The Dealer Report

For our annual look at the UK dealer market, we have once again handpicked a selection of the finest purveyors of furniture – asking them a range of questions, from personal successes through to Brexit.

 

Hunters Contract

Hunters-Brookfield

The Boss:
Gary Thomas

Respondent:
Stef Brennan

Geographical region covered:
We cover the UK and Europe and have recently completed projects in the UAE and Hong Kong.

Which brands to you mainly work with?
Knoll, Senator, Brunner, Humanscale, Orangebox, Vitra, Boss, Connection, Bisley, Interstuhl.

Where is your HQ and other locations if relevant?
Operations and Logistics – Dagenham Dock, affectionately known as ‘East Docklands’. London Studio – 46-47 Britton Street, Clerkenwell.

Is the coworking trend positive for your business and if so, why?
The coworking trend is positive for our business because it gives us opportunities to demonstrate our capabilities at finding cutting-edge furniture solutions for our clients. We aim to offer a fresh approach for every project, creating inspiring areas and maximising productivity, whilst promoting excellent wellbeing for their employees.

The last five years has seen continual growth, do you expect it to continue?
Ask me after March 29th!

What is your biggest challenge as a business and why?
Each and every client is different and every building is different too – so this requires that we adapt to every project. Our culture is the glue that holds our company together as we continually react and adapt to market innovations to embrace the biggest challenge our company, and industry, faces continual change!

Name an emerging furniture brand that has impressed over the past 12 months?
JDD – the UK furniture brand – has impressed us with their fantastic evolution of third space products.

ikon Furniture

Bespoke-Booths

The Boss:
Kevin Rawcliffe

Geographical coverage:
National & International.

HQ:
Manchester.

Main brands you work with:
Techo.

Is the competitive nature of the market: more, less or about the same as ten years ago?
As we are five years young, we are finding the market variable. We have clients who wish to invest in the right quality and aesthetics and then we have other clients who simply require a basic cost-effective solution – so two spectrums.

Is the coworking trend positive?
Coworking is positive to our business, however we are still finding that clients require identity within the environment; this gives the user a feeling of belonging.

Is the recent growth expected to continue?
Of course we all expect to grow and this will continue. However it is controlled and planned, I feel that there is a move for many clients to select an individual furniture company like ourselves and an independent fit-out company, thus having a more transparent offering.

Heatons Office Furniture

file5-24-edit

The Boss:
David Fielding

Respondent:
Mark Pearson, Business Development Manager

Main brands you work with:
We choose to not be specific anymore regarding suppliers.

HQ and other locations:
Our HQ is in Birkenhead, with other offices in Penrith and Congleton.

Is the competitive nature of the market: more, less or about the same as 10 years ago?
The  market is obviously more competitive, especially with more dealerships opening offices across the UK, rather than just their ‘home’ market.

Is the recent growth expected to continue?
Yes. There is a need to continually strive to improve your output to a client. In doing so you can demonstrate to others your success , which breeds more success. We enjoyed our first ever £1m month of furniture order input in November of 2018 and, looking at our pipeline, expect many more of those this year.


THE LAST FIVE YEARS HAS SEEN CONTINUAL GROWTH, DO YOU EXPECT IT TO CONTINUE?

The last five years have seen strong growth both at Day2 and in the market. Given the political instability at home and economic cooling further afield, we expect to see this plateau in 2019, and maybe fall back a little in 2020. We will of course keep pushing forwards!
– Guy Walsh, Day2

We are not seeing any slowdown in new enquiries, so it will come down to the quality of our tender submissions to ensure that our growth is maintained. We have invested heavily in personnel over the last year to maintain the standard of our project delivery. Our growth was rewarded last year as we were named ‘Furniture Provider of the Year’ at the 2018 Mixology North Awards.
– Mark Naisbitt, Ultimate (Commercial Interiors)

Notwithstanding a crisis event (such as Brexit!) our opinion is that the broad market may plateau or contract slightly. Certain market sectors will continue to present business opportunities, such as public and private sector de-centralisation from London, tech and global corporations expanding their European operations.
– Paul Hughes, Tsunami Axis

Potentially yes, (ignoring the obvious no deal impact), the trend was or is still going in the right direction. The types of furnishings and increased frequency of refurbishment is helping this greatly. Additionally, clients are prepared to invest more when they can see direct benefits for their people and business.
– Paul Glaister, Workpattern

Of course there is some uncertainty of the influence Brexit will have, but right now we feel well placed to prosper. In 2018 we delivered twice as many projects as the year before and we have a healthy pipeline of work planned for 2019, with lots of returning customers. We’re excited to see what this year brings.
– Mike McKeown, Tribe Furniture

With so much uncertainty around and matters out of our control, we continue to be positive. We fully expect that growth will continue and accelerate. The market is buoyant and full of good people doing great things.
– Ben Jones, Source Development

I would expect the growth to continue despite the current political challenges. Advances in technology continue to change the way in which we work and, as such, drive a more regular change to the physical office space. Providing the UK remains an attractive prospect for international businesses, there is no reason to believe that the market won’t continue to benefit from an ever increasing appetite to support employees with improved workspaces. While the residential market seems to be a little slow, the commercial property market is still showing a positive trend. We have certainly noticed growth within London, up north in Manchester and as far as Scotland.
– Jordan Fredericks, Saracen Interiors


24 Ltd

24-ltd-AvivaTower-Hi-020

The Boss:
Ian Vardigans

Geographical coverage:
UK and Europe.

