29 May 2024, 13:29
By Furniture News Jan 17, 2020

2020 vision: Steve Pickering, Sussex Beds

When the going gets tough, the tough reassess, refine, and reap the rewards. Furniture News asks the businesspeople leading the charge towards success to share their views on the past year and what the future might hold – in this article, Steve Pickering, MD of nine-store independent Sussex Beds, offers his perspective …

The best deal we struck last year was an expansion of our Hailsham facility to accommodate anticipated additional product holding. After much deliberation, we decided to move the offices to free up the necessary space. We began seeking and enquiring through agents for suitable office space which met our size and locational requirements – however, the costs were proving prohibitive. Luckily, for the past 12 months, I’ve been attending a MDs networking group where we meet monthly, exchange information and ideas, and share issues. I messaged the fact that we were seeking office space on the WhatsApp group, just on the off-chance – and within minutes a reply came through with details of a local property owner who had space available (not advertised or with any agent). The space was a third bigger than required – but 25% of the cost of the properties we’d been viewing. We met on-site, shook hands and the deal was done

The biggest product trend in-store was simplicity! We introduced a collection of four beds in various comforts and specifications, which were packaged complete with headboards. Customers have loved that it’s no-fuss, no add-ons, one packaged price, and its sales have seen a +724% increase over the previous year

What changed most about the way people shop was the disruption of normal buying patterns. The year was erratic to the extreme in terms of predictability – the traditionally quieter months were our best months, and the generally busier months were flat. My assumption is that political noise has impacted on the timing of consumer decisionmaking – combined with a new marketing stream we introduced, which has proven very successful

What changed most about the way we sell was the introduction of rotational collections of offer lines, providing customers with a continuous stream of offer-led products to choose from. Also, our sales and attachments of mattress protectors saw significant increases – attachment levels finished the year at 62%, an increase of +249% on the previous year 

What put us under most pressure was decisionmaking! The political uncertainty and erratic buying patterns of the past 12 months put pressure on when and if to make decisions on investment. Maybe 2020 will be calmer, maybe not!

In 2020, I’m most looking forward to some conclusion to the political uncertainty (I’m hoping, but not holding my breath). This would allow us to focus totally on growth and job creation

The next product trend coming in-store is more environmentally friendly, sustainability focused product lines and packaging

The product trend on its way out is fringe product lines such as sofabeds and bedroom furniture (for our business, at least), with a renewed focus on our core sleep-focused lines

Our tech priority is to expand and enhance our in-store virtual terminal access and increase interactivity with build-your-own-product functionality

The biggest challenge will be consumer confidence

Knowing there are forward-focused, passionate individuals established and joining the UK furniture industry – both in manufacturing and retailing – provides me with confidence that our futures can be prosperous and rewarding, and makes me hopeful for the industry’s future

Discover more perspectives in our annual retailer review, in January's issue of Furniture News.

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