27 May 2024, 14:00
By Furniture News Jan 31, 2022

VIDA Living's pandemic response

Operating from both Dundalk and Manchester, market-leading wholesaler VIDA Living has borne the challenges posed by Brexit and Covid-19 with aplomb, COO David Caffrey tells Furniture News …

What’s been keeping you occupied in the past week?

This past week has been mainly focused on finalising our strategic business goals for 2022 and planning how the business will perform in 2022. This involves working with various stakeholders across the business and identifying future needs now, so we successfully deliver our planned growth. It also included quality time with key customers, forward-planning product launches, etc. As always, the week also included time being spent with various VIDA team members.  

Can you outline VIDA’s size and scope?

VIDA is a furniture design and distribution business. Our scope is simple – to provide world-class products and services to our customers in each of the markets into which we operate. Our values are at the very core of ensuring we deliver upon this scope. With locations in Ireland and Great Britain, VIDA currently employ 120 people across a range of roles, from warehouse management and logistics to product design and marketing. Our stockist base covers the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Great Britain. 

How well would you say VIDA has fared during the pandemic?

The key in periods such as these is to seek out and identify the opportunities that exist to improve your business, and to ensure that you are in a position to capitalise on these in the future. Ultimately, we have used that time to focus on improving various aspects of VIDA. From product development and sales to operations and supply chain, we recognise that our customers’ experience is our brand, and as such we have focused on the desire to improve all areas of our business – so I would say we have fared very well over the past 15 months. 

What’s been the greatest challenge, and how have you negotiated it?

I would suggest that there have been two equally challenging topics. Firstly, securing the continuity of our supply chain. Global pressures on supply chain are now well documented, so it has been a real test of our resilience to successfully manage the continuity of our product supply. It never stops evolving – sometimes daily – so understanding our market and confidently backing our growth strategy has ultimately been successful. 

Secondly, in times of turbulence and change, ensuring your people are equipped with the requisite tools to be able to manage change is absolutely critical. We have invested in a leadership development programme over the past 12 months, run by our talent partners, Peoplewise. The programme covers all management levels of our business, from executive and senior leaders to managers and supervisors. It has equipped our people with the ability to better manage change by building out positive resilience, strategic thought processes and timely decisionmaking. 

We are a people business, and the empowerment of our people speaks to the heart of what VIDA is today. In a world of change, we can secure more certainty for everyone by developing ourselves.

How did Brexit impact your business last year – are you well placed to handle it? 

Three years ago, we formed an internal Brexit working group to identify and manage any impacts that we foresaw coming from Brexit. We currently operate our business from two locations – our headquarters in Ireland and our UK base in Manchester. The existing structure of our supply and distribution chain meant that some of the challenges from Brexit have been mitigated. 

However, we are not fully insulated. The current driver shortage is proving challenging in terms of predictability of supply from port to warehouse, along with the additional administration requirements from the exporting of particular products to the UK. We continue to monitor the situation closely, and our partners in logistics have been exceptional in helping us manage the impacts as best possible. 

How have your stockists in the ROI fared, compared to those in NI and Great Britain?

It would be fair to say that in general ROI and NI stockists compare very favourably, with a strong performance being reported across both regions this past 12 months. Consumer confidence has remained buoyant, and the outlook is favourable. 

In terms of Great Britain overall, it is generally accepted that the market has performed strongly over the past 12 months of trading. There has been a noticeable slowdown since the summer period, so, coupled with the impacts from driver shortages and supply chain challenges, it will be an interesting final quarter of the year for the industry.

With fluctuating supply chains and changing consumer tastes, how has VIDA’s product offer changed in that time?

We operate a long-established, in-house product development department, which is led by our brand director, Ruth Cherry. Ruth and her team operate a cyclical product development process. Innovation is at the core of our product development process, so this ensures that VIDA are continuously developing new products for our various markets. We review future trends, and collaborate with our customers and sales teams on feedback. It is through our relentless passion for design and innovation that we are able to provide our customers with products that inspire. 

Can you give us a rundown of your latest key appointments?

In line with our vison for VIDA, we have invested heavily in a number of key areas to acquire the leadership talent and expertise to deliver on our strategic aims. 

In sales we have appointed Victoria Bellerby as our group business development director. Victoria leads our sales function across all revenue streams and regions. Victoria commenced with VIDA early last year, and we have been extremely excited by the impact and progress to date in developing our sales function. We have also appointed Karl Bickerstaff as area sales manager (North) in the UK. 

In our UK business, we appointed Marc Seddon as our warehouse manager, which has been very successful. Finally, we have appointed Natalie O’Brien as our senior quality, health and safety manager. Natalie has hit the ground running, and has had an immediate positive impact on the business. 

Have any new technological developments/tools/systems made a difference to your business of late?

We launched our VIDA app in Q3 last year, and it has proved to be a big hit with our customers. The app enables our stockists to check availability of products, create a shopping list of the products of their choice, and place orders directly through it in real time. We believe that the app offers our customers an alternative touchpoint with VIDA, and one that’s flexible to their schedule at any given moment. 

In terms of tools, we are about to launch our new CRM tool, which will be a game-changer for the management of our sales service to our customer and our opportunity pipeline. We are excited by this development, and expect it will provide us with deeper insights into our customers’ habits and future demands. 

Along with this, we have also invested in a new warehouse management system, which is currently in development with our ERP partner. We plan to launch this in the coming months. It will enable us to provide an improved quality in service to our clients, coupled with improved operational efficiencies. 

What’s VIDA’s roadmap for the coming months? Can stockists expect anything new in the way of products or services?

Our roadmap encompasses a number of key deliverables. These include: the January 2022 launch of multiple new product ranges, specifically tailored for each of our markets; the continued investment in our people, with targeted support and development programmes; and the successful implementation of our operations improvement objectives in safety, quality and warehouse management and customer service. 

We will also launch our new sustainably sourced range of products. Our customers can expect a range of exciting new products to choose from. So, there is lots for our customers to look forward to from VIDA!  

Finally, what’s your favourite range/model in VIDA’s current product line-up?

Oh, a tough final question! I will answer by giving you my favourites in some of our product categories. In dining, it’s the Valent and accompanying Duke fabric chairs – an instant classic. In sofas, it has to be the Vitalia, and in bedroom, I’m a big fan of the Jessica – a very stylish range.

This interview was published in the February 2022 issue of Furniture News magazine.

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