Main brands you work with:
Senator, Allermuir, Orangebox, Boss, Connection, EOL, Frovi, Humanscale, Ocee, Poltrona Frau, Pedrali, CMD and Freewall.

HQ and other locations:
Oxford Circus, London.

Is the coworking trend positive?
24 has purposely worked in a serviced office environment for the last 15 years, giving us the flexibility and shared resources you find and require, such as legal, media and HR support. This has given us a real insight to our clients who are going down the WeWork style route and how we can offer services accordingly.

Name an emerging furniture brand:
Whilst they are not an emerging brand, the new furniture designs from Frovi have been a refreshing addition to our portfolio, which are very on trend.

Love Your Workspace

Technical-help-desk---Love-Your-Workspace

The Boss:
David Blood, Director

Geographical coverage:
Predominantly London and the South East but we also have clients nationwide.

Main brands you work with:
We pride ourselves on being completely independent, so we work with the brand that best suits the client’s requirements, budget and aesthetic.

HQ and other locations:
We’re fortunate to have a beach front warehouse and offices in (sometimes) sunny Brighton.

Is the competitive nature of the market: more, less or about the same as 10 years ago?
I think it’s remained equally competitive over the past 10 years. We’ve defined what we are good at and actively want to work with the clients who share our values and understand the benefits of investing in their people and workspaces.

Is the recent growth expected to continue?
With the frenetic building in London and the South East I’m optimistic that the market will overcome the uncertainty of Brexit and grow over the next five years.

Name an emerging furniture brand:
We saw fellow Brightonians Dare Studios at 100% Design and we really liked their contemporary pieces. We also love bespoke furniture designers Baines & Fricker; they’re ones to watch.


 

WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE AS A BUSINESS AND WHY?

Digital growth and transformation is our biggest ongoing challenge, and the acknowledgement that this is the new normal. We’re really focussed on this and are committed to adding value to
our clients by integrating the best of digital with real life relationships and customer care.
– Daniel Gray, Coexistence

My biggest challenge was finding the right people. A strong team is fundamental to a successful business, so building a team who are driven, engaged and dedicated is everything.
– Mike McKeown, Tribe Furniture

Brexit and the outcomes could become a challenge but this is hard to predict. We do know that, to remain competitive, we need to continue to identify manufacturers who can demonstrate their ability to create and bring forward-thinking products to market.
– Paul Mann, Penketh Group

Hiring the right people is our biggest challenge. We’ve got a great team and finding additional people in such a specialised field is tough.
– David Blood, Love Your Workspace

This must be to constantly look at emerging trends and bring them into our fold so that our clients are experiencing the best they can, and their expectations are exceeded.
– Kevin Rawcliffe, ikon Furniture

The biggest challenge for any business is hiring and keeping the right people. Secondly, choosing the right supply partners, as you cannot work with a client successfully without having the support of a team and a supply chain that enables this to work consistently. The final challenge is to ensure we keep a strong, positive financial position as this is one of the first things that a prospective client will research when deciding who to appoint as their supplier.
– Ian Vardigans, 24 Ltd


Showcase Interiors

Morgan-Stanley---Meeting-Pod

The Boss:
Nigel Boreham

Geographical coverage:
We cover all the UK, have an increasing presence in Europe and participate in strategic worldwide procurement projects.

Main brands you work with:
Showcase is truly independent and works with all leading manufacturers. In the last financial year we purchased from over 400 suppliers. It’s a customer centric approach that clients increasing appreciate.

HQ and other locations:
Our HQ is based in High Ongar, Essex, with a second office located in Old Street, London.

What is your biggest challenge?
Right now a poor government that hasn’t nailed the Brexit thingy!

Name an emerging brand:
Really hard to name just one, but I would say COR – their core range spreads across every part of a project, from working floors to client floors. They are a pleasure to work with and are always happy to work with the team to create the desired look and feel to meet design and client expectation.

From where do you gather your product/brand knowledge?
We invest time and energy with the suppliers, attending their knowledge sessions, trips to factories and visiting exhibitions. Knowledge from these is also shared amongst the wider team.

Office Furniture London

Incopro,-QVS---3

The Boss:
Steve Fitch

Geographical coverage:
UK mainland.

Main brands you work with:
Being an independent dealer, we represent over 250 quality, design-driven furniture brands. Due to current interior design trends, an average project for us will involve us working with at least 14 manufacturing partners.

HQ and other locations:
We are and always will be based in the heart of furniture land, Clerkenwell.

What is your biggest challenge?
Finding the right people is one of our biggest challenges – the furniture industry has been poor at bringing in fresh talent to this wonderful marketplace over the past 10 years. Having the right people on board with a commitment to customer service, a desire to learn and grow is fundamental to our continued growth.

Where do you gather your product/brand knowledge?
Experience, social media, supplier relationships, factory and showroom visits, A&D marketplace and, of course, Mix Interiors.

Momentum Contract Furniture

UWTSD-Library-Pictures-UWTSD-Library-Pictures-0010

The Boss:
PJ Statham

Geographical coverage:
UK wide.

Main brands you work with:
There are many brands in our portfolio for offices, hospitality and residential. Our biggest sellers include Senator, Pedrali, Andreu World, Manuel Larraga, Enea, B&B Italia and Meridiani.

HQ and other locations:
Cardiff.

What is your biggest challenge:
The single biggest challenge is the continual demand for the cheapest available furniture, often sourced from the internet and not all at suitable for UK standards. Not all designers appear to have time to understand what furniture is available and some seem happiest to pick whatever they already know.

