23 May 2024, 06:36
By Furniture News Oct 06, 2014

NBF maintains the standard

As the executive director of the NBF, Jessica Alexander plays a vital role – now more than ever, with so much happening within the organisation. Jessica tells Victoria Noakes about what’s been keeping the NBF team busy over the past year and what to look out for in the near future …

After the launch of the Code of Practice last year – followed shortly after by concerns raised by BBC programme Fake Britain, highlighting illegal and unsafe mattresses being sold through renowned high street stores – the NBF has seen a highly positive retailer response. Jessica believes it may have come at just the right time, when store owners’ confidence in their suppliers was beginning to be dramatically affected.

“The reaction to the introduction of the Code of Practice has been even more than we hoped for. Retailers – in particular the smaller ones that don’t have the same resources the big boys have, to do their own compliance checks to the same degree – realise that buying from an NBF member provides the reassurance they need to pass on to consumers. We are effectively doing the hard work for them,” explains Jessica.

“Our consumer launch campaign in February based around rogue traders selling off the back of vans caused quite a stir, too. We got loads of calls, and still do, from consumers who have been victims of this form of selling and it’s shocking what they are offered.”

In order to maintain retailers’ trust in the Code of Practice, the NBF is now working with Trading Standards with the aim of getting it approved, and the organisation has signed up for a Primary Authority Partnership – to link the NBF to its local council, providing advice and regulation – which its members can also get on board with.

What is more, the auditing process for current members is set to become more thorough, with rigorous checks presently being undertaken, which will be complete by the end of next year. From 2016, the NBF has agreed to include EU Timber Regulations in the Code, whilst keeping in mind that other areas may soon also need to be covered to strengthen it further.

Jessica expands: “The audit process is also educational – it helps members understand the regulations properly and comply with them correctly. It’s not as easy as it might sound! Many companies in the industry and our membership are quite small and don’t have specialist QA and technical staff.”

The Code has helped bolster member figures this year by raising awareness of the association and the benefits of membership – so far this year, the NBF has seven new manufacturer members and one new supplier member, with more on the horizon. However, the NBF board is in the process of reviewing membership criteria – joining is not an easy feat, and it is only getting harder as the need for companies to prove their reputability becomes more crucial.

Earlier this year, Jessica – as part of a British Furniture Confederation delegation – met with EU officials in Brussels to discuss matters such as EU Timber Regulations, chemicals, flammability and REACH and biocides regulations. This provided an ideal opportunity to flag up vital issues, open up a dialogue with the European Commission and gain a better understanding of how various regulations work. The outcome of the meeting was positive, with the feeling that the department wanted to work closer with UK industry bodies.

“It was very interesting to visit Brussels and meet officials there. It seems that they are much more open to delegations than the UK government – perhaps because they are more remote and welcome the opportunity to hear how it is out in the ‘real world’! All of the matters discussed have an impact on NBF members. What’s more, the BFC is backing efforts to ensure the industry gets government support for apprenticeships, which is also very relevant to our members,” says Jessica.

The NBF has been hard at work creating the ‘next best thing’ for the organisation – the Sleep Council Sales Academy – which launched at this year's Bed Show. This online sleep selling course for bed retail sales staff is a project the NBF has long wanted to undertake, to give sales staff the chance to refresh and develop their skills and offer the credibility of independent certification. “It’s been a massive project to take on, and it's still a work in progress even now it has launched,” Jessica adds.

In addition to the Bed Show, the Code of Practice and the Sleep Council Sales Academy, the NBF manages the ongoing consumer PR programme of the Sleep Council and plans an annual Spring Forum for members. Plus, with the organisation working on a recycling survey, market sales data and amendments to flammability regulations, it is clear that the NBF has many busy months ahead.

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