25 July 2024, 10:14
By Furniture News Jan 09, 2024

Qualita – committed to cabinet and customer

Cabinet purveyor extraordinaire Qualita continues to wow, with new product, partnerships and service promises poised to cement its status as an invaluable retail partner – explains Qualita’s head of sales for the UK and Ireland, Anthony Matthias…

How’s business?

It remains tough, as it has for some time now. As you will have heard repeatedly, not only are we operating in a very competitive field, but we are also battling the more general economic headwinds buffeting the country now. 

Nonetheless, we are making progress, extending our reach across both the UK and Ireland, and as born optimists we believe that a combination of an enticing product offer, along with perseverance, hard work and determination, will win through.        

What progress has Qualita made in the past year? 

We have much to be proud of over the last year, which kicked off with a very busy and successful JFS for us, where we launched our Fargo Express. We took our bestselling Fargo dining table and edited the offer somewhat, and in so doing have committed to stocking the table, thereby offering our retail customers Fargo Express on a very competitive 4-week lead time. This initiative not only secured more floor space within some existing stockists, but opened the door to us supplying a raft of new retail accounts – a winning combination in anyone’s language.

Further, following the very successful re-introduction of the Winsor Stockholm living and dining range, we decided to re-introduce the Stockholm bedroom collection, and, through the best efforts of our team of agents, rapidly succeeded in gaining a good number of store placements. Again, we took the decision to hold stock of both collections in our Lithuanian warehouse, enabling us to offer a competitive 4-6-week lead time. Add to the above the relaunch of the Shadows collection, and all in all it made for a very compelling product offer. 

Throughout the year we’ve steadily built up our network of Shadows stockists, who we serve by stocking the collection in our Mitcham warehouse.

And mention must be made of the progress we have achieved in expanding the distribution of the Laura Ashley cabinet offer, to include a number of bricks-and-mortar retailers in the UK and EU, alongside John Lewis Partnership and Next. So, from Lerwick to St Helier, and from Norwich to Galway, we can proudly boast that we serve retailers right across the UK and Ireland.

What are the ramifications of your range extensions/new partnerships?

New partnerships come in different guises, and one that certainly offers much scope for the future is that of our burgeoning relationship with a Midlands-based DHD specialist, who is set to partner with us and John Lewis in offering Laura Ashley products for delivery direct to consumers.

The partnership we’ve forged with Laura Ashley is hugely relevant to us, not only in the UK but further afield too. As a quintessentially British brand of some standing, the name resonates with the public in many parts of the world, and as such we now find ourselves working with and supplying clients from South Korea to Norway, and from Kosovo to Qatar. 

What are you bringing to this year's January Furniture Show?    

Our stand at JFS will be our most adventurous yet. We are set to showcase the Stockholm bedroom collection, which will be the first time we’ve exhibited it. We’ll also be launching an array of new tables, from the intriguingly named Nature Art collection to the Alabastro stone top collection, and not forgetting a new range of extending dining tables.

And, for the very first time, we’ll be launching four Laura Ashley collections, as we look to capitalise on the good work of 2023 by extending our offer to independent retailers.

What prompted the new directions in product material/style?

When considering and deciding on the direction of new product development, we take account of different factors: what is currently working well? What is less popular? What works for us in other markets? What is our UK competition doing? And do we think the proposed new look/model is commercial? Do we think the market is ready for it? After all, sometimes you can be too early with a new look.

In Nature Art and Alabastro, we are gently pushing the boundaries. Though we don’t see ourselves as promoters of the avant garde, we also do not want to be known as a company who rests on our laurels. 

What sets your offer apart?  

Our offer is really very broad and, among other things, the following points set us apart from others: the almost endless number of possibilities to customise your dining table and cabinets from our MTO offer; the ability to customise your choice of dining chair – be it the leg type or the material the underframe is made from – in addition to a generous selection of fabrics, natural leathers and colours;

the ex-stock availability of both the Shadows and Stockholm collections; the strength and draw of the Laura Ashley brand and portfolio of products; a continuous focus on ESG; strict manufacturing control, continuous ethical and technical auditing; zero waste production in our own factory in Lithuania; and continuous investment in automation and robotisation of the most hazardous production processes.

Can you outline Qualita’s international scope?

Aside from our business in the UK and Ireland, we’ve already established significant business in Germany and Sweden, and are seeing healthy growth across the rest of Scandinavia and other EU countries. Elsewhere in Europe we are a major white-label supplier to Habitat in France, and have served the El Corte Ingles department store group across Iberia. 

Further afield, we’ve developed lasting relationships both with a New Zealand-based design house as well as a company from the US, for whom we manufacture a few ranges.

And, as a result of our holding the licence covering the development, manufacture, supply and distribution of Laura Ashley cabinet furniture, we also now enjoy growing business in key East Asian and Middle Eastern markets, firmly cementing our status as a global player. 

How has your service offer evolved to meet the needs of today’s retailer/consumer?      

We’ve always recognised the need to support the retailer with a level of customer service which, we believe, is second to none. And today, more than ever before, we realise how crucial it is to be able to offer good customer service. 

We understand the importance of reacting promptly and efficiently to any customer service matter, and as part of our commitment our London office is staffed six days a week. Additionally, we have our own team of technicians who we deploy as and when required, and we’ve also linked up with ISM Networks Furniture Services, who are our nominated partner for when we’re unable to help.

Finally, why should JFS attendees visit stand 1-D50 this year? 

Aside from being assured a very warm welcome, a visit to our stand this year will be very worthwhile. We will be showcasing not only our bestsellers, but also launching a host of new products that have not been available from Qualita before, as well as introducing an edit of Laura Ashley furniture, which will be a first for us, Laura Ashley, and our visitors.

All in, this will be an ideal opportunity for visitors to see our offer in its finest and broadest form.

Find out more about the upcoming January Furniture Show in this month's issue.

Pictured: Alabastro

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