Name an emerging furniture brand:
This is difficult as, while there have been some notable new appearances, there have also been some super new ideas from some of the bigger established brands. Pedrali, Akaba, Enea, Capdell and Iduna have launched some excellent new pieces, while I think that Morgan, Allermuir and Senator, plus Boss Design, have been at the forefront of British ideas. I do like Sancal’s own new fabrics too.

Think Furniture

41-_MG_3180

The Boss:
Tony King

Geographical coverage:
Focus on London, but UK wide with occasional forays into Europe for specific clients.

Main brands you work with:
We place a high value on our independence so work with a reasonable cross-section of manufacturing partners.

HQ and other locations:
Our main office is in sunny Margate, but we retain a small office in London.

What is your biggest challenge:
Knowing when to upscale or downscale investment in the company.

Name an emerging furniture brand:
No singular brand – I like what Rawside are doing but also like the ability of established brands such as Vitra to keep producing innovative products, such as Softwork.

Wagstaff

1070RegusEccles-16

The Boss:
Daren Miles

Respondent?
Bob Birkinshaw, Sales Director North

Geographical coverage:
Headquarters and corporate showroom in the heart of Clerkenwell, supported by seven regional offices across the UK.

Main brands you work with:
Many premium brands including Orangebox, Boss, Vitra, Ocee Design, Brunner, Humanscale, Hay, Frovi and more.

Coexistence

ARV-Chair-in-noma_Brdr-Kruger_photo-credit-Joachim-Wichmann_001_hires

The Boss:
Daniel Gay

Geographical coverage:
International.

Main brands you work with:
One of our core values is honesty, which feeds the belief that we should make our recommendations based on our client’s requirements and brief. Design, function and cost are all considerations when we suggest brands as part of a project. Often, it’s the people who represent the brand that make it more appealing and their ability to add value where others might not.

HQ and other locations:
We’re based in Islington, North London, but have warehousing and delivery partners across the UK.

Is the Coworking trend positive?
We’re excited about the growth of coworking spaces and how they’re promoting change in the workplace and within the industry. The more forward-thinking companies understand that they need furniture that not only sets the right tone, but also functions well in this environment. They’re looking to businesses like ours to help them realise their vision.

Name an emerging furniture brand:
Brdr. Krüger aren’t a new brand, they were founded in 1886 by two brothers, Theodor and Ferdinand Krüger. Now 5th generation Krüger, they have reinterpreted their collection for a contemporary audience with the campaign ‘a new turn on tradition’. A beautiful example of this is their collaboration with Studio David Thulstrup and the ARV chair, designed for the new Noma restaurant in Copenhagen.

From where do you gather your product/brand knowledge?
It’s important to learn the stories behind the brands and have an in-depth understanding of manufacturing methods, so that we can give the most informed advice to clients. Factory visits, our relationships with established designers and our work with design schools also help us to stay on top.

Source Development

US-BLUE-CHIP

The Bosses:
Ben Jones and Liam Woods

Respondent:
Ben Jones

Geographical coverage:
Scotland and where our clients take us.

Main brands you work with:
Kristalia, BuzziSpace, Brunner, Vitra, Ondaretta, Bralco, Mark, Sixteen3, Bene.

HQ and other locations:
Edinburgh.

Is the competitive nature of the market: more, less or about the same as 10 years ago?
The quality of our competition is excellent and has not wavered over the past 10 years. We are continually improving to make sure that we are current and number one in our client’s minds.

What is your biggest challenge?
Keeping everything current. With a focus on the A&D community we need to continually be ahead of the game in sourcing what is innovative and fits for our clients’ projects. Things change quickly in this industry!

Name an emerging furniture brand:
Jonas Ihreborn.

Hunts Office Interiors

Fiserv-Slough

The Boss:
Egon Hunt

Who is responding to this?
Jemma Grace, Head of Design

Geographical coverage:
London to Birmingham.

Main brands you work with:
Steelcase, Brunner, Moroso, Vitra, Allermuir, Rawside, Bolia, Orangebox, and Frovi

HQ and other locations:
High Wycombe.

Is the recent growth expected to continue?
With constant new trends emerging and the continuous development of our space, which demonstrates and promotes a palette of spaces including coworking, collaboration and regeneration areas to name a few, we are optimistic for the
next five years, and look forward to being a part of and contributing towards this innovative movement in modern day working.

Name an emerging furniture brand:
Over the past year we have worked closely with Bolia, who have introduced a range of stylish, Scandinavian pieces draped in a calming palette of fabrics and textures. It has been a pleasure to be able to
specify commercial grade products with an edge on residential design.

Penketh Group

MSP-Tech-Incubator-working-alongside-Workspace-Design-and-Build

CEO/MD:
Mark Penketh

Who are we talking to?
Paul Mann, Project Director

Geographical coverage:
Predominately the North West, but we have completed projects across the UK.

Main brands you work with:
Tender specifications can often dictate which products we sell, however we have relationships with over 100 manufacturers, with Bolia, Nomique, Steelcase, Sixteen3 and Ocee remaining popular choices.

HQ and other locations:
We have a Manchester city centre showroom and our HQ is Wirral, Merseyside

Is the recent growth expected to continue?
We have experienced several years of continuous growth and with our 2019 Q1 pipeline, we are optimistic that this upwards trend will continue for some time.

Name an emerging furniture brand:
Prostoria – their approach to design provides young, ambitious designers with the freedom and time to explore ideas, resulting in an award-winning, eclectic product portfolio that boasts functionality and technological artisanship.

