15 July 2024, 02:54
By Furniture News Nov 15, 2021

Readers' Choice 2021: Best Buying Group/Association

Associated Independent Stores (AIS) is the largest independent non-food buying group of its kind in the UK and Ireland, with around 350 members boasting a combined retail turnover of over £2b. The group offers members collective buying power, access to own-brand products, exhibitions, financial services and more.

“AIS would like to thank the readers of Furniture News for this accolade,” says AIS’ (outgoing, see related) director of furniture, Julian Cox. “The last 16 months have undoubtedly been a huge challenge, and this win is a great endorsement of the value that AIS brings to its members and suppliers. We’d like to take this opportunity to also send our thanks to our valued AIS members and suppliers for their support during this challenging period.

“Since the first lockdown in March 2020, the business has seen a number of changes, including the appointment of a new MD, Sue Kemp, in July 2020. To reconnect our industry, we also created our first digital buying show, and, with the support of over 70 suppliers, we held the Online Furniture Event in March of this year – an initiative which was extremely well received by members and suppliers alike.

“We held our first post-lockdown furniture trade show at Cranmore Park on 1st-2nd September, with the show joining the portfolio of existing home and fashion categories under the INDX trade show branding. The next INDX Furniture show will take place on 23rd-25th January 2022.

“Ultimately, AIS work as a collaborative partnership with its community, and the pandemic has strengthened this relationship. We remain focused on providing a bespoke service, which includes offering help, advice and inclusive support, with a strong sense of mutual advantage for members and suppliers alike.

“As well as giving access to exclusive product ranges, negotiated buying terms and discounts, AIS membership also offers unique benefits including Cenpac, an efficient central payment facility which gives efficiency and resource savings for members and suppliers. The AIS Procurement team save members money across areas such as utilities, low-energy lighting, waste, insurance and more – while Partnership Trading continually monitors and controls merchandise standards.”

AIS recently announced the appointment of Emma Rackley as its new director of furniture and home. Emma will replace Julian, who will be moving on at the end of the year. Emma has a wealth of industry experience, having most recently held the position of group commercial director at Bensons.

Emma says: “I am delighted to be joining AIS, a unique organisation with well-established roots in the industry. I have admired what they do for many years, so it is a real honour to now be part of it.”

Independent retailers wishing to find out more about the benefits of joining AIS can visit the group’s website or or email [email protected].

Read about the winners of Furniture News' inaugural Readers' Choice Awards in August's issue.

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