Furniture News #414

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EMBRACING EQUITY Leading industry women share their stories The inside scoop on product placement M.A. Living talks industry and investment #414 March 2024 JANUARY FURNITURE SHOW THE FURNITURE AWARDS SPRING FAIR | BEDROOM | TRADE SERVICES LIVING | AFTERSALES, CARE & REPAIR BEST OF BRITISH Alpha Designs Upholstery steps up

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Editor's comment

“Just off the communication superhighway, our industry has retained plenty of opportunities to talk to each other the oldfashioned way

“It’s good to talk.” Remember Bob Hoskins’ no-nonsense TV ads for BT from the 90s, urging us to get on the ‘blower’ and reconnect? If so, you’ll also recall how we communicated before the Internet came along. Before emails, texts, instant messages, and a million other channels designed to make dialogue quicker and easier.

Today, we might conduct hundreds of conversations every day – often concurrently. It’s an astounding marvel of technology and multiskilling … but it happens at varying degrees of effectiveness, and a good deal of meaning and detail gets lost.

Arguably, it can never beat direct dialogue. So, it’s a relief that, just off the communication superhighway, our industry has retained plenty of opportunities to talk to each other the oldfashioned way, and to interact, ‘network’ and socialise in person. Often, it’s where the most valuable business is done, and the most lasting relationships formed.

This month, we look back at when the industry came together. The winter trade fairs provided numerous chances to enagage with others in person – you’ll find coverage of the January Furniture Show (p40), The Furniture Awards (p44), Spring Fair (p38) and Northpoint (p36).

The first of these hosted the third Women in Furniture Network (WIFN) get-together, which you can read about on p20 (it’s part of our regular look at women’s evolving role in the furniture industry, and I’m glad to report that there’s good cause for optimism on this front). Although not even a year old, WIFN has proved a valuable addition to our trade, giving the industry’s professional women a regular chance to learn from, share with and support one another. Long overdue, perhaps, but showing real promise of longevity.

For my part, it was great to see so many of you at this year’s shows. Thanks to everyone who took the time to chat to the Furniture News team, visit our stands, and pick up a copy of January’s bumper issue (a useful post-Christmas workout, if anything!). I’ll admit to being a little ‘talked out’ by the end of it all, but, as Bob reminded us, it’s an incredibly rewarding activity.

Other highlights this month include the first of a series introducing the nominees of The Furniture Makers’ Company’s ‘60 for 60’ campaign (p18), profiles of M.A. Living (p22) and Vogue Beds Group (p28), columns on effective merchandising, upskilling sales teams and charging higher prices (from p96), and a good deal more.

Hopefully that’s enough to get the conversation started.

Paul Farley

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6 NEWS 10 INSIGHT 12 Women in furniture 22 M.A. Living 26 Acctim 28 Vogue Beds Group 30 Getting personal 34 EVENTS 38 Spring Fair 40 JANUARY FURNITURE SHOW 44 The Furniture Awards 58 Best Stand 60 Highlights 84 PRODUCTS 86 Living 88 Bedroom 90 Trade services 92 Aftersales, care & repair 96 OPINION 96 Upskilling retail sales teams 98 Why home marketing spend is growing 100 The scoop on product placement 102 Charge more – you’re worth it! 105 Partner comment 106 Feedback Contents
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EMBRACING EQUITY Leading industry women share their stories The inside scoop on product placement M.A. Living talks industry and investment #414 March 2024 JANUARY FURNITURE SHOW THE FURNITURE AWARDS SPRING FAIR | BEDROOM TRADE SERVICES LIVING AFTERSALES, CARE & REPAIR BEST OF BRITISH Alpha Designs Upholstery steps up FN414.1_Pages.indd 23/02/2024 14:19 GENERAL INFORMATION No part of this publication may be reproduced without the specific prior written agreement of the Publisher and may not be stored on any type of retrieval system. Furniture News/ Gearing Media Group Ltd accepts no responsibility for variations in colour reproduction. Special colours (Pantone etc) can be catered for with prior arrangement. Some elements of the editorial content in this publication are submitted by the trade, however, all efforts are made to ensure that the editorial remains true to fact and unbiased. Monies may have been accepted to offset the costs of colour reproduction. Gearing Media Group Ltd reserves the right to alter without prior notice any content other than customers’ advertisements. No correspondence will be entered into regarding altered or adjusted editorial content. The editor’s decision is final. All material submitted for inclusion in Furniture News is done so entirely at the owner’s risk and no responsibility is accepted for the safekeeping or return thereof. Advertiser information is reproduced in good faith and Gearing Media Group accepts no responsibility in respect of adverts appearing in the magazine, and the magazines expressed do not necessarily reflect the publisher’s views. The Publisher accepts no liability for any loss arising from an advertisement’s late or non-appearance. Donna Bellingham Shackletons 12 30 18 36 Greg French Westgarth Amy Curtis Sleepeezee Gavin Douglas Scottish Furniture Representatives Association 5 COVER FEATURE 60 ALPHA DESIGNS UPHOLSTERY

Feather & Black (owned by Dreams), has announced a partnership with Next which will see it bring an edited collection of furniture and beds to the latter’s online customer base

Andrew Martin plans to double the size of its UK production facilities to meet growing demand. The brand has relaunched its sofa and chair collection following a significant uplift in sales for key models and custom-made sofas

Gallery Direct’s commercial director James Hudson is preparing to tackle a 400km, fourday charity bike ride organised by Help for Heroes this June

Duvalay’s founders, Alan and Elizabeth Colleran, are uniting their various business interests under a single umbrella, Raskelf Group

Wayfair has announced further plans to reduce staffing levels.

The plans will affect approximately 1650 employees, representing around 13% of its global workforce and 19% of its corporate team, and are expected to deliver annualised cost savings of more than $280m

British Furniture Manufacturers (BFM) has partnered with Verisio to offer its members “a costeffective route to tracking ethical compliance”

La-Z-Boy Incorporated has appointed Austria’s largest upholstered furniture producer, ADA, as its licensee for Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Croatia and Serbia

Loom Loft coming to Preston Docklands

Loom Loft plans to open its fourth furniture store and bistro, set to its largest yet, this spring, at new 23,000ft2 premises at Preston Docklands, creating 40 full- and part-time jobs.

Loom Loft, an emerging name in the home decor and furniture industry, is a privately funded, Lancashire family-owned business, which established its presence by opening its flagship Clitheroe store and The Loft Bistro in August 2019. A second ‘Select’ store was introduced at The Mill Batley, West Yorkshire, in 2021, and a third at Astley Bridge, Bolton in August last year.

The new location, on Trident Park, Preston Docklands, will see Loom Loft embark on an extensive internal fit-out.

Founders, MD and head buyer Boyd and Rachel Hargreaves, comment: “We have been reviewing a number of sites in the last 18 months but the Loom Loft team were all unified to develop the opportunity

at Preston when it came about. It’s a perfect fit for our business development in another great Lancashire location. We are excited to showcase our unique style and look forward to recruiting and shaping a dynamic team.’

Operating from J7 business park in Clayton Le Moors, Lancashire, Loom Loft manages its main head office, warehousing, and a 40,000ft2 logistics hub.

JLP considers job cuts as redundancy terms are revised

John Lewis Partnership is considering cutting some 11,000 jobs over the next five years – after informing staff that it was halving the terms of their redundancy package. Sources at The Guardian suggested that at least 10% of the partnership’s 76,000-strong workforce could be cut.

The partnership warned of cuts last year, and has already reduced its employee base significantly through store closures.


“The John Lewis Partnership has a plan to return to profit, which involves investing heavily to enhance our customer offer, technology, stores and becoming more efficient,” says a spokesperson. “This is working and performance is improving, but as we have already announced, that sadly means reducing the number of partners we need in our business. It would be inappropriate to discuss details and our partners will be the first to know about any changes.”

IKEA UK grows accessibility and customer base

IKEA has announced its FY23 year results, highlighting growth following major developments in its ongoing UK transformation plan to become more accessible, affordable and sustainable.

Overall, IKEA delivered +11.9% growth in sales and a turnover of £2.46b, supported by increases across in-store visitation (+2.2%), online sales (+19%), remote sales (+24%) and click-and-collect purchases (+48%).

The retailer’s performance reflects continued investment in a more accessible offer through the introduction of Plan & Order Points (smaller stores dedicated to kitchen, bedroom and living room planning) in the North West of England, alongside a new mobile collection service that is being rolled out nationally in partnership with Tesco.

Peter Jelkeby, CEO and chief sustainability officer, IKEA UK and Ireland, says: “In our 80th year, we can be proud of our performance. FY23 was a year in which we improved our customer experience, grew our market share and continued making meaningful investments in our business and people.”

Investments in logistical operations were also essential to IKEA’s performance in FY23. As well as enabling faster and more sustainable deliveries, the opening of a multi-million-pound CDC in Dartford

resulted in increased fulfilment and cost efficiencies, alongside growth.

At the same time, IKEA has been investing in cost transformation projects focused largely on improved energy and waste management. Despite inflationary pressures in FY23, IKEA decreased its operating cost ratio to 27.8% (from 29.1% in FY22), positively impacting operating profitability, which grew to 4.5% of total turnover (2.3% in FY22).

Peter continues: “Having overcome challenges posed by Brexit and Covid, we have since focused on a creating a more efficient organisation and improving our profitability, which gives us the financial strength to continue investing for generations to come. Despite a difficult economic climate, our focus remains on new locations, new store formats, and in new services.

“As we look to the future, we are proud to have kickstarted 2024 by lowering a significant volume of prices, with more to come – underscoring our commitment to being on the side of those with the lowest means. Guided by the foundations set out 80 years ago, we’ll continue building a business that contributes to better homes for our customers, better lives for co-workers and communities, and a better planet for all.”


BBC show goes inside HSL

Last month, Batley-based furnituremaker HSL featured on BBC’s Inside the Factory, presented by Gregg Wallace (pictured) and Cherry Healey. In the episode, Gregg explored the West Yorkshire factory to find out how the company makes over 5000 sofas every year.

The programme featured interviews with some of the business 250-strong workforce, including craftspeople with decades of experience of handcrafting specialist chairs, sofas and beds.

HSL MD Venessa Hodgson says: “We’re absolutely delighted to be featured on Inside the Factory. Dedication to craftsmanship, quality and customer satisfaction has always been at the heart of our approach at HSL, and we wouldn’t wait to welcome the public into the home of feel good furniture to see what goes on behind the scenes. We’re thrilled that the talent of all of our craftsmen and women was on display, giving them the recognition they deserve.”

HSL also opened a new store last month, on Stratford Road in Solihull, creating five new jobs in the area. The showroom boasts “a new and unique approach to styling”, including a fabric and leather wall.

“Our recent research with the University of Leeds has proven that sitting in an HSL chair that fits you can lower blood pressure, lower heart rate and increase tissue oxygenation in the lower limbs,” Venessa continues. “We know that choosing the right type of furniture for your health and your home is incredibly important, so we’re looking forward to showcasing our beautiful furniture and offering our expertise to the local community.”

BFM announces Future of Furniture Awards winners

The winners of the British Furniture Manufacturers’ (BFM) Future of Furniture Awards, which recognise exemplary work by members of the trade body in moving towards a more sustainable future, were announced at the January Furniture Show.

Launched in 2023, the Future of Furniture Awards expanded in its second year from two to four categories, with the Excellence in Education and Excellence in Sustainability titles joined by new accolades for Environmental, Social and Governance Reporting, and Sustainability Champion.

BFM MD Phil Spademan says: “Our Future of Furniture Awards celebrate the members that are investing not only in their businesses, but in our industry and our communities, and I’m delighted that we successfully expanded the awards programme this year.”

A panel of judges considered various criteria for

each award, including evidence of a commitment to continuous improvement in sustainability and a willingness to lead and empower others.

Excellence in Education winner, Ercol, was recognised for a successful reinstatement of its apprenticeship programme in 2017, alongside outreach work in schools and colleges, and providing work experience and factory tours for students.

The Vita Group was awarded the Excellence in ESG Reporting accolade after giving a detailed account of a three-year journey working with partners to establish a workplace culture that aligns with its goals and advances its sustainability mission.

Finally, there was a double celebration for Harrison Spinks, which was presented with the Excellence in Sustainability award, while the company’s group sustainability manager, Emma Linney-Taylor, was named Sustainability Champion.

Dunelm makes good progress in H1

Dunelm has shared its interim results for the 26 weeks to 30th December 2023. Total sales increased +4.5% to £872m (£835m in FY23) in H1 as Dunelm continued to take market share and grow its active customer base (+4.2%), increasing the transaction frequency of existing customers by +1.1%.

PBT increased by +4.8% to £123m. The retailer’s PBT expectations for the full year are unchanged (£202m).

CEO Nick Wilkinson comments: “Despite ongoing pressures on consumers, we are encouraged by the wide variety of new customers shopping with Dunelm, and existing shoppers also coming back more

frequently. Alongside the positive sales performance we have delivered a very strong gross margin, which is testament to our tight operational control and the inherent strength of our business model.

“As we move towards spring and customers look to freshen up their homes, our specialist proposition continues to resonate strongly and, in a dynamic retail environment, we are relentlessly focused on evolving and investing in our business to ensure we remain relevant to further increase our broad appeal. We have never been more excited about our future as we build trust in our offer and identity as the Home of Homes.”

Worthington Brougham Furniture, founded in 2009 to supply ex-display and end-of-line sofas and furniture, has opened a new furniture showroom on Market Street in Chorley

The National Bed Federation Bed Show gala dinner and Bed Industry Awards will be hosted by Strictly Come Dancing star Anton Du Beke this September

Design Guild Mark founding member and PR specialist Cherrill Scheer passed away unexpectedly on 3rd February

The Conran Shop has appointed Tom Bettinson (ex-Rains) as head of wholesale

Furniture for the Home is investing nearly £50,000 into creating a second showroom in the Black Country, on Kingswinford high street

SofaFactory by Bentincks has appointed Guy Hughes as its agent for the North West

Hyve Group, organiser of Spring Fair and Autumn Fair, has paid tribute to Louise Young, those events’ long-time figurehead, who has passed away

Sealy UK has joined The Furniture Makers’ Company as a corporate member

Product of the Year, a survey of product innovation covering 8000 UK consumers, has recognised products by Emma Sleep, Bensons and Simba Sleep


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The path to equality – and equity

Friday 8th March sees the return of International Women’s Day, an annual celebration of women’s social, economic, cultural and political achievements – and a timely opportunity to quiz some of the furniture industry’s leading ladies on the trade’s journey to gender equality and equity.

PwC’s long-running Women in Work Index shows that progress towards gender equality across the developed world has been

Day to day, how aware are you of the furniture industry’s gender balance? Is equality important to you?

The furniture industry was historically male dominated, but I have seen a significant shift in that balance over the last 15 years. Today, I see women in senior roles, leading businesses and teams across multiple disciplines. Role models for those looking to join the industry are visible across so many parts of the sector today. I personally believe that equality, diversity and a rich blend of experience and background are essential to building first-class teams that succeed, and help the industry prosper.

At the start of your career, were you made to feel welcome by the trade, or did you have more obstacles to overcome than a man might?

I came to the industry having been in retail since the start of my career. I had been a clothing and homeware buyer for M&S, and was approached to help my previous furniture supplier improve the way they worked with their other retail customers. I was made very welcome by the teams in both manufacturing and retail.

From there, I was then asked to head up the commercial and brand roles for a joint venture with Conran, and then latterly moved on to develop and run three leading consumer brands for Sofa Brands International.

“exceedingly slow over the last 10 years, with a persistent gender pay gap of 14%, down only 2.5 percentage points since 2011”.

But while meaningful change may be slow to emerge, there is a growing feeling within the UK furniture industry – traditionally a heavily maledominated sphere – that women are increasingly exerting an influence.

With Clarion’s Women in Furniture Network (WIFN) now regularly bringing industry

representatives together to learn about and discuss the issues and opportunities facing them – and to make contact with women across the industry – there is a palpable feeling of progress in our sector.

Echoing that sentiment are this year’s interviewees: Donna Bellingham (CEO, Shackletons); Ingrid Lohse (chief sales officer, Forte); Sarah Bianchi (MD, Arighi Bianchi); and Nicolle Hockin (MD, Devonshire Pine).

VIEWPOINT Donna Bellingham

Having worked across retail and manufacture, and led boards through acquisition, recession and growth, former Sofa Brands International mainstay Donna is now the CEO of British handmade furniture vertical Shackletons.

I have always worked hard, believed in building strong working relationships with my colleagues, and firmly believe that you will be judged by the results that you deliver. When I joined the sector, I was balancing my career with having a very young family, and the challenge was more about balancing those!

Is there anything you know about women and the workplace now that you wish you’d known sooner?

Believe in yourself and trust your instincts. I came to understand that women may approach things from a different perspective, whilst sharing the same goal as their colleagues. Diversity in experience, skills and approach are key to high-performing teams.

Can you share an anecdote/example of a time you felt held back or discriminated against due to your sex?

No, I honestly can’t.

Conversely, can you identify any stand-out gestures of fairness/equality?

To be honest, all my major career roles were given to me by men in senior positions, who believed in me, and gave me the opportunity to take on new challenges. From Parker Knoll to Collins & Hayes, and now Shackletons, I have relished every challenge, and been trusted to

deliver for both the business and its customers. I have since been able to recruit, promote and mentor highly capable women into senior roles, who went on to have very successful careers in the industry.

Do you feel things are generally heading in the right direction? How can other people/ the industry make a difference?

I do genuinely believe that the industry today is more inclusive and accessible. There is still room to progress more, and better reflect the consumers of our products and services. View every individual on their own merits, and support emerging talent. It is critical for the balance and future of our industry

What would you tell young women who are thinking about entering the furniture industry?

