Furniture News talks to MD of Wilde Java, Phill Jones, about how he got started in furniture retail, where he thinks the industry is going and what advice he can give to retailers looking to weather the current economic storm.
How did you get into the trade?
I got into the trade by necessity. I’d been working for a company – not furniture-related – that hadn’t paid any wages to the staff for over three weeks, so I grabbed a copy of the Evening News, where there was a well-established furniture retailer in Birmingham advertising for a junior salesman.
I called them straight away, only to be told that I had to apply in writing – but, me being me, I got on the bus the next morning and got myself a 10-minute interview. Thankfully for me, the boss then offered me a position there and then – admittedly only making the tea, but I was in!
What was the most important turning point in your career?
I have to say there have been many turning points in my career – I can’t really pinpoint just one, however, I can narrow it down to two. The first being working for a great boss who treated me like a son – however, unfortunately the store went into liquidation in the early Nineties during the recession, and I was made redundant. I was paid severance of £300, which was the money with which I started Wilde.
The second turning point came during the Noughties, at which time Wilde was a standalone furniture and accessories outlet I felt I was selling myself short, and craved a new challenge. A good friend of mine offered me some free advice on Indonesia which I acted upon – I can’t say it’s been an easy ride, but it has helped to make Wilde Java what it is today.
How do you think the industry will evolve?
How will it evolve?! What a question, I have no idea … the industry has moved on so much during the last few years, it’s impossible to say. We just strive to move with the times and keep bringing new designs and initiatives to the market, and support all our customers in the best way we can.
What is the key issue right now?
Keep calm and carry on, and fight to be still around when better times arrive.
How can retailers improve their profitability?
Firstly by buying more from Wilde Java! Secondly, by attending trade fairs and being hungry for new products to bring to their stores. I am always inspired by the amount of work, time, money and effort that is spent putting the UK exhibitions together, only to be told by a selected few retailers that they won’t be attending because they “can’t be bothered”, or “they don’t need any more stock”. It’s bizarre that it’s the same ones that complain that business is slow …
What can retailers do to improve their marketing strategy?
As a wholesaler I don’t feel I’m qualified to offer an opinion on the marketing strategy of retailers. That being said, we are seeing on a daily basis more and more of our customers upping their game by creating new fantastic window and shop displays and also increasing their internet presence, which can only be positive and bring more success.
What are you doing to become more competitive?
Our aim currently is to make Wilde Java easy and accessible to all. We have our newly-refurbished showroom, open five days a week, providing a cash-and-carry service, regular carriage-paid wholesale deliveries nationwide, a show van on the road and available on request for customers who benefit from us taking the product to them, direct container sales offered at a discounted price direct from our Indonesian warehouse, and, new for 2013, a travelling sales service offering complete new collections, available to buy straight from the truck.
Do you have any tips on upcoming furniture trends?
I think the current trend of vintage is awesome, and so interesting. My prediction for the future is gold is going to be the new black, and we will be moving on from minimalistic – but what do I know …?
What brings a smile to your face working in this industry?
Working in our industry I am always finding something to smile about – some of the characters amongst us, the crazy things people ask us at exhibitions … it’s easy to forget, but we are part of an amazing industry. That brings a smile to my face!