For those that are interested to learn “who am I dealing with“, here is an overview of my career in the Furniture Industry.
I studied Furniture Production Management in High Wycombe, and graduated in 2000. This course was an intensive look at the varying elements of a typical Furniture factory, covering the practical areas of timber science, design & development, wood machining, cabinet making, wood finishing; as well as business-orientated elements such as legislation, finance and marketing.
Ducal – the Pine People
As part of the course I was also fortunate enough to complete an industrial placement at Ducal in Andover, Hampshire, spending over a year across the business looking, learning, absorbing and developing. Upon graduation I was offered a position in their fast-track programme, taking me further into Quality Control and Quality Assurance. Leading to eventually looking after the company’s ISO9002 accreditation across the eleven sites.
Silentnight Group Furniture Brands
Ducal ceased UK manufacturing in 2003 and began to outsource new ranges from China, South Africa, Portugal, Croatia and Poland. I was transferred within the Newco and heavily involved in these processes at source, developing conceptual drawings through to prototypes and onto mass production batches. As part of Silentnight’s early-century cabinet acquisitions I went on to undertake the same roles to varying degrees across the group, covering the-then unified brands of Stag, Parker Knoll and Nathan.
Nathan Furniture – the Master Craftsman
Nathan was returned to private ownership in 2005 from which I became part of a small, lean team tasked with reigniting the famous brand. This process involved many varied elements, including reworking designs, liaising with a capable supplier in Thailand, and replacing shopfloor displays throughout the country.
Our mission was to grow the business in a steady, organic manner, which was done to great success.
Sadly, the Thai factory suffered a large flood in 2010 and was decommissioned for over 2 years, leaving many orders for retailers and consumers without source.
Nathan Furniture – Look Again
As part of the emergency response, Nathan acquired the Sutcliffe Furniture business – and factory – in 2010, and was able to bring production back to the UK from their base in West Yorkshire. They also left some of the ranges remaining with their alternative Asian supply lines in Indonesia and Vietnam. My own personal role morphed across a variety of departments, including detailed work in Asia with manufacturing partners. I then migrated into customer-facing aspects in the UK and latterly became Area Sales Manager for the 3 territories of Scotland, North-Western England and North-Eastern England.
Following my work for Nathan and Sutcliffe as their employee, I then looked after their brands as a self-employed agent in 2019. I have since been able to develop my portfolio to offer products from other cabinet areas, as well as the Bed and the Upholstery sectors; all broadening my knowledge and also the flexibility and choice I can offer to retailers nationally.
I also import furniture directly from Asia to the independent trade on a dropship basis; using a self-developed order entry, acknowledgement and invoicing system. As before, the role involves close relations with trade partners to ensure safe receipt of containers and prompt onward freight, and achieving a high level of AQL.
As a result of the above career path I would like to think I have a detailed level of knowledge about furniture products and processes; which for manufacturers, shows a huge amount of empathy for typical processes (and challenges!), and for retailers, I feel aids in store training and inspires confidence when outlining product USPs.
Challenges are often varied but I work on 3 simple cornerstones; 1) understand the product(s) and service(s) of my principals, 2) ensure I am on the ground as frequently as mutually agreed, and 3) always responding honestly, no matter what the issue.
For Agency queries, I also freely take calls evenings and weekends – simply put, if a retailer answers queries on a Saturday, then so should I!!!!!!