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Argos sales “ahead of the market” as Sainsbury’s integration continues

Argos sales “ahead of the market” as Sainsbury’s integration continues

In the 28 weeks to September 21st, Sainsbury’s saw underlying retail sales (including VAT, excluding fuel) decrease by -0.6%, driven by declines in general merchandise and clothing sales. LFL sales (excluding fuel) were down -1.0%.

Argos sales reportedly grew “ahead of the market”, and Fast Track delivery and collection continue to grow.

Investment in store estate continued during the half, with improvements made to 172 supermarkets and 158 convenience stores. 176 Argos stores were converted to a new digital format, and the majority of the remaining stores will undergo the transition by the end of the year. 

Chief executive Mike Coupe says: “We have created positive momentum across the business through strategic investments in our customer offer. We are investing in hundreds of Sainsbury’s and Argos stores, introducing new products and services and continually improving service and availability. As a result, customer satisfaction has increased significantly YoY.

“We have set out our plan to create one multi-brand, multichannel business. This will make the combined Sainsbury’s and Argos offer much more accessible for customers and gives us the opportunity to make our business more efficient. We offer great quality at affordable prices with convenient ways to shop.”

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Lacking in social skills? | Furniture News Magazine

Lacking in social skills? | Furniture News Magazine

For those in the furniture industry looking to raise their game on social media, the algorithm is king. It controls who sees your content and when they see it, and trying to overcome it without a guide is rather like climbing Everest in trainers and a jumper. 

The truth is, the algorithms behind most social media platforms prioritise paid-for content, so your organic posts are always at the mercy of someone willing to spend money on theirs. Then there’s the set of rules by which the computers judge your content – who’s engaging with it, what you’re saying, how you’re saying it, what type of content your uploading … the list is pretty long, always hidden and often changing. 

So, what can you do to combat the algorithm and make some headway in growing your followers?

Fortunately, there are a few rules you can follow that might help to make sure more people see what you want them to see. These aren’t a hard-and-fast set of rules laid out by Instagram or Facebook, but more some tried and tested, common-sense methods by companies such as ours that often yield results, so I might well be in trouble for giving away some trade secrets when my colleagues read this!

Introduce video

First off, social media platforms love a bit of video (many are explicit in it being part of the algorithm) and the more you can introduce videos into your posts, the better off you’ll be. Something as simple as a walkthrough of a project filmed on your smartphone (preferably with a gimble for a steady shot) can do wonders to improve your content in the eyes of the computers judging it. There’s been a sea change to video in the way we consume information online – whether that’s headline news or just updates from our friends and family – and the social media algorithms are just trying to replicate this. 

Embrace the new

Use the new features of platforms as much as possible, particularly when they’re ushering in big changes. A prime example of this is the introduction of Instagram Stories and Facebook Stories to combat the growth of Snapchat in the youth market. The move certainly shook things up a bit – Snapchat has been losing users for over a year – and, naturally, Instagram and Facebook will be keeping up the pressure. 

Prioritising the normal feed content of users that publish stories regularly is a way to do this. Also, with a limited lifespan, stories are a great way to inject a bit of humour and life into your social media activity without spoiling that corporate look (if you’ve got one to maintain).


Also reflecting the ongoing wars between social media companies, using cross-platform sharing tools to distribute one piece of content can also help to make you look good in the eyes of the algorithm-crunching machines. By creating one piece of content and then using the ‘share to’ functionality built into apps, you’re likely to record a better hit rate, particularly as that double dipping also means you’re posting more regularly on the platforms. 


The clue to the next tip is in the very name of the subject matter we’re involved in. Be social. Whether that’s asking questions in your posts, commenting on other people’s posts or sharing other’s content to your feed (making sure it’s not originated from a competitor), this is a great way to show the algorithm that you’re interested in more than sharing monotonous, often repetitive content. 

Along this line, hashtags are also a good way to get in front of the people that might be interested in your content, and even finding content that you might want to engage with by sharing or commenting. Just try and find the hashtags that are relevant – but not too niche to ensure you aren’t narrowing your audience unnecessarily. Also, don’t be silly – try and restrict yourself to two or three at most. 

Time it right

Timing, too, can play a role in getting your post seen. Just think of the times you look at content – on the way to work if you commute on public transport, lunchtime, watching TV, etc – and mirror this with your posts. It’s pretty likely that there’ll be others in your industry following just the same routine. 

I’m not promising that following these tips will be your answer to a dramatic rise in followers or page likes, but they’re certainly ones we use here to some success. Ultimately, it’s a process of trial and error, and experimenting is all part of it. Just remember, though, that paid-for content will always win through. It’s just the way things work. 

Tom Bourne is the creative director at Select First (industry PR).

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Devonshire’s year of change | Furniture News Magazine

Devonshire’s year of change | Furniture News Magazine

It’s been a year of change at Devonshire – but rapid evolution means the cabinet supplier is better placed than ever to meet the market’s needs.

Devonshire has changed a great deal this year. The cabinet specialist ceased manufacturing in Devon, opting instead to focus its attentions on the business’ sourcing, importing and wholesaling operations – while maintaining its finishing plant, enabling it to maintain the delivery of superior finishes for which it is known.

