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 Carlton Furniture's Tom Savidge …
How did you get into the trade?
I started to work for the family business, helping out in the cabinet workshop after leaving college. This was only meant to be a short-term summer job, but I enjoyed all aspects of the furniture industry, from designing of product ranges to understanding the stages of the manufacturing process. After a few months I wanted to turn a short-term job into my career.
What was the turning point in your career?
The change in the industry over the last 10 years. The majority of goods were manufactured within the UK and Ireland, and I have witnessed a complete change of the furniture industry due to the Far East coming on line.
This has changed the way my business works. I used to have to pay the high costs of manufacture, such as labour, tooling and machinery. Such costs running at ever-higher levels were making the manufacture of cabinet ranges too expensive. In 2002 I visited China for the first time – after this, I realised I could not continue with UK manufacturing, so over the years I moved all of my ranges to the Far East.
How will the industry evolve?
Depending on shipping and currency costs, companies will take a view on the Far East, and may move production back to Eastern Europe. You will see new countries entering the market cashing in on furniture.
How can retailers increase sales and profitability?
Many retailers fall into the trap of discounting prices to achieve a greater turnover, in turn reducing their profit margins. Larger retailers can naturally get round this problem by purchasing containers of their ranges.
Smaller retailers with limited storage should work to containerise chairs to go with their best-selling dining ranges, as the cost of dining sets is mainly due to the high prices of chairs. Customers who adopt this strategy would enable themselves to achieve better price points at a higher return.
What brings a smile to your face in this industry?
The UK furniture industry’s ability to keep a secret!
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.