26 May 2024, 03:20
By Furniture News Jan 15, 2019

The Furniture Awards 2019 – meet the judges

This month, The Furniture Awards return to the January Furniture Show to celebrate the suppliers of some of the best new products launched at the exhibition. In this article, Furniture News presents the four judges tasked with deciding this year's winners from the 17-strong shortlist …

Developed five years ago by Furniture News magazine in partnership with the show’s organisers, the awards have been bestowed on inspirational businesses at each edition since, in recognition of the quality and commercial value of their star products.

Above all, The Furniture Awards were designed to celebrate the suppliers of product with commercial value. As such, they are assessed each year by a panel of eminent industry leaders, buyers and designers, chaired by awards co-ordinator Paul Farley, editor-in-chief of Furniture News.

Ross Beveridge

New judge Ross Beveridge is MD at Archers Sleepcentre, Scotland’s largest independent bed specialist. The business encompasses 12 stores across central Scotland, and boasts a turnover of £10m.

Ross was instrumental in the repositioning of the brand from budget-end products to higher values. Since 2010, Archers’ AOV has tripled and its gross margins improve by 10% points. This involved sourcing own-brand product, a complete estate refurbishment, retraining the sales staff and the closure of unprofitable stores.

During this time Ross also developed an industry-leading website that contributes a significant contribution to Archers’ revenue. 

In addition to the day-to-day running of the business, Ross’ role includes identifying new store opportunities, negotiating leases, and designing and project managing shopfits, having opened three new stores in the last two years alone.

Prior to working in the furniture industry, Ross spent 10 years with HSBC providing training in various countries to support their global workforce redeployment.  

“I am honoured having been asked to be a member of this year’s judging panel,” he says, “and I’m really looking forward to seeing the innovative and creative designs once again produced by the very best the furniture industry has to offer.” 

Matt Hesketh

Next is Matt Hesketh, MD of independent furniture retailer Anglia Home Furnishing (AHF), whose 25-year career began in a start-up called Uno, where he started as a warehouse operative. Since leaving there he spent time as a regional manager at ScS, then on to DFS, before making the move to AHF eight years ago, when the business was part of the Anglia Regional Co-Operative society.

“The last eight years at AHF have been very challenging and exciting” says Matt. “Coming into a business that has spent years underfunded and undervalued was a very daunting task, especially coming from the market leader DFS, where everything was already in place. 

“The change in the business over the last eight years since leaving Anglia Regional Co-Operative and becoming the largest employee co-operative of its kind in the UK, has been huge. The business is unrecognisable from its roots – although we have always tried to maintain certain co-operative values especially when dealing with our customers and staff.”

Over the last 25 years Matt has gained experience in every aspect of the retail furniture market. “I think you can safely say I have furniture running through my blood now,” he says. “It’s no longer just a job, but a passion. I love coming to work, even when the market is difficult, as furniture retailing really can give you the opportunity to try new things and gain new experiences every day.”

Malcolm Walker

Returning to the panel is regular judge Malcolm Walker. For the last 46 years, Malcolm’s career has revolved around retail, chiefly in the home furnishing market.

Having been director of product for Furniture Village for many years, Malcolm now runs his own consultancy business, FIRST (Furniture Industry Retail Scourcing Today!) MW, a progressive company that is working with the likes of Furniture Village, Sterling and leading industry suppliers on product design, development, and concept realisation.

“It’s my job to bring products to life,” says Malcolm, “and, in my opinion, it’s one of the best jobs in the industry. It plays to my commercial instincts, retailing strengths and my creative ability. 

“I had been with Furniture Village for 20 years, and loved every minute, having experienced and been part of the exciting growth story, from 12 stores to current levels. During that time I have seen the business grow and evolve from a predominantly UK supply base into a respected, influential and global player within our industry.”

Malcolm performed a number of roles at Furniture Village, including: buying controller, cabinets; buying controller, upholstery; and director of product on its trading board. Prior to this, he spent over 20 years with the Maple, Waring & Gillow group, in various roles from sales consultant to store management, making the move into buying in 1987 while managing the flagship international store on Tottenham Court Road.

“I then moved into group buying for Maples when the Maple, Waring & Gillow business was acquired by Asda/Allied Carpets, becoming buying controller and then director of buying prior to joining Furniture Village,” he says.

“My early years were spent in a family-owned department store, Newhouses in Middlesbrough, in warehousing, distribution, display and sales … until I got the furniture bug!”

Rob Scarlett

Also returning is award-winning furniture designer and creative strategist Rob Scarlett. The founding director of Scarlett Furniture & Print, a successful design consultancy creating commercial furniture designs for high street retailers, wholesalers and sourcing agents, Rob has played a key role in the design teams of some of the best-known brands and businesses in the UK furniture industry over the last 15 years, including Willis & Gambier, Nathan Furniture and Mark Webster.

He has also enjoyed success with ranges launched through UK retailers including Heal’s, Marks & Spencer, Furniture Village, And So To Bed and John Lewis. More recently, he created new ranges for market-leading sourcing solutions outfit, Source By Net.

“Being a designer and creative strategist is the best job in the industry as far as I’m concerned,” says Rob. “You get to be at the leading end of development, defining business directions and curating the product lifecycles that go into normal homes. I like to think in some small part that I’m contributing to the wellbeing of real, everyday people.”

What next?

The judges will gather at the Birmingham NEC before the show opens to assess their shortlisted entrants in person, before returning their verdict on the first day of the show (20th January).

“One of the best things about The Furniture Awards is they truly represent the amazing array and quality of the products on show at the January Furniture Show. We are looking forward to developing the awards in future years, with the aim of making them a highly regarded, industry-wide accolade,” says event director Cleere Scammel.

Keep an eye on the Furniture News and January Furniture Show websites on 20th January for news of this year’s winners …

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