Meanwhile, after 27 years of service, the company’s owner Peter Hockin retired, handing the baton to his daughter Nicolle – who has big plans for the business. “The change at Devonshire has only just begun,” says Nicolle. “I’m spearheading a new strategy designed to make us fit for the future – while preserving our rich legacy.”

Visitors to the upcoming January Furniture Show – taking place at the Birmingham NEC from 19th–22nd January – will see new living, dining and bedroom ranges from Devonshire.

Exclusively created by award-winning designers, the new ranges feature solid woods, veneers and high-quality paint finishes, and will join other fresh developments that employ on-trend materials such as concrete, marble, rattan, metals and other timbers.

“We’re working with multiple designers to produce our new ranges,” says Nicolle. “We’re not going to compete with the low-end market – we’ll re-establish ourselves as a market leader through quality and exceptional service.”

To that end, Devonshire has refined its supply base, ensuring these new lines are made by fully-audited factories, and introducing robust service-level agreements to ensure timely supply and quality. Its QC team will continue to carry out documented quality control, both prior to shipment and through incoming inspections.

The company has also introduced a brand upgrade and a new website, and is implementing an EDI (Electronic Data Interface) system to assist order management and invoicing, making it even better equipped to help customers – large and small – grow their business. 

Its impressive portfolio of new products, globally sourced and design-led, is backed up by advanced stock management, storage and delivery systems, and also available through a managed mixed container programme. From its large warehousing facility, Devonshire’s own fleet of delivery vehicles offers customers a tailored delivery service, while a white-glove DHD service will be introduced shortly.

“I’m looking forward to driving the business forward even further in 2020,” says Nicolle. “Devonshire deserves to be in pole position.”

Pictured: Pebble

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Latexco acquires additional manufacturing site

Latexco acquires additional manufacturing site

Belgian latex foam, PU foam and pocket spring manufacturer Latexco has acquired a site belonging to textile manufacturer Seyntex near its headquarters in Tielt, Belgium.

Latexco is transitioning from being a traditional latex supplier to a one-stop-shop of bedding industry comfort. To be able to house its fast-expanding activities, Latexco was already partially renting the Seyntex site, located close to its other sites in Tielt.

The goal is that all Seyntex activities will be removed and that the site will be vacated by Q1 2020.

CEO Lieven Vandendriessche says: “At Latexco management we want to thank the board of directors for its continued trust in the company and for offering us this unique opportunity. This strategic investment will allow Latexco to build the factory of the future for its new activities. We will produce innovating and differentiating products in a competitive way, which will fuel our future growth.”

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New competition seeks contract design talent

New competition seeks contract design talent

The Furniture Industry Research Association launched details of a new design competition to support new talent to/within the furniture industry.

The 2020 Vision Design Competition will close with finalists being showcased at Clerkenwell Design Week (19th-21st May 2020), and the winners being announced at the event.

The competition is open to designers with less than three years in the furniture industry and all undergraduate students studying on furniture-, design- or architecture-related courses in a UK university. Due to the close connection with Clerkenwell Design Week, the 2020 Vision Design Competition is focused on contract furniture, with the aim of encouraging creativity and invention in reducing the impact of furniture on the world.

Phil Reynolds, COO of the Furniture Industry Research Association, says: “We’re very excited to be launching this new design competition, and it also shows the wider role of the research association. We’re not just here to support those who are established in the industry and who rely on us for knowledge, but we also exist to nurture new talent and give them a solid start to their career.

“In terms of the brief, to reduce our impact on the environment we have to reduce our use of valuable natural resources, transition from a throwaway culture and simply make things last longer. The furniture industry can take a leading role in this, but in order for this to happen we need to see a step-change from both the industry and consumers.

“2020 Vision aims to encourage those new to the industry to use their imagination, knowledge of materials and design to deliver an idea which is remanufactured or remanufacturable. Through showcasing the finalists at Clerkenwell Design Week we’re hoping to inspire others to see what is possible through innovation.”

Prizes include a £5000 fund alongside a trip to Blum’s manufacturing operation in Austria. Furthermore, and depending on the design of the winning entry, Knightsbridge Furniture Productions will help bring the entry to life.

Further details on the design competition are available here.

Pictured: One of the judges, Jay Blades, a furniture upcycler and presenter of the BBC’s Money for Nothing and The Repair Shop

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Wood Bros' charm offensive

Wood Bros' charm offensive

Since he joined the business in 2015, former ASDA ecommerce specialist James Sheffield has brought new technology and fresh thinking to Wood Bros, the purveyor of furniture brand, Old Charm. Furniture News learns more about his modern mindset …
What was the first thing you noticed when you joined the industry?

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Scottish agents’ association welcomes honorary member

Scottish agents’ association welcomes honorary member

Derek Young has been made an honorary member of the Scottish Furniture Representatives Association (SFRA), a group comprising 67 working (and 39 retired) members of the industry, and organises the Northpoint Show (taking place next April).