Opus4

DSC_4160

The Boss:
Daniel Blackburn, Managing Director

Respondent:
Andrew Jackson, Marketing Director

Geographical coverage:
Nationwide.

Main brands you work with:
Senator, Allermuir, Orangebox, Sven, Frovi, Boss, Spacestor, Mobili, Creatif, Ocee, Gresham, Sixteen3, Vantage Spaces, Dieffebi, Quadrifoglio, Viasit, Narbutas, Hood Seating, 4D Creations.

HQ and other locations:
Stalybridge, Greater Manchester.

Is the recent growth expected to continue?
The irresistible force (workplace change for talent attraction) is at loggerheads with the immovable object that is Brexit. In other times, the detrimental, divisive effects of Brexit would almost certainly lead to a shrinking of the economy and, with it, a ripple effect, which would impact the commercial property sector. But we’re experiencing seismic changes to our market. Businesses understand that to attract and retain the best people, their workplaces need to be fit for purpose. Millennials and Gen Z’s come into the workplace with high expectations, moulded by their experiences through the education system. We believe the momentum driving these changes will lead to continued growth for another five years.

What is your biggest challenge?
As we look to achieve incremental growth, we face the same challenges that any business would: maintaining healthy margins and cashflow, and balancing a workload of multiple projects. We are fortunate to have a brilliant team and haven’t had too many issues with attracting and retaining good people. We hope it stays this way.

Umbrella Furniture

1055-FCA-56-2_UF

The Boss:
Matt Clarke

Geographical coverage:
UK & Ireland.

Main brands you work with:
Umbrella Furniture is completely independent and can work with any manufacturer on a project specific basis. Due to the credibility of our parent company, Wagstaff Interiors Group, we have direct relationships with
the brands we work with and do not wholesale. Some of our bigger accounts sit with Vitra, Walter Knoll, Hay, Muuto, Knoll, Fritz Hansen, Brunner.

HQ and other locations:
9 Brewhouse Yard, Clerkwenwell.

Is the Coworking trend positive?
Alongside the progression of technology, the coworking trend has allowed for a more flexible way of working, which has consequently provided us with the opportunity to offer our clients much more dynamic
workspaces whilst integrating an array of soft seating and breakout furniture schemes.

Is the recent growth expected to continue?
Umbrella Furniture’s advancement into its 5th year has seen the company reach newer markets and its team flourish dramatically. Contrary to the ever increasing fears surrounding Brexit, we feel
positive towards the years ahead and expect to grow in tandem with an ever-buoyant UK market.

Tsunami Axis

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The Bosses:
Mark Cawthorne & Rob Olding

Respondent:
Paul Hughes, Group Sales Director

Geographical coverage:
UK & Europe.

Main brands you work with:
Herman Miller and a broad selection of British, European and worldwide manufacturers.

HQ and other locations:
London HQ and showrooms in Edinburgh, Manchester and Frankfurt.

Is the Coworking trend positive?
The coworking trend has definitely been positive for Tsunami Axis. Our coworking clients are seeking differentiation, creatively redefining the workplace and they are hungry for innovation and fresh ideas. These drivers challenge our business to not only stay in tune but to seek new ways and partners to meet evolving trends.

Name an emerging furniture brand:
WON Design from Denmark have impressed us with their costeffective product with high-design aesthetics, which offer a touch of elegance to those schemes with fairly modest budgets. They are continually growing and evolving their portfolio of ‘Comfortable Scandi’, carefully mixing style and finishes to differentiate themselves from the pack.

From where do you gather your product/brand knowledge?
Whether it be the design, sales, quotes and procurement or project management teams, everyone has insight into the innovative and essential in the marketplace. Our knowledge is built the hard way, with an exhaustive round of globetrotting to international design shows, constant dialogue with our myriad of suppliers and marketleading experts to quiz them on their take on market trends and using our excellent relationships with the leading design practices to understand what tomorrow might bring.

Tribe Furniture

Blackstone-4

The Boss:
Mike McKeown

Geographical coverage:
We cover most of the UK but, on the back of our success over the past couple of years, we’ve been fortunate to gain opportunities to work on a number of projects across Europe.

Main brands you work with:
Tribe is an independent consultancy, which gives us freedom from manufacturer influence. This means we give unbiased advice on our unique understanding of the market. Having a broad and varied supplier base allows us to procure the right products based on our client’s business objectives, design, required function and budget.

HQ and other locations:
Clerkenwell, London.

Where do you gather your product/brand knowledge?
Our team are always exploring new, emerging products and brands. We always ensure that our weekly team meetings are held at showrooms, to help the team continuously learn about what’s innovative, whether it be a new piece of technology, material or item of furniture. In addition to this, we try to attend as many shows during a year as possible. In 2018 alone, we attended CDW, IMM, Stockholm Furniture Fair, Salone del Mobile and Orgatec.

Workpattern

image-1

MD:
David Wilkinson

Respondent:
Paul Glaister (Co-founder)

Geographical coverage:
North East.

Main brands you work with:
Herman Miller, Orangebox, Vitra and Naughtone.

HQ and other locations:
Gateshead. We provided the workstations and all loose furniture/lighting for City Electrical Factors (Mixology North Medium Commercial Interiors project of the year 2018 for FaulknerBrowns Architects) and also provided all the workstations, loose furniture, lighting and accessories for the amazing new Tombola HQ in Sunderland, via Ryder and Ward Robinson.

Is the competitive nature of the market: more, less or about the same as 10 years ago?
Whist the trend has brought some direct opportunities, the culture and catalyst it has had in influencing corporates has provided a very positive impact for us and the industry generally.

