23 May 2024, 23:26
By Furniture News Jan 12, 2015

A labour of love from Collins and Hayes

With a new profile being unveiled on stand 1C20 at the January Furniture Show this week, Paul Farley was given a chance to discover first-hand why retailers will be falling in love with Collins and Hayes all over again …

Courting the trade’s attention is rarely a simple matter, and with so many marketing initiatives pushing new products this month, it’s going to take substance as well as style to stand out.

Despite having a heritage of 130 years of fine craftsmanship behind it, the Hastings, East Sussex-based Collins and Hayes was deemed ripe for a makeover by new MD Matt O’Flynn, who immediately identified a need for redefinition should the brand hope to engage a wider cross-section of the modern market.

With that in mind, new products were developed, and new fabrics specified, with the aim of better meeting the demands of today’s upmarket independent retailer. Combine this with a thoroughly modern approach to categorisation, presentation and selling, and you have a fresh offer that is guaranteed to make even the most dyed-in-the-wool retailer reconsider their take on the brand.

“When I joined the company a few months ago, I saw that the brand was capable of working so much harder,” says Matt. We needed to upgrade our product focus, introducing more expressive, ambitious designs – while continuing to support the existing range. It’s been no small task!”

In essence, the new selection needed to speak to the heart, as much as to the purse strings. “We’re still a contemporary classic brand,” says Matt, “but we’re taking our styling in a new direction, and aiming to engage with buyers’ feelings on a deeper level. It’s about Collins and Hayes redefining its own, unique place in the market, and giving our retailers what’s right for them.”

The show stand is the company’s opportunity to reflect all of these developments – and it will be markedly different to what has gone before, promising romance, nostalgia and glamour in equal measure, and – in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek manner – echoing high street trends.

“The theme behind the brand repositioning is love,” grins Matt. “We’re asking people to fall back in love with the Collins and Hayes brand. This is a company with a long, distinguished history, and the time has come to encourage the trade to re-engage with the brand – and discover some exciting new products in the process!”

Seven new sofa groups will be on display, ranging from Vanguard, a comfortable, loose-cover model ideal for families, to Wealden, which sports a contemporary country house look. To the fore will be the – frankly unmissable – Big Apple, a show-stopping 3.2m curved sofa that is part of a new Chesterfield-style collection, New York.

The new shapes are a significant departure from the norm for Collins and Hayes, promising wider consumer appeal than ever. While designing, developing and constructing the models proved taxing for the teams concerned, the process appears to have greatly galvanised the workforce, which has risen to the challenge with aplomb – the development team may never previously have tackled curves of the like featured in the elegant new Horst model, but they have done so without breaking their stride.

The fresh energy running throughout the company has been crucial to realising Matt’s ambitious objectives, whilst maintaining the high levels of craftsmanship and attention to detail for which the manufacturer is known.

At the NEC, the new models will be displayed in new fabrics drawn from a fresh swatch of 25, which itself promises greater comfort and a wider spectrum of colours. “We’ll still be displaying some neutrals,” says Matt, “but there’ll be a far wider choice. The tones are softer at one end, yet much more vibrant at the other.”

Sumptuous velvets sporting digital prints will join more earthy woollen and textures and vintage looks, presented upon models – and across nearby mood boards, designed to convey the flexibility of the new swatch at various price levels.

Coupled with the new product offer is a new approach to categorisation and selling this year. Going forward, the offer will be loosely broken down into four categories – based on factors such as age group, brand awareness and budget – which have been designed to help retailers better target Collins and Hayes’ growing range towards their own specific customers.

Whether catering for a new homeowner, a time-poor family, aspirational 40-something or big spender, Matt is confident that Collins and Hayes can meet – and, in some cases, exceed – expectations, making it an exciting prospect for the brand-conscious independent retailer.

Of course, there’s more to the story – new PoS and bespoke swatches, a new website, an expanded sales force, plus plans to redevelop the company’s headquarters – but, at its heart, the developments taking place at Collins and Hayes have been made in order to open new doors, set new standards and breathe life into a brand with huge potential.

“I’m looking forward to having new discussions with stockists and suppliers, and to cultivating a much better relationship with our customers,” says Matt. “The early feedback has been so promising – and I strongly urge retailers to come and see what we have to offer this month. They’re going to love it!”

This article was published in the January issue of Furniture News magazine.

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