New figures from the British Furniture Manufacturers (BFM) reveal the impact of Brexit on pay across the industry.
A total of 56% of respondents reported that their ability to increase pay in 2020 was negatively impacted by Brexit uncertainty, in the trade body’s annual Wages and Conditions Survey. Respondents also cited that increases in National Living Wage and raw material price increases were contributing to wage award decisions.
Other findings include the variance in pay in the north of the country, where workers earned an average of £10.58 an hour, compared to £11.31 an hour in the south.
The survey details wage rates for more than 20 different occupations within furniture manufacturing, including logistics and transport. Full details of wage awards made, as well as those planned for the future, are also included.
Nick Garratt, BFM’s MD, says: “The Wages and Conditions Survey is an important benefit, available exclusively for our members. It’s a significant piece of work, with 4323 shop floor employees in 24 occupations sampled throughout November and December this year. It was also notable that 60% of respondents benchmarked the National Labour Wages and Conditions Agreement negotiated annually between the BFM and the GMB.”
The full report is available exclusively to BFM members.
What do leading national bed retailers look for in the bedroom? Furniture News speaks to James Hollas, bedframes and bedroom furniture buyer at Bensons for Beds.
James Hollas has been in furniture buying for over 25 years, and boasts extensive experience of sourcing from mainland Europe and the Far East.
Alongside over three years at Bensons, his resume includes four years as cabinet and online buyer at DFS, where he was responsible for the purchasing of all non-sofa products and launched the brand’s online offer and direct home delivery service. Prior to that, he worked in buying with Walmsley’s and Morley’s.
Following the launch of new lines and Bensons’ Sleep Diet – a profiling plan which matches customers with their ideal bed – James spoke to Furniture News about inspiration, trends and changing consumer outlook …
What’s Bensons’ design process?
Designs can come from anywhere! They can be my idea, an idea from a designer we employ, or a supplier’s idea. We used a designer to create the Lyon bedframe, for instance, and the Legend TV bedframe design was inspired by one of our suppliers.
And sourcing? Which shows/media inspire you?
I go to as many shows as my schedule allows. I particularly like Cologne in January and Shanghai in September. On top of that, company visits are crucial, and we’re trying to work with fewer suppliers so we can really bolster working relationships.
Atlas, from the Your Bed, Your Way concept
For inspiration, I read a lot of the interiors magazines (including Furniture News, of course!) as well as browsing Instagram and Pinterest. I also like to talk to anyone I know about what they’re buying and why they’re buying it – I’m slightly obsessed with the buying process!
Consumers are after more sustainable bed stories – what are your thoughts on how this will affect product trends?
I don’t see the ‘green story’ as anything but a permanent trend. It’s at the heart of what we do and who we are. Customers will (rightly) become more demanding about environmental issues, and will also become more interested in background detail. They will want to know exactly how it works, and will question companies who simply try and tick boxes with their sustainability practices.
It’s important for companies to look at every element of their business when it comes to sustainability, and they should be as transparent as possible about practices, to instil trust in customers.
Can you see any other overarching trends impacting the bedroom sector?
Two continuously growing trends are increased storage and multi-functionality. As living spaces get smaller, everyone needs to maximise these two aspects when thinking about what furniture they buy.
Our Alexis ottoman bed frame is a prime example of a bed which offers generous hidden storage space without compromising on comfort and design.
We’re also seeing a growing demand for choice and customisation, as more customers want to make their furniture bespoke to their own style and needs. One of our bestselling frames is Your Bed Your Way, which gives customers 54 choice combinations including bases, sizes, head-end styles and colours.
We’re planning to double the Your Bed Your Way offer by introducing an electric ottoman base, superking sizes across all options and a brand new headboard option. This means there will be 108 choice combinations, allowing even more customers to build their dream bedroom space. Customers need to feel involved in their purchases, rather than simply taking what’s on offer – and those looking for value are no exception.
Style-wise, the trend for eclecticism is also still strong, as many customers choose to curate their own look from different sources.
How are you differentiating your offer?
We are always trying to stay one step ahead of the competition with innovative designs and pioneering technology. I always like it when one of our competitors mimics our designs, as it shows how inspiring we are as a brand.
How else is customer demand changing?
Customers are becoming more demanding when it comes to product quality, lead times (they want it ASAP) and product design, and I relish these challenges. I think the customer is becoming more sophisticated and wanting more is a natural progression, so it’s up to us to keep up with these demands to cater to their ever-changing needs.
In terms of value-driven customers, there’s often a race to find the lowest-priced products possible, but it’s up to us retailers to educate about the benefits of higher-quality products. In the end, customers can be convinced to pay for a higher quality product – our job is to explain to them the differences and the true meaning of value.
GfK’s Consumer Confidence Index has recorded a sharp increase in optimism for the economy over the coming year, with the overall index increasing three points to –11 for December. Four measures increased – including the major purchase index, which increased by three points to +3 (one point higher YoY).