Is the recent growth expected to continue?
Potentially yes, (ignoring the obvious no deal impact), the trend was or is still going in the right direction. The types of furnishings and increased frequency of refurbishment is helping this greatly. Additionally, clients are prepared to invest more when they can see direct benefits for their people and business.

Salt & Pegram

Boden_5

The Boss:
Dominick Pegram

Who are we talking to?
Thomas Muers-Raby, Sales Director

Geographical coverage:
UK and Europe.

Main brands you work with:
Salt & Pegram are innovative and independent dealers. We work with brands that excite, dream big and deliver. Many are the most established brands, but others are the small, unheard of, emerging talents

HQ and other locations:
Shoreditch, London.

Is the competitive nature of the market: more, less or about the same as 10 years ago?
Our industry is still fiercely competitive. We consistently look to our key strengths of creativity, passion and knowledge to keep us one step ahead.

Is the recent growth expected to continue?
Most people agree that we’re due a recession. Brexit, and its uncertainty, has made it very difficult to predict.

What is your biggest challenge as a business and why?
There are two. Firstly, the industry is very nuanced and complicated and we’re lucky to have people that combine commerciality with creativity, but this isn’t a given. Secondly, I am constantly Impressed by our team’s depth of empathy and knowledge – but this is often undervalued by the market.

Contract Furniture Group

Princes-Golf-Club

The Boss:
Richard Bellamy

Geographical coverage:
We work with venues all over the UK.

Main brands you work with:
We provide furniture for a wide range of commercial venues including restaurants, bars and hotels. Over the last few years we have built partnerships with brands such as Greggs, Holiday Inn and Mercure, as well as working with independent venues across the country.

HQ and other locations:
We are based just outside Nottingham city centre in the East Midlands.

Is the Coworking trend positive?
The design of coworking spaces is more important than ever. They need a coherent interior that creates a community for people whilst still feeling like they are in their own business space. Our bespoke furniture becomes crucial for this, allowing us to create personalised fittings to perfectly strike this balance.

Name an emerging furniture brand?
We’re massive fans of Torre 1961 and their furniture and, as such, have begun working much closer with them over the past few months. The design of their products perfectly matches what venues are looking for at the moment – a sophisticated, high-end look. The curved back design of their furniture, coupled with the high-quality fabrics they use, allows them to create a range of sophisticated chairs that suits a range of venues, no matter their function.

Ultimate (Commercial Interiors) Ltd

Visualsoft---Newcastle

The Bosses:
Mark Hickey, Mark Naisbitt & Dan Platt

Respondent:
Mark Naisbitt

Geographical coverage:
We work nationally but have also recently completed a large furniture installation for a healthcare provider in Poland.

Main brands you work with:
Steelcase, Ocee, Nomique, Boss Design, Workstories, Guialmi, Ondarreta, Sedus, Connection, Alma, Luxy, Edsbyn, Senator, Allermuir, Knoll Mobili and Autex Acoustics.

HQ and other locations:
Our head office and showroom is in Silsden, West Yorkshire and we also have offices in Manchester, Newcastle and Liverpool.

Is the competitive nature of the market: more, less or about the same as 10 years ago?
The market is as competitive as before, if not more so, as dealers and FF&E providers are crossing over into different commercial sectors where they may have not previously competed. For example, we have gained a number of project wins within the hotel/leisure sector in the last three years.

What is your biggest challenge?
Getting the right people, market conditions, finding the right location. Recruitment is the biggest challenge we currently face – getting people on board with the same passions as the directors is not easy but, so far, we have got it right, most of the time.

Name an emerging furniture brand:
The launch of the NOS furniture system by Guialmi has changed how the traditional bench desk system can look and be utilised. With personalisation options and different footprints, we have seen great success with it over the past 12 months and expect further interest in the product in future months.

Rapid Office

Image-03

The Boss:
Andy Butler

Respondent:
Mike Hebron, Co-Director

Geographical coverage:
UK and Mainland Europe.

Main brands you work with:
We are an independent furniture consultancy established in 1980 and over the years have built trustworthy relationships with a number of manufacturers. It would be unfair to single out one or two.

HQ and other locations:
Our HQ is based on Essex/East London borders.

Is the competitive nature of the market: more, less or about the same as 10 years ago?
The market is as competitive as 10 years ago with more product choice than ever before. Rapid’s philosophy has always been to offer a first-class service not only at point of sale but also after, and we place a lot of effort and resource in this. We believe this retains our competitive edge in the market.

Saracen Interiors

Sirius-Scarborough-168

The Boss:
Mike Page

Respondent:
Jordan Fredericks, Marketing Manager

Geographical coverage:
UK nationwide.

Main brands you work with:
Frovi, Ocee, Task Systems, Connection and more.

HQ and other locations:
HQ is Aldershot, Hampshire with other office locations in London (Moorgate) and Manchester (Media City).

Is the competitive nature of the market: more, less or about the same as 10 years ago?
The market has certainly got more competitive, not only from a dealer perspective but Design & Build as a whole. The construction sector suffered from a downturn in the economic markets and uptake of commercial office space was low. The last 10 years have seen improved market conditions and with that an increase in the number of competitors fighting for a share of the market.

Day2 Interiors

DAY2-Project-1---comp

The Boss:
Jim Meier

Respondent:
Guy Walsh, Design Director

Geographical coverage:
UK, Europe and the Middle East.

