20 July 2024, 16:34
By Furniture News Mar 17, 2021

Grampian Furnishers' Royce Clark on 2020/21

Furniture News’ latest annual Retailer Review sees some of the nation’s top independents reflect on their experiences of 2020, and share a few thoughts on what 2021 might bring. Here, Royce Clark, MD of Grampian Furnishers in Elgin, offers his take on the state of play …

The best deal I struck was securing a contract to furnish a batch of houses for key workers during lockdown.

The biggest product trend in-store/online was anything grey. I think overall for us it was fabric sofas, as we saw a swing away from leather, which had grown significantly in 2019.

What changed most about the way people shop was, other than the obvious facemasks, that we’ve found footfall to have increased, and I think overall customers are shopping around less and spending more time in our store. There has also been a increase in the ATV, which I feel is largely down to lots of holiday refunds!

What changed most about the way I sell was being more careful with floor stock. We have always been pretty flexible, but given that the supply chain has been struggling we’ve had to be a bit more firm on not letting products be sold off the floor.  

Short lead times were a key part of our business pre-Covid, so we have had to be open and honest with our customers, and while most have accepted this, some have not understood the effect Covid has had on the supply chain.

What put me under most pressure was thinking the lockdown was going to be 3-4 weeks, then realising after a few weeks that was not the case. I struggled to deal with the fact that I didn’t know when I could open the doors again.

If I learned one thing this year, it’s that if you are proactive, react and adapt to what is thrown at you, then you and your business can survive almost anything (well, that’s until Brexit hits, then that may be a different story – but let’s not get too concerned about that for now, it can’t be any more challenging than Covid, can it?).

Looking ahead …

I’m most looking forward to taking time off, going on holiday and not wearing a mask while working (although it may be 2022 before we can lose the masks at work). Definitely, being able to take time off to go on holiday to recharge is the biggest thing for me, as I’m pretty much running on empty after what 2020 has thrown at me!

The next hot product trend is whatever is available from stock on a short lead time, perhaps? Only kidding … but I think we will start to see more colours selling through all categories in order to brighten up our store and people’s homes.  

The trend on its way out is all things grey, surely?

My technology priority is updating and improving our sales software and reducing the transaction time for customers.

The biggest challenge will be unexpected. I’m pretty sure 2021 will be every bit as challenging at 2020, but hopefully without any more lockdowns. 

Dealing with the threat of a possible Covid-20, the circus that is Brexit, further price increases, kickstarting the economy … for us in Scotland, the threat of Indy Ref 2 could have a bigger impact on our business than all of the aforementioned. Or maybe it will all get back to normal – now there’s a nice thought, just imagine that!

I think the ‘new normal’ will be absolutely nowhere near normal – who even knows what normal was, is right now or could be in 2021 and beyond? I think even Uri Geller may struggle to predict the new normal for the furniture trade – perhaps we can ask him?!

Knowing we have survived 2020 and all that it has thrown at us makes me hopeful for the furniture industry’s future and UK manufacturing as a whole. 

For more retailer insights, see January's issue of Furniture News.

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