I’ve had a fantastic and varied career in the sector and would highly recommend it to anyone. I feel excited about the opportunities for young, talented people coming into the industry today.

My best advice would be to build your contacts and your networks, and never hold back from asking for help and mentoring from those who can support.


Day to day, how aware are you of the furniture industry’s gender balance? Is equality important to you?

The furniture industry has been known to have been rather male dominated in the past, but in my opinion, things have evolved. Over the past 10-15 years we’ve seen more women enter and progress within the industry, doing some brilliant work along the way. This is positive not only in terms of diversity and equality, but also for driving choice and innovation for customers.

Equality is of course important, and so is equity. It’s never as simple as looking at one factor like gender – we have to see our people as individuals and consider factors like age, disability, class, race, neurodivergence, health status and more if we are to properly nurture and retain talent.

At the start of your career, were you made to feel welcome by the trade, or did you have more obstacles to overcome than a man might?

I’ve had a unique experience in that the industry has been a huge part of my life since I was born! Working my way up through the ranks of the family business meant that I never felt like an outsider.

I was always made to feel welcome – at Arighi Bianchi we have brilliant relationships with our industry peers and partners which have spanned decades. Of course, I had to prove myself within the business, but that was because I was a Bianchi, not a woman.

Is there anything you know about women and the workplace now that you wish you’d known sooner?

I don’t think anything prepares you for becoming

VIEWPOINT Sarah Bianchi

Sarah is the MD of independent retailer Arighi Bianchi, based in Macclesfield. Having worked in the family business for 23 years, she was appointed MD in 2021 to oversee a multichannel expansion strategy that aims to cement the brand’s 170-year legacy.

a parent, and the challenges of juggling work and parenting. Even with solid support and decent childcare (which I was fortunate enough to have), there is still a lot to deal with in terms of navigating work and family duties – the two will always collide.

Research has shown that the burden of care can often fall to women. It’s therefore important to cultivate an open culture, so that people feel able to seek support.

Can you share an anecdote/example of a time you felt held back or discriminated against due to your sex?

I honestly can’t say I’ve been treated differently or held back due to being a woman, even when I was working outside of the family business (I spent the first few years of my career working in London as a parliamentary assistant). I know that I’m incredibly lucky to be able to say that, and I’d like to hope that our next generation of women at Arighi Bianchi will also be able to reflect on their own careers in the same way.

Conversely, can you identify any stand-out gestures of fairness/equality?

I think the industry consistently works to champion those who deserve it, regardless of gender – that’s reflected in the work of Furniture News, our various industry awards and the platforms given to those doing great work.

Do you feel things are generally heading in the right direction? How can other people/ the industry make a difference?

Yes, definitely. I was fortunate enough to sit on the judging panel of the The Furniture Awards 2024 alongside Alice Rowen Hall – her story is an inspiring one, in that she entered the furniture

“Of course, I had to prove myself within the business, but that was because I was a Bianchi, not a woman

industry with a successful background in fashion and is now making an impact and delivering something fresh and exciting for the consumer.

This diversity of experience and expertise is exactly what’s needed to ensure the industry evolves in line with customer needs. We need to look at those doing great work, both in the furniture industry and beyond, and find new ways to learn from and collaborate with each other.

What would you tell young women who are thinking about entering the furniture industry?

For young women entering any industry, I would highlight the value of building your networks of both men and women. Nurture relationships with those people you can pick the phone up to and get some honest advice from (not just your cheerleaders), and try to align yourself with those in different roles so you can absorb a totally different perspective.

Pay this forward, and support those around you by mentoring others – you’re never too young to mentor someone else, and reverse mentoring is so helpful for both industry veterans and those starting out in their careers. Try your best to champion other women wherever possible, and share your networks to bring people together – it’s the best way to learn from and support each other.


Day to day, how aware are you of the furniture industry’s gender balance? Is equality important to you?

Being relatively new to the furniture industry, I am quite aware of a still surprising gender imbalance in almost all levels and functions of the industry’s organisations. Coming from more technical industry environments, I was surprised that despite women being the primary decisionmakers in furniture and home appliance purchases, there seems to be a lag in reflecting this demographic reality in the industry’s management workforce composition.

At the same time, I’m pleased to see a noticeable increase in the presence of women across all levels and functions, reflecting a positive shift towards greater gender diversity. And yes, without any doubt, driving diversity is critical, as only by fostering an inclusive environment can we fully unleash the full potential of diverse talent and drive innovation within the industry.

At the start of your career, were you made to feel welcome by the trade, or did you have more obstacles to overcome than a man might?

Most of my career, I’ve worked in various industries outside of furniture. While all these industries have a high gender imbalance – in particular in the management and executive levels – remarkably, gender-related issues were not prominent in my journey. I attribute this largely to the leadership I encountered, incidentally predominantly male, who consistently valued talent and commitment above all else when making staffing decisions.

As I was always pretty clear and confident about my capabilities, it was easier for them to


Ingrid Lohse

Although she is relatively new to the furniture industry, having joined Polish RTA furniture manufacturer Forte in February last year as chief sales officer, Ingrid has confidently made her mark within the business, and further afield – she was a guest speaker at January’s Women in Furniture Network (WIFN) meeting at JFS, where she offered attendees a taste of her progressive philosophy.

put their trust in me. This also holds true for my experiences in the furniture industry.

Is there anything you know about women and the workplace now that you wish you’d known sooner?

Certainly, my generally positive experience in the industry has been shaped by the support and encouragement of many individuals who have facilitated my growth and learning. In my view, confidence and bravery are pivotal factors in navigating one’s career trajectory successfully.

I’ve observed a tendency among some women to approach new challenges with caution, often overthinking the potential risks, and missing opportunities. While it’s essential to weigh up the pros and cons, I believe there’s merit in adopting a more courageous mindset. Personally, I’ve embraced new and significant challenges with confidence and determination, refusing to be deterred by uncertainties.

It’s crucial for women to recognise their capabilities and pursue opportunities with conviction, rather than succumbing to selfdoubt. By fostering a culture of courage and empowerment, we can inspire more women to embrace challenges boldly and unlock their full potential in the industry.

Can you share an anecdote/example of a time you felt held back or discriminated against due to your sex?

Actually no, I haven’t experienced any true discrimination. I’ve been lucky to work in truly diverse-thinking environments. But one anecdote stands out from some years ago, when I was trying to register for an event and had to choose my function from a dropdown menu. At that time

“By fostering a culture of courage and empowerment, we can inspire more women to embrace challenges boldly and unlock their full potential in the industry

there was no ‘chairwoman’, just a ‘chairman’ as the choice. Well, once I complained to the organisers, that was sorted within hours, and they apologised. I’ve not experienced anything similar since.

Do you feel things are generally heading in the right direction? How can other people/the industry make a difference?

Absolutely, it’s evident that we’re progressing in the right direction. I’ve seen a notable increase in female representation in decisionmaking roles, particularly in the UK. This trend is reinforced by my observations of female successors taking the reins in family-owned businesses, particularly in Germany and Austria.

Furthermore, insights from my extended network reveal a growing demand for female candidates in C-level interim management positions or as executives across various industries. Clients are increasingly seeking out female talent, recognising the unique skills and perspectives they bring to the table in addressing current challenges.

However, while gender diversity is important, I firmly believe that true business success lies in embracing diversity across all dimensions. It’s essential to build teams with diverse talents, experiences and mindsets, irrespective of gender. By fostering inclusivity in this manner, we can propel the industry forward collectively. We as women should feel responsible for avoiding new imbalances. Only when we don’t have to talk about gender any more, will we have achieved equality.

What would you tell young women who are thinking about entering the furniture industry? It would be no different than other industries. Be confident in what you can offer, your skills, your attitude, your knowledge, and your experiences. And then deliver. Build ‘your brand’ around what you’re really good at, then build a team and a network around you that complement areas where you need help. 14 INSIGHT WOMEN IN FURNITURE

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How aware are you of the industry’s gender balance? Is equality important to you?

Having ‘officially’ been in the industry less than 10 years, I feel I came in at a time when change was already well under way. When I was younger I could see how furniture was a very male-dominant field, but looking around my peers at events nowadays it seems that this is no longer necessarily the case, and certainly not as obviously as it used to be.

I believe in ‘equity’ rather than ‘equality’ – that is, recognising that each person has different circumstances, and allocating opportunities and resources to reach an equal outcome. Ultimately the underlying principles are the same, and it is incredibly important that people from different social, cultural and economic situations are represented in an organisation, so that decisions can be made based on a healthy mix of opinions and perspectives.

When you started out, were you made to feel welcome by the trade, or did you have more obstacles to overcome than a man might?

Personally, I haven’t had much exposure to gender imbalances, and I think this is becoming more of a generational issue that is naturally working itself out. At no point in my childhood was I ever made to feel like I was less capable because I was female, so it never crossed my mind as I began my career.

Entering the industry in my mid-20s at a highlevel position meant that my career hurdles were more based around age, rather than gender. When I became a director, there was certainly some concern over my experience (or lack thereof), but my being a women never appeared to even be a consideration.

Similarly, when I started going out to events and meeting customers face to face, I have never once felt disrespected or dismissed because of my gender. So, the short answer is no, I don’t think I’ve had to overcome any additional challenges just for being a woman.

I acknowledge, however, that I’m lucky in this respect. I have no children, and don’t plan


Nicolle Hockin

Nicolle is the MD at cabinet furniture supplier Devonshire, based in Bideford. She took the reins of the business in 2019 when her father, Peter, retired.

to have any – so social issues like excessive working hours, childcare, and travel/time away from home are not something I have to be concerned about.

But I have seen this being a problem for the working women around me. Society expects women to work full time and still look after the home and children as well, which is obviously not sustainable and can lead many women to experience burnout – which can exacerbate the rhetoric that women are ‘weak’ or can’t keep up with their male peers, when really it is that the expectations put on them are different.

Can you share an example of a time you felt held back or discriminated against?

I honestly can’t. I don’t want to come on here and say that the gender balance doesn’t exist, as just because I haven’t outwardly experienced it certainly doesn’t mean that others haven’t. But from my own experience, I’ve never felt it.

It helps that I am in a position in the company where I give the final verdict. I know for some women (including myself in the early days) it can be intimidating to speak up in a room full of men, and the temptation to back down when met with criticism is strong. Women tend to be more empathetic, and see different perspectives more clearly, so having the courage to stand firm on an opinion is very important. For myself, it helps that at the end of the day I can say, “No, this is what we are doing, and this is why,” and that is that.

Will I sometimes get it wrong? Of course! But if we were only working with the experiences of one type of person, we’d alienate whole other cultures.

Conversely, can you identify any stand-out gestures of fairness/equality?

People are becoming more accepting that men and women work differently, and that that’s okay – both points of view are valid and helpful in different situations. It’s not one size fits all, and there’s no one correct way to work.

Stereotypically, men tend to take a more confident and active approach, which can be

very useful in pushing forwards on a project and driving growth. Women, on the other hand, tend to be more cautious and analytical, working out many possible scenarios before going ahead. Individually, these tactics can, and do, work – but together, the two approaches can really speed up a process in the most efficient way possible.

Do you feel things are generally heading in the right direction? How can other people/ the industry make a difference?

Yes, the furniture industry is quickly becoming more diverse. and you see more and more women in influential positions. It isn’t a case of women being handed additional opportunities just because of their gender, but that the environment they grow up in now encourages them to pursue whatever career interests them.

Gender equality begins at a much earlier age than when a person starts their working life. If a child is taught by their parents and at school – as I was – that your gender has absolutely no bearing on your ability to perform a task or how you are perceived, that it is instead about your actions and how you perceive yourself, then we wouldn’t need to be having these conversations at all. No-one would expect less of a person because she was female, and women wouldn’t be afraid to speak out or act on their beliefs.

What would you tell young women who are thinking about entering the industry?

There is absolutely no reason not to, and no reason why gender should come into it. If you enjoy a subject, work on it and gain knowledge and build on your skills, then there is no reason you can’t succeed in making a career of it.

There is such a variety of roles available in the industry, and if you aren’t feeling confident, then find a community or network of supportive, like-minded people – for example, the Women in Furniture Network. Don’t be afraid to take up space in the room – trust that your knowledge and opinions are valid and worth sharing.


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60 SECONDS WITH … Amy Curtis

To mark its 60th anniversary, The Furniture Makers’ Company looked to the future by highlighting 60 of the industry’s most promising young professionals (aged under 35) through its ‘60 for 60’ campaign. To discover how they view the trade, Furniture News is inviting these rising stars to share their stories – this month, our quickfire questions go to Amy Curtis, head of marketing at Kent-based bedmaker, Sleepeezee …

In one sentence, describe what you do … I oversee the marketing strategy for Sleepeezee, including brand development, advertising and communications, as well as supporting product development to help drive growth and achieve our business objectives.

What makes you well suited to the role?

I’d like to consider myself pretty creative, with a good eye for detail. I’m a strategic thinker, and I enjoy digging into numbers that help influence my decisionmaking.

How did you come to work in the furniture industry?

I studied criminology at university, and had actually been accepted onto a graduate scheme for management in the prison service once I finished. It could take up to 18 months to be placed locally, so in the meantime I got a job at another bed company in the sales team. From there, I never looked back!

How has your career progressed since you started?

I quickly moved into the marketing department and really loved it (beds too!), so I took a CIM course in brand and marketing communications alongside my job to start building my knowledge in the fundamentals of marketing.

After nearly six years there, I was offered a marketing manager role at Sleepeezee, which then turned into a head of marketing role 18 months later. I am now part of the senior management team at Sleepeezee, helping shape and drive the overall business strategy.

What’s been the biggest surprise in how the industry operates?

The industry in general can be pretty old school –sometimes it can be about who you know, and not what you know, or do! So it’s always great to nurture and foster good relationships with customers and suppliers. I generally find people stay in the industry a long time, even if they move to another area, which is really positive.

Where would you like to be in five years’ time?

I would still love to be at Sleepeezee, overseeing and growing the brand internationally to create a global presence. Our international footprint is still in its infancy so there are plenty of opportunities ahead for growing our global presence.

What does being named one of the ‘60 for 60’ mean to you?

I am extremely proud of this achievement as I’m sure there were a lot of worthy contenders out there. I think it is great that The Furniture Makers’ Company is helping to develop and recognise younger talent within the industry. Ultimately, these will be the people shaping the industry in years to come, so helping to raise awareness amongst a younger generation will hopefully help drive more diversity and talent into this wonderful and unique industry.

What would you say to encourage others to join the industry?

Don’t judge a book by its cover! Before working in the furniture manufacturing industry, I would never have thought beds could be so interesting! There’s such a vast array of opportunities for people to develop into, there’s something to suit anyone’s expertise.

“I quickly moved into the marketing department and really loved it (beds too!), so I took a CIM course in brand and marketing communications
Find out more about the
‘60 for 60’ stars at


Find out more about the EGGER Decorative Collection 24+ at: or email

Up to speed

Women in Furniture Network (WIFN) Speed Networking event Hall 5, Birmingham NEC / Monday 22nd January

The January Furniture Show hosted the industry group’s third networking event, with an expert panel taking to the stage to discuss their experiences. Led by Clarion Retail’s portfolio director Zoë Bonser, the panel comprised: Donna Bellingham, CEO of Shackletons; Laura Newbold-Breen, COO of ACID; Fara Butt, director of Shire Beds; and Ingrid Lohse, chief sales officer of Forte. The discussion was followed by a Speed Networking event, which aimed to maximise the connections made between participants – watch a video of the event at


M.A. Living invests to impress

Significant investment in property and machinery is enabling bedmaker M.A. Living to accelerate the development of new product and display it in the manner it deserves, MD Uneeb Akbar tells Furniture News …

“Everyone wants a storage bed, and what’s better than being able to operate it at the click of a button?

M.A. Living has come a long way. Founder Mohammed Akbar came to the UK from Pakistan in 1975, and worked as a yarn spinner in a busy Yorkshire factory, while repairing and recovering suites and beds out of hours.

Some years later, after looking around at the many divan bed manufacturers in Yorkshire, Mohammed identified a gap in the market for upholstered headboards and, with the support of his wife Seema, he created a business to meet that demand.

That small, family-run business in Gomersal, West Yorkshire, went on to become a large, familyrun business, and one of the industry’s best-known manufacturers of bedframes and mattresses.

Today, M.A. Living continues to adhere to a simple ethos, says Mohammed’s son, MD Uneeb Akbar: “We don’t compromise on quality, and we use the finest materials. All well as manufacturing here in Britain, we do our best to support local suppliers and other local businesses, so our supply chain is prodominantly British, too – a characteristic that has proved especially valuable in recent years.

“M.A. Living is a quality-driven business – we’re known in the industry for that, and for building beds to last. When you choose to work with us, you aren’t simply paying for a piece of furniture, but for the expertise that goes into every product – and the care that comes after your purchase.”

Uneeb has overseen the business since his father’s “semi-retirement” (anyone who works in the furniture industry will be familiar with that phrase!), and is the driving force behind the company’s ongoing growth.

Having started a new chapter in the company’s history this year, Uneeb was keen to share some of the detail with Furniture News’ readers.

Home improvement

“Starting out from a small unit, we now operate from a 50,000ft2 building in Leeds, easily accessible by motorway, which we’re proud to call home,” says Uneeb, outlining a fresh £3.5m investment in M.A. Living’s property and machinery that promises to create serious benefits for its staff and customers.

“After buying the property, we wanted to provide a safe, state-of-the-art workplace for our staff,” he continues. “The scale of renovation is such that everyone now feels very much part of the business, and can take real pride in working with us.”

A key part of this redevelopment was the introduction of a new trade showroom, developed in partnership with an interior design team to make M.A. Living’s newest collections truly ‘shine’.

“Our glass-fronted building allows a lot of sunlight to shine through the building,” laughs Uneeb, “so we’ve really just harnessed that to showcase our products in the best possible light. There’s also a new board room, from which our new product displays are in full view – it’s taking our operations to a whole new level.”

