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.