The SFRA was founded in 1965, and Derek joins a select group of just three other people who have been awarded the same recognition.

“Many SFRA members, both new and old, have benefited from invaluable advice given by Derek,” comments SFTBA treasurer and secretary, Bob Dymond.

Derek boasts many years’ industry experience, working with the likes of Christie Tyler, Alstons, Hammel of Denmark and (currently) La-Z-Boy (UK).

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100% Design rebranded for 2020

100% Design rebranded for 2020

100% Design is being rebranded for 2020. Twenty-five years after creating the UK’s first dedicated design trade exhibition, the event is being reframed as Design London during next year’s London Design Festival in September.

“Recognising the capital’s profound influence over A+D specification globally, Design London presents a new and enhanced proposition for the industry,” reads a statement. “The show will combine the world’s most sought-after brands with a wealth of emerging design talent to create an essential platform for those looking to source new products, meet new brands and make new contacts during the London Design Festival.  

“Building on the foundations of the last 25 years, the inaugural event will celebrate the capital’s thriving design scene and will be an inspiring and influential hub for the A+D community.”

More news, plus the exact show dates, will be revealed in due course.

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Change proposed for mattress recycling regime

Change proposed for mattress recycling regime

The Environment Agency recently released details on proposed changes to its waste exemptions regime, which focuses on three areas: raising the standard of operator competence across permitted waste sites; reforming the exceptions element within the permitting regime; and introducing a fixed penalty notice for household waste duty-of-care offences. 

The key waste areas which could be significantly impacted include tyre recycling, paper, cardboard and plastic recycling sites, and mattress recycling. 

The Furniture Recycling Group (TFR Group) has been working with the Environment Agency and DEFRA on the standard rules for the Environmental Permitting Regulations Consultation in relation to the mattress recycling industry. 

The proposed changes could see the Government remove mattresses as a waste type allowed under the ‘T12: manually treating waste’ and ‘S2: storage in a secure place exemption’ rules, reports TFR Group. The new standard rules would instead allow mattress recyclers to operate a mattress recovery facility at a specified location, to only deal with mattresses, to accept no more than 3500 tonnes of waste each year, to store no more than 220 tonnes of waste on the site at any one time, and to only carry out treatment that is for waste recovery only.

This treatment is restricted to the sorting, separating, baling, crumbing and shredding of mattresses, and the storage and treatment must be undertaken indoors. 

TFR Group welcomes the proposed changes set out in the consultation, and feels it is a positive step for the mattress recycling industry as a whole. 

MD Nick Oettinger says: “Currently, the exemption for mattress recycling operations is five tonnes (the equivalent of around 200 mattresses), which is not enough for a business to operate on. On the other end of the spectrum, the license required for dealing with more than five tonnes is not commercially viable for many mattress recycling companies. 

“The new standard rules permit will ensure only those who are serious about mattress recycling can obtain one, but will also be more cost effective to maintain, and help prevent the stockpiling of mattresses too. 

“The consultation demonstrates that mattress recycling, and bulky waste, is becoming higher up on people’s agenda, and increasingly in demand due to our bursting landfill space. It’s great to see the industry is being recognised in its own right within waste management, and this consultation paves the way for the future of mattress recycling.”

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Treasury report highlights flaws in business rates system

Treasury report highlights flaws in business rates system

The Government has published a Treasury Select Committee Report which identifies key flaws in the UK’s business rates system.

It found that: since they were introduced in their current form in 1990, the revenue business rates have generated has outpaced inflation; that they do not impact businesses equally, placing a disproportionate burden on physical businesses over online enterprises; and that although they are an important source of Government revenue, they have significant negative impacts, and simply tweaking the current system is unlikely to be enough.

The Select Committee recommends that the Government takes a deeper look at possible alternatives and prepares a consultation in time for the 2020 Spring Statement. In the meantime, it suggests that improvements could be made, including improving reliefs, reducing statutory limits for responding to appeals, and ensuring that the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) is properly resourced.

Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), says: “We strongly welcome this excellent report. The Treasury Select Committee has identified key flaws in our broken business rates system. The BRC has long been calling for many of the key recommendations. Indeed, fixing transitional relief, introducing an improvement relief to unlock investment, and better resourcing the VOA, were all the focus of a letter to the Chancellor signed by over 50 retailers in August. Any party that wants to support local high streets should commit to implementing the committee’s reforms as a first step. 

“Business rates are a significant driver of store closures and job losses, and retailers have been getting a raw deal for too long. While retail accounts for 5% of the economy, it pays 25% of the business rates. Such imbalances can be seen in transitional relief – identified by the committee as needing reform – which takes £1.3b from retailers and redistributes most of it to other industries. 

“The General Election offers a unique opportunity to address some of the imbalances that have contributed to tens of thousands of job losses for the industry. We urge political parties to support local shops, local shopworkers and local communities by including these recommendations in their manifestos.

“While the committee is right to recommend that Government reviews alternatives to the broken business rates system, it must not do this in isolation. Any review must look at the whole suite of business taxation with the aim of creating a tax system that is fit for the 21st century.”

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