Verona Miami ottoman

The showroom is now open for visits – customers are able to book through their local sales agent, or simply call the office to check availability – and the trade will have an opportunity to experience the redevelopment for themselves when the business hosts its first at-home show from 18th this month (March).

“We want our customers to see first-hand how our products are made,” enthuses Uneeb. “We’re extremely proud of our processes, and we’d like more people to see this for themselves!”

Beyond beds

M.A. Living has also invested heavily in a new on-site mattress department, and the machinery needed to manufacture its own mattresses and divan bases –and the fruits of this labour are already available, in the form of a new range of pocket-sprung mattresses boasting high-quality natural fillings, that sit perfectly with the manufacturer’s existing bedframes.

“Behind the scenes, we’re also working towards shrinking our carbon footprint by reducing our waste, recycling where we can, and introducing solar panels, as well as working with key fabric suppliers to introduce fabrics to our range with ‘green’ FR coating,” says Uneeb. “Looking after the world in which we live is important, and we have to ensure the next generation have the same opportunities as us, if not more.

“We’re now a one-stop shop for anyone looking for bedframes, and mattresses with storage options – but we acknowledge that we still have much more to accomplish.”

The success of one of the latest additions to M.A. Living’s portfolio has surprised even Uneeb, reaffirming the notion that diversification and development pays off.

“We’ve been working extremely hard over the last few months on the launch of our Electric Ottoman collection,” he says. “I believe it’s the only ottoman on the market with child-safety features – we always aim to build product that’s safe and strong – and upon its launch, it proved an instant favourite. Everyone wants a storage bed, and what’s better than being able to operate it at the click of a button?”

M.A. Living has also introduced new divan bases, and continues to manufacture high-quality, design-led headboards – all delivered with today’s key material and colour trends firmly in mind.

“We update our fabric offering every year to ensure we’re up to date with the latest interior trends,” says Uneeb. “We offer a choice of up to 75 colours –variety is key, so we make sure our customers have the best choice available to them. We have fantastic relationships with our key suppliers, who are able to support us with their bestselling fabrics, and we have our own in-house design team who keep up with interior trends, colours and designs to ensure we’re able to offer our customers the very best.

“Right now, we’re seeing a lot of neutral and natural colours coming through – plenty of earthy colours, such as browns and creams. It’s nice to see that we’re finally moving away from the greys!”

Although M.A. Living’s offer is principally domestic in nature, the business is able to meet the demands of contract customers, and to build bespoke furniture that meets their requirements. “This part of our business is growing rapidly,” says Uneeb, “as more and more customers approach us directly asking for bespoke requirements. We’ll always try to be accommodating.”

Next steps

Taken together, these developments offer manifold benefits. Customers are increasingly able to treat M.A. Living as a ‘one-stop shop’, and are now able to receive deliveries of bedframes and mattresses together, making the process much easier and quicker for their customers, in turn.

The progress does not end here, either. M.A. Living is following a 10-year growth plan, and Uneeb is always looking at the next steps. “We’ve achieved so much in recent months, but there are so many avenues to explore,” he says, “and we’re excited about our future, and what’s to come.”

The manufacturer is already looking to expand its sales team to better deploy its growing portfolio, and is currently looking for sales agents in the South and the Midlands, as well as for contract roles.

For any would-be stockist wishing to know more, but unable to attend the upcoming at-home show, M.A. Living will also be exhibiting at INDX Beds & Bedroom in April, and the NBF Bed Show in September – doubtless equipped with even more eye-catching new product. In the meantime, interested parties can follow the team on Instagram (@malivinguk) to see some of the latest designs as they emerge.

“Customers are now able to receive deliveries of bedframes and mattresses together
Part of M.A. Living’s extensive headboard collection M.A. Living’s new showroom is now open for customer visits 23
01924 457 333 • • malivinguk

Great British brands come together

The creative merger of two iconic UK companies paints a bright future for Brookpace Fine Art. The acquisition of Brookpace by Acctim, one of the UK’s most successful clock companies, promises to see the future of the great British art company go from strength to strength, while securing its UKbased manufacturing jobs.

“We are excited to be contributing to both the vibrant wall art industry and to the heritage of UK manufacturing

Since 1928, Acctim has put great design and innovation at the heart of everything it does, and strives to lead the way in both quality and style. Joining forces with industry leader Brookpace Fine Art promises to further strengthen the business and bring together several “great British brands” under one roof.

For the past 37 years, Brookpace has been transforming interiors with one of the industry’s most comprehensive and desirable collections of wall art, with every piece handmade in its own workshop by skilled craftsmen.

Kevin Leonard, MD of Acctim, comments: “The diversity in collections, and their constant quest for using quality materials, has impressed us for a long time, and we are delighted to have this opportunity to take the company forward into the next 37 years and beyond. We are excited to be contributing to both the vibrant wall art industry and to the heritage of UK manufacturing.”

One particular range that stands out is the luxurious Iconic Photography collection, which depicts the quality and style for which Brookpace Fine Art is known. As one of the largest collections available anywhere, Iconic Photography encapsulates the golden era of Hollywood, fashion style icons, Manhattan skylines, classic cars, and more. Eyecatching prints including Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Marilyn Monroe, Freddie Mercury, and Muhammad Ali in action, are all finished in a choice of frames (none more glamorous than the Manhattan, made using mirrored, bevelled glass).

Founded in 1987, Brookpace Fine Art specialised in the manufacture of reproduction artworks, something unique and integral to the business even today.

Out of its workshop and studios in North London, the business soon grew a loyal family of customers around the world.

Latterly, Brookpace added two clock brands to complement its artwork offer: Roger Lascelles, founded in 1986, producing UK-made clocks capturing retro and vintage eras; and Smiths, founded in 1851, and an industrial British design institution.

Joining forces now, at a time when Acctim has doubled its sales in the last two years, marks the start of a new chapter for Brookpace. Both companies are longstanding British brands, and together boast more than 130 years of experience in their respective sectors.

For more information and to get in touch with the team, visit the brands’ websites or email sales@

The acquisition brings together several “great British brands” under one roof Marilyn Monroe, part of Brookpace’s Iconic Photography collection Muhammad Ali Audrey Hepburn
Contact Us... Tel: 0208 208 0040 | Email: | Web: Transforming spaces since 1987. Manufactured in the UK

Behind Barwell’s bold bedmaker

After a successful year of growth, Vogue Beds Group is looking to invest in infrastructure and sustainable development – this month, Furniture News reflects on where the Leicestershire bedmaker has come from, and what lies ahead …

“We’re a mattress manufacturer predominantly, but we’re also opportunists

“We like to think we’ve done a lot in the last 30 years, but most importantly we’ve helped over a million people get a good night’s sleep,” says founder Ebrahim Patel, who has spent the entirety of his working life in the bed and mattress industry, laying firm foundations for the family business’ future.

Vogue operates from a head office and factory in Barwell, just outside of Leicester. Like the business, its factory – which previously belonged to shoe and boot manufacturer George Ward – has come a long way, repurposed and continuously improved since 1993 to become what Ebrahim describes as “a 60,000ft2 centre of manufacturing excellence” that features its own photography studio, R&D area and direct-sales shop.

The group has always been an innovator, continually exploring fresh ideas since its inception, and it remains determined to provide customers with a one-stop shop for all kinds of bed bases, mattresses and headboards.

“Our mattress collections, for example, range from traditional to an eco-friendly sustainable range,” says Ebrahim. “We also manufacture our own fabric bedsteads and bedframes, and recently started a new venture, Vogue Imports.”

Being Vogue, the latest addition to the portfolio puts a unique twist on the typical import offer, he adds: “These wooden frames feature fabric head ends which we can individualise by upholstering them with any of our 28 fabric options.

“Predominantly we’re a manufacturer of mattresses, but we’re also opportunists, and this is great opportunity to target a new audience while adding our own product profile. The new frames are a fantastic addition to our current range, and mean our customers can continue to buy our mattresses, while having the option to purchase headboards, divans,

Jes bed frame in plush emerald

and bedframes from us too.”

Offering own-label options has also proved a popular strategy, granting retailers protection and higher margins in a highly competitive marketplace.

Director Bilkis Patel echoes her father’s sentiment, saying it is all about “giving our customers what they want”.

Ebrahim – a former NBF president, and still an active member of the federation’s board – is now looking to build upon Vogue’s already-firm foothold, starting with investment in and around the factory, including an office upgrade.

Ensuring greater sustainability is an ongoing challenge, but Vogue is stepping up confidently, having achieved the zero-to-landfill milestone this year, while ensuring the major renovations taking place across the site will include more economic heating and lighting systems.

“Sustainability isn’t just a buzzword for Vogue Beds – it is a challenge we must meet,” says Ebrahim. “Globally, we are faced with many challenges that we cannot ignore, from the devasting effects of the climate crisis that are already being (and will continue to be) felt, to bed poverty, inequality and unethical labour standards in supply chains.

“Our new strategy outlines how we will devote ourselves to improving our impact on our people and planet by working towards a sustainable future. And the targets set out are just the beginning – we plan to meet each of them as early as possible, while reviewing our strategy annually.”

Last year, Vogue reduced its scope 1 and 2 emissions by an impressive -43% YoY, investing in smart meters and LED lighting across its site and offseting 16 tonnes of carbon emissions.

Its aim for 2025 is to recycle 30% of its customers EOL mattresses, and assess 70% of its mattresses using the NBF’s ecodesign framework. All flexible plastic packaging is to contain 30% recycled plastic, while Vogue is also planning to work solely with suppliers committed to net-zero targets, and to improve employee satisfaction.

By appointment, interested parties will be able to visit Vogue’s factory and showroom, meet the team and enjoy the bedmaker’s hospitality at an at-home show taking place throughout May. Any orders taken at the event will benefit from a free mattress – contact a local agent to find out more.

Westminster mattress with Heritage bedstead in poplin grey Vogue’s factory in Barwell

Vogue At Home

We are having a ‘At Home Show’ here at the Vogue HQ for the entire month of May- You can visit our factory and showroom- meet the team and stay over and be taken care of by Vogue.

Any orders taken at the ‘Home Show’ will receive a FREE mattress (RRP £499).

All appointments will be based via your local agent.

01455 841257 - -


Ambitious innovator Greg is a director at Westgarth, a UK furniture agency working with premium brands from Europe and beyond (currently La Forma/Kave, SITS, Italia Living, Innovation and Flexlux) – and a director of Bolda, a market intelligence service which gathers and displays personalised data on trends, pricing and availability.

How might a child describe what you do? Selling sofas!

What’s the biggest long-term challenge you face? Staying relevant with the right manufacturers. The nature of our business means that things can change quickly, so always being prepared and spreading risk has been a mantra of ours for decades.

Also, trying to keep my tech start-up going!

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

A driver for me! I waste so much working time during the day in the car sometimes, it digs into my evenings and weekends – it would be great to spend those hours doing work other than what can be done on the phone.

What would be the title of your autobiography? ‘Oh, you’re Phil French’s son!’

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

This is a tough question, and at times there isn’t any, especially as I don’t have a ‘job’ – owning a business is a lifestyle, but I try to make sure when the family do see me I am present, and my friends understand I can’t be around as much as they are, and that my family comes first.

It ebbs and flows, but there are times when I can be there for them to pick up from school or help out when needed, but other times which mean I can’t be.

Who’s been your most influential professional mentor?

My dad, he brought me into the business, gave me great experience and helped me grow.

What advice would you give your younger self? Don’t be so hard on yourself, and don’t be afraid to try a few things differently.

What’s been your best day in business to date?

There’s been two: sealing a deal with one of the UK’s largest retailers for one of our brands at the agency; and securing a deal for Bolda with one of the UK’s biggest retailers.

What’s the biggest myth about our industry?

That travelling to shows and factories is always glamorous. It can be hot and sweaty or dark and freezing, and extremely tiring at times, with a lot of travel that digs into your personal life at all times.

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

I think we should be experimenting a little more – we are a notoriously slow industry to change, which has its charm and nice aspects too, but I think experimenting more would be good.

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

Fewer, stronger independent retailers solidifying their positions, online retailing turning to more physical space, more entrants into the markets from large retailers expanding categories. New technologies will continue to disrupt the industry online – but who knows what that will be?! Hopefully Bolda will be one!

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

Q. What did Covid teach you?

A. To expect the unexpected, but also that it won’t be as bad as you think.

“The nature of our business means that things can change quickly, so always being prepared and spreading risk has been a mantra of ours for decades


“I’M SHELL-SHOCKED! I never in a million years thought we would do so much business!” [Almost 50% annual t/o in 3 weeks]

Jade Farthing, M.D., Haskins Furniture, Shepton Mallet.

“We took 42% of a year’s turnover in three weeks! It was absolutely mad! But I’m very glad we did it and we’d certainly do it again!”

Brendan Loughrey, M.D. HOMEMAKERS, Coleraine, N. Ireland.

“Our recent [5th] sale surpassed the first one! We are really happy. Highly recommended.” Adam Tomlin, M.D. Jones and Tomlin. Horsham, Chichester and Worthing.



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SUMMER 2024 TO WINTER 2025. CALL BERNARD EATON 07771 700247 GreenwoodRetail_MAR2024.indd 1 13/02/2024 15:14 KNOWLEDGE IS POWER In April’s issue, we’re tackling trade shows and technology, with a special look at the industry’s future. • Furniture Component Expo – previewing the inaugural BFM event • BFM Member Focus – an o cially endorsed celebration of British business • INDX Beds and Bedroom – a preview of AIS’ sleepcentric exhibition • Furniture Technology – the mechanisms driving greater comfort and functionality • Plus Home O ce and the latest in Bedroom, Living, Dining and Trade Services There’s something for everyone in April’s issue. Call us now to be part of the UK’s leading furniture trade magazine. Book by Thursday 14th March 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 TAKE YOUR SEAT King’s CEO on design from down under Fresh formats from inspirational indies BED SHOW LIVING TRADE SERVICES COMPROMISE LIVING BEDROOM TRADE SERVICES SOMEWHERE THAT’S GREEN Haskins’ Jade Farthing talks shop DELIVERY FULFILMENT TRADE SERVICES BUYING GROUPS AND ASSOCIATIONS The industry’s recruitment and retention challenge Arighi Bianchi’s family values How to get on trend in 2023 400th FN Nxt Month Advert vertical.indd 1 22/02/2024 16:35 31

At The Helm is thrilled to share the success of our collaboration with Hooker Furnishings, marked by a triumphant launch at the prestigious January Furniture Show.

The event showcased the fusion of our design prowess and Hooker Furnishings' masterful craftsmanship in an exquisite collection of cabinetry. Visitors marveled at the seamless integration of innovative concepts and timeless aesthetics, setting a new standard in the world of home furnishings.

This triumphant debut reaffirms At The Helm's commitment to pushing boundaries and redefining the narrative of interior design. We are grateful for the overwhelming response and look forward to continuing to inspire with future endeavors.

In partnership with

CIFF Guangzhou looks to the workplace

Following the first phase of the 53rd CIFF Guangzhou – taking place from 18th-21st March, and dedicated to home furnishings –the event’s second phase will take place from 28th-31st March, and will focus instead on furniture for workplace and commercial spaces, in conjunction with CIFM/interzum guangzhou, a show dedicated to materials, components and machinery for the furniture industry.

Boasting 1100 exhibitors, 24 halls occupying areas A, B and D of the Canton Fair Complex, an exhibition area of over 240,000m2 (optimised in layout and +9% bigger YoY), CIFF’s Office and Commercial Space will be the world’s largest trade fair for furniture of its kind, and Asia’s reference platform for new products, developing trends and the creation of commercial relationships between exhibitors and professional operators from the international marketplace.

Characterised by the theme ‘New Office Fashion, New Commercial Trend’, the Office and Commercial Space exhibition represents three macro-sectors: Office Environment; Office Seating; and Public Commercial Space.

The Office Environment sector in Area A offers complete solutions forworkspaces, such as office systems, accessories, metal furniture and intelligent safe archives, plus cutting-edge trends for the creation of smart offices, furniture for healthcare, and for meeting the needs of older people.

contributing to the development of new concepts, scenarios and trends for working environments, through high-level forums.

Next is the Office Seating sector, which is the world’s largest trade fair dedicated to seating, spread over 80,000m2 in Area D – an expansion of+33% YoY.

Offering task, executive, lounge, visitor and waiting chairs, the fair will represent a sector dominated by commercial aspects – relating both to China’s busy internal market of office furniture, and to exports, which are recovering well after the pandemic, states CIFF’s organiser, attracting thousands of international buyers to Guangzhou. This segment also focuses on aspects of design and technology, but above all ergonomics, highlighting the importance of people’s health and wellbeing within working environments.

“CIFF’s Office and Commercial Space will be the world’s largest trade fair for furniture of its kind

Thanks also to the presence of brands such as Onmuse, Kano, Goodtone, UFOU, Uispair, Fenlun, Finest, U.miller, Archini, Cubespace, Smilesiyo, Soundbox, Burgeree and WHM, the emphasis will be on innovation and design trends, with the aim of encouraging R&D in the sector and providing inspiration with integrity.

The ‘Linking Design Star Special Exhibition’, meanwhile, will showcase key Chinese and international designers, as well as 20 renowned design institutions, with the aim of bringing manufacturers even closer to design themes and

Among others, the International Brand Hall is set to be the main stage for the latest trends, a place in which to evaluate Chinese and international manufacturers side by side, and a platform for global brands looking to access China’s vast market.

Finally, the Public Commercial Space sector in Area B will showcase solutions for school furnishings, public spaces (such culture, transport and sport venues), and hotel furnishings – all areas in constant evolution both internationally and in China where, particularly in the rapidly developing school sector, increasingly advanced furnishings of better quality and design are always in demand.

