19 July 2024, 07:10
By Furniture News Dec 16, 2022

Devonshire Pine – West Country wonder

Bideford-based cabinet leader Devonshire Pine turned 30 this year, and is turning a new corner under the leadership of its founder’s daughter, Nicolle Hockin. This month, Furniture News explores the product, people and processes that make the business such a valued industry partner …

How does it feel to be marking Devonshire’s 30th anniversary this year?

It’s a great achievement to hit another decade milestone, especially with all the changes that have gone on in the company and the industry in the last few years. Since taking over in 2019, it’s been such an honour to uphold the legacy and reputation that the company has built up over those years.

Can you give us a snapshot of where the business stands right now?

Obviously, there are a lot of challenges in the industry right now, with the cost of living, Ukraine, shipping rates and now the exchange rate as well, so there’s certainly plenty to keep us on our toes. Since Andy (Waddell, MD) left the company in June, we’ve restructured the business and been focusing on our core foundations, making sure we’re financially and logistically sound in order to push forwards – as well as planning for the future in terms of products, technology and marketing especially.

Take us through your newest lines – what feedback have you received?

The NEC show being in April rather than January messed with our timeline a bit, as well as the sales climate slowing down earlier than usual this year. We launched two new ranges at the show, Chiltern and Henley, which are both made from reclaimed pine sourced from demolished buildings. 

We are constantly looking at our environmental impact, since the furniture industry does tend to have a large carbon footprint, so using reclaimed timber is a step in the right direction in terms of sustainability. Packaging is the next key focus, although the cost is difficult to overcome with the current plastic-free options, so there’s a lot more work to be done there.

 At the show, we also launched a small kitchen collection into one of our popular painted ranges (Dorset Painted), which was extremely well received. Although we have not yet had the first batch of stock in (it’s due this month), we have already had to place repeat orders. 

Regarding the two cabinet ranges we selected to take forwards, based on good feedback – Tavistock (a tambour-style oak dining range) and Madley (a modular painted bedroom range) – we have decided to hold on until the end of the year, when we are hopeful that shipping rates will continue to improve so we can launch them at the very best prices possible.

There is, of course, always product development going on behind the scenes, and one thing we’re keen to focus on over the next 12 months is our chair offering – into new designs and colours, as well as refining our current supply chain.

Is Devonshire operating in a markedly different way compared to before the pandemic?

Since Devonshire officially stopped manufacturing in 2019, just mere months before Covid hit, the company as it is now was always going to be noticeably different to the one it was three years ago, with or without the pandemic. 

Covid and the resulting supply chain disruption caused us to really scrutinise and double down on our core foundations, as I’ve mentioned above, to make sure we were in the most stable position possible to weather any further challenges that may come our way. This groundwork includes our finances (of course), customer service (making sure our existing customers have everything they need) and product (making sure that we are well stocked across all collections, and that they are consistently the quality that we expect). 

So, externally, we are operating the same way – the same products, supply chain, logistics and service – but internally we have moved a lot of processes around to be more streamlined and efficient.

Dorset Painted

Aside from the recent developments, can you take us through some of the biggest moments in the company’s history since its inception?

As we’re celebrating our 30th year, we’ve been taking the time to reflect on where we came from. Down in our reception area we have framed aerial shots of how our premises have grown over the years, and it’s fascinating to look at where we started and where we are now. 

Devonshire was founded by my father (Peter Hockin) in 1992 as a spraying facility, alongside his partner, who was manufacturing. Over time, Peter took over the production side as well, moved to a bigger premises, and not long after began building the first section of the now eight-phase, 240,000ft2 facility we operate from today. 

Over that time, we evolved from simple lacquer- and wax-finished pine manufacturing, to adding paint options, and then in 2005 we began to import oak product from overseas. Things evolved naturally, and over time the oak began to outsell the pine, and eventually rising production costs and lower import costs made it no longer viable to manufacture. Returning full circle, we do however still run our paint-spraying facility to offer a variety of colour choices, with currently nine colours available in all three of our painted ranges.

How does such longevity and experience benefit your customers?

Our QC manager Andrew has been with the company since 1993 – he’s our longest-serving member of staff – and our manufacturing background really gives us the edge when it comes to quality control and product development. 

Many of our staff have been with us for over 15 years, so that retained knowledge helps us to really drill down into the construction, production and real details of the product, as well as having the skills to make prototypes and facilitate any repairs quickly in-house. 

For us, it’s not a case of bringing in a box and sending it back out without any input into how it works or how it’s put together. The staff we have working here really care about the product and the service we provide, and our reputation reflects that. We know that we can never compete at the bottom end of the market, because too much blood, sweat and tears go into the production of any new product that we put our name to.

Give us a quick summary of the services and lead times you offer

Long story short, we currently offer 13 ranges across bedroom, dining and living, in a range of materials and finishes such as reclaimed pine, lacquered or waxed oak, and painted. 

Our lead times vary in general from 1-3 weeks depending on stock, volume and payment terms, and 3-6 weeks for painted product in premium colours. We deliver to the UK mainland on our own fleet of trucks, although we do have added flexibility with two vans and a pallet service. 

Because we have full confidence in our product, we have an excellent returns policy, and sell off clearance and seconds in our own local outlet, which also serves as a showroom for our trade customers. We have teams dedicated specifically to customer service, quality control, distribution and warehouse management, since we currently hold £4m of stock on-site in our warehouses in Devon.

What’s in the pipeline for Devonshire? How are you gearing up for the next 30 years?

There’s always projects on the go – some make it to launch, and some get dropped along the way, but the innovation and development is constant. 

One project almost ready to launch is our new online ordering platform, which is a serious upgrade to our current system (which has served us well but is over 10 years old now). The new site will be more streamlined, user friendly, and packed with a lot more product information and a live stocklist – anything to make our retailers’ lives easier means the potential of higher sales for us. 

Improving our service is the main focal point at the moment – having good, reliable product is one thing, but when there is so much choice available it is the surrounding service which makes the difference. We have a 1-, 5- and 10-year plan, but 30 might be pushing it a little bit! You’ll just have to wait and see …

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