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 Coach House MD David Bovingdon …
How did you get into the trade?
Always being interested in antiques and old furniture, I started stripping original pieces of pine furniture back in 1970 when the antique pine look was just becoming fashionable. At first it was just items for our home, but soon, after gaining a contract for an antique dealer/uncle, I realised there was a commercial side to develop and a possible business career in the making.
I started buying and selling to the trade and opened a retail outlet in Skipton, North Yorkshire, selling antique pine to the public – but most sales were to the trade, mainly to Dutch and French dealers.
What was the turning point in your career?
I met my wife Diane in 1984. She was already in the antique trade, dealing in fine antiques and period pine. I became her stripper – not that kind of stripper, of course! – and we established the beginnings of our wholesale side of the business.
A major turning point was an antique dealer friend from Holland who persuaded me to buy 200 beech kitchen chairs from Yugoslavia. They were soon sold and another 200 were ordered, and I started travelling, covering the country on a weekly basis selling farmhouse chairs to the trade.
The business started to escalate, and within 12 months we moved into an old mill in Todmorden and were buying a full wagon-load of 2000 chairs at a time. This continued, and during the peak of the pine industry in 1997 we were selling 1000-plus chairs every week.
How will the industry evolve?
Everything is transient nowadays with a limited lifespan – unlike the old antique shop days, which unfortunately seem to have gone. Furniture and household accessories are now all a major part of the world of fashion, and we have had to move with the times and stay with the trends. The industry moves forward all the time and it is imperative to be part of it. We are constantly trying to become leaders of style and design, and with this in mind we find our best way forward is with the interior design market and independent retailers.
How can retailers increase sales and profitability?
Utilising an internet site to market – to the widest audience – specific products that they specialise in. Engaging in promotions rather than sales. They should optimise every chance of promoting mail shots via email and personal letters, and should open for special events at weekends or evenings, perhaps featuring a local interior designer as a guest speaker.
These are very difficult times and are most likely to get harder before we return to normal housing conditions and an improved market. Our main business has always benefited enormously from people moving and refurnishing their houses. As this sector of the market has been stagnant for a good while now, we concentrate on design-led accessories and home improvements.
It is nowhere near as profitable as selling a complete house full of furniture, but you have to manage and work with the current selling opportunites available in a depressed market.
What brings a smile to your face in this industry, or do you have an amusing industry tale to share?
In 1971 my largest sale of the year was 50 old pine chests of drawers, which I had stripped in a caustic tank myself. They were £8 each, and my total sale was the princely sum of £400 – this was my biggest sale to date, and I was so chuffed I allowed myself a day off!
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.