19 May 2024, 08:56
By Furniture News Jul 11, 2022

Typically Tetrad

Like many in the sector, the recent years have been a rollercoaster ride for upholstery supremo Tetrad, as it worked through the challenges of the pandemic to emerge in a strong position on the other side. Here, sales director Chris Fletcher gives Furniture News an exclusive look at the advances the Preston-based heritage brand has made, the unique qualities that set it apart, and its brand-new website – which now brings Tetrad's products to life through 3D Augmented Reality (AR) … 

Tetrad truly came out fighting this year, unveiling its new collections at an at-home show in February before going to to wow visitors at the NEC in April, where its lavish display won the premium hall’s Best Stand award.

“It was fantastic to get back to meeting face-to-face with our customers and present the new designs,” Chris enthuses. “It’s so important to us for people to be able to touch and feel the quality of the materials and the comfort in what we create – and the reaction was excellent. We’ve already committed to exhibiting there again next year.”

The last two years have seen significant change in the business, which restructed and streamlined its senior management team following the departure of long-time brand figurehead Janus Cooper. Tetrad is now ably headed up by Chris – who has been with the business for over 20 years, and was its design director from 2011 until he took on the added responsibility of sales during the transition – and Stuart Masson, who joined Tetrad in 2017 as operations director, and was appointed MD earlier this year.  

Tetrad has come to be best known for its Harris Tweed collection, which launched nine years ago and is now well established in the UK and abroad. The collaboration between Tetrad and Harris Tweed brings together two of Britain’s most recognisable brands, resulting in natural synergies in terms of the products’ quality and hand-crafted nature. “The classic, elegant sofa shapes combine perfectly with the iconic and easily identifiable fabric to create a timeless combination,” explains Chris.

Over many years, the Tetrad brand itself has become synonymous with quality and comfort, thanks to its ability to create innovative and eclectic new collections using some of the world’s finest materials. The Constable collection, launched in 2018, is good example of this approach, marrying the colours and textures of heavy Italian velvets with a unique mix of decorative hand-woven scatter cushions.  

That year also saw the launch of the Spink & Edgar collection, which features glamorous and opulent selections of velvets and the finest prints from GP&J Baker on a range of boutique-style, art deco-inspired shapes, incorporating award-winning spring technology from the experts at Harrison Spinks. “The range has gone from strength to strength,” says Chris, “and we expect to see a further triple-digit percentage increase in sales this year.”

In 2019, Tetrad developed and launched a truly unique fabric proposition called the Bagru collection, which was inspired by the character of antique printed rugs. The ultra-heavyweight cotton is hand woven, hand printed and then hand washed to create a distinctive and individual look, with the sort of authenticity that only the likes of Tetrad can offer.

This year, Tetrad has already made waves in the loose cover sector, with the introduction of a fully machine-washable cotton velvet. Clearly, this heritage brand’s natural place is in the vanguard. 

“Creatively, we try to steer away from the latest industry trends and colour fads, in favour of creating our own unique style and handwriting, which, when paired with the skills and craftmanship developed by over 50 years of trade, offer something special and ‘typically Tetrad’,” explains Chris, before going on to describe the evolving infrastructure behind this creative process. 

Since the business became part of the Belfield Group in 2017, Tetrad’s Preston site has enjoyed considerable investment, with the implementation of a new ERP system and the latest automated machinery in both the woodmill and cutting operations.  

“Being part of the group [which also comprises Westbridge, Clinchplain, and Belfield’s home and leisure divisions] also allows us to tap into the vast knowledge and experience of the wider team to ensure that the Tetrad proposal is always market leading,” says Chris.  

Yet, he adds, despite these economies of scale, Tetrad very much remains a unique proposition: “Whilst both Tetrad and Westbridge manufacture upholstered items under the Belfield umbrella, the factory operations are in fact quite different. At Tetrad, we specialise in lower volume, individual, traditional, complex designs, mixing leathers and fabrics – and we even offer a service which enables customers to select their own fabrics, which we then tailor to their selected shape.”

One of the biggest challenges Tetrad and its peers now face is maintaining the traditional skills required to produce sofas at such a high level. To ensure a level of continuity, Tetrad runs a perpetual apprenticeship scheme to impart the skills and craft required to manufacture products in this way, right across its range of operations. “It fills us with immense pride as our new recruits progress, and ultimately qualify,” says Chris.

The brand is looking ahead in more ways than one. There is a real buzz of excitement around the business right now as it prepares to launch its new website, which has been in the works for 12 months. 

“The new site uses the very latest technology to display fully functioning 3D rendered visuals of all our models and fabrics,” Chris explains. “Because we offer such versatility in the way that you can mix and match our fabrics and leathers, the Build your own Tetrad configurator is an invaluable and pretty fun tool to help the retailers and customers visualise the finished item, in their chosen design.”

With over 200 fabrics including velvets, leather, tweeds and linens, it was impossible for Tetrad to show what every variation of their model could look like, due to the level of customisation offered. “We’re delighted to be able to do this now with the 3D configurator," says Chris. "You simply select your style, pick your fabric, preferred legs and any cushion accessories.

“We’ve also included an Augmented Reality [AR] functionality, which enables customers to superimpose their bespoke sofas and chairs into their own rooms. We’re confident that this special blend of innovation, customisation, traditional craftsmanship and cutting-edge technology will see our business continue to flourish for many years to come."

Once customers are happy with their custom Tetrad build, they can search for the nearest retail stockist to place their order, with a full build specification outlined ready to discuss.

Members of the trade keen to discover the latest developments will have an opportunity to do so later this year, when Tetrad sets out its stall at the autumn Long Point show in September, before returning to the Brussels Furniture Fair in November to reconnect with many of its European customers for the first time since 2020.

Pictured in header: Monique

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