18 May 2024, 20:14
By Furniture News Aug 09, 2023

Gallery Direct – outside the box

The winner of the Best Garden/Outdoor Furniture Supplier accolade in this year’s Furniture News Readers’ Choice Awards, Gallery Direct has come a long way in this category in just three years. This summer, Paul Farley visited Gallery’s HQ to explore its newest outdoor lines and discover what’s next for the one-stop wonder …

All the world’s a stage – and in the retail theatre, few actors are more captivating than Gallery Direct. One of the few UK suppliers that can truly lay claim to the ‘one-stop shop’ moniker, Gallery seemingly adds SKUs by the minute, bringing new products, ranges and, regularly, entire product areas, on board with elan. 

And Gallery’s customers benefit from this trove, which contains the furniture centrepieces, their occasional counterparts, plus enough furnishings and accessories to create eye-catching, aspirational in-store displays to match the changing seasons or current trends. 

A trip to Gallery’s Sittingbourne HQ is always a pleasure. On this occasion, mine is made halfway through an at-home event dedicated to the supplier’s new outdoor collection. For three weeks this summer, VIP buyers and the general trade had the opportunity to peruse the newest outdoor loungers, dining sets and accoutrements, while taking advantage of cut-price deals on existing stock. 

Gallery’s outdoor furniture category manager Carole Nolan – now three years into the role, in tandem with the supplier’s foray into the great outdoors – has outdone herself, delivering a cornucopia of fresh designs, refreshing materials and clever engineering to the lovingly dressed showroom. 

Last year, Gallery trialled the at-home show format on the nearby Elmley nature reserve, welcoming guests while making the most of the stunning location’s photography potential. This summer, the showroom’s the star, offering visitors a winding journey through various (outdoor) room settings, replete with artificial foliage, welcoming throws and trendy cushions. 

Carole has travelled far and wide to source new lines for next year’s launch. The outdoor furniture boom may have quietened since the pandemic, but Gallery is still seeing high demand. 

“Although the wet Easter didn’t help, there’s still a hunger for outdoor furniture, and sales are up on last year,” says Carole. “There’s still a good deal of hosting going on in people’s gardens, and many recognise that simply having the right furniture and furnishings in their outdoor spaces is a great way to raise a home’s value.”

However, the remaining demand comes with even greater pressure to deliver keen pricing and good value. “Addressing the needs of the mid-to-high end is easy,” says Carole. “Chasing value is far harder.”

Gallery’s development team tries to hit every market – from China, Indonesia and India, to Vietnam, and Carole has just returned from the latter. “It’s great to get back to face-to-face business,” she enthuses. “You can negotiate much harder, and we have our own QC team on the ground there to help out.”

While the drive to lower prices can often result in a de-spec, Carole has instead explored the novel use of new materials, measurements and forms to hit the mark. Rope and rattan weave play a large part in the new seating, yet their application is a mile away from the tired conservatory look established decades ago. FSC-certified acacia provides a cost-effective solid wood component, while clever compact pieces have been created to suit even the smallest of outdoor areas. 

The ranges are also unafraid to play with colour, with pops of green dominating the accent opportunities. “Green will be big in 2024,” says Carole. “At last, people are moving away from grey – even Mrs Hinch has gone natural!”

Wherever possible, added functionality and storage have been built in. Curved sun loungers fold down for effective storage, and boast handy carry handles. A drinks table folds neatly away, making it perfect for small balconies, while armchairs house discreet recliner mechanisms. Gallery has strived to consider every niche.

For any independent retailer tempted to introduce an outdoor offer, Gallery’s is certainly a good place to start, and Carole hopes that the broader price bracket will make the range even more accessible to new stockists, as well as creating potential in existing ones. 

Read the rest of Paul's report in August's Furniture News.

© 2013 - 2024 Gearing Media Group Ltd. All Rights Reserved.