Each Friday, Furniture News puts five questions to a selected industry professional to explore their background and approach to business. Today, it's the turn of Core Products' Mike Rowley …

How did you get into the trade?

At 15 years old I started making coffee tables in my woodwork class at school. 26 tables later, with the help of paid fellow pupil labour, the teacher realised that I was in fact running a commercial enterprise and expelled me from the class and refused to let me sit my exam. This made me determined to prove I could make a career out of it.

What was the turning point in your career?

Sorry, but there is no simple answer to this one, as life is a journey and you can only learn from your experiences – and they inevitably involve the people you meet and work with, but without wishing to bore, here they are: my woodwork teacher, for trying to stop me from having a career in furniture; Stan Andrew at Jones Furnishers, who taught me that to sell furniture you had to know how it was made;

David Dean at Options who taught me all about buying and giving the customers real value for money; Jeffrey Wiseman at Ducal because he had such vision and commitment to the pine trade that it was infectious; Stuart Kingston at Lindale, who believed me when I said we could revolutionise the furniture trade with own brand products, and we did!; and everyone at Core Products, where there is such an amazing can-do attitude that anything is achievable.

How will the industry evolve?

There will be less choice as we see consolidation amongst the international suppliers. This has become very obvious this year as several multinationals fight for market domination, particularly as suppliers to the mid-market groups.

Thankfully this industry of ours has, and in my opinion will continue to have a thriving independent retail base, so there will remain great opportunities for companies like ours to succeed.

How can retailers increase sales and profitability?

Well, the usual (boring) answer to this is ‘stock more of our products’, so I will try a more unconventional one – listen to all agents. They spend every working day, at their own expense, calling on retailers over a broad geographical area. They know exactly what is happening, selling and for how much. But don’t just ask your favourites, they will tell you only what you want to hear!

What brings a smile to your face in this industry?

Retailers who say “flat-pack does not sell” – wake up!

This is an extract from an article published previously in Furniture News magazine. For more stories like this, you can subscribe to receive a regular physical copy of the magazine, or sign up to have a free digital issue delivered to your inbox each month.