Roger Lunde has been appointed the new CEO of Ekornes (the business behind the Stressless seating brand).
He will succeed Olav Holst-Dyrnes, who has led the Norwegian furniture group for six years, on 24th February.
Roger has extensive operational and management experience from international industrial and commercial activities, most recently holding the position of CEO of heating, ventilation and sanitation business, Brødrene Dahl.
“Ekornes has a unique position in its markets and an ambition for strong international growth in the years to come,” he says. “With hard and determined work, Ekornes has established a solid foundation for further growth. I look forward to getting to know the business, the employees and the customers, and to contributing to realise the company’s great potential.”
Specialist two-person home delivery company Keen & Able is celebrating growth as it continues to deliver a five-star service.
Keen & Able, originally set up in Long Eaton, Derbyshire with nine people and three vans in October 2016, now employs over 100 members of staff and has a fleet of 30 vans.
Specialising in bed and furniture delivery and installation, the company now transports over 120,000 beds, mattresses and other pieces of furniture each year, driving nearly two million miles to homes across the UK.
The company also boasts a mattress refurbishment service at its Long Eaton site, so returned or unwanted products that could otherwise have gone to landfill can be resold on the secondary market.
MD Guy Revis believes the company’s continued success is down to its approach to exceptional end-to-end customer service – a philosophy reflected in its 5-star Trustpilot score, which is backed by over 1000 reviews.
Guy says: “Keen & Able is truly a home delivery company with a difference. We pride ourselves on our two-person, white-glove service that is both professional and courteous. We are delighted that our commitment to exceeding expectations is routinely recognised amongst our customers, as we regularly score above 98% on our customer service ratings.”
Working in partnership with retailers and manufacturers, Keen & Able ensures that the customer experience is the best it can be. Utilising real-time, cloud-based traceability, the company guarantees a hassle-free service for retailers, manufacturers and customers alike.
Creating a noticeable difference in experience between the company and its rivals has been crucial to Keen & Able’s continued growth. Combined with the latest technology, dedicated customer service advisors are on hand at the head office – and, uniquely, from each of the delivery vehicles on the day – to deal with any customer queries and proactively and regularly communicate with them through every step of the ordering and delivery process.
Out on the road, specialist, highly trained, two-person delivery teams work in modern, clean, branded vehicles and uniforms, and take the product to the customer’s selected room of choice, acting as a brand ambassador for clients.
Guy adds: “Not only do we keep our retail and manufacturing customers happy by delivering what we promise, we also keep their customers happy by delivering on their preferred day in most areas of the UK, and going above and beyond what is expected. The customer is kept informed of their scheduled delivery time every step of the way, and upon arrival our white-gloved installers will take the product to the desired room and assemble as required, taking any waste packaging away with them.”
Following its set-up, the growth of Keen & Able has been rapid, with the delivery firm expanding and moving to a new head office and national distribution centre in Northampton in 2018, and the addition of a third satellite depot in Manchester.
Along with creating over 50 new jobs, the company has grown from 20,000 sqft premises to almost 100,000 sqft in total, across four sites (from Northampton to Dundee), to ensure the investment also leads to improved services on a larger scale.
Along with this new home, Keen & Able also invested £1m in brand-new, larger vans, leading to improved efficiency in terms of both routing and capacity, allowing the business to save up to one million road miles per year.
Indeed, Keen & Able takes its green credentials seriously. All packing materials and rubbish is taken away after delivery and recycled, so the customer has nothing to dispose of. The company also offers a disposal and recycling service for the furniture it takes away – including mattresses and beds – ensuring 100% landfill avoidance.
Keen & Able is certainly a future-facing business – and, as it continues to expand, the role of technology within its operation cannot be underestimated. Guy comments: “Embracing technology can give us valuable efficiencies in communication, stock management and route planning. Through our systems we can track every order at any point, ensuring there is complete visibility and security.
“Customers can bulk-book deliveries, and track their drop-shipping and storage digitally, and we can integrate these with our own systems. The company also has a number of other customer-centric touchpoints, and there is always a friendly and helpful voice at the other end of the phone to help arrange deliveries for customers that prefer a more traditional, ‘good old-fashioned’ approach.
“Still in its early years as a business, Keen & Able is not resting on its laurels. With a renewed focus on team training and creating an enhanced client experience through new depots in Rochdale and Scotland, the sky is the limit in terms of what it can deliver.”
EKM.com’s Rachel Smith explains how independent retailers can make the most of digital opportunities to compete in today’s complex omnichannel buying environment.
Much has been written about how furniture buying has become an omnichannel process, with digital and online customer experiences and buying processes converging (possibly more than in any other industry).
For many customers, buying furniture is now a multichannel process. Increasingly savvy customers will often research online, then visit a store to touch and feel the goods, before finally buying instore or online.
