19 July 2024, 07:56
By Furniture News Jun 14, 2016

The customer comes first at Housing Units

Housing Units is a home furnishings store based in Failsworth, Manchester, offering its valued customers more than the typical retail experience. Victoria Noakes spoke to CEO Nick Fox to discover more about the history of the company, as well as its philosophy and future goals ...

Tell us about the foundation of Housing Units

The business was originally founded in 1947. My father, Harry Fox, joined 43 years ago becoming a shareholder and later completing a buy-out of the business. As we approach the company’s 70th birthday – which Harry is now chairman of – we are proud of its continuous growth and prosperity throughout numerous recessions and turbulent financial times.

I’m surrounded by a fantastic directorial team – Stuart Fox, our MD, Jeff Hughes, our buying director, and Richard Newson, our financial director. Now one of the largest home furnishing companies in the UK, Housing Units has proven that a business founded in 1947 is more than capable of thriving in 2016.

What is the inspiration behind the business?
Housing Units customers and employees are at the forefront of every business decision we make. From the construction of a dedicated logistics and administration centre to its numerous in-store expansions, we’ve listened to feedback from our customer base and acted upon it to become a premier destination for home furnishings.

The company knows that its staff are its strongest asset, and as a result, is always on the lookout for new talent to supplement the existing team, with hard work recognised through promotion and regular incentives. We understand that happy customers and fulfilled staff will not only provide a positive experience for both, but will ultimately result in stronger financial growth.

What are the company’s aims?
We strive to make our customers’ experience a personal one, from the moment they are welcomed by our famous doormen to the moment they receive their delivery.

Making our customers feel welcome and well looked after every step of the way is what makes for a magical shopping experience. We also aim to inspire our customers by displaying items in fantastic inspirational settings.

What sets Housing Units apart from its competitors?
The store prides itself on providing a full shopping experience as opposed to just a place to buy goods, and it is a popular destination for days out for people of all ages. Regular in-store events take place, including cooking demonstrations from the likes of Ken Hom and free children’s storytelling which takes place each fortnight.

At Christmas, Housing Units transforms into a Winter Wonderland complete with a now infamous Christmas department and Santa’s Grotto.

For those needing mid-shop refreshments, or even just a place to meet friends, Housing Units has proven itself to be the ideal location thanks to its two in-store dining venues. The Wickentree is a fully licensed restaurant offering everything from English breakfasts to Champagne Afternoon Tea. For those looking for something more casual, The Hollinwood provides the perfect setting for sandwiches, cakes and coffee.

Tell us about your product offering
Spread over two five-acre sites, the business consists of purpose-built stores featuring 26 departments and a large distribution and administration centre. The stores provide over 120,000ft² of home furniture and interior design ideas all displayed in fabulous inspirational settings, 30,000 different products, 500 free parking spaces and 300 friendly staff.

Housing Units offers a comprehensive after-care service with its own fleet of vehicles and fully-trained staff responsible for delivering purchases safely and efficiently to their homes. A team of specialist customer care consultants co-ordinate with customers to arrange the most convenient delivery slot and are on hand to answer any queries they have.

What developments are currently underway within the business?
This year we are undertaking a £2m building project to increase our offering and add further value to our customers’ shopping experience with us. The project will involve additional furniture retail space and building of a third on-site restaurant to cater for growing demand for fine and casual dining at the store.

Recent appointments of a retail director and newly-created role of multi-channel director will thrust Housing Units forward. The expansion and new appointments mark a new exciting chapter for us.

How does Housing Units address the needs of a rapidly changing market?
The retail market is constantly changing along with customer preferences and demand. The buying team attend regular shows both home and abroad to keep abreast of the upcoming trends within retail. We use this knowledge alongside feedback from our customers to develop and steer our business decisions.

What is the biggest issue the company is currently facing?
A huge area of change for us has been the move to online shopping. The number of consumers now choosing to browse and buy online from the comfort of their home is increasing year on year, so we have had to adapt accordingly.

Nevertheless, we still have a strong loyal customer base who prefer the shopping experience at the store. After all, you can’t treat yourself to a coffee or bite for lunch with your friends whilst sat behind your laptop screen! We have big plans on how we will integrate technology in-store to improve the overall customer experience as many customers travel, sometimes from far and wide, to enjoy our stores.

What does Housing Units have in the pipeline for the near future?
As we approach our 70th anniversary, we have no plans of slowing down. With this year’s business investment into the store, our plans are to continue to grow by maintaining the highest levels of customer service and by responding to our customers’ needs.

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