In The Summertime

Why is it, I wonder, that while the winter months are marked for me by extended periods parked in front of my TV, the summer months almost always come complete with a social schedule I can barely seem to keep track of?

It certainly can’t be anything to do with the weather, which only seems to be getting wetter as the months march on.

Nevertheless, a quick look at my diary this morning tells me that my next weekend to arrive without any prior plans isn’t until September 24, a mere 13 weeks away. Between then and now there are reunions to attend, holidays to plan and don’t even get me started on the weddings.

Of course, my schedule is also populated by a number of events and activities organised within the furniture industry. And what a lot we have to look forward to!

First and foremost among these must be a visit to Manchester for the 2016 Manchester Furniture Show in three weeks time. Exhibitor space in the Main Hall of the show may have been sold out since March, but that doesn’t stopped suppliers from continuing to sign up in their droves to take part in what promises to be more diverse than ever before. You can read Cabinet Maker’s preview of the event, including an interview with organiser Laraine Janes, in next week’s issue.

For those who cringe at the thought of spending too much time indoors this summer, take a look in this week’s issue for the latest news on a number of sporting activities just waiting for participants from the furniture industry to sign up in the name of a good course. I am of course referring to The Furniture Makers’ Company and its seeming attempt to rival the Olympics in terms of events over the coming months, which includes football, golf and a grueling bike ride.

If you’re anything like me, far from being exhausted by the sudden influx of summer invitations you will be rubbing your hands with glee at the opportunity to reacquaint yourself with the aspects of the industry that can all but seem to go into hibernation once autumn arrives.

In fact, if it wasn’t for the January Furniture Show, and a certain visit from a bearded gentleman at the end of December, I’d be more than happy to suggest we consider doing away with the winter months all together.

Mind you, if the weather continues along the same lines as it is currently we may not even notice the difference anyway.

Decision Time

After months of impatient waiting, fiercely exchanging views and fervently speculating the time has finally come for Britain to take to the European stage and finally show our true colours.

Yes, I am of course talking about Euro 2016, which kicked off this month with a slightly more portentous feeling than ever felt before. I’m not referring to reports of hooliganism that seem to be plaguing this year’s tournament, nor do I ever intend to, but the fact that, while the UK entered the tournament as a member of the European Union, it may not necessarily be leaving as such.

Of course, this as much depends on England, Wales and Ireland’s ability to stay the course of the tournament until after the vote as it does on the final outcome.

They say there is nothing like an international sporting event to stir up a country’s sense of pride, however this month I would contend that an EU Referendum will certainly do the job in a pinch.

Combine the two and we have a rather heady sensation as we head into July of a country on the brink of something rather special. For no matter what way your allegiance lies, In or Out, neither side can deny the renewed passion that has seen the nation eager to express its opinion on an issue clearly very close to its heart.

Further on in this issue you will find a special Cabinet Maker feature in which we poll various views throughout the industry on what a Leave vote would mean, while agency law expert Stephen Sidkin also steps in to lend his advice on the challenges that may emerge.

But no matter what the outcome on June 23, I hope we are able to move forward as a nation with the same amount of enthusiasm and vigour as has been shown for our future so far. And while the odds of a Euro 2016 win for the UK are seemingly lengthening daily, it is now the responsibility of the nation to make sure that the nation is able to move forward as the best possible version of itself.

Keeping Things Interesting

As political chatter reached fever pitch both in the UK and across the pond in America this month, it got me wondering just how much time the average person devotes to a thorough understanding of how things work in a country that isn’t their own.

Unfortunately, I have already heard one American wonder out loud how the UK is intending to go about ‘leaving the continent of Europe’, while many Brits only knowledge of Donald Trump is from TV shows like The Apprentice. Now, I’m not saying we all need to have in-depth knowledge of everything going on Stateside but, given that it is not only the third largest country in the world but one we also seem to derive an increasing amount of influence from, a basic understanding might be nice.