Blending digital and tactile might seem to provide advantages to the multiples, who can offer a consistent in-store experience nationwide, their digital and in-store experiences aligned – yet there are ways in which independents can turn their own strengths to their advantage …
Photo quality cannot be overemphasised. You can get to the technical details of goods deeper in your website, but the first feeling a customer arriving at the site should experience is inspiration.
With great photography, it’s arguably possible to hit higher than you can in-store. While products must always be truthfully represented, great photos can provide a more inspirational experience than even the best roomset under standard store lighting. The first impact your online store should aim to make must always be more emotional than practical.
Once you’ve got your customer’s emotional attention, it’s time to cater to their practical side. If they cannot actually come in-store to measure up for themselves, it’s important you provide them all the technical details they could possibly need.
While you should never stint on the practical details, you don’t want to clutter the aesthetic impact of your customer’s online experience. Good website design should make accessing comprehensive technical details intuitive and easy, without compromising aesthetics.
In a digital world, seek ways to get physical wherever possible. Just because you don’t have stores throughout the country, it doesn’t mean you can’t provide a tangible experience for customers shopping online.
Offering free fabric samples is a great way to allow customers to make physical contact with goods they’re considering. Although there is a cost for you, it’s a lot cheaper than running stores nationally, and often provides a psychological way of moving a customer a stage further towards a sale.
If you’ve got a physical store, localising your digital marketing is a smart move to entice more customers across the threshold.
Get out into the world
When marketing your products, think beyond your own website and store. Ways to get out in the world include loaning pieces to lifestyle magazines for roomsets. Do some research and reach out. Most will pay you a deposit and provide you with a photo credit. Reach out to housebuilders too. Many new-build home buyers decide on their furniture after visiting the show home.
One area where smaller independents can compete against multiples is the ability to customise. Make sure customers know that customisation is a possibility – many customers are happy to pay a premium for flexibility.
Cash in on niche
Celebrate your niche products. They are what make you unique, and are the very reason customers would come to a smaller independent over a multiple. Niche keywords are also easier to compete for when it comes to search engine optimisation (SEO).
Make it personal
Sometimes your niche can be you yourself. Providing customers with an understanding about you, your working methods, and what makes you unique means they’ll feel a more personal connection with you.
Be smart with influencers
Influencers are a controversial subject in marketing. When reaching out to them, go for quality over quantity. An influencer strongly aligned with your brand values with a few dedicated followers is generally better than followership alone.
GfK’s Consumer Confidence Index increased two points to –9 for January. Four measures increased, but the Major Purchase Index, which monitors willingness to spend on big-ticket items such as furniture, decreased two points +1 (one point lower YoY).
Joe Staton, client strategy director at GfK, says: “The first month of 2020 has given us a mini Boris-bounce with a two-point increase in our consumer confidence headline score. While January marks four years of the index failing to penetrate positive territory, we now have two consecutive months of improvement. This is good news. The latest measures concerning our personal financial situation for the last and next 12 months are encouragingly healthy and positive, as is the improvement in our view of the wider economic picture for the UK. This is linked to the uptick in the jobs and housing markets, coupled with low headline inflation and interest rates.
“The Major Purchase Index is the only measure to decline this month, reflecting January’s seasonal post-Christmas empty-wallet feeling, and further impacting the longer-term contraction and sluggishness experienced across the retail sector. However, if current trends continue, we’d expect a return to positive headline scores soon. Are we are finally seeing an end to the UK’s jittery consumer mood?”
With a turnover of €4.7b and earnings before tax of €499m (up +3.9%), 2018/19 was a record financial year for the Lars Larsen Group, owner of the JYSK global retail chain, despite significant investment.
”It is a result which we in the family are very satisfied with,” says chairman Jacob Brunsborg (pictured). “As a result of heavy investment, the earnings of JYSK were a bit lower than the previous financial year. That makes it even more important that our investment activities as well as a number of other companies in the group have delivered on such a high level that our earnings before taxes improved by €17.5m.”
Several of the group’s companies enjoyed YoY earnings growth. “Among others, I would point out Actona Company, where earnings have been more than doubled from €8m to €18m,” Jacob continues.
Another highlight was garden furniture producer Scancom, which delivered earnings before tax of €3.5m.
Bed manufacturer and foam converter Breasley is one of the most innovative players in its field. A specialist in vacuum-packed mattresses and unique fillings, best known for its Salus and Uno collections, the business is never short on stories – explains Breasley’s head of marketing, Clare Taylor …
What have you achieved since joining Breasley?
I’ve only been here since February 2019, and it’s been an action-packed 12 months! We have rebranded and relaunched our premium Salus mattress collection, along with full marketing collateral and a promotional campaign. We’ve also implemented a comprehensive PR, communications and social media campaign, and delivered three exhibitions. The work is varied, and there’s always lots to do.
How is your previous experience benefiting the business?