Crafted for your business, to do business. Materials & Finishes Show was formerly known as W Exhibition. REGISTER FOR YOUR FREE TICKET AT Be part of the show that revolves around you. Materials & Finished Show is the primary platform for carpenters, joiners, machinists and installers to see running machinery, the latest materials, components, software, tools and innovations from the biggest brands in the woodworking sector. The UK’s trade show for the furniture manufacturing & joinery industries

Reading Northpoint’s compass

Northpoint, Scotland’s dedicated furniture show, returned to its usual January timeline this year, and impressed on a number of levels –but where does the show’s future lie? The exhibition’s organiser, Gavin Douglas, considers the lessons the Scottish Furniture Representatives Association (SFRA) – and the wider industry – might learn from this year’s edition …

As we come home from both the January Furniture Show at the NEC and the Northpoint Show in Edinburgh, it’s time to take stock of the past year and the one ahead.

The January Furniture Show, whilst a shadow of its former self, is still a must for the furniture trade to test the market – but the Northpoint Show is certainly more of a barometer of the confidence of the retailers throughout Scotland, the North of England, and Ireland.

We launched into this year’s Northpoint Show with confidence – we had 28 Scottish agents and 54 companies exhibiting. It was pleasing to see several showing at the Scottish show who were not in Birmingham, such as Silentnight and Sealy, and some upholstery companies too.

What became obvious was that those who came were fairly bullish and were willing to place orders. This may have been a result of new companies launching new products, promotions being available or loyalty to the Scottish representatives.

A measure of Northpoint 24’s success should be the number of exhibitors who immediately indicated a desire to return. Some commented that the buyers were there and the order books were healthy.

Our move back to January, although successful, still leaves us in doubt as to whether to make January our permanent home, or try April again, offering a breathing space between the January Furniture Show and Northpoint 25. The jury is still out.

The Scottish show allows a relaxed atmosphere for buyers and offers them the time to hold conversations with the representatives and agents about future trends and promotions. There is no doubt that the

huge array of products meant that bed buyers were spoilt for choice.

From the buyer’s perspective, it would appear that the market is quite slow just now, but everyone is looking for a bargain, which meant that many purchases were price-led. This is a pressure from the consumer, who seems to be more price-conscious about their requirements. Although British-made is still the preference, when it is an investment for the home, price can brush that preference aside.

As always, new innovations in design and function drew attention, and ranges which were flexible in their offering also gained interest. Certainly, a base model with variety of options allows retailers to display a raft of features and optional extras which in turn offers their customers a greater choice. Coupled with quicker lead times and colourways, this would appear to be the way to go.

As we look back at the shows, there have certainly been plenty of orders and promises into the future. The retailers who are bullish will undoubtedly come out on top, offering their customers innovative and stylish new products.

One word of warning, however. High-end still seems to perform, but with many new manufacturers trying to compete on price there could be a race to the bottom, unless quality and design are to shine through. Those offering service, speed of delivery, new fabrics and marketing support ought to be rewarded, as they protect their position in the market. Those just competing on price may find it unsustainable into the future.

“Our move back to January, although successful, still leaves us in doubt as to whether to make January our permanent home

The joys of spring

Spring Fair, the UK’s largest retail marketplace for home, gift and fashion goods, closed on 7th February after four days of business.

Jackson Szabo, portfolio director, says: “The feedback and stories from buyers, exhibitors, and partners have highlighted just how integral this show is to the retail calendar. As well as the day job of buying, it enables the retail industry to come alive with inspiration, innovation, knowledge and networking.”

impacting the retail sector. Delivering insights on topics ranging from AI and digital retail to conscious consumerism and licensing, and welcoming industry stalwarts such as Theo Paphitis and Dame Zandra Rhodes, Spring Fair’s three new stages offered the fair’s most comprehensive content schedule to date.

“It enables the retail industry to come alive


Boasting over 1000 brands with 120 more exhibitors than last year – over 200 exclusively showing at Spring Fair, and 450 making their debut – Spring Fair also grew its global reach, with more international brands present than in 2023.

Partnerships with TikTok Shop, Google, and The Future Collective drew visitors with an appetite to discover the next key trends and technologies

Gallery Direct started the year strongly, with successful @Home shows in January, followed by its most successful exhibition to date at Spring Fair, where Gallery showcased its extensive SS24 Collection.

Sales director Peter Delaney says: “We were able to spend quality time with customers who wanted to find out about the new collection in detail at the @Home shows, as well as give them a tour of our state-of-the-art DC. And then Spring Fair allowed us to see even more returning customers, as well as meeting many new ones, and show them the new products.

“The feedback we received from both was fantastic. They loved the new lines, with many customers commenting that it is our best

“We’re now very excited to look forward to 2025 as we celebrate 75 years as the home, gift and fashion industries’ most established and inventive buying show” concludes Jackson.

Spring Fair will return to the NEC Birmingham from 2nd-5th February 2025, with Autumn Fair taking place in the meantime, from 1st-4th September.

collection ever. Having many of the new products already in stock here in the UK ready for quick delivery, with others arriving soon, was also a big plus for customers.”

Among the new products on show at Spring Fair was the Marmo dining table, which offers a modern classic look. Crafted from mango wood, with a striking vertical ribbed feature on the legs, and a polished Indian white Carrera marble top with classic grey/blue veins running through it, the table exudes quality. The Marmo range also includes a round dining table, console table, sideboard and side table.

Gallery has also introduced a range of new

‘readymade’ upholstery lines, which will be stocked in the UK ready for quick delivery from Gallery’s Chesterfield DC. One of these is the retro-inspired Coste sofa. With its eye-catching and unusual upholstered ridge design, it promises to make a bold statement in any living space.

Coste looks good when paired with some of the pieces from Gallery’s popular Borden range, which has been extended to include coffee, supper, console and round dining tables, along with an open display. These tactile pieces are crafted from acacia wood, with a warm finish to show off the beautiful grain of the timber.

Gallery’s impressive Spring Fair stand Marmo dining table and Kelvedon chairs

Scan the QR code for more 


Focused on innovation and driven by our commitment to inspire fresh design-led styles, our team has expertly collated one of our boldest collections to date.

Explore the Hatfield Collection - timeless, stylish, and cohesive. Our versatile family of dining chairs, tables, and stools are the perfect blend of retro charm and contemporary elegance. Choose from a selection of four dining table styles, each available in both natural and smoked oak finishes (shown).

View our full collection online at

Uniting the industry

The 2024 edition of the January Furniture Show (JFS) closed with a reported +6% rise in visitor numbers and a record-breaking rebook rate for the 2025 edition, says organiser Clarion Events …

“JFS is the perfect place to see the new trends

This year’s exhibition showcased more than 50,000 products from some 400 British and international brands, offering the trade the latest in furniture, interiors and lifestyle products, reports Clarion: “With over 25% of the buyers in attendance visiting for more than one day, and multiple networking opportunities, this year’s JFS brought together brands, buyers, designers, architects, manufacturers and distributors looking for the latest product.”

The UK’s biggest furniture and home interiors trade show hosted four days of sourcing from top national and international brands, plus a significant number of new exhibitors.

Across all retailer groups there was a significant growth in attendance, says Clarion, in particular: department store attendance up +18%; distributor attendance up +25%; wholesaler attendance up +16%; interior designer attendance up +8%; and contract buyer attendance up +40%.

Peter Harrison, executive chairman at Furniture Village, explained that attending JFS was important his team, which aimed “to meet people, as there are some terrific suppliers here and to find new products, see trends for colour pallets, finishes – anything that will help us to stay with it”.

DFS quality manager Kim Sprott said there were “great networking opportunities throughout the show. I’ve seen lots of new brands that we haven’t seen before, and JFS is the perfect place to see the new trends for the year”, while Dunelm’s Natasha North said that JFS “ticked all our boxes, and we saw all the brands that we needed to see – mission accomplished”.

Exhibitor Nichola Bell, sales director of this month’s cover star, Alpha Designs, says: “JFS has been our best-ever show, with high sales from very enthusiastic buyers, and we’ve seen a good mix of new and existing customers.”

Siobhan Walsh, strategic planning director at Scatter Box, adds: “JFS has been a good show, as we’ve met new, quality customers” – evident in the event’s increased VIP attendance, says Clarion: “With 83% conversion on VIP visitors, exhibitors had access

to some of the top buyers from across the industry, with buying power up £1m (+18%) since 2023.”

JFS also proved to be a more international affair this year, with visitors attending from 53 countries including Belgium, Brazil, China, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Spain and Turkey.

“You can really feel the international presence at the show,” said Davis Fabrics’ Slawomir Barteczka. “The connections between different markets is very noticable and helpful.”

The show was enhanced with the introduction of the Champagne Bar in Hall 1 and the Festival Food Court in Hall 2, while VIPs enjoyed exclusive access to the VIP Lounge. In Hall 5, the Crafting the Future Networking Hub hosted a variety of talks throughout the show from the likes of ACID, FIRA, BIRA and the Sylva Foundation, along with live craft demonstrations, in partnership with The Furniture Makers’ Company and the AMUSF.

Meanwhile, networking was a key theme at this year’s show. Sunday night kicked off with the Show Party and celebration of The Furniture Awards winners (in collaboration with Furniture News) – read on to discover this year’s winners.

The networking continued at Monday evening’s Women in Furniture Network: Speed Networking event, which saw an expert panel take to the stage to discuss their career highlights and how they have successfully navigated a male-dominated industry. (find out more on p20).

Victoria Ross, national sales manager at Forte Furniture, says: “I would certainly recommend any of my contacts in the furniture industry, whether you are new or have been around a while, to have a look at joining this network where I had the opportunity to meet, not only lovely, but insightful, interesting women who, without this event I would probably never encountered. Who knows what that random connection might turn into?”

Rounding off the show was Tuesday’s Happy Hour, where the winners of the Best Stand awards (see p58) were announced.

JFS will return to the NEC from 19th-22nd January 2025 – with the Manchester Furniture Show taking place on 10-11th July this year.

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Best in the business

The Furniture Awards 2024 culminated in a highly anticipated reveal at the January Furniture Show’s new champagne bar in Hall 1, where awards co-ordinator Paul Farley and Clarion Retail’s portfolio director Zoë Bonser announced this year’s winning suppliers. Read on to discover which businesses made the grade this year, and why …

The Furniture Awards were developed by Furniture News in partnership with the January Furniture Show, and have highlighted the industry’s finest since 2015.

Exhibiting suppliers are asked to outline their strengths in one of five categories – Sustainability, Best of British, Design Innovation, Global Player and Superior Service – and the entries are then assessed by a panel chaired by Paul Farley (Furniture News), and this year 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.

“This year’s winners reflect what makes our industry so special,” says Paul. “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 always shout about it, but our top players

truly deserve celebration 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.”

No businesses were shortlisted in the Sustainability category this year, but the submissions across the other categories more than made up for this, says Paul, adding that The Furniture Awards will return for 2025.

Read on to learn about the winners’ accomplishments, strategies and products, and the judges’ thoughts – and watch a video of the presentation at

“Our top players truly deserve celebration
Paul Farley and Zoë Bonser announced the winners at the JFS show party


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”, state the judges.

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 at its fully integrated 250kft2 facility, and employs close to 500 members of staff. In 2021, it become an employee ownership trust (EOT), a generous move that secured its –and its employees’ – future.

The business has received numerous awards and accolades from its customer base, which recognises Lebus’ ability to help them achieve their commercial goals. Admirable for its attention to detail and progressive outlook, Lebus has embraced a new attitude and design handwriting, ensuring it remains an industry favourite. Read more on p54.

Founders Constantino and Charlotte started their furniture industry journey in 2008 importing upholstery, but soon felt they wanted to create something ‘British’, gaining better control over the quality and service they offered.

So, in 2010, from a “very humble” unit in Bilston, staffed by one upholsterer and two sewing machinists, they started turning out some 15 sofas each week, and selling them on eBay.

In the following years, Alpha Designs grew in scale and confidence enough to exhibit at the Manchester Furniture Show in 2014, relinquishing the D2C approach in favour of partnering with reputable furniture stores.

“This gave them the platform to show their passion, hard work and will to achieve something new,” says sales director Nichola Bell. “No mean feat amongst a world of well-established upholstery manufacturers!”

Today, Alpha boasts fully operational factories –the main factory, on the original site at Bilston, and

another in Bridgend, with a small in-house British design and development team (including CGI specialists) behind them.

“Although a lot smaller than many of their fellow manufacturers the Alpha team have a few very simple beliefs – that there is always a solution (how quickly can we make it happen?), and let’s keep it simple and get it right for our customers,” says Nichola.

This philosophy became evident during the Covid years, when Alpha quickly grasped the opportunities that short lead times could create, and partnered with some leading high street retailers to offer available stock. This enabled Alpha to retain all of its staff and trade through the pandemic, doubling the size of the business as a consequence.

“What Alpha has achieved in such a relatively short space of time is brilliant,” says the judges, “and sends an inspiring message to any industry newcomers out there. It’s a real rags-to-riches tale, and demonstrates that fresh thinking, energy and the confidence to invest can count for a lot more than just relying on a long-established heritage.”

Alpha can be contacted via

JFS 45
Paul Farley, Charlotte Floate, Nichola Bell and Zoë Bonser Jenson


Winner: Qualita

Qualita’s story has it all – cost engineering, manufacturing efficiency, effective fulfilment partnerships, and eminently commercial product, making it a stand-out entrant in this year’s competition.

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.

“Tomasella remains competitive as a custom producer of affordable design, modern and luxury living, and, to meet high demand, offers top-performing pieces made just in time, with no minimum orders,” says export manager Enrico Carnelos. Read more on p51.

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 – and the business also operates across Europe, and further afield, fuelled by its impressive licensing deal with Laura Ashley.

“Qualita’s offer is comprehensive,” says the judges, “comprising a huge volume of products in a wide variety of styles. It’s a fantastic range, and a very well-organised business, that’s always looking for new opportunities – and boasts a proven ability to make the most of them.”

With over 20 years of experience in manufacturing, wholesaling and, more recently, licensing and selling to a diverse variety of clients, both in the retail and in contract sectors, Qualita has developed an ability to address both specific product briefs and global market trends. Having acquired the licence to develop, manufacture, supply and distribute Laura Ashley cabinet furniture in 2020, Qualita’s focus has been sharpened yet further.

Alongside its own manufacturing facility in Kaunas, Lithuania, Qualita works with a network of partner factories in Indonesia and India, and across Eastern Europe, investing in local QC experts to ensure consistency and continuity.

“Whilst our reach is truly global, it is the UK market that remains our largest, and rightly commands much of our attention,” says Qualita’s head of sales for the UK and RoI, Anthony Matthias. “Aside from white label production for retailers such as Heal’s and Soho Home, for our independent retail portfolio can be divided into three distinct looks: our own Qualita contemporary collection of solid oak, ash and walnut living and dining furniture; the Stockholm (former Winsor Furniture) living, dining and bedroom

collections; and the Shadows living and dining collection.

“And let’s not forget our exclusive Laura Ashley licence. This quintessentially British brand still resonates strongly with the public, and a strong part of that is the furniture offer, which presently consists of more than 20 different collections and looks.

“All our ranges are comprehensive in their SKU count, enabling consumers to buy into the look and to add to their collection over time.”

Beyond the UK, Qualita is active across Germany, Sweden, France and Spain, with the new license extending its reach across much of Europe and the wider world – and Qualita is already looking towards new opportunities in the Americas.

Paul Farley, Anthony Matthias and Zoë Bonser Montpellier


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 IT system with the right partner.

With capabilities spanning ecommerce, operations, store and stock management, and a view on frontend performance as much as back-end efficiency, Iconography also shines for its excellent customer service and industry-specific expertise.

At the heart of its offer is OMNIS Retail, a cloudbased unified commerce platform which powers whole retail operations, online and in-store, with all the features, functions, information, insight, reporting and data a retailer needs at their fingertips in real time, states Iconography:

made up of too many parts – a database built on outdated technologies, a system with limited development opportunity, poor support and an insecure WooCommerce website combined with a shaky integration. They were the perfect candidates for a real unified commerce solution.”

“We don’t take a one-size-fitsall approach

“OMNIS Retail provides a coherent platform for modern omnichannel retailing, and delivers ecommerce, EPoS, CRM and a suite of head office and retail operations management functionality – all running from one database.

“Our most recent OMNIS Retail launch was Haskins Furniture, who went live in November 2023. They had decided to move away from a disjointed, inefficient legacy furniture retail system that was

After meeting the retailer’s department heads, Iconography’s team developed a solution to suit. “It’s very important to us that our clients understand the system that they’re buying, and that retailers really understand exactly what we’re able to offer,” states Iconography, “and the system that Haskins Furniture put live is streamlining all aspects of their day-to-day furniture retailing.

“Everything stems from product catalogue creation and item maintenance in a single centralised database – OMNIS Retail then repurposes that information across multiple channels, providing both an EPoS and a tool for store staff to give potential customers information on products and product availability, lead times and location. In the back office, meanwhile, OMNIS Retail offers a unified orderprocessing workflow.

“The implementation of OMNIS Retail is all about working with furniture retailers to maximise their efficiency, adding automation and oversight to existing workflows, rather than forcing them to start from scratch. We have a truly impressive suite of tools available to our users, but perhaps the strongest is the ability to personalise the user .

“Unlike other software providers, we don’t take a one-size-fits-all approach – as every furniture retailer is different, we know that each system must be tailored to its user.”

JFS 47
Iconography director Wayne Robbins with senior account managers Francesca Thompson and Georgia Caird


Winner: Whitemeadow Furniture

Classy, high-spec and functional, Whitemeadow’s latest models reflect just part of what makes Sutton-inAshfield’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.

“They genuinely believe in design at Whitemeadow,” say the judges. “There’s a strong ethos of creativity that runs through the business, and they’ve invested in the infrastructure and people to achieve it.