So it seemed somewhat timely this week that we came across yet more evidence of the USA’s influence over UK trends, this time in the sudden boom in the US boxed mattress industry that has begun to trickle onto our shores. Only this week we heard from Hyde & Sleep, a new online mattress brand, backed by bed specialist Dreams and seemingly created in response to the fantastic response to a similar business model from American online mattress company, Casper. Set up in New York in 2013, Casper was recently valued at $550m and boasts a star studded list of investors.

As readers of last month’s BEDS Magazine will recall, it is getting increasingly difficult to keep track of the number of new online mattress retailers that have appeared in recent months, with names including Eve, Leesa, Ministry of Sleep and Simba among many others attempting to make a name for themselves in the burgeoning world of online mattresses.

Sometimes I think it would be rather nice to live in a world where everything could be relied upon to be constant. Imagine not having to listen to constant back biting from politicians or worry about threats to job security. However, in that same breath it strikes me how utterly boring this would be. Just as an industry that didn’t occasionally have the rug pulled ever so slightly out from under it may begin to stagnate.


Marks The Spot

Given the furore surrounding the current standing of a number of high-profile retailers, you can understand our piqued interest last month when arguably one of the best known names on the high street revealed not only an ‘unsatisfactory’ performance in its latest full-year results this week, but also the steps it intends to take to rectify said performance.

I am of course talking about the retail juggernaut that is Marks and Spencer, who this week explained why it wouldn’t be taking lightly a huge drop in its pre-tax profits, particularly in its clothing and home categories.

So, what exactly is one to do when faced with the task of ‘reinvigorating’ its furniture offer, among other things? Well, first and foremost for M&S are promises to lower prices, rein-in markdowns, boost quality and rationalise its sprawling product offer. Shouldn’t take too long, surely?

We can’t be the only ones unable to resist the temptation to compare these plans with those of B&Q parent company, Kingfisher, which recently unveiled its strategy to turn around a fall in total sales by providing what it calls a ‘unified’ product offer –that is, the same products presented in the same way across all its brands. It’s hardly reinventing the wheel but, unlike M&S, the scheme has already won the support of a number of industry commentators.

As expected, droves of critics have already popped up to offer their opinion on the plans. However, it is the previously much maligned Kingfisher, a business that last September announced it had secured the exit of leases on 26 of its B&Q stores, that has commentators nodding their heads in agreement, pointing out that a ‘unified offer’ will allow the company to leverage its £7bn buying power and negotiate larger discounts from suppliers.

At the same time, Marks and Spencer’s plans appear to have been places in a drawer marked ‘time will tell’. After all, this is the same business that’s most recent bright idea was to market men’s suits in one of its Welsh stores using an image of the England football team.

Come What May

Out of all the months in the year, May can often seem like the longest and least eventful. While we have already enjoyed New Year’s celebrations, Valentine’s Day and Easter, the fifth month of the year can often seem endless as we excitedly await summer holidays and the inevitable flurry of weddings and BBQ’s. Small wonder, then, that somewhere along the way some bright spark decided to bestow not one but two Bank Holiday weekends on the otherwise uneventful 31 days that make up May.

I had all but decided that everyone must be feeling this same sense of impatience this week, until I took a step back to examine the bigger picture. Yes, it may be true that the annual consumer migration from home improvement to outdoor pursuits is once again in process, but behind the scenes things are apparently far from quiet.

Much like the newly hatched birds stretching their wings and finding out what they’re really capable of recently, so our editorial desk has been flooded in recent weeks with a seemingly never ending stream of expansions, openings and investments.

As ever, we took it upon ourselves to contact a few members of the independent retail community in the run up to this weeks issue, a task that almost always produces a noticeable divide in opinion, only to find our cup virtually overflowing with positivity.

As expected, the word ‘investment’ was thrown around like confetti, covering everything from marketing and advertising, warehousing, new ranges, websites and store fronts. There really is a sense of movement among many stores out there in the industry today to make the most of this notoriously quiet month and take advantage of any lulls that may occur.

Of course, one of the biggest retail stories this week once again revolves around the uncertain future of high street stalwart, BHS. While a parliamentary select committee continues to probe its history and administrators weigh up bids for the business, the retailer has begun decking the windows of its stores with Union Jacks and the words ‘Come On Britain’.