Main brands you work with:
As an independent dealership, we like to keep an open mind when we approach new projects and we get amazing support from all our partners. In the last 12 months we have been particularly active with the likes of Vitra, Knoll, Haworth and Senator for systems furniture, Okamura and Interstuhl for task seating, as well as a broad spectrum of loose furniture brands.

HQ and other locations:
Clerkenwell, London and Doha, Qatar

Is the competitive nature of the market: more, less or about the same as 10 years ago?
The market is becoming increasingly competitive and, more importantly, the quality of our competition is increasing too. We constantly have to re-evaluate how we operate and the service we provide to ensure we continue to innovate and lead.

What is your biggest challenge?
Day2’s success has been built on the quality of its people, and recruiting the right staff into key positions is always challenging. The good news is we have added some great new talent to the team in the last 12 months and we are already feeling the benefits.

Name an emerging furniture brand:
Whilst they might not be an emerging brand, I have really loved Viccarbe’s latest collections. The Aleta range by Jaime Hayon has character and sophistication and Patricia Urquiola’s new Burin tables offer an elegant solution to presenting power and AV in a pedestal base. Patricia Urquiola has also designed some excellent products for Haworth, which will enhance their visibility in the design community.

Bureau

∏Renzo_Mazzolini_Photography_Trip.Com_ED_2018-4

The Boss:
Andy Russell

Geographical coverage:
United Kingdom.

Main brands you work with:
We are unashamed geeks when it comes to high quality, high impact commercial furniture and, whilst Bureau aims to maintain independence, we regularly specify market leading products such as Workstories, Knoll and Manipine. This being said, we have a dogged determination to constantly search for, discover and share breathtaking new ideas, inspirations and innovations.

HQ and other locations:
Our HQ is based in Edinburgh, but we will also be opening a stunning, 6000 sq ft showroom in Glasgow in the first quarter of this year. This, combined with our new London office and showroom in Whitechapel, in collaboration with new coworking brand X & Why, will give us fantastic coverage to deliver the best localised service to our key UK clients.

Is the competitive nature of the market: more, less or about the same as 10 years ago?
We see competitors get bigger and forget what made them great in the first place. We prefer to focus on what we can control. The bonds we make with designers, manufacturers and customers are authentic, genuine and long-lasting and so long as these partnerships are built around trust and respect, we will always set ourselves apart.

From where do you gather your product/brand knowledge?
Our exceptionally talented team travel the globe to bring the best of what’s out there to our partners and clients.


IS THE COMPETITIVE NATURE OF THE MARKET: MORE OR LESS ABOUT THE SAME AS 10 YEARS AGO?

Whist the trend has brought some direct opportunities, the culture and catalyst it has had in influencing corporates has provided a very positive impact for us and the industry generally.
– Paul Glaister, Workpattern

About the same. The market was very challenging 10 years ago and it is challenging today for different reasons. 10 years ago we were in the middle of a recession and there wasn’t enough
work to go around, today there’s too much work available but not enough skilled tradesmen to carry it out.
– Ronan Higham, Pure Fitout

For the mid-market, we think it is a lot more competitive than 10 years ago. Being able to offer both fit-out and furniture in-house is quite specialised and only a handful of companies do it well. As Design & Build contracts have become vastly more popular in the commercial office space – where one principal contractor will walk away with the entire prize – we have begun to see a large increase in traditionally steadfast furniture dealers suddenly teaming up with general builders/ developers to tentatively dip their toes into the interior design and fit-out market. We’ve also noticed the opposite is true ,where building contractors are actively seeking to partner up with furniture dealers (or ikea!) in order to be in the running.
– Phil Simmonds, Spatial Office Environments

We believe the competition between dealers has always been strong. However, the real change between now and 10 years ago is the competition between manufacturers. The marketplace is more
diverse than ever, with more niche businesses staking a foothold and with a much broader range of products.
– Andrew Jackson, Opus 4

Personally, I feel that the market is as competitive as ever. The consensus from my network is that the market is buoyant and there’s lots of work to go around. However, today’s market is one where the client is better educated, which leaves no room for compromise on design and quality. In turn, our industry has listened and become more professional. I believe the key is looking after hard-fought clients and delivering outstanding service throughout the processes, from conception to ongoing aftercare services.
– Mike McKeown, Tribe Furniture

The industry has changed so much over the last 10 years and there’s definitely more options available to venues nowadays. There’s a bigger need for a wider range of furniture, with more and more venues beginning to
focus on the design of their space by favouring high-end looks. As a result of this is that venues want more choice about what furniture they install to create their bespoke look. It’s no longer the case where there
is a couple of furniture suppliers with a few pieces of furniture in standard colours – there are so many options available.
– Richard Bellamy, Contract Furniture Group

We love a challenge and, since our move into Manchester two years ago, we have certainly seen our competition evolve and grow. Manchester is thriving and as more
southern-based companies are recognising this, we expect that the competition will continue to be strong.
– Paul Mann, Penketh Group

The market is constantly competitive – that element never changes What has changed is how price/cost is no longer the only determinant factor. Nowadays clients expect increased flexibility, creativity and a positive experience from start to finish.
– Mark Phillips, K2 Space

I believe the market is as competitive now as it has ever been. Client expectations are changing /becoming more demanding in terms of response and lead-times and the ‘Amazon effect’ (get it cheaper and quicker) is slowing pervading the industry.
– Tony King, Think Furniture

The market has become ridiculously competitive, with some sellers operating cheaply, happy to work on dangerously low margins and provide little in the way of aftersales and service. There is also a race to the bottom in terms of quality and expectation; with some dealers offering really cheap furniture, customers think they can pay little for top quality, but we all know Ruskin’s observations on buying too cheaply. It is also important for customers to check that the furniture and fabrics meet contract standards.
– PJ Statham, Momentum Contract Furniture