Highly Commended: ALF UNO

The stylish new Hera collection from ALF – which boasts 60s style with a modern twist – 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 today’s homes.

“Hera’s matt finishes match highly resistant surfaces and warm walnut veneers,” says ALF. “The black grooves add depth and dynamism, while the golden touch and round shapes give a luxury feeling. This collection is the perfect fit for a classy and modern living room or bedroom.”

“Whitemeadow have always been quick to explore new approaches to design – always with an eye on the commercial realities – and are a flexible manufacturing partner, with a problem-solving mindset. Their adoption of CGI marketing just emphasises how well they understand retailers’

needs, and what it takes to hit certain price points in today’s market.”

Whitemeadow’s sizeable stand at this year’s show featured 17 product ranges, divided into three key looks. One of the star products on display was Rocco, a sofa “designed for the interior design enthusiast”, says Whitemeadow.

“With a clear focus on clean and sophisticated aesthetics, this sofa was designed to perfectly complement the homes of trend setters. It has an inherently modern look, with high-spec materials and a wipe-clean fabric that makes this model as much about purpose as it is design. The colour palette for the fabric story we chose is comprised of rich, warm tones that invite relaxation.” Read more on p50.

Paul Farley, Whitemeadow’s head of national sales Oliver Keating, 48 JANUARY FURNITURE SHOW THE FURNITURE AWARDS
Whitemeadow’s sales director Daniel Oscroft, and Zoë Bonser Rocco, Part of Whitemeadow’s MODE collection

Champagne and champions

January Furniture Show party and The Furniture Awards presentation Hall 1, Birmingham NEC / Sunday 21st January

After a busy day of trading, the January Furniture Show’s exhibitors and VIP guests were invited to attend the buzzing show party at the new champagne bar in Hall 1, where they enjoyed well-earned drinks with colleagues, and were the first to discover the winners of The Furniture Awards 2024.


Whitemeadow’s design-led ethos shines

With a knack for combining commercial, every-home designs with a clever infusion of style, Whitemeadow is leading the way when it comes to design innovation –topping the category in The Furniture Awards this year, and enjoying great feedback at the show …

“We’re offering a more considered product

“In a world where our customers are innately online and switched on to the latest trends, Whitemeadow recognises their desire to be a part of those trends,” says the sofamaker – and it is here that the manufacturer excels, offering customers access to trend-led sofas at a commercial price point.

Whitemeadow has a unique flair for blending timeless shapes, liveable fabrics and distinctive details to offer customers what feels like a simultaneously safe yet stylish sofa. “It’s a unique yet vital concept, which has proven popular amongst today’s market, where customers are making more considered, low-risk purchases, whilst living in a trend-conscious world,” says Whitemeadow.

The company’s stand at JFS featured a wide variety of sofa styles, designed to allow every customer, no matter their taste, to celebrate “the joys of lounging”, says Whitemeadow: “Modular styles have been identified as a key trend, gaining popularity for their ability to adapt to every home with their customisable

nature. Other new ranges nod to the customer’s current need for versatility, with sofabeds serving multipurpose needs in small spaces.”

Synchronised with the latest colour trends, Whitemeadow’s new collection gently nods to an earthy colour palette with a neutral undercurrent. Rich, warm hues like retro marmalade and deep, soothing greens like olive complement the consistently popular neutral shades that dominate the market. This nature-inspired colour palette aims to bring the feeling of the outdoors into the home, creating a relaxing, warm environment in which to unwind.

“Comfort is key, and it’s at the heart of everything that passes through our design studio at Whitemeadow,” says design director Paul Ainley, “whether it’s a neat, high-leg sofa with a contemporary silhouette for a young couple’s first apartment, or an ultra-deep and spacious corner group for the modern family.

“We spend months refining and tweaking to create the perfect balance of style and comfort – from adjusting arm heights, to producing our very own interior spec. Our design innovation is driven by our mission to deliver ultimate comfort for every living room.”

JFS showcased Whitemeadow’s new approach to releasing collections. Each sofa range is launched as part of a style category, which represents a carefully considered customer, interior design trend and colour palette.

“The new categories demonstrate Whitemeadow’s extensive knowledge of consumer insights and interior trends,” the sofamaker concludes. “There’s a true commitment here to provide retailers with more than just a sofa – we’re offering a more considered product that’s not only driven by innovation and design, but backed by consumer behaviour, trend forecasting, and decades of industry knowledge.”

Rocco Thornham Rocco

Highly commended in The Furniture Awards’ Global Player category for a second year running, Italy’s Tomasella Industria Mobili was founded in 1948, and continues to maintain traditions of innovation and excellence to this day, providing custom-made goods built to order for the UK marketplace, on impressive turnaround times.

Tomasella’s new Class collection features the Grotticelle, Porticello, Panarea, Lipari and Vulcano sets, comprising a table, chairs, buffet, glass curio cabinets, a TV base, mirror and coffee tables. Class is defined by its signature high-gloss and matt finishes, in shades such as walnut and grey oak – all held in stock in Italy for rapid dispatch.

Tomasella recently opened a 110,000ft2 automated

warehouse and DC specifically to service its US and UK customers, and fresh dining and bedroom inventory is ready to ship, says export manager Enrico Carnelos – while the brand’s expansive JIT offer comprises more than a million combinations of colour and size.

“Tomasella is one of the world’s most custom producers of affordable luxury living furniture,” he continues, “and to meet high demand, we stock our best-performing pieces in our Italian warehouse for express delivery, with no minimum orders.

“We clearly understand stockists’ need to have exclusive distribution in their respective trading areas – including online sales – and they can rest assured that we will protect them in this regard.” HIGHLY COMMENDED 51 Tomasella414_JA.indd 1 14/02/2024 12:04
Porticello bedroom
DRIVEN TO LEAD. PROUD TO IMPRESS. Our new collection is ready for you. Discover our latest collection, curated with our signature Whitemeadow approach: innovative designs, unparalleled comfort and skilled craftsmanship. Get in touch with us:

Hard work pays off as Lebus delivers

With JFS typically providing a springboard and focal point for kicking off the new year, and the high level of uncertainty surrounding the economy, Scunthorpe’s Lebus Upholstery was very well aware that value had to be its focus in order to achieve the necessary results …

Led by that mindset, Lebus was “delighted” with the response to its new ranges, which exceeded all expectations.

Melrose and Megan in particular enjoyed a “phenomenal” reaction, says the sofamaker, with the models’ size, scale, comfort and value all “hitting the sweet spot”, and customer approval endorsed by the sheer volume of orders placed. Both ranges will be in stores by Easter, and promise to be a very strong addition to Lebus’ already successful collection.

“We stayed true to our value ethos and strong product offer

With the Petra and Jamerson models proving worthy runners-up, the addition of recliner offers also created a real buzz on Lebus’ stand, and again, says the business, the support was exceptional.

MD Karl Walker adds: “There is always a high degree of pressure put on the team to ensure we have the right proposition and to deliver the required result

at JFS. The market uncertainty added some additional challenges this year, but we stayed true to our value ethos and strong product offer, and I am delighted that all of the hard work and preparation delivered one of our strongest results at the show – a testamant to the team’s hard work.

“We are already looking forward to Manchester Furniture Show in the summer, and to further expanding our recliner and product offer in time for the back-end of the year.”

Megan Megan Melrose
VALUE & QUALITY T: 0207 738 2424 - E: 557-561 Battersea Park Road, London SW11 3BL

Standing ovation for JFS’ top displays

The January Furniture Show’s Best Stand accolades – awarded for a combination of design aesthetic, innovation, use of materials and the ‘wow’ factor – were announced at the Tuesday happy hour gettogether.

“Winning reinforces our position as leaders in the industry

Hall 1

Winner: At the Helm

Runners-up: Himolla Polstermoebel and Whitemeadow

Hall 2

Winner: Febland

Runner-up: Premier


Hall 4

Winner: Forte

Runner-up: LPD

Hall 5

Winner: Buoyant Upholstery

Runner-up: Lebus Upholstery

This year’s event saw many exhibitors go above and beyond to present their latest lines in the best possible light, so a few challenging decisons awaited the Best Stand award judges: Zoë Bonser, portfolio director at show organiser Clarion Retail; David Westbrooke, show manager at Clarion Retail; Willow Chamberlain, operations manager at the January Furniture Show; and Malcolm Walker, owner of consultancy, FIRST MW.

The judges picked a winner from each hall, based on the following criteria: design aesthetic and originality; visual impact; use of materials; and innovation in design and functionality.

Rochelle Bedford, head of marketing, At The Helm, comments: “The At The Helm team are immensely proud to have exhibited at this year’s January Furniture Show, where we not only showcased our finest creations but also had the honour of being recognised with the prestigious award for Best Stand in Hall 1.

“This accolade is a testament to our team’s

dedication, creativity, and commitment to delivering excellence in the world of furniture design. The award-winning stand truly embodied our brand’s ethos, creating an immersive and visually stunning environment that captivated visitors and industry experts alike.

“From the meticulous arrangement of our latest collections to the thoughtful consideration of every detail, our stand aimed to reflect the essence of At The Helm. Winning in Hall 1, a highly competitive category, reinforces our position as leaders in the industry and motivates us to continue pushing boundaries.”

Buoyant Upholstery’s development director, Glen Ainsworth, says: “We really enjoyed exhibiting at the JFS, it was great to see all our customers and the feedback to our new ranges was amazing. The icing on the cake for us was winning Best Stand in Hall 5. Well done once again to the entire Buoyant team.”

Hall 2 Best Stand winner, Febland Hall 1 Best Stand winner, At The Helm Hall 5 Best Stand winner, Buoyant Upholstery Hall 4 Best Stand winner, Forte Buoyant Upholstery’s stand Febland’s stand

Alpha Designs – winning business

It is impossible to know for sure how well a new collection will land – but the UK’s biggest furniture show is the best place to find out, writes Nichola Bell, sales director for this month’s cover star (and awards winner), Alpha Designs Upholstery …

OK, so carpets are overrated!

Enough said about that. Let’s move on.

Did January even happen? One minute I’m pulling Christmas crackers, the next I’m setting up at the NEC for another JFS!

“We are on the right track – but we’ll keep pushing ourselves

It was difficult to guage what the ‘mood music’ would be for the show when many retailers had claimed a very average sale period. But we had done our homework and worked very hard on sourcing new fabrics, achieving more competitive prices, designing and building a new stand, and presenting some nine new ranges – no mean feat with the small team we have at Alpha!

Ah, so that’s where January went.

It was a joy to see Hall 1 looking full and back to its former glory, and I was pleased to see many exhibitors had also upped their game and presented product beautifully.

Day 1 started off incredibly, but ended even better! The reaction to our new product and their prices was fantastic. Customers were in good moods, the buzz of

the show was going on, and my team were happy.

It’s always difficult to know what the winners are going to be by day one, but we had a clear runner with Jenson, a fun and funky show-wood model in exciting, on-trend colours. This remained the winner throughout the show.

The end of day one was topped by a great champagne reception in the new central bar area where Alpha Designs were recognised by winning Best of British in the Furniture Awards 2024! We are chuffed to bits to have won this award, up against many well-known and established businesses, and us just a young and fairly new business coming out of Bilston!

The rest of the week went by in a haze of frantically writing orders up, great conversations and the obligatory sore feet. It’s only a shame we don’t get to spend more time with our buyers – either we are busy or they’re dashing off to the next stand, but we hugely appreciate them visiting us.

We soon found that the next two winning products were going to clearly be Caleb and Ava. Both models share the same DNA as our current bestsellers in terms of size and scale, and we added a new ‘casual’ seat interior, giving customers an obvious choice of comfort and aesthetics – Caleb, with its soft and squishy feel, and Ava, a more sophisticated scroll-arm shape. Both understandable, everyday models.

With a fairly new design and commercial team in place, every day is a school day when it comes to understanding what our customers come to us for, trying new things whilst keeping our core values in place. The results from the show say we are on the right track – but we’ll always keep pushing ourselves ( and listening to our customers!).

So, now the dust has settled, the hard work begins again – making sure we get our products out to our lovely customers and start to see them set the floors on fire!

Fingers crossed …

For more information, contact


A big thank you to everyone who visited us at the January Furniture Show

Think Rugs goes “beyond the ordinary”

In the dynamic world of home furnishings, where quality and innovation are paramount, Think Rugs has established itself as an industry leader – indeed, its JFS showcase was not just a presentation of the latest offerings, but a demonstration of the company’s commitment to excellence in design, craftsmanship, and customer engagement …

Embracing the grandeur of the past while staying grounded in today’s comfort, Think Rugs’ Vintage collection is a testament to merging tradition with modernity. The range pays homage to historic Kashan designs, renowned for their detail and artistry.

“These rugs are visually striking, and embody the durability and ease of maintenance required for modern lifestyles, perfect for adding a touch of classic sophistication to any space,” says Think Rugs.

In contrast, the Baltimore collection captures the essence of modern aesthetics with its contemporary checkerboard pattern, available in a versatile palette of six colours. Each rug is designed to be a statement piece, with bold geometric presence that promises to anchor a room and resonate with current trends. The clean lines and stark contrasts make it a good fit for homes that celebrate modernity, inviting people to step onto a canvas where design meets daily life, “in stunning simplicity”.

For retailers and resellers, Think Rugs represents a partnership that extends beyond the ordinary, says the supplier: “Our unique approach to design integrates the latest trends with timeless techniques, ensuring each piece is not only aesthetically pleasing but also durable and functional. This blend of tradition and innovation was vividly displayed at the January Furniture Show, capturing the attention and admiration of industry professionals.

“Our customercentric approach helps our partners stay ahead

“A crucial aspect of our business strategy that garnered significant interest at the show is our advanced IT services. Recognising the importance of seamless integration in today’s digital age, Think Rugs offers comprehensive IT solutions that enable endto-end integration with any customer system. This facilitates a smooth and efficient business process for our partners through synchronising inventory, order processing and order tracking through FTP, EDI, or API.”

Customer service is another cornerstone of our brand philosophy, the brand continues: “At JFS, our team was not just showcasing products – we were building relationships. We understand the importance of listening to our clients, gaining insights into their needs, and adapting our offerings accordingly. This customer-centric approach helps our partners stay ahead in a competitive market, by offering products that resonate with their clientele.”

Think Rugs’ success at JFS is a clear indicator of its role as a key player in the home furnishings industry, dedicated to providing business partners with products that are “not just rugs, but statements of quality and style”.

“We invite you to join us in this journey of excellence,” the brand concludes. “Explore our collections, visit our website, or arrange a showroom visit to see how a partnership with Think Rugs can enhance your business and delight your customers.”

62 JFS
Think Rugs’
display proved popular JANUARY FURNITURE SHOW
Vintage Terracotta
T: 01782 747 713 E: For Every Home

Technology leads the way at La-Z-Boy

Smart sofas, new materials and an ambitious rebrand were the focus of La-Z-Boy UK’s stand at this year’s JFS …

“Long Live the Lazy highlights the importance of putting comfort first

The furniture manufacturer revealed three new collections at the event, with technology playing a key role in each of them. Wireless charging, heated seats, Bluetooth speakers, built-in spotlights and cooling cup holders were all features being showcased on the latest sofas to be released by the iconic recliner firm.

JFS was also the first opportunity for many retailers, buyers and visitors to see La-Z-Boy UK’s ambitious new rebrand – Long Live the Lazy – in action. The stand featured the new logo, branding assets and adverts, which are being rolled out across La-Z-Boy’s UK stockists.

The Long Live the Lazy campaign aims to celebrate taking time out to relax in comfort, reclaiming the concept of being lazy as a positive form of self-care. Visitors to the stand were also able to watch La-Z-Boy UK’s new television advert, which is currently being screened on Sky TV channels.

The advert highlights the importance of putting comfort first and aims to make La-Z-Boy the first brand consumers think of when they go shopping for furniture to help them relax and recline.

Welcome to the family

The three products being shown at JFS for the first time were Dixie, Mayfield and Williams. Dixie and Mayfield are both manufactured in the Far East, while Williams is made in La-Z-Boy UK’s factory in Colne, Lancashire, and forms part of its Made in Britain collections.

Dixie has a smart, contemporary design and blends comfort with technology. Sofas in the range come with the option of including a useful console unit with a storage box and hidden drawer where users can keep remote controls and other devices.

The console includes wireless charging, cooling cup holders and discreet spotlights which fold, providing extra light for reading and other activities. Dixie also has Bluetooth speakers, allowing people to enjoy their favourite tunes while they sit back in comfort.

Products in the Dixie collection come in a range of leather and fabric upholstery options and there is a choice of static, manual and power recline. Customers looking for an even more comfortable addition to their home can choose to add a power head tilt and lumbar support to the power recline models.

Mayfield has a more traditional style, but behind its classic appearance there is a modern twist. The power recline model comes with USB charging points and the option to include heated seats and a power head tilt.

Long Live the Lazy branding on the JFS stand Baxter

For those who do not want all the bells and whistles, the product is available as a static model and as a manual recliner. As with Dixie, consumers can choose from a wide range of leather and fabric covers.

Mayfield was displayed at JFS in Roxy, a new fabric which has been released for 2024. Designed to feel like a supersoft alternative to suede, it comes in eight colours, including neutrals like stone, mocha, smoke and shadow, and a bolder orange colourway known as pumpkin.

The new UK-manufactured product, Williams, has a sleek, modern design with twin needle-stitch detailing. Customers can customise the product, with a number of different seating combinations available, including a 2.5-seater sofa, a compact alternative to a three-seater.

A console unit can be added to both the two- and 2.5-seater sofas, which adds wireless charging, USB and USB-C charging ports so people can recharge their devices as they unwind. The console also includes useful storage space for devices and other items, and cooling cup holders.