Joe Staton, client strategy director at GfK, says: “There’s a clear sense of a change in consumer sentiment this month. The picture for the year to come is much stronger with a two-point improvement in how consumers view their personal financial prospects and a very healthy seven-point jump on how they see the wider economy next year.
“We haven’t seen such a robust increase in confidence about our economic future since the summer of 2016. Despite official warning signs about the flatlining of Britain’s economy, we know that record high employment and below target levels of inflation are helping to boost consumers’ expectations for the year ahead.
“Importantly, for the retail sector, we also have an upwards revision in our major purchase index, a key figure during the remaining shopping days of 2019. The overall index score has failed to break into positive territory for the past four years due to confusion and uncertainty about the future direction of the UK. A great many people will be gazing into their crystal balls right now – ours indicates a rebound in confidence in 2020 based on renewed optimism and energy for a post-Brexit Britain.”
Bensons for Beds has announced a new partnership with sleep scientist Dr Sophie Bostock.
As the retailer’s official sleep expert, Sophie will become an integral part of its 2020 plans, supporting the brand’s continued ambition to help everyone achieve Sleep Wellness.
Sophie brings a wealth of expertise to the role, having spent the last six years researching and championing the importance of sleep science in the NHS and corporate settings. She was responsible for improving access to the award-winning digital sleep improvement programme, Sleepio, as an NHS Innovation Accelerator Fellow. She has delivered hundreds of talks, including for TEDx and Talks@Google, and regularly features as a media sleep expert.
Helen Nunn, Bensons for Beds’ marketing director, says: “We are delighted to welcome Sophie to the team. She is as passionate as we are about educating people on the importance of Sleep Wellness and we look forward to working with her on a number of exciting projects next year.”
Sophie adds: “I am thrilled to be collaborating with Bensons for Beds. Sleep is an incredibly powerful lever for improving health and wellbeing, and yet is still widely neglected, and misunderstood. I’m hugely looking forward to working with Bensons to help staff, customers and the public to become more confident about how to sleep well.”
Spring Fair, taking place from 2nd-6th February at the Birmingham NEC, has announced its new theatre line-up for 2020.
Across five days and three stages, visitors will be treated to fresh retail sector insights from world-renowned industry innovators and disruptors. Recognising that consumers’ needs and wants are evolving, Spring Fair’s theatre programme has been curated to help visitors identify opportunities to invigorate their retail business and fuel greater sales and profits.
For the duration of the show, Spring Fair’s Inspiring Retail Stage, located in hall 6, promises to offer some of the best ideas in retail. The stage will host seminars, celebrity Q&As and panel discussions covering topics such as sustainability, customer experience, and the move towards hybrid retailing. This stage will also delve into consumer trends and equip retailers with additional tools to better engage with customers and the community.
Alongside major industry keynotes, John Lewis, Selfridges, Google, PwC and Mintel, as well as show trend partner Colour Hive, will join the stage alongside industry commentators and independent retailers, to share their successes with the audience.
The Design and Source Stage, meanwhile, will feature as part of the show’s new Sourcing area in hall 18. Speakers will provide talks on how to get one step ahead of market rivals in 2020 by looking beyond the UK’s borders, while addressing the latest design practices and inspiration sources, and helping educate visitors on more practical issues such as product lifecycle management and sourcing techniques.
Among the stage’s speakers will be designers and creatives from some of the UK’s most well-known retailers and brands including Oliver Bonas, Harrods, JML, West Elm and Penguin Random House, alongside interior designers and international sourcing experts. Colour Hive, Spring and Autumn Fairs’ trend partner, will also be on hand to guide audiences through the colour, material and finish trends for 2021.
Covering the essential best practices for the retail industry in 2020 will be the speakers of the popular Retail Skills Theatre. Located in hall 2, this stage will host a number of educational speakers focused on delivering practical insights for everyone from fledgling start-up retailers to established online independents. Among the speakers will be management coaches, HR experts, digital consultants and PR strategists, with Google Digital Garage running a series of workshops within the theatre.
Charlie Cracknell, Spring Fair portfolio director, says: “The climate that retailers operate in is in a state of transformation. Whilst many businesses are making it work, business models are being challenged – at Spring Fair, we want to give ambitious retailers the knowledge and assurance that embracing real change and transformation opens the door to opportunity. Those that have that fresh thinking in their approach and put their customers at the centre of their business are those that will thrive.
“Our 2020 line-up is highly relevant for today’s challenges. It will help shape thinking and we anticipate it to be our most exciting yet. We’re taking steps to embrace and indulge inspiring ideas from the industry’s most exciting innovators and disruptors. We want attendees to leave feeling invigorated, inspired, and with a new mindset for the year ahead and beyond.”
Register to attend for free here.
Following the Conservative Party’s election victory, prominent UK associations are begining to return their verdicts on the result.
Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), comments: “We look forward to working with the new Government on the many issues facing retailers. The Prime Minister must now fulfil his manifesto pledge and urgently begin a fundamental review into the broken business rates system to relieve the burden on retail businesses and create a system fit for the 21st century.