The marketplace has always been a competitive one and we would say it is about the same as it was 10 years ago, however, the role of the dealer has changed dramatically – 10 years ago a dealer could comfortably just represent a
couple of brands but the eclectic mix of product specified on major projects today means we must be experts in the whole marketplace.
– Steve Fitch, Office Furniture London

It’s a much more competitive market –there is an increasing requirement to demonstrate real value for money.
– Nigel Boreham, Showcase Interiors

The market has become far more competitive due to the access to pricing via the web and increased use of e-bids as a purchasing tool. The internet has made it difficult to decipher quality and service and has combined to make the market more transparent, but has unfortunately passed a line, which has made business cost neutral to a certain extent. The internet has made it difficult to determine product quality and service and has the danger of just focusing on price alone.
– Ian Vardigans, 24 Ltd

The industry has changed dramatically over the last 10 years, partly in response to market forces and partly out of necessity. It is the mother of invention after all, over-crowded and ‘unpoliced’ (some would argue the latter is still true).
The result has been the emergence and rise of consultants (and pseudo or plastic consultants!) combined with an increase in D&B companies developing furniture ‘expertise’. This has led to a squeeze of the traditional ‘dealer’.
I therefore believe that the market, or at least the market outside of D&B, is more competitive than ever, with the only winners being the client.
– Jon Odey, Sketch Studios


Sketch Studios

The-Atrium

The Boss:
Jon Odey

Geographical coverage:
EMEA (and India).

Main brands you work with:
Fiercely independent, representing 95% of the market.

HQ and other locations:
London Bridge, Heathrow, Surrey and now 10 locations across Europe.

How do you stay up to date?
As a true consultancy business, product, brand, market and wider industry knowledge is absolutely imperative to Sketch. We are proudly and fiercely independent, so maintaining and developing our knowledge in all of these areas is key. Our staff represent us at all the major shows across Europe, including 90% of the smaller shows, in order to experience first-hand what the market is up to. We also have a regular programme of ‘Lunch and Learn’ sessions and ‘pop-ups’ from manufacturers within our own space. We also invite suppliers from the furniture and associated industries to present weekly updates to our teams. These sessions also extend to our clients, consultants and any other organisation that we feel may impart knowledge and therefore benefit to our staff – from global leaders in IOT and AI, to having in-house WELL & FitWell APs. We also believe in sharing as much of this knowledge as possible with our clients and the professional world through our Lookbooks and RIBA and RICS approved CPDs. Also, having over 40 interior designers on our doorstep really helps us to keep up to date with the latest products and trends in the industry.

Alpha Office Furniture

Belfast-17-Danske

The Boss:
Paul Black

Geographical coverage:
Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland and GB.

Main brands you work with:
Steelcase, Senator, Orangebox, Ocee, VS, Quadrifoglio, Nowy Styl Group and Hands.

HQ and other locations:
Our group HQ is situated in Belfast, and we are also present in Glasgow, Oxford and Dublin, where we also have our seating and steel factory.

Is the competitive nature of the market: more, less or about the same as 10 years ago?
I think it’s very similar in many respects. Alpha have never been in the business of being price focused, so I guess we have been a little removed from that aspect. However, we have seen an increase in the number of businesses coming into the space we compete in – and that has not only meant we have to work a lot harder to stay in front, but has also had the effect of continually keeping us on our toes and not resting on our laurels

Is the coworking trend positive? 
I suppose it is a positive, as we have seen companies and promoters of coworking being able to raise their aspirations in terms of overall look and feel of their spaces, which has allowed us to really get into the detail and proactively influence the end result.

Is the recent growth expected to continue?
Hard one to answer – especially with the ‘B word’ floating around! Alpha has seen substantial growth over the last few years, but it will be difficult to sustain at the current rate. However, as we continue to diversify and investigate new markets, we should continue to see growth as a group for the foreseeable future.

What is our biggest challenge?
I would say market conditions, without question. Our business is similar to the industry in that we tend not to have a lot of visibility of how we will be doing outside of around three months – and it’s difficult to seriously
invest in certain areas that you don’t know to invest in until something hits you.

Rainbow

NTT WORKPLACE

The Boss:
Tony Antoniou, MD

Geographical coverage:
Rainbow are based in London but deliver projects nationwide and even internationally.

Main brands you work with:
We work with many leading brands, including Humanscale, Vitra, Orangebox, Flokk, Rawside, Senator, Techo, Narbutas, Ocee, Boss, Karl Hansen, Bene, Morgan, JDD, Brunner, Arper and Allermuir.

HQ and other locations:
We are based in Alexandra Palace, North London.

Is the competitive nature of the market: more, less or about the same as 10 years ago?
Our industry, like all other markets, is much more competitive than it used to be; mainly because of the internet. However, experience is vital when working on projects – and that’s why we continue to grow. Competition can be good as it makes us continually look at ourselves, the way we work, the way we present ourselves and at how we can improve – so I do enjoy it.


IS THE COWORKING TREND POSITIVE FOR YOUR BUSINESS AND IF SO, WHY?