The collection is available in a wide choice of fabrics, including a new cover being released for 2024 called Mory, which comes in six different colourways. Another new fabric being shown for the first time at JFS was Palma, available in nine nature-inspired colours, including stone, charcoal, pine and olive green.

At last year’s JFS, La-Z-Boy launched a new fabric, Anivia, and a leather, Calda, which were designed to appeal to the budget-conscious consumer. Initially, these competitively priced upholstery options were only available on the Paris collection, but they can now be added to all the collections being sold in the UK.

This decision gives retailers more flexibility over price points and will make La-Z-Boy collections accessible to a wider range of consumers. Anivia is now available in eight colourways, designed to be practical and fit in well with any living room.

Calda has a smooth grain surface and a luxurious feel on a par with more premium finishes, says the manufacturer. It is now available in 16 different

colourways, including bolder colours like aegean, marmalade and cranberry and subtler neutrals like oyster, bone china and beige.

Play on

This year’s JFS stand also included an NFL-themed area, celebrating the brand’s partnership with the American football league. La-Z-Boy UK is the official furniture partner of the NFL London Games, which sees major American football teams come over to Britain to play games in October.

Each year, La-Z-Boy runs NFL-themed competitions, and has provided VIP seating areas in the stadium where the winners can watch the matches from the comfort of one of the brand’s recliners.

In total there were 13 different La-Z-Boy UK collections on display at JFS. In addition to the new products, visitors were able to see Winchester, Georgina, Lennox, Baxter, Trent, Jones, Anderson, Paris, Vienna and Sloane.

“The manufacturer revealed three new collections, with technology playing a key role in each
JFS 65
Mayfield Dixie


Core Products launched its 2024 product offer at JFS, with an emphasis firmly on delivering even better-value-for-money products – as Core’s collections of affordable casual dining furniture were further enhanced with an extensive display of solid wood dining sets.

Renowned for its award-winning flat-packed furniture, Core recently expanded its casual dining offer with innovative and functional designs, a move which has been warmly welcomed by its customers.

On show for the first time was a completely revitalised range of solid wood casual dining and breakfast sets with a ‘live edge’ design feature.


Indian Hub, a leading manufacturer and wholesaler of hardwood furniture and accessories, describes its mood as “buoyant” after this year’s successful show. “There has been a huge response to every one of the eight new ranges we’ve launched so far this year,” states the supplier.

“The ranges showcase the latest innovations and are versatile, modern and eco-friendly in design. Available wholesale and for DHD, we have a vast selection of products and huge UK stockholding, with no minimum order requirements.

“For more details, call 01536 201000, email or visit our website.”

Featuring a choice of matching benches, stools or chairs, with tops finished in an antique wax which enhances the distinctive edge feature, and combined with a contrasting grey or black legs with tradesman styled underframes, the range’s overall effect creates an aspirational style (it is also made from responsibly sourced real wood, and comes at an affordable price, says Core).

There were also new breakfast sets designed to provide space-saving solutions for small-

space living. Core says its range of solid wood casual dining sets offers a transition between dining and living spaces.

Core Products specialises in designing products specifically for direct home delivery. With large UK stockholding, fully integrated online ordering and customer support, it is clear to see why Core was voted Best Flat-packed Furniture Supplier in Furniture News’ latest Readers’ Choice Awards.

Live edge breakfast bar set
Live edge dining set

Combining a timeless silhouette with a modern design aesthetic, Kinsley is a range which will become an instant centrepiece in your home.

Take your pick from a three seater sofa, two seater sofa and love seat –each of which comes with complementary feather-filled scatter cushions – plus armchair, banquette footstool and storage footstool.

Each element of the Kinsley range is available in a selection of stylish fabric colourways and is proudly made in Britain.

La-Z-Boy UK Manufacturing, Bradford House, Phillips Lane, Colne, BB8 9PQ Suppliers of handmade furniture to retail 01282 869888 •
British Made

Essence of excellence

At The Helm’s team is “bursting with pride” after participating in this year’s JFS, which proved not only a showcase of its latest designs, but a platform where the brand’s dedication and creativity were recognised.

“Securing the prestigious award for Best Stand in Hall 1 was an immense honour for the At The Helm team, symbolising the culmination of our relentless efforts to uphold excellence in furniture design,” states head of marketing, Rochelle Bedford. “This accolade speaks volumes about our commitment to deliver nothing but the best.”

“This accolade speaks volumes about our commitment to deliver nothing but the best

Indeed, the award-winning stand (see p58) reflected At The Helm’s very essence, with every element meticulously arranged, and every detail carefully considered, aiming to embody the brand’s ethos. The result was an immersive and visually captivating environment that impressed both visitors and industry experts.

“Winning in Hall 1, a highly competitive category, not only reaffirms our status as pioneers in the industry, but also serves as a catalyst for At The Helm to keep pushing the boundaries of innovation,” Rochelle continues. “I’m thrilled by the recognition our team received at JFS. It’s a testament to our collective dedication to crafting an exceptional brand that resonates with our valued customers. Seeing our efforts acknowledged fuels our passion to continue driving innovation and excellence in everything we do.

“I’m immensely grateful for the opportunity to be part of such a talented team, and I look forward to the exciting journey ahead as we continue to exceed expectations and inspire through our work.”

The feedback from retailers to the new collections was “overwhelmingly positive”, she adds: “Levels of craftsmanship, comfort, detail and materials that have been synonymous with the Signature Heritage collection over the years have transferred seamlessly to the Wanderlust and Modern Explorer collections, and retailers were simply blown away by the breadth and quality of the offering.”

A highlight of the show was the launch of the Hooker Furniture and Zenith cabinet and occasional collections. The resulting ‘Living At The Helm’ concept received positive reviews and compliments from across the sector.

“At The Helm extends its heartfelt gratitude to the organisers and judges of the JFS for providing a platform that celebrates and recognises outstanding design,” Rochelle concludes. “We look forward to continuing our journey of crafting exceptional furniture for both new and existing valued customers.

“Additionally, At The Helm thanks all the visitors who stopped by the stand over the four days, and looks forward to a busy year ahead!”

To arrange a showroom visit, contact a regional area manager or At The Helm’s Customer hub on 01908 986228.

At The Helm’s team was overjoyed to receive the Best Stand award Atlantis, from the new Wanderlust collection


Hestia Living, now a distinguished name in the realm of home furnishings and decor, recently embarked on a new chapter with the opening of a state-of-the-art factory in Macedonia.

This strategic expansion is not just a testament to Hestia Living’s growth, but a boon


MiBed has pioneered the manufacturing of adjustable beds since 1968, and has always been at the forefront of innovation and customer satisfaction. Its recent strategic move to a new factory, and the subsequent adjustments in its operations, have marked a significant milestone in the brand’s journey towards excellence and affordability, says MiBed, driven by a commitment to enhancing efficiency, leveraging advanced technology, and optimising the management of its supply chain.

“These operational improvements, and taking our deliveries back in-house, have had a direct impact on our pricing strategy,” MiBed continues.

for retailers looking for flexibility and affordability without compromising on quality or design, states the brand: “The Macedonia factory stands as a beacon of innovation and efficiency, allowing us to offer our retailers the unique opportunity to purchase items in either halfcontainer or full-container loads.

“This flexibility is a game-changer, making it easier for retailers of all sizes to stock up on our exquisite range of products, tailored to meet diverse market needs and preferences.”

Hestia says its design philosophy sets it apart. Led by a talented UK team, the workforce ensures that each product not only meets high

quality standards, but also reflects the latest trends in home decor. The designs are created to bring warmth, style, and functionality to any space, embodying “the perfect blend of traditional craftsmanship and contemporary aesthetics”, says Hestia.

By leveraging the capabilities of the new factory, Hestia Living is able to offer these design-led products at impressive prices. “This strategic move not only enhances the brand’s competitive edge, but also reinforces our commitment to supporting our retail partners by providing more value, choice and flexibility,” the brand concludes.

“By lowering our production and operational costs, we are now able to pass these savings on to our customers, making our adjustable beds more affordable than ever.

“This price reduction has positioned MiBed as the leader in the adjustable bed manufacturing sector, offering unparalleled quality at competitive prices, and our commitment to innovation, quality and customer satisfaction remains unwavering.

“The move to the new factory, and the adjustments in our operations, reflect our

dedication to not only meet but exceed customer expectations. By making our products more accessible, we are not just selling adjustable beds – we are enhancing the quality of life for our customers. MiBed is proud to lead the way in making comfortable and restorative sleep more attainable for everyone.”

MiBed is again offering a two-man delivery service, and has added a new adjustable model to its range, available for delivery in just three days – as well as a new motion divan.

Mattress hand-side stitching at Hestia’s new Macedonia factory Nebula Velvet blue sofabed MiBed principal John Hilliard at JFS MiBed motion divan

Protect-A-Bed promotes its protection club

The focus on each and every customer that walks through the shop door has never been sharper, as maximising every sale is vital, writes Gowsh Shan, national sales manager at mattress protection specialist Protect-A-Bed, at the end of a busy JFS …

“With lower footfall in stores, increasing the AOV has never been so important,” says Gowsh, “and Protect-A-Bed have continuously demonstrated their achievements in helping retail partners significantly grow sales.”

Protect-A-Bed returned to JFS this year, where it outlined the benefits of its mattress protection products from its stand in Hall 5. “As a business, we are constantly looking to help drive sales for all of our retail partners, and JFS is the perfect opportunity to discuss how we can significantly grow sales in their bed departments,” says Gowsh.

“Increasing AOV has never been so important

“Product innovation is one small element of how we unlock greater sales for our partners. The Therapeutics ranges, featuring Copper, Graphene and Charcoal mattress protectors, hasalready been a great success. And supporting our innovative mattress protectors is our specialist sales training, which is vital to unlock the sales potential. Our Protect-A-Bed team are incredibly adapable, and able to support this in any retail environment, driving attachment rates to over 70%.

“We support this training through a bespoke reward system, through the Protect-A-Bed Platinum Club,” he continues. “The Platinum Club has been running consistently for some years now, and the results have been excellent. Both existing and new partners have joined, and are benefiting from the club’s focused approach and rewards for growing sales. Indeed, the Platinum Club was designed to build, recognise and reward success with unique promotional and discount opportunities, sponsored incentives and tailored PoS solutions, as well as membership rewards.

“Protect-A-Bed’s ability to upskill your team and increase your sales revenue by maximising every sales opportunity has been well documented,” Gowsh concludes. “We can manage every step of the process for you and build a reward scheme through the Protect-A-Bed Platinum Club – there’s nothing to be lost, and everything to be gained.”

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The Leon occasional and bedroom range, which features a parquet-effect on a selection of the doors and drawers, creating an attractive, modern look, was among Seconique’s top sellers at this years JFS.

The bedroom collection consists of a two- and three-door wardrobe with drawers, as well as four different chests with spacious storage. The occasional range features a TV unit and hree display cabinets – which can be configured to give a media wall effect – as well as a coffee table with drawers, hall console and sideboard.

New launches also included Corona Rattan in wax pine, the Saxton retro-style range with a modern concrete- and oak-effect veneer, and the Portland and Oliver bedroom ranges.

Seconique’s sofa collection now includes: the Amalfi sofa in grey or champagne boucle

with anthracite metal legs; the grey, faux leather Roma relining sofa set with a handy fold-down cup holder; and the trendy Tivoli chair in blue, green, grey and champagne boucle with a black metal frame.

These are just a few of the high-value products launched by Seconique, which would

As JFS 2024 drew to a close, Sci-Net’s ERP>Retail proved to be “the go-to solution” for retailers navigating the challenges of the fast-evolving market, states the business management software provider.

Tailored for the furniture and flooring retail sector, this certified Microsoft Dynamics add-on operates within Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, promising efficient management, seamless integration, and automation.

Amidst spending constraints in big-ticket sectors like furniture, ERP>Retail excels in centralising functions, including PoS, supply chain, warehousing, web integration, reporting, and finance, says Sci-Net: “Its strength lies in

like to thank customers old and new for visiting it at the show, and looks forward to welcoming them back next year.

To find out more, and to see the full product range, call 0121 506 4888 to request a catalogue, visit Seconique’s website, or visit its extensive showroom.

boosting productivity and enhancing operations.”

The show saw the unveiling of Sci-Net’s latest innovation, ERP>>>Rapid, a templated, cost-effective solution designed for swift implementation in the furniture industry.

Drawing on industry insights, Sci-Net crafted ERP>>>Rapid to reduce development time and costs, making it an ideal fit for small-scale retailers looking to compete effectively without exceeding their budget.

Sci-Net’s team showcased these innovative solutions at JFS, providing industry professionals with first-hand insights into the capabilities of ERP>Retail and the features of ERP>>>Rapid.

“For those seeking a competitive edge, Sci-Net’s ERP>Retail and ERP>>>Rapid remain pioneers in delivering tailored solutions to meet the unique demands of the furniture and flooring retail sector,” states Sci-Net. “Call 01869 349949 or visit our website to find out more.”

Leon bedroom sofas

A big thanks to everyone who visited us at the



Award-winning German bedroom manufacturer Wiemann launched five new ranges, including three VIP choices, at JFS. As with all Wiemann products, the new introductions represent a combination of clever use of space with contemporary good looks.

The star of the show was new VIP range Lagos, which brings eye-catching new detail to the front of the wardrobe. The accented trim merges with the elegant floor-to-ceiling handle, which can be further accentuated by a stylish downlighter. Lagos is a hinged range available in a wide choice of finish combinations.

At the opposite end of the price ladder, new promo range Genf, available in two colourways and as a hinged or hinged-combi robe, joined Lagos as the centre of attention, due to its three height options (197, 216 and 236cm). Its modular design gives customers the flexibility to make it their own – combinations of doors in matt white or bianco oak, with or without mirrors, are set to be a winner for lower ceiling-height loft conversions or space-challenged spare rooms.

VIP collection Denver, launched at last year’s NEC show and a leading performer throughout 2023, proved popular again, thanks to its decking-effect doors on hinged and slider options, and the matt or glass door finish which give it a sharp, modern look.

Simon Hewitt, MD of Wiemann’s sole agent for the UK and Ireland, Litmus Furniture, says:

“We enjoyed a fantastic start to the year at JFS. It was great to see so many of our loyal customers and meet new buyers who had not viewed our product before.

“We also celebrated two decades of the Litmus-Wiemann partnership, during which time we’ve seen Wiemann’s sales in the UK and Ireland grow 20-fold. We feel we’ve got the right products, quality and customer service to keep on growing our business, and that of our customers too.”

The next chance to see the latest Wiemann ranges at a trade show will be INDX Beds & Bedroom (23rd-24th April) and Long Point (13-15th May). Current ranges are also always available to view by appointment at the company’s permanent showrooms in Long Eaton and Harlow.

Genf Perfect bedroom solutions from Wiemann made in germany Bedrooms of distinctive style, quality and value
Lagos Lagos from Wiemann

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This year’s JFS saw a Romanian Pavilion, delivered by the Romanian Furniture Manufacturers Association (APMR), showcase the work of nine businesses in Hall 4 – Alsena Com Impex, M-Oliver Design, Savini Due, Ecomatrix, Pelemob, Simex, Mobex Company, Pizeta Due, and Solid Oak Expert.

Demonstrating the woodcrafting skills for which Romania is renowned, the pavilion gave visitors an insight into a plethora of portfolios suitable for the UK marketplace.

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Solid Oak Expert Solid Oak Expert Pelemob


Stand contacts and local agents: MD



Stand contacts and local agents: MD

Darrell Tough 07967.175.351

Bob Colcombe 07733.073.442

John Whittaker 07860.421.191


Stand contacts and local agents: MD



Wales, Midlands and South West:

Stand contacts and local agents: MD

Wales, Midlands and South West: London North and East Anglia: North East: North West: Eire:

John Dodds 07866.318175

Giuseppe Castellano +39 3356213360


Bernard Conreen 07540.978143




Wales, Midlands and South West:

North and East Anglia: North East:

London North and East Anglia:

Wales, Midlands and South West:

North East:

North West: Eire:

Km 7, Contrada Pescariello, C.P. 205

Darrell Tough 07967.175.351

Kieron Friel +35 387.1231182



Bob Colcombe 07733.073.442

John Dodds 07866.318175

John Dodds 07866.318175

Darren McKenna 07715.056105


John Whittaker 07860.421.191

Bernard Conreen 07540.978143

Bernard Conreen 07540.978143


John Dodds 07866.318175

Kieron Friel +35 387.1231182



Bernard Conreen 07540.978143

Offices and Showroom: S.S 96

Darren McKenna 07715.056105

Bernard Conreen 07540.978143

Darren McKenna 07715.056105

70022 Altamura (BA)


Kieron Friel +35 387.1231182


080 3140194 / 8 • Fax +39 080 3140205

Darren McKenna 07715.056105

Showroom: S.S 96 • Km
• 70022 Altamura
• Italy • Tel: +39 080 3140194 / 8 • Fax +39
3140205 •
Offices and
Pescariello, C.P. 205
The homely feeling you desire More new designs than ever - Don't miss out a visit
• Tel: +39
Italy •
Ulster: Giuseppe Castellano +39 3356213360
ABIGAIL INDX Furniture Show 19 - 22 January Stand D9 January Furniture Show 21 - 24 January Hall 5 Stand D 20 The homely feeling you desire More new designs than ever - Don't miss out a visit Offices and Showroom: S.S 96 • Km 7, Contrada Pescariello, C.P. 205 • 70022 Altamura (BA) • Italy • Tel: +39 080 3140194 / 8 • Fax +39 080 3140205 •
Giuseppe Castellano +39
West: Eire: Ulster:
Whittaker 07860.421.191
- 22 January Stand D9 January Furniture Show 21 - 24 January Hall 5 Stand D 20 The homely feeling you desire More new designs than ever - Don't miss out a visit Offices and Showroom: S.S 96 • Km 7, Contrada Pescariello, C.P. 205 • 70022 Altamura (BA) • Italy • Tel: +39 080 3140194 / 8 • Fax +39 080 3140205 •
Anglia: North East: North West: Eire:
Giuseppe Castellano +39 3356213360
North and East
Friel +35
MOTTETTO CEZANNE REFRAIN ABIGAIL INDX Furniture Show 19 - 22 January Stand D9 January Furniture Show 21 - 24 January Hall 5 Stand D 20 The homely feeling you desire More new designs than ever - Don't miss out a visit Offices and Showroom: S.S 96 • Km 7, Contrada Pescariello, C.P. 205 • 70022 Altamura (BA) • Italy • Tel: +39 080 3140194 / 8 • Fax +39 080 3140205 •
Darren McKenna 07715.056105
contacts and local agents: MD
London North and East
Giuseppe Castellano +39 3356213360
Midlands and South West:
Tough 07967.175.351
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With the Institute of Consumer Affairs’ 2024 report stating that customer satisfaction levels have fallen to their lowest level since 2015, customers are voting with their feet – 40% of consumers said they would not shop with a business where they had previously had a poor customer service experience.

