29 May 2024, 04:09
By Furniture News Feb 18, 2021

Land of Beds' Mike Murray 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, Mike Murray, MD of three-store independent Land of Beds, offers his take on the state of play …

What changed most about the way people shop was they truly embraced ecommerce. It sounds so simple now, but back in April you were only able to shop in one way – online. 

This led to pivoting our traditional shopfloor sales team into online advisors. We had to transition our classic, in-store experience into the online medium. Adapting quickly to the changing times – adding in options like our livechat service and expanding our telephone services to capture sales. 

What changed most about the way we sell was elevating our digital approach. Some of our workforce was retrained with new methods, with the goal of delivering the same exceptional level of customer service through telesales, livechat and email. 

We had to swap our bricks-and-mortar advertising spend for more digitally focused channels – pushing social media and online advertising to capitalise on people spending more time on their devices due to factors such as furlough.

Marketing has been crucial to growth and success in all industries over the past few years, and it has taken on a new level of importance this year – particularly the digital side of the business. We have had to reinforce our existing strategy with an even stronger digital marketing approach, to work cohesively with our traditional methods.

What put me under most pressure was maintaining our award-winning levels of customer service – we wanted to continue to give our valued customers the same level of service, no matter how they ordered their product with us. We also wanted to make sure that we maintained great communication with our customers, as for many it was the first time that they had purchased a large furniture item online. The lockdown forced people into online shopping, possibly for the first time. 

Land of Beds has scaled incredibly quickly this year, with new staff coming into the business during these unforeseen circumstances – adapting and learning their job roles in unconventional times – but they have thrived. 

At the beginning of the first national lockdown, some staff were on furlough, while others were adapting to working from home. We worked hard to protect the reputation of the Land of Beds brand, which was a complex operation to manage, whilst also juggling personal issues brought about by Covid-19. 

If I learned one thing this year, it’s just how resilient our business is. We have an internal disaster-recovery document that we hope we never have to use – but it proved to be invaluable this year. 

I’d strongly recommend all businesses, no matter the sector, go through these documents before they’re hit with a crisis. Our resolve has been tested this year, and we have adapted accordingly – along with reviewing and changing our disaster-recovery document each year to put us in the best possible position for success. 

It’s been a long-held belief of mine that a business is only as good as the people who work for it, and we are incredibly proud to have some of the best staff in the industry working for us. They have been working tirelessly to provide the same exceptional level of service to customers. 

Communication is absolutely key – whether this is internally with staff, or externally with stakeholders. Clear and precise communication is the best way to maintain a strong working relationship – many of which have actually been strengthened throughout this pandemic.  

Looking ahead …

I’m most looking forward to going on a well-earned holiday (fingers crossed!). But in relation to business, meeting face-to-face with our suppliers instead of via an online meeting, attending trade shows and having those invaluable conversations with fellow industry members. 

We are also looking forward to some more teambuilding activities (that don’t have to be conducted at a 2m distance), including our infamous staff summer barbecue!

The next hot product trend has got to be airbeds. There’s not going to be a shortage of air!

My technology priority is staffing. Online sales have become crucial to many businesses due to the pandemic, and we are going to continue to invest in our ecommerce team, so that we can provide the best service and experience to our customers. 

The biggest challenge will be the supply chain – and we want to ensure that our customers receive their products in line with our promises. We are also preparing for the potential problems that Brexit might cause in the industry, but looking after our customers will always be our top priority. 

We are also striving to continually improve customer satisfaction, and to keep delivering a great night’s sleep!

I think the ‘new normal’ will have to include a higher level of hygiene in showrooms and within any areas the public has contact (for example, delivery to their room of choice). The companies who can actively demonstrate that they can deliver this to their customers will succeed. 

Knowing that we have some fantastic, innovative companies within our industry that have been able to pivot and quickly adapt in these unprecedented times, to ensure that valued customers have been able to purchase their essential items with the same level of service pre-Covid, makes me hopeful for the industry’s future. We are proud to work in an industry that has been able to come together to produce, deliver and sell quality products to customers in a year that has been trying for us all. 

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

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