We believe the coworking trend is a very positive one; for the furniture industry it brings us all new opportunities, often of scale. In our experience, the furniture consultant is typically viewed as a strategic partner, aligned to the business needs of the coworking clients. This allows for stronger, long-term relationships to be built as the projects roll out. The lead-in times are typically relatively short, the budgets can be tight – but we all like a challenge, don’t we?
– Matt Davies, The Furniture Practice

The coworking ‘trend’ has been positive for two reasons; one in that it has stimulated additional spend in the office sector and, secondly, it has promoted greater ownership of projects between our furniture and fit-out departments.
– Mark Naisbitt, Ultimate (Commercial Interiors)

There are always emerging trends which, on the surface, can seem a threat, but which can also provide great opportunities. Clearly, if everyone switched from long term lease deals to short term, shared, coworking spaces, many Design & Build workspace firms would go out of business overnight. What we are finding is, that the majority of companies still want ownership of their own building (either owned outright or leased), but want to embrace the design concepts that agile and coworking bring. Five years ago, business owners asked us for ‘Google’ style offices. Now they ask us for ‘WeWork’ style offices.
– Andrew Jackson, Opus4

We love working with innovative, fun and dynamic furniture brands. The coworking sector gives us the opportunity to challenge ourselves. The sector’s drive to be talked about, different and to stand out is an ambition we champion – and we get real satisfaction from delivering something special.
– Andy Russell, Bureau

Yes, definitely. Landlords are looking for new ways to market their properties to challenge the coworking phenomenon. More and more they are commissioning Cat A+ spaces: freshly refurbed, fully furnished, plug and play offices for growing businesses. That means that our client portfolio increasingly includes landlords as well as our core buyer, the tenant.
– Mike, McKeown, Tribe Furniture

Mixed. Whilst coworking spaces may mean fewer single tenant occupiers – and we need those – our brand often mirrors those of these new businesses and has led to some very successful projects.
– Thomas Muers-Raby , Salt & Pegram

Absolutely. When we started the business 10 years ago we considered calling ourselves ‘Everything but the desk’. Not even sure if coworking qualifies as a trend anymore, it’s more of a mainstay of how work is done. As a result, we have evolved a comprehensive supply chain catering to the coworking environment.
– Ben Jones, Source Development

The coworking trend has been very positive for Rainbow because not only has it allowed us the opportunity to help our clients understand and benefit from the new collaboration spaces, but it has made our projects so much more interesting and enjoyable to work on.
– Tony Antoniou, Rainbow

Coworking has had a massively positive impact. It’s a great launch pad for start-ups, providing flexibility alongside opportunities for chance encounters and growth. This exciting, social work trend has inspired both users of coworking spaces and existing companies to implement and embrace unique, inspirational and productive workspaces.
– Jemma Grace, Hunts Office

We’ve worked with some coworking providers over the past couple of years and believe that their focus on disrupting the sector and implementing change has allowed us dealers an opportunity to rethink how we design and furnish workplaces – and while we will lose work to tenants opting for coworking spaces over their own spaces, that’s just part and parcel of business.
– Mark Phillips, K2 Space

Absolutely. The majority of our customers are more ‘design savvy’ than they have ever been, what with social media (hard and soft) highlighting the benefits. Its something that our clients bring to a
brief almost immediately nowadays without the need for us to raise as a key point.
– Mark Pearson, Heatons Office Interiors

The coworking trend has shaken up the industry for the better. It’s challenged us to stay on top of ever-changing interior trends, take on more of a consultative approach and put forward some seriously innovative solutions.
– David Blood, Love Your Workspace


K2 Space

Tottenham-Mews---K2---Marek-Sikora-Photography---Large-13

The Bosses:
Mark Phillips and Geoff Osman

Geographical coverage:
The majority of our work is in greater London but we do deliver projects throughout the UK and also in Europe.

Main brands you work with:
We are fortunate to work with a wide range of brands, which allows us to offer clients a variety of options, styles and costs, but primarily we have strong relationships with Knoll, Senator, Vitra, Humanscale, Bene, Orangebox and Tom Dixon.

HQ and other locations:
We are preparing to move to an amazing new office in leafy, fashionable Barnsbury Square, where we will showcase our workplace capabilities, having outgrown our old space just a few minutes’ walk away on Liverpool Road – as you can see, we love Islington.

Is the recent growth expected to continue?
There is some uncertainty out there at present but we continue to be busy and are optimistic about the future.

What is your biggest challenge?
Keeping pace with change and futureproofing our business is a constant challenge, as is finding the right staff who are a fit for our business and team.

Name an emerging furniture brand:
Rawside have recently made a major impression. All of the K2 team are huge fans of their product range and love the look and feel – and also the fact that they produce locally in London.

From where do you gather your product/brand knowledge?
Mix Interiors, of course!

Pure Fitout

Pure Fitout_House Belfast 1

The Boss:
Ronan Higham, Founder & Managing Director

Geographical coverage:
Ireland, the UK and mainland Europe.

HQ and other locations:
Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Is the coworking trend positive?
The coworking trend has opened new opportunities for us to bring to life the innovative ideas of designers and create progressive workspaces. We’re increasingly pricing new projects for small companies and recently had the pleasure of completing the fit-out for the Tara Building, a three-floor creative hub in Dublin.

Is the recent growth expected to continue?
The industry has seen phenomenal growth and shows no signs of slowing. We’re entering an exciting phase as more bars and restaurants take over the high street. This is good for business as there are an increasing number of one-off projects available and opportunities to expand into new markets.

Biggest challenge:
A lack of apprentices throughout the trades is proving to be the biggest challenge. Skill shortages due to lax training methods have caused labour rates to rise, making it difficult to competitively tender projects. To combat this, we run our own apprenticeships – and currently have seven apprentices in our workshops.