An ombudsman can play a pivotal role in resolving these issues, mitigating the risk of relationship breakdowns and restoring trust.

In this era of conscious consumerism, trust is paramount, and the steps businesses take to inspire consumer confidence are a key factor that influences consumer choice. In addition to resolving the dispute, an ombudsman has a role to improve standards in the sector under its jurisdiction by providing feedback, training, and to identify themes. Ultimately therefore, the ombudsman model works with businesses to prevent harms before they arise, ideally making the dispute resolution function redundant.


TRL Furniture is an award-winning furniture manufacturer and online retailer based in Nottingham.

The business hand-crafts all types of furniture in its workshop, using locally sourced materials. It then delivers the finished products nationwide, and installs them in the end-customer’s home, enaled by a two-person delivery team that provides “exceptional customer service”.

“By purchasing your furniture from TRL, you are supporting five other small, independent businesses in the Nottinghamshire area, which helps sustain approximately 50 local families,” states the manufacturer.

TRL offers a range of dining tables offering industrial, modern and natural looks – find out more on the company’s website.

In the furniture industry, businesses registered to the Furniture and Home Improvement Ombudsman (FHIO) can differentiate themselves. Not only can a business resolve disputes in a cheaper, quicker more flexible way – which is advantageous to both the business and the consumer – it can also take advantage

of complaints data, feedback and thematic recognition of issues across the sector to raise its standards, enhancing reputation and trust.

FHIO also runs a programme of accredited training designed to cover all aspects of the consumer journey, both in terms of their legal rights and customer service experience.

Sleek & Slender reclaimed dining table Photo courtesy Shutterstock/Gorodenkoff

Mammoth 2.0

The next generation of Comfort has landed

The new Mammoth Comfort collection combines market-leading health technologies with the most advanced materials to deliver a more comfortable and restorative night’s sleep.

Scientifically shown to improve sleep* where participants:

Experienced a 7% increase in sleep efficiency

Reported a 21% more enjoyable sleep

Independent testing* resulted in

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Introducing Avriio

Avriio, an upholstery brand that expertly blends aesthetics with comfort, made its debut at January’s imm cologne, marking “a significant milestone in the realm of contemporary furniture design”, states its distributor …

“Emerging as a luminary of distinctiveness in the furniture landscape, Avriio embodies a vision to conceive unique products for unique living spaces,” explains the supplier. “Each of Avriio’s creations go beyond the usual – crafting for those who seek more than furniture, instead these pieces will act as the centrepiece of any living space.”

“Avrrio has firmly established itself as a force to be reckoned with

The brand, whose ethos is “rooted in innovation and craftsmanship”, attracted a good deal of attention at the European trade show.

“Our stand was a testament to Avriio’s commitment to excellence, featuring a meticulously curated collection that seamlessly blended form and function,” continues the distributor. “Each piece bore the hallmark of impeccable design, marrying cuttingedge aesthetics with timeless elegance.”

At the heart of Avrrio’s launch was a dedication to pushing the boundaries of conventional furniture design. The brand’s ability to blend innovation with tradition captured the imagination of visiting design enthusiasts, says the supplier, setting “a new standard for excellence in the furniture industry”: “The sleek sofas designs exuded an air of sophistication and refinement.

“Each furniture piece was not only visually striking, but also ergonomically designed to enhance comfort and usability, catering to the evolving needs of modern living. And the use of premium materials, sourced ethically, underscored the brand’s commitment to offering customers a premium-quality product.

“Avrrio has firmly established itself as a force to be reckoned with in the world of contemporary furniture design. Its successful launch served as a testament to the power of visionary thinking and a steadfast commitment to excellence, with a 10-year guarantee for every product, a symbol of Avriio’s confidence in its craftsmanship – its journey has only just begun.”

Leading Avriio’s charge in the UK are David and Mark Gannon

Experience and reliability:

Experience and reliability:

With Rhenus Home Delivery, you have a dependable partner by your side who takes care of your storage and distribution, allowing you to focus on your core business.

With Rhenus Home Delivery, you have a dependable partner by your side who takes care of your storage and distribution, allowing you to focus on your core business.

Tailored solutions:

Tailored solutions:

We adapt to your individual needs and offer flexible storage solutions that are perfectly tailored to your company. This includes full pallet pick and multi-sku pallet pick services.

We adapt to your individual needs and offer flexible storage solutions that are perfectly tailored to your company. This includes full pallet pick and multi-sku pallet pick services.

State-of-the-art infrastructure:

State-of-the-art infrastructure:

Our new 260,000-square-foot warehouse at Magna Park, Lutterworth features over 32,000 pallet spaces, a 75,000 square-foot prep/cross dock area and 126 bay doors.

Our new 260,000-square-foot warehouse at Magna Park, Lutterworth features over 32,000 pallet spaces, a 75,000 square-foot prep/cross dock area and 126 bay doors.

Efficient handling and tracking:

Efficient handling and tracking:

Our expert warehouse management ensures smooth and fast processing of your goods, inventory management and live stock visibility

Our expert warehouse management ensures smooth and fast processing of your goods, inventory management and live stock visibility

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Komfi Kids Active comes of age

GNG’s environmentally friendly Komfi collection is continuing to gain fans, young and old, with the Komfi Kids Active mattress range proving particularly popular …

“The Komfi Kids Active mattresses also benefit from Ecofoam’s resilience and durability

As a relatively new addition to the well-established Komfi range, there are varying levels of comfort and fillings and also a choice of styles suitable for single beds, bunk beds and trundles in the Komfi Kids Active range.The mattresses are fully upholstered in a soft-to-touch, stretch-knit coolmax cover, which also features a zip below so it can be easily removed for washing.

The Komfi Kids Active range features Ecofoam in every mattress. Developed in-house by GNG, Ecofoam is an innovative material made from 100% recycled and re-engineered foam, resulting in a much ‘greener’ product, with a reduced carbon footprint. In addition, when an Ecofoam mattress reaches the end of its natural life, it can be entirely recycled.

Delivered vacuum packed, the smaller packages are easier to transport and result in a lower carbon footprint as well as being more compact to store, enabling retailers to hold more stock and provide quicker delivery to customers. Customers also have the convenience of easily being able to move the mattress to the room of their choice and unpack it at their leisure. Direct home delivery is also available as an option, resulting in easier online sales for retailers.

The Komfi Kids Active mattresses also benefit from Ecofoam’s resilience and durability, as well as being naturally dust mite resistant and offering impressive body support. The material creates a suitable sleeping surface for allergy sufferers or asthmatics.

Finally, with the entire Komfi mattress collection featuring the ‘NBF Approved’ hallmark, the mattresses give customers the extra peace of mind of a 10-year warranty.

With all of GNG’s mattresses manufactured in West Yorkshire at the group’s purpose-built 40,000ft2 manufacturing facilities, retailers are also assured of quick lead times from a reliable UK supplier.

The popularity of the Komfi Kids Active builds on the success of the KomfiMed range, which was launched last year and is still gaining momentum. 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.

One of the UK’s leading manufacturers of rolled mattresses in the UK, and accredited as a carbon neutral company, GNG is continuing to lead the way in mattress innovation. As well as investing in the latest machinery to enable it to stay ahead of the competition, GNG’s dedicated in-house product development team is constantly working to identify gaps in the market and to develop fresh solutions.

To find out more about stocking the Komfi Kids Active range or any of GNG’s other collections, contact the group on 01924 950300 or email

Komfi Kids Active Komfi Kids Active










Tel: A division of the GNG Group. NHS Approved Supplier
01924 950 300
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“Seamless” storage and distribution

In an era in which efficiency, reliability, and customer-centricity are paramount, Rhenus Home Delivery UK strives to be “a beacon of excellence in the realm of furniture storage and distribution” …

“Rhenus takes care of all the logistics, allowing you to focus on your core business

With a steadfast commitment to meeting and exceeding customer expectations, Rhenus Home Delivery aims to redefine the industry landscape through its innovative solutions and unwavering dedication to service quality.

At the heart of Rhenus Home Delivery UK’s success lies its expansive storage facility, meticulously designed to accommodate the diverse needs of its clientele. Boasting an impressive 32,000 pallet space capacity, including a dedicated bulk storage area spanning 30,000ft2, Rhenus offers a safe haven for products of all shapes and sizes. Whether bulky, fragile, or challenging-to-handle items, Rhenus’ German-designed racking configurations ensure optimal storage efficiency, with pallets of up to 1.4min height seamlessly integrated into the system.

Moreover, Rhenus Home Delivery’s state-of-the-art prep/cross-dock area, equipped with 126 bay doors, operates around the clock, facilitated by dedicated staff working in shifts seven days a week. This operational prowess enables Rhenus to handle high demand with aplomb, ensuring timely and efficient service delivery.

MD Vinny Riley underscores the company’s commitment to customer satisfaction, stating: “Rhenus Home Delivery is dedicated to providing customers with the highest level of security and convenience, as well as secure storage and distribution of their products. Rhenus takes care of all the logistics, allowing you to focus on your core business.”

Customised delivery and complete transparency

In addition to its impressive storage capabilities, Rhenus Home Delivery prioritises personalised delivery solutions tailored to meet the unique needs of its customers. From delivering to the customer’s room of choice – be it the garden or garage – to providing Proof of Delivery (POD) and images for added peace of mind, Rhenus promises a seamless end-to-end experience for its clients.

The company’s commitment to transparency is further exemplified through its advanced tracking system, which provides customers with realtime visibility throughout the delivery process. By leveraging the Rhenus Transport Management System, customers can track their deliveries every step of the way, ensuring transparency and confidence in the service provided.

A commitment to next-day delivery excellence

Rhenus Home Delivery’s dedication to raising the bar in furniture storage and distribution extends to its next-day delivery service, which covers over 95% of the UK. With an illustrious 18-year legacy in premium delivery services, Rhenus stands as an industry leader in the two-person, last-mile delivery sector, delivering home and lifestyle goods with “unmatched” precision and care.

Inside Rhenus’ modern storage facility

Rhenus says its nationwide next-day delivery and collection service signifies a monumental milestone for the company, underscoring its agility and adaptability in meeting evolving customer demands. Supported by a cutting-edge national DC and strategically positioned depots, Rhenus ensures the swift and efficient delivery of products, cementing its reputation as a trusted partner in the furniture industry.

Elevating the customer journey

As part of its ongoing commitment to excellence, Rhenus Home Delivery continues to elevate the customer journey through targeted initiatives aimed at enhancing service quality and satisfaction. From multiple quality control checks at its central DC to specialised training for warehouse and driver staff, Rhenus leaves no stone unturned to ensure a seamless and memorable experience for its customers.

Through strategic partnerships and innovative tools, such as what3words for precise deliveries and bespoke animated guides for property preparation, Rhenus Home Delivery demonstrates its unwavering dedication to customer-centricity. This commitment is reflected in its exemplary 5-star Trustpilot score after over 16,500 reviews, reaffirming Rhenus’ position as a trusted leader in the industry.

In addition, and in line with its commitment to enhancing customer convenience and streamlining the delivery experience, Rhenus Home Delivery UK is proud to introduce new WhatsApp functionality. This tool empowers customers to effortlessly query their orders and make real-time changes to their deliveries with just a click of a button. Additionally, the company has implemented new self-service features within its client portal, enabling clients to complete actions more efficiently without the need to wait for manual intervention from its team.

In conclusion, Rhenus Home Delivery UK’s relentless pursuit of excellence in furniture storage and distribution is setting a new standard for the industry. With its expansive storage capacity, personalised delivery solutions, and unwavering commitment to customer satisfaction, Rhenus Home Delivery UK says it continues to redefine the boundaries of service excellence, empowering businesses to thrive in an ever-evolving marketplace.

“If you are a retailer or business owner looking for tailored storage solutions or a two-man delivery partner, we at Rhenus Home Delivery UK can help! Contact us via email at or call 07745 540524 for a quote,” concludes the fulfilment specialist.

“Rhenus offers a safe haven for products of all shapes and sizes
Rhenus is a leader in the two-person, last-mile delivery sector

Furniture reuse in the spotlight

Last month, the Salvation Army Trading Company (SATCoL) collaborated with the Source Home & Gift show, part of Spring Fair, to showcase the charity’s recycling technology and partnering opportunities for brands and retailers looking to extend the useful life of their products …

“Reusing and repurposing the items we receive is crucial to helping sustain our planet

Working with brand partners and organisations, SATCoL, the trading arm of The Salvation Army, helps to raise funds for the charity through nationwide reuse and repurposing schemes including a new Furniture Reuse scheme which calls for businesses to donate excess, returned, end-of-line and showroom sample furniture stock to be upcycled and resold in the charity’s 240 retail outlets.

Each year, SATCoL diverts over 250 million items to good uses, including over 62,000 tonnes of textiles, and the profit it receives from the resale of these items supports the work the charity does across the country, providing specialist support for survivors and potential victims of modern slavery, shelter for those experiencing homelessness, and more.

Source Home & Gift, which took place at the NEC Birmingham from 4-7th February, is a responsible sourcing show that aims to put the home and gift supply chain at the fingertips of eco-concious UK buyers.

Kirk Bradley, head of corporate partnerships at SATCoL, says: “We were thrilled to be working with Hyve Group on the Source Home & Gift show. It was our first time exhibiting at the fair, and our panel discussion was a great opportunity to create awareness for our sustainable solutions for brands and retailers. We have several schemes that are available, including Take Back and Corporate Donations, where we can receive excess, customer returns and faulty stock, and help to divert items away from disposal, and the work we do helps to raise vital funds for The Salvation Army.

“We are part of a society that overconsumes in

many areas. Our role in minimising the environmental impacts of products is to divert as much as possible away from disposal and lessen the burden of over production. Reusing and repurposing the items we receive is crucial to helping sustain our planet, one donation at a time.”

SATCoL’s panel discussion at Source Home & Gift can be viewed at

Source Home & Gift will return to the NEC from 1st-4th September, alongside Autumn Fair. For further information about SATCoL and its partnership opportunities, visit the company’s website.

“The work we do helps to raise vital funds for The Salvation Army



Point-Of-Sale is as important as Stroolmount’s flooring and furniture protection products.

There are two Protect and Care Display Stands, plus Factsheet Boards.

1 Cardboard Retail Display Stand holds up to 90 packets, depending on the packet you choose.

2 Wooden Counter-Top Rotary Display Stand In 4 quarters it has 8 prongs and holds up to 96 packets, depending on the packets you choose.

on counters



Factsheet Boards for Self-adhesive Felt, Furni-glides and Quickclick Glides. Lightweight, easily fixable to a wall or bring out by the till when closing a sale.

• Place Factsheet Boards on walls around your store…

• …or bring them out by the till when closing a sale.

• Gain add-on sales. See exactly which item fits best.

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“2024 has started much where 2023 ended, with the FCA very focused on delivering good outcomes and value for the customer through the sale of insured products,” says Castelan’s CEO, Martin Napper.

“Whilst this may sound onerous, in reality it makes us more and more focused on the evolution of our protection plans – making them the best they can be, with the best levels of cover available in the market today. Customer satisfaction is shown through our ‘Excellent’ rating on Trustpilot (4.7) from over 13,500 reviews.

When it comes to furniture, peace of mind protection pays dividends, says Stroolmount’s Gill Finch: “You plan. You design. You install. You worry about every little detail to make sure it’s perfect. And now you can protect your investment in flooring and furniture with costeffective ideas from Stroolmount.”

According to Gill, the protection solutions

specialist saves architects, designers and refurbishers thousands in costly repairs, replacements and insurance claims with simple protection solutions costing as little as 1p.

“As well as innovating to solve customer problems, Stroolmount is a one-stop solutions shop for all these, and more,” Gill concludes. “Why not get in touch to find out more?”

“Here’s an example: ‘Fabulous service. We were regularly updated by text as to when our appointment time slot would be. The service engineer arrived promptly and was so helpful and friendly. Every step of the furniture check was explained to us and we felt reassured rather than fobbed off (as we sadly do by some companies). Definitely a reliable, trustworthy company. Thank you Castelan Group. (BrunoS).’

“With strong and trusted relationships with

insurers, a nationwide team of technicians, and protection plans that give the customer more peace of mind than ever before, the Castelan team are the best-placed business in the furniture warranty market with which to partner, and we would be delighted to meet and demonstrate our commitment to you and your customers.

“Now, more than ever before, is a time to put your trust in a business that leads the market in compliant insurance schemes.”

Gill Finch Stain removal is just one of Castelan’s areas of expertise Castelan’s HQ in Weston-super-Mare
Trust has to be earned. That’s why so many clients trust us, year after year, to provide: Compliant insured warranty schemes ‘First Year Liability’ service delivery Comprehensive Care Product ranges Commercial build and refurbishment To find out how we can help your business call our Business Development Team on 0330 024 0315 or email Your customers love us too!