Unfortunately for the business, with such a veritable feast of up and coming success stories within the independent sector at the moment, it really does seem like the only help is coming to those who help themselves.

Testing Times

Silentnight.You don’t have to have children of your own to have been swept up in the exam fever that is seemingly gripping the nation this month. In particular it is the government’s decision to toughen up SATs exams that has a lot of the country up in arms as they resent the added pressure it puts on those of Primary school age.

In response to this, several letters from teachers have gone viral in which they urge their students to not take the eventual results, either good or bad, too much to heart. Instead, they point out that there are many other many other ways for a person to be ‘special’ or ‘unique’ that no amount of government mandated testing will ever be able to measure.

Its part of what is being referred to as a ‘culture of positivity’, the idea that it takes a lot more than spelling and maths for a person to be a well-rounded and fully functioning member of society. And the more I think about it, the more it makes sense.

At Cabinet Maker, as it is with most trade publications, it can be easy to be bogged down with the nitty gritty of a company’s performance. We quite rightly devote a lot of time and space within each issue to keeping track of the numerous performances throughout the industry, as is clearly obvious from even the briefest glance at our magazine’s News section each week.

But what we also take a lot of pride in is taking the time to make sure we also celebrate the wide variety of other attributes that makes the furniture industry special in its own right.

In this issue this includes our report of the latest Northern Big Shots from industry patron, The Furniture Makers’ Company, as it reveals the impressive total amount raised during the charity event. We also find out why the director of independent retailer Land of Beds is being described as ‘inspirational’ and what exactly has made the Prime Minister take time this week to heap praise upon Silentnight.

None of these revelations contains even the briefest mention of financial results or balance sheets, yet aren’t they all equally fantastic examples of how the furniture industry is continuing to thrive this year?

When talking to people outside of the industry I am often disappointed to learn the amount of assumptions over what an average week must be like. I am always keen to point out the huge amounts of triumphs and revelations that emerge each week, both large and small, and point them towards the latest issue of Cabinet Maker to familiarise themselves on what it means to be part of the furniture industry in 2016.



Feeling The Heat

With temperatures across the UK finally hitting the twenties last weekend, how many of you out there took full advantage of the warm weather to give yourself a much deserved weekend of fun in the sun? From camping trips to sunny city breaks, returning to work this week it seemed like everyone had a different story to tell of their ideal way to make the most of the, apparently brief, heatwave.

It takes a particularly dedicated individual to see a sunny day and still decide to devote themselves to a task beyond exploring their local beer garden. That’s why, when preparing for this week’s issue, we were filled with empathy for the retailers who had no choice to open over Saturday and Sunday, despite the knowledge that footfall would inevitably take a hit in favour of the beach.

The summer months in general can be a bit of a slog for manufacturers and retailers alike as, following the brief surge associated with spring clear outs, notoriously fickle consumers find their attention turned to purchases more of the garden and holiday persuasion.

But summer isn’t all bad news for the industry. Indeed, the increase in temperature can only mean that the summer sports season, and in particular the 2016 Rio Olympics, are not far away, bringing with it the potential for a whole host of celebrity endorsements. Yes, let it never be said that the furniture industry was unable to find a way to profit from any occasion at hand.

Last week we heard from Breasley and the company’s recent endorsement from Britain’s Strongest Man, Eddie Hall. This week it is the turn of bed manufacturer’s Vogue and Sealy who are both stepping up to the plate with the news that models from their Sports Therapy and Posturepedic collections, respectively, will be aiding some of the country’s top athletes in their quest for victory this summer.

When it comes to sports, I generally find myself sticking to the old adage of ‘whatever I come across first’ while channel surfing, be it tennis, golf or synchronised swimming. However, I for one know I will be paying special attention this year to weightlifter Zoe Smith and cricketer Liam Plunkett as they search for glory aided by some of the best innovation and technology the UK bed industry has to offer. And no matter what the outcome of the competitions, nothing will beat the feeling of knowing we are all part of an industry that is capable of making all the difference when it comes to the final score.