“Retailers employ three million people across the UK, making the industry the UK’s largest private sector employer. It is therefore important that the Apprenticeship Levy is made more flexible to enable the industry to use funds for any form of accredited training to suit its skills needs and create a workforce fit for the future. Equally, retailers need to see action from Government to tackle retail violence. Every day, 115 people are attacked at work – no-one should go to work in fear.
“It is also vital over the coming days and weeks that the Government commits to bringing clarity on the UK’s future relationship with the EU and pursues a fair deal for consumers that maintains tariff-free, frictionless trade with the EU.
“With retail conditions the toughest they have been for a decade, the Prime Minister must act to support the successful reinvention of retail locations and local communities. We look forward to working with ministers on a strategy to strengthen the retail industry during this period of unprecedented change.”
Hew Edgar, head of UK Government relations and city strategy for the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), says: We congratulate Mr Johnson on his election win, and hope that his Government provides the stability the UK’s built environment craves, as well as the attention it needs and deserves. For too long, domestic issues have been sidelined by the Brexit debate, and this has negatively impacted investment and growth in land, property and construction.
“It is imperative that key issues, such as housing supply, high street and town centre renewal and climate change are a top priority for this Government. RICS will work with the new administration to ensure that these issues are tackled, in consideration of the social and environmental impact that any policy or legislation might have.”
International furniture and bedding group Harvey Norman selected leading mattress specialist Kaymed as its Homewares and Linen Product of the Year 2019, for its innovative Sleep Studio Pillows – and the Kaymed brand was named Sleep Surface Supplier of the Year at Harvey Norman’s annual award ceremony, hosted in Dublin this month.
The award is contested by some of the leading lights on the international bedding scene, including many leading manufacturers, and Kaymed describes this achievement as “a great honour”, which complements the fact that it previously won the award in five of the last seven years, and is an acknowledgement of its efforts in supplying the 12 Harvey Norman stores across various categories.
Robbie Auckram, general manager of bedding for Harvey Norman Ireland, says: “This award recognises the bed supplier who has provided the highest standard of customer service and the most progressive product innovations over the preceding 12 months. Kaymed, once again, impressed us in these areas, as well as their overall retail partnership approach, ensuring that not only did their product meet the highest level of quality, but also the service provided to the stores from all aspects of the business met this same standard.”
David Moffitt, CEO of Kaymed, comments: “We are absolutely delighted that our hard work and efforts to continually enhance customer service and product innovation are acknowledged by this prestigious award. The award is particularly meaningful because the winner is selected by staff and managers of the bed department within each store. This is testimony to the efforts of our 300 employees to make Kaymed the best and most innovative mattress manufacturer for retailers in the UK and Ireland to do business with.”
Pictured from left: Marty Paukste and Daven Healey, buyers from Harvey Norman; David Moffitt; Christine Martin, account director for Harvey Norman Group at Kaymed; Donal Heagney, Kaymed product development; and Conor Stapleton, Kaymed’s international sales and marketing officer
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January Furniture Show, which will take place from 19th-22nd January at Birmingham’s NEC, will take a step into the future with three advanced technology systems in 2020.
The first of these is a collaboration between Symmetry CGI, [show organiser] Clarion Events, KeyShot software and MC Designs, which will demonstrate how 3D modelling can be used in product development and product and brand marketing.
From its stand in hall 2, Symmetery CGI will explain how to create full product images and lifestyle shots from basic building blocks, and show how finishes and colours can be changed easily to show alternative colourways, finishes and lifestyle backdrops, giving manufacturers and suppliers the opportunity to see how a product will look without the need to make expensive prototypes or long photoshoots to generate product and lifestyle shots in different finishes.
For retailers, the CGI system will give customers the opportunity to view furniture in a room virtually, enabling quick and simple room planning, speeding up the selection process and removing uncertainty. Via a phone or tablet with an AR app, products can be superimposed into a customer’s own home, with a 360° view of a room, giving them an instant feel for how the furniture will look.
Second is JFSConnect. Returning visitors will be familiar with the event’s SmartBadge system, which allows them to collect sale and product information preloaded by exhibitors on the JFSConnect platform. Each entry badge has a Smart chip which interacts with the JFSConnect touchpoints on every stand, and by simply tapping these visitors can collect the data and exchange contact details with the exhibitor.
Lastly, JFS has developed a Networking Platform to help visitors plan their visit and get even more out of the event. Using JFS’ website they can search by company name, product sector, trail and hall, then highlight exhibitors and products of interest.
Dunelm has positively revised its profit expectations for the year, thanks to the transition of its customers to a new digital platform.
The retailer says that its modern, flexible, cloud-native platform will be used to accelerate the development of its customer proposition.
“Customers have responded well to the new website and we are delighted that during this critical transition period we did not see any adverse impact to our performance, maintaining our strong sales growth both online and in stores,” states the retailer. “Gross margins have been stronger than expected as a result of sourcing gains and better sell-through. Operational costs remain well controlled and in line with our expectations.
“In light of the above, the board now anticipates that the full-year profit before tax will be higher than our previous expectations, assuming no significant change in consumer demand as a result of the outcome of the general election.”