Upskilling retail sales teams (the right way)

Ready to refresh and revamp your furniture sales team? In this month’s article, industry training specialist Adam Hankinson (Furniture Sales Solutions) dives into how to size up their training and development needs so that what you teach is right for them – and for your customers …

If you’re a furniture retailer, how should you begin to create a training needs analysis framework that grows your team, and your sales?

Always start with WIIFM (what’s in it for me?) when dealing with salespeople. The best reason for them to do something is because it benefits them.

Think about what difference one more sale per week might make to them. If they’re on commission, and you can work out that an average order is worth £40, for example, then done consistently that’s £2000 per year. That should get their attention.

Spotlight on criteria

Let’s outline what we’re looking for. We want our sales team to: shine in attitude; vibe with customers; ask great questions; listen actively; build rapport; offer spot-on solutions; close deals with finesse; communicate like pros; understand finance options; have an eye for design; and ace follow-up. Not too much to ask?!

You might ask them collectively: “In each of these areas, what does good, better and best look like?”

By including them in the definition of best practice, you’re actually letting them co-design their own job description. They cannot argue with you about where the bar is after that.

Use data

Get creative with how you gather data. From client surveys and customer feedback to casual chats and mystery shoppers, from shadowing them in action to checking their performance stats, mix it up to get a full picture of where they stand right now. This ensures you’ve covered all the feedback loops that you might use in the future to measure progress.

Agree common thread and individual opportunities

You should prioritise one or two team objectives per week, such as, “Everyone is to bring their A game from 9.00am Monday morning, and this is now the agreed minimum standard of attitude for everyone,” and, “Each salesperson has one individual skill that they agree is an area of development for them to work on.”

Play to your strengths

Every player is unique and good at something with

your selling framework. Get them to identify these strengths, highlight them and praise them both publicly and privately. It’s always better for people to play to their natural strengths.

Get the team to do the training

You’ll be amazed how your team will grow if you trust them with their own development, and how creative they can be, given the right environment to thrive in.

Ask them to design short, impactful training sessions of various types and styles that gradually develop each of the areas they have already identified. Ask them to rate how helpful each of these sessions have been, and encourage fun activities, quizzes, presentations, interactions and team games to make learning fun.

Measure yourselves

Collectively, you already know what you’re looking for, by consistently focusing on how you’re doing against this benchmark: “How would you score yourself on closing against our agreed criteria of saying X, Y and Z?”

Most people are honest and objective: “OK, you’ve scored yourself a 7. What would make you an 8?”

This keeps everyone continually working on getting better. This is the real reflection of a ‘professional’ salesperson – they’re interested and take pride in how well they do their job, not just their results.

By creating an organic approach to the development of your sales team you really will see them help, support and encourage each other to grow and improve. And guess what? Your sales, reputation and customer delight will all improve too!

“You’ll be amazed how your team will grow if you trust them with their own development, and how creative they can be, given the right environment
Let your salespeople help define their own growth path, suggests Adam (image courtesy iStock/ISerg)
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Why home marketing spend is on the up

UK companies are continuing to increase their marketing budgets, according to the latest IPA Bellwether report, a quarterly study of marketers’ confidence and media spend decisions. Commenting on the report’s findings, marketing expert in the home and garden sector Leon Calverley, from digital agency Door4, reveals his thoughts on whether the general budgetary shifts will be mirrored by businesses operating in the realm of home and garden goods, and whether the trends regarding upward revisions in specific channels are a good idea or not for those in the sector …

While the recent Bellwether report [www.ipa.] serves as a comprehensive gauge for overall marketing expenditure, it closely echoes our own insights into home and garden retailers.

In the face of current challenges, businesses operating in the industry are strategising and actively marketing, with a longer-term lens, anticipating a return of consumer confidence in the latter part of the year through 2025.

In times of economic uncertainty, there has often been a tendency towards short-termism and solely focusing on performance marketing at the expense of longer-term brand building. However, insights from the Bellwether report indicate a noteworthy surge in investment in main media advertising, encompassing core traditional media channels, and events. This trend suggests a shift in focus among advertisers towards embracing more long-term brand-building strategies, where the objective is to safeguard and enhance market share while cultivating customer loyalty.

Brands have undoubtedly drawn insights from past challenging economic periods, recognising the importance of sustaining operations while also positioning themselves strategically for a robust recovery phase, whenever that occurs. And this is important in the home and garden sector, where customers aren’t always present in the market for bigger-ticket, non-essential items, so brand building becomes crucial to ensure they’re front of mind when they are.

The key, even during a cost of living crisis and recessionary headwinds, is to optimise marketing strategies that balance short-term gains with longterm brand building and business growth.

By channel, five of the seven sectors analysed in the Bellwether report recorded positive net balances during the last quarter of 2023: Events (15.9% of businesses indicated that they upwardly revised their budgets for events); direct marketing (12.6%); PR (1.9%); main media advertising, which spans TV, online and OOH (1.9%); and sales promotions (1.4%). Market research spending went down by a net balance of -5.0%, and ‘other marketing’ also contracted -6.4%.

We expect to see home and garden businesses taking a similar approach to media channel spend allocation.

“Balance short-term gains with long-term brand building

Budgets for search and proactive website optimisation will remain a strong area of investment. Similarly, given how important brand building is to capture customers when they do come into market, especially for a higher-ticket item purchase, investment will continue into ‘future demand’ channels and attention-rich media. This is to ensure the best bang-for-your-buck media investments.

As a guide, the Binet and Field 60/40 split is a good starting point for future demand versus performance in the home decor market.

As Meta and TV are the predominant force for homeowner media consumption (68% of these audiences are homeowners, according to research), despite the growth of platforms such as TikTok, spend will continue to be assigned to proven channels backed by audience insight.

For DIY brands, video and YouTube offers a particularly effective route to market. And mirroring the expected areas of growth as per the Bellwether findings, radio, TV and out-of-home advertising can play a significant role in driving growth.

An important factor in any approach brands take with their media mix is to be continually measuring and learning, adjusting campaigns for the best results as consumer spending habits change. Being able to measure the success (or otherwise) of a campaign also powers your ability to repeat at scale.

As this latest Bellwether report shows, trends are ever evolving – meaning that home and garden retailers operating in these conditions need to continually adapt, not only to fluctuating consumer spending habits, but also to what competitors in their space are doing.

If competitors are upping spend, whether that’s for short-term gain or to manage brand reputation amidst price increases, then businesses need to base their own decisions grounded with up-to-date intelligence and good advice. And maximising ROI in a crowded digital marketplace means that every penny counts.

“Brands have undoubtedly drawn insights from past challenging economic periods

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The scoop on product placement

Merchandising matters, and where your products are placed in your store can have a huge impact on profitability, writes our US correspondent, business growth and development consultant to the retail home furnishings industry, Gordon Hecht …

It was so warm during the last week of September in Del Boca Vista that the Christmas candy started to melt at the local Wal-Mart. While the leaves were turning colour in your town, me and my everlovin’ bride were able to take a beach walk and swim.

On the way home, we stopped for a couple of scoops at our local ice cream parlour. It’s been a while since we were there. I noticed that just past the front door they added one of those claw machines. You know, the game where you put in a buck and get to position a claw in the attempt to get a prize (retail value 75 cents).

That bright, sunny day saw the claw attract several incoming families. The kids (and several parents) were mesmerised by the treasure trove of the machine. Each munchkin was provided a dollar or two, and quickly invested in trying their luck at winning a prize – all before spending $4.50 for a scoop of Moose Tracks or Double Chocolate Malted Crunch.

The placement of the claw machine contributed to the amount spent. Had it been set in the back of the parlour, many people wouldn’t have seen it. And certain parents might have been reluctant to dish out dough to the kids after shelling out $25 or so on ice cream. Putting the same machine in a different spot would have reduced revenue.

Location, location, location

It’s probably the same for your shop. Based on walking paths, you likely have hot spots and dead zones in your store. It could be the lighting, or being by a window or door, or close to the store cash counter.

Stack that on top of what’s near the front entrance. Most shoppers make up their mind about your store after just 15ft of walking in. Do you put your best highprice merchandise at the door, or the hot-buy item on sale, or something in the middle?

The high-price item may cause sticker shock. Or else, everything else will look like a bargain. The hot buy may create a quick sale, but may not be the best sleeping option for the shopper.

Many stores merchandise by brand, others by support systems (hybrid, foam, innerspring bed). I’ve seen a few stores merchandise by comfort level, keeping the plush, firm, and medium beds grouped together.

Time to experiment

Here’s a couple of cool things about merchandising. Each store and market are a little different. We can’t really set an iron-clad rule of the ‘perfect’ way to do it. And while beds and bases are heavy, they are not nailed to the floor – meaning that merchandise is moveable, and merchandise is changeable.

Start your research with a velocity report. See which models are moving the quickest. Their current placements are probably your hot spots. If lowerpriced models occupy the hot spots, you may want to shift the higher-margin beds into those slots.

Next, check your slower-moving models. They may be in dead zones. You can reserve those spaces for your hot-buy and promo models. Those beds will sell wherever they are placed!

Your next step should be to review the logic and plan of your floor merchandising. Whether you arrange your samples by comfort, brand or support, the arrangement should be consistent.

It’s OK to mix it up every now and then.

Supermarkets and convenience stores – those with weekly repeat buyers – don’t change often, lest they disrupt customers’ shopping patterns. But high-dollar retail shoppers don’t repeat as often, and don’t have established patterns.

If you are unsure of where to start, call in an expert. Your factory sales reps are trained in the art of merchandise placement and can become an awesome resource in setting up your store for success.

Gordon can be reached at

“Supermarkets don’t change often, lest they disrupt customers’ shopping patterns. But high-dollar retail shoppers don’t have established patterns
Merchandising may have evolved, but the principles remain the same (photo courtesy 123RF/scharfsinn86)

Charge more – you’re worth it!

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 pricing, and how significantly it can impact a business …

Charge more for your products and/or services ... because you’re worth it!

For many years we set our pitch at what we thought was a fair price. We didn’t want to seem greedy or rip people off! However, the issue was that we were not charging enough – and it almost cost us our business when things came to a head in 2014.

It was at this point, following years of mounting losses, we appointed a business coach as a last throw of the dice.

The first thing we were encouraged to do was increase our prices by +10% across all

product lines. Which we did. Immediately, this resulted in reversing the decline of cash flow and increasing gross profit from +53% to +59%. This pricing policy was instrumental in turning our business around. It provided breathing room and funds to move forward.

Pricing is one area that business owners and individuals have full control over, yet it is something many struggle with. It is not greed or ‘ripping people off’ to charge enough to provide great service, invest in talent, and deliver quality experiences. It is in the customers’ and clients’ best interests that you

“We were not charging enough –and it almost cost us our business

price your offerings sufficiently to ensure your business and services will be available and thriving over the long term.

In conclusion, never underestimate your worth, be proud of the services and products you provide, and charge accordingly. Why? Because you’re worth it!

Do you undervalue the great products and/or services you provide? Is it harder to price a service than a physical product?

Discover more of Steve’s thoughts on his blog, at

Designed to work... Built to last Visit our new website CONTACT US Tel. 0161 702 7002 Email. Taking the effort out of moving & storing furniture Furniture show advert 188mm x 128mm x 4.indd 2 03/10/2023 08:34 102 OPINION


This is a full-time on-site role as a Gerber Lay Planner/ Lay Planning Manager located in Nelson. The Gerber Lay Planner/ Lay Planning Manager is responsible for creating and executing efficient and optimized lay plans based on model specification, production schedules, and material usage.

Salary: Negotiable depending on experience


• At least 3 years of experience in Gerber or Lectra Technology and cutting room planning, preferably in upholstery

• Familiarity with Microsoft Excel, Gerber Accumark software

• Knowledge of sewing techniques and construction methods, upholstery fabrics, and leather

• Excellent communication and interpersonal skills to work effectively in a cross-functional team environment

• Strong organisational skills to manage multiple projects in a fast-paced manufacturing setting where priorities often change

• Ability to interpret technical drawings, evaluate specifications, and make recommendations forLay Planning Manager located in Nelson. The Gerber Lay Planner/ Lay Planning Manager is responsible for creating and executing efficient and optimized lay plans based on model specification, production schedules, and material usage

For more information please email your CV to Glen Ainsworth, Development Director

Buoyant Upholstery Ltd, Hallam Rd, Nelson, Lancashire BB9 8AJ


TRL Handmade Furniture is on a mission in 2024, with some exciting plans for growth – and we want you to come and join us on the journey.

We are looking for a self-driven furniture agent/s who can drive TRL Handmade Furniture into new sales channels and territories with their incredible relationships and contacts.

The position is commission only, and we are very much open to what this may look like.

It is a remote role, with an office meeting bi-weekly in Nottingham, with regular online meetings where needed.

Interviews would be held in Nottingham in the first two weeks of March.


Friday, March 15, 2024


To apply, email founder/director Tim Lawson at

Made with customers in mind, we use the finest production techniques to ensure nothing leaves our workshop or showroom that isn’t in pristine condition – it’s the MA Living way!

Tailoring our furniture to individual requirements, we pride ourselves on the fact that we offer an easily-customised range of fabrics, accessories and headboards to ensure a finished bed perfectly complements a home and its unique style.

Want to work with us? We’re recognised nationally for our trend-focused designs, beautiful workmanship and exceptional customer service.

Contact for more details 01924 457333

BuoyantJob_JA.indd 1 13/02/2024 14:34
TRLJob_JA.indd 1 21/02/2024 17:51 Browse our technical reports, guides and templates created by furniture industry experts to support your business VISIT OUR NEW ONLINE BOOKSHOP Our members gain free access to these resources as part of their membership benefits 104


Miracles do happen, according to the message behind this year’s National Bed Month – explains Simon Williams, head of marketing and membership at the National Bed Federation (NBF) …

As many people associated with the bed industry in the UK will know, March is National Bed Month, the annual promotional campaign to raise awareness of the important role a good bed plays in achieving a great night’s sleep, and how that contributes to a healthy lifestyle.

The campaign is now in its 35th year – but is it still relevant in 2024?

Back in the 1990s it was embraced fully by the trade, with bed manufacturers selling special Bed Month products or offering king-size for double prices, free drawers or free headboards. Special in-store PoS material was provided by the NBF, including balloons, posters, window stickers and leaflets.

Independent bed retailers merchandised their stores accordingly and invested in local advertising, whilst the bigger names were able to advertise nationally. Thanks to the efforts of those working for the NBF at the time, the media got behind it, with coverage achieved in the national newspapers, radio and even national TV, as well as hundreds of regional and local newspapers.

Today, the retail landscape has changed beyond recognition from that of 1990. The demise of local newspapers and the emergence of online and social media means that successful retailers need to use an omnichannel approach.

The NBF’s National Bed Month campaign is now almost exclusively carried out digitally via social media, and relies on it being shared widely by all those in the bed sector – manufacturers, suppliers and retailers.

In the early days, the aim was to bring down the 16-17-year mattress replacement cycle, an objective which has been duly achieved. The campaign has had different themes over the years, including such notable ones as: Time for a New Bed; Say No to Second Hand Beds; Bigger is Better; Animal Heads; Get Up and Go Go Go!; The Seven Year Hitch; Toxic Sleep; and The Zombie Awards.

“The humble bed has the potential to be transformative

This year’s theme positions the bed as a ‘miracle product’, emphasising the positive effects regular, quality sleep on a comfortable and supportive bed has on our health and wellbeing. A new video, which brings the theme to life, will premiere on 1st March across social media platforms.

I originally had the idea of producing a TV ad based on the premise of a bed as a ‘miracle product’ quite a few years ago when I was working in marketing for a national bed retailer with a large advertising budget. It’s taken a while to come to fruition, but frustratingly the NBF doesn’t have the budget to produce it to broadcast standard or to air it on TV, hence why we ask everyone to share it as much as possible.

The video has a strong message – that the humble bed has the potential to be transformative because when we sleep on a comfortable and supportive mattress, we can feel, look, concentrate, and perform better – to name a few benefits!

The video is backed up with a comprehensive digital toolkit for retailers, manufacturers and suppliers to get involved, pointing consumers to, where the journey to a better life begins by buying a new bed made by an approved NBF member and available through NBF Retail Champions.

National Bed Month is as relevant today as it was back in 1990. The retail landscape, and the way in which we consume media, may have changed, but, as far as I’m concerned, a new bed can still be a miracle product. Go out there and sell it!

“A new bed can still be a miracle product. Go out there and sell it!
INDUSTRY PARTNERS Young Furniture kers xhibition. F U R N T U R E Wome i



Which social media platform works best for your business?

Jonathan Staker (Vanquish)

Linkedin. When used correctly and focused on, there is no better place for B2B business to be done

Nick Williams (Sweet Dreams)

This is new to us, but we are starting to gain really good exposure via LinkedIn

Tim Hobbs (Prestige Furniture Logistics) LinkedIn

James Dunne (Prestige Beds)

Currently Facebook produces most traction and engagement for us, particularly on the video campaigns we curate to promote our stores

Brian Levitt (Brian Levitt Sales Agencies)

I do use the Trade Only Furniture Group on Facebook. Surprisingly, some new leads come from this platform

Sharon Robson (Mattress Online)

The social media playing field moves and changes all the time, as does the way the individual prefers to be served and consume content, so we’re constantly monitoring our output to keep up with trends. For B2B content, we’re big fans of LinkedIn!

Gavin Boden (Rhenus Home Delivery UK) LinkedIn

Greg French (Westgarth Furniture)

Linkedin – not massively high engagement, but people see what we post. Top tip – to drive engagement, don’t sell or mention your products (ironically)!

Jonathan Burrage (Hydeline Furniture)

It depends on our target audience and the messages we are communicating. What’s important is remaining focused and not adopting a scattergun approach

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