to tight deadlines whilst maintaining a top-quality finish.

Providing technical information and guidance

Key Responsibilities and Skills: • An understanding of design and a fine eye for detail • Reading detailed construction drawings in paper and digital formats • High-level practical furniture and joinery skills • Able to operate a wide variety of wood machines and to have operational qualifications • Experience and knowledge of a wide variety of timbers, veneers and manufactured boards and sub straights • Experience using and applying secondary materials such as decorative metal trims, inlays, glass, and leather • A good knowledge of cabinet jointing and assembly with up-to-date fixings using power tool jointers • A good knowledge of using and installing modern fittings, drawer runners, hinges, and architectural ironmongery • Skills in veneering including, selection, cutting, jointing, and pressing using a hydraulic press and bag press • High personal standards of work and presentation • Excellent planning, organisation, and prioritisation skills • Good communication and interpersonal skills

covering everything from flammability to sustainability

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Benefits: • £26,000 – £35,000 depending on experience • Opportunities for professional development • Standard 40-hour work week • 28 days of annual leave (including 8 statutory days)

To apply, please email CV and portfolio of previous work to

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03/10/2023 08:34



From idealism to reality The notion of sustainability is fast gathering momentum in the furniture world – and in the US, it has found its voice through the Sustainable Furnishings Council (SFC), a longestablished alliance that has helped the industry convey the processes and benefits of going greener, writes the council’s executive director, Scarlette Tapp… By Scarlette Tapp

In October 2006, a group of eco-conscious individuals and companies gathered at the High Point Market in North Carolina, US, to form what would become the Sustainable Furnishings Council (SFC). Their mission was clear – to commit to sustainability in an industry that was about to undergo significant transformation. Little did they know that, over the next 17 years, the world of furnishings would change in unimaginable ways. Over the past decade, the world has witnessed the rise of fast fashion and fast furniture, taking over the marketplace like a wildfire. Americans discarded over 12 million tons of furniture and furnishings in 2018 – a staggering increase from the 2.2 million tons in 1960. Shockingly, more than 80% of this discarded furniture ended up in landfills, as reported by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In a world dominated by cheaply built, easily replaced, and often-toxic furniture, how could SFC members, committed to FSC-certified wood, rapidrenewable materials, fair wages and sustainable practices, compete? The answer lay in transparency and storytelling. Consumers today hold companies accountable for the products they make and sell. SFC members recognised that sharing their sustainability stories with customers was a powerful way to distinguish themselves in a crowded market. Through transparency, they showcased their commitment to eco-friendly practices and ethical production. Back in 2006, the concept of ‘sustainability’ was still in its infancy, often seen as a lofty ideal rather than a viable business plan. Many wondered how a furnishings company could remain financially viable while adhering to strict sustainability principles. It seemed like an unattainable goal. However, SFC’s founding members proved that sustainability and profitability could co-exist. By joining SFC, they gained access to knowledge, innovation, and a supportive community that

“Even as fast furniture gained ground, these members remained unwavering in their commitment to sustainability encouraged them to be transparent about their sustainable practices and goals. Even as fast furniture gained ground, these members remained unwavering in their commitment to sustainability. Today, if you explore the members’ page of the SFC website, you’ll find a plethora of sustainable leaders. These companies have shown that sustainable practices not only benefit the planet but also resonate with customers. Their commitment to sustainability has earned them customer loyalty, proving that ethical business practices are not only possible, but profitable. The Sustainable Furnishings Council has come a long way since its inception in 2006. It has weathered the storms of change in the furnishings industry, and emerged stronger than ever. Legacy companies that laid the foundation for the SFC now welcome new members who share the same sustainable principles. SFC’s mission remains vital in an era where sustainability is not just an option, but a necessity. As companies continue to navigate market changes, they find strength in transparency, innovation, and community support. Through SFC, they exchange ideas and inspire one another to create a more sustainable future, one step at a time.


“Members recognised that sharing their sustainability stories with customers was a powerful way to distinguish themselves in a crowded market

Women in


Young Furniture Makers exhibition.



Have you seen buying patterns change since the pandemic? It’s interesting how the internet sales boom during lockdowns didn’t continue, and swung right back to bricks and mortar once customers could physically go into stores again. Furniture is still a tactile purchase (most people still want to see it in person) Nicolle Hockin (Devonshire Living)

As the pandemic boom eased and customers stopped essentially coming in and ‘throwing’ money at sales teams, rising interest rates, inflation and the media’s total obsession with the ‘cost of living crisis’ have squeezed footfall. There has been a definite extension of the buying gestation period and the impact on store visits. Typically, customer visits per order were running at 1-2, but this has extended to 2-3. Purchases are becoming much more considered Peter Harding (Fairway Furniture)

Yes, very much. I believe sales have been pulled forward, post-pandemic. As a result, many consumers have now made hunting for deals a primary focal point of their furniture-shopping experience Brian Levitt (Brian Levitt Sales Agencies)

Patterns? If there is one thing that has changed since the pandemic, it’s patterns. I feel we are all still trying to establish how the post-pandemic shopping patterns will settle. The postpandemic financial crisis has driven the most change, with consumers becoming evermore demanding about the products they purchase and services they receive Jonathan Burrage (Hydeline Furniture)

Seasonality and weekly buying has trended back to pre-Covid patterns, but we’re also seeing an increase in people starting their journey with more in-depth online research prior to a store visit (and vice versa). There’s also a good chance of using a store visit to reassure a later online purchase. Blended physical and digital retail experience is more important than ever Michael Jervis (Mattress Online)

After a sustained period of great business post-pandemic with very little drop off, things seem to have now returned to prepandemic trends. The ability for people to go on holiday freely again certainly impacts trade at certain times of the year James Dunne (Prestige Beds)

I have noticed that trade buying has become less seasonal and more reactive, speedier, wanting new designs all year round. Alternatively, I believe the general consumer buying pattern may return to pre-pandemic times. I’ve learnt that you cannot predict anything anymore, and just have to be on your toes and ready Nichola Hornby Bell (Alpha Designs Upholstery)

Demand peaked during the pandemic which, combined with supply chain issues, pushed lead times out by unprecedented levels, and volumes have since decreased to more normal levels. There’s been a notable shift from peak purchasing periods, driven by seasonal demand, as external market forces continue to directly impact consumer behaviour. Upholstery still remains an essential investment, though increasingly cost-conscious consumers are making more considered purchases, when and where they place value on investment Andrew Kerr (Siren Furniture)

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