My degree is in International Management and German, with a specialism in strategic marketing. I worked across several industries including pharmaceuticals and railways, before entering the bed industry four years ago. I hope my experiences are benefiting the company in terms of bringing in techniques used in other sectors, strategy and planning, plus brand-building for the business as a whole.
As a marketeer, what’s your number one rule?
The main one would be – make sure you have a plan, and implement it!
Can you highlight any marketing campaigns you particularly admire?
I have always liked the M&S Plan A because there is no Plan B campaign. This has been around for a while now (since 2007 I believe) but is ongoing. I think it is a bold and memorable campaign which highlights their eco and ethical programme to tackle sustainable retail challenges.
Which themes are dominating the bed sector, and how is Breasley responding?
Obviously sustainability and the environment are two of the main themes, along with sleep and wellbeing. We are trying to address these themes through our innovative product development initiatives, bringing them to the core of all future product developments here at Breasley.
Does Breasley’s marketing prioritise lifestyle benefits over technical specs?
I think you need a balance between both. Buying a bed is quite a tactile experience, even though many products are purchased online nowadays. You still need to entice the consumer with look and feel first, and then satisfy their appetite for information.
The retailer wants something that looks great in-store, but they need to be armed with more technical detail to answer any questions thrown at them by the consumer. That’s why for the new Salus range, for example, we have varied the PoS package we provide, giving different levels of information for both the consumer and the retailer.
How have you adapted the PoS to suit Salus’ new look?
We really went back to the drawing board and started afresh with the rebrand. Breasley has always been generous with its support for retailers in terms of PoS. We invested in some great new photography, which really helped bring the brand to life, and is essential to support internet-based sales. We also provided additional information for retailers in terms of specification and training material.
Are there any other ways you’re helping retailers convey Breasley’s story?
We are using social media as a way to build and share the Breasley story, and asking our retailers to help engage with our content so they can share and interact with it to help spread the story of the brand to their customer bases.
What did you introduce at the January Furniture Show?
We showcased a revised Uno range, with the introduction of four new entry-level rolled mattresses offering great value. The new Salus collection was also on display, giving retailers another opportunity to view the new brand and updated collection.
How will Breasley’s identity evolve this year?
You will see more from Breasley in terms of building a consumer-facing brand.
Suffa, available in the UK through The UK Agency, is an experienced Portugese manufacturer recognised for high quality, durable sofas.
Suffa is exhibiting at the January Furniture Show in Birmingham – in hall 4 on stand E25.
In recent years, the business has grown at a fast, solid and consistent pace driven in the main by the innovative flexibility of its furniture.
Suffa maintains it is fully abreast of current trends, and indeed it sets to inform new design ideas in combination with a time-proven quality of construction and a vast experience in manufacturing, all serves to add customers confidence and goes a long way to creating successful partnerships.
The company’s main mission is to provide the national and international market with design and interior decoration solutions with an innovative and personalised character. Suffa has a sizeable range of products for the medium/high sector and the luxury range.
Suffa is exhibiting at the January Furniture Show on stand E25 in hall 4.
The results are in for The Furniture Awards 2020, as the UK’s top suppliers present their latest products at the January Furniture Show (Birmingham NEC, 19th-22nd January).
After inspecting the shortlisted entrants at the exhibition, a panel of top retailers and other industry experts has picked this year’s winners:
Living & Dining Cabinet
Winner: Fortune Woods (CM) – stand 2-D10
Highly commended: Gallery Direct (Madrid Walnut) – stand 3-L20
Winner: Wiemann UK (Glasgow) – stand 4-C50
Highly commended: Arte-N Furniture (Bed Concept) – stand 4-E50
Winner: Collins & Hayes (Bailey & Banks) – stand 1-C20
Highly commended: Cintique (Mayfair) – stand 5-D40
Winner: Gingko Electronics (Octagon One Desk Light) – stand 3-C40
Mattresses & Divans
Winner: Silentnight Group (Yours&Mine) – stand 5-G80
Now six years old, The Furniture Awards were developed by Furniture News magazine in partnership with the January Furniture Show to bring the industry’s most creative, intelligent and industrious suppliers to the fore.
The 2020 edition was sponsored by trade association BFM, digital marketing specialist Orbital, and furniture technology specialist Lectra. The winners will enjoy free stand space at next year’s show, plus £2,000 in digital marketing vouchers from Orbital.
The submissions were judged by: Dids Macdonald, ACID (Anti Copying In Design) and The Furniture Makers’ Company; Malcolm Walker, FIRST (Furniture Industry Retail Sourcing Today) MW; Royce Clark, Grampian Furnishers; and Mike Murray, Land of Beds. The panel was again chaired by awards co-ordinator, Furniture News’ Paul Farley, who says: “Another great supplier line-up is joining The Furniture Awards hall of fame this year. Watch this space – and our March issue – for more on why these businesses made the cut.”
The January Furniture Show runs until Wednesday.