What do you think? From emerging trends to the latest business principles, Furniture News is setting out to gauge the trade’s feelings on a variety of industry-specific topics. Today, we’re asking: What’s one thing our industry could learn from another sector?

Rob Walker, Orbital Vision: Things change rapidly in the furniture industry, and the industry isn’t always geared up to face rapid change. We saw this during Covid – businesses either adapted and got online, or didn’t and suffered. The furniture industry could definitely work on keeping up with trends and change 

Andy Stockwell, Gardiner Haskins: From any sector, keep innovating, keep moving forwards. The pace of change in retail has always been fast, and this has accelerated exponentially in the last couple of years. If you aren’t keeping pace, you are sure to be left behind

John Conroy, Morrisofa Europe: The tech sector sells a full concept rather than a product – for example, buying an apple iPhone usually leads to buying Airpods, an iPad, iWatch and iPod to go with it. Why do we only try to sell a sofa, rather than a professionally designed roomset? 

Mike Whitman, Iconography: The importance of supplier-driven assets. Decent photography is an expensive investment, and proper 3D models are even more costly. Small independents simply can’t afford to source this themselves, either in time or money. If suppliers want their products to be chosen over their competitors’ (either by the end-customer, or by retailers), then they need to be providing that retailer support

Mike Murray, Land of Beds: I think our industry needs to look at a more varied supply chain and locally sourced materials 

Peter Harding, Fairway Furniture: The past 18 months has illustrated just how far behind many sectors the furniture industry is – lead time management, keeping retailers updated and controlling costs are just some of the things that could be significantly improved. However, as online gets ever more important, the biggest thing that could benefit both retailers and manufacturers would be a full appreciation of the need to provide full marketing assets for each and every item in a product range 

Huw Williams, Toons Furnishers: To analyse the peaks and troughs in trading and try to fix them. When I arrived at Toons, at the end of my first year I realised we had some significant slow periods. I then used my knowledge of product sales in other retail sectors I had worked in, and successfully introduced new product groups to level out the trading pattern – such as a Christmas department and garden furniture. Both groups trade very well off the back of the footfall to an extremely busy coffee shop within the store

Wendy Martin Green, Peter Green Furnishers: As the owner of a smaller company, I would have to say distribution is something we could learn from the online sector. Amazon and, dare I mention, Wayfair, have it down. They know how to get products almost anywhere, and quickly. It is a struggle for us to break through that distribution barrier and get large items, such as sofas, that don’t break down into flat-packs, any further than a 50-mile radius without a lot of difficulty … despite lots of requests from potential customers in Ireland, Scotland and the North of England to do so. Small businesses do not have the distribution network to enable them to be competitive with the web giants, and this is a big problem for all of us. We need help!

Royce Clark, Grampian Furnishers: At the moment that’s a tough one, but I think what our industry has learned over the last 18 months is that we are way too reliant on the Far East supply chain – it won’t be a quick fix, but getting more manufacturing back to the UK is something we need to push for together

Steve Adams, Mattress Online: To be more transparent with our product-naming conventions. As an industry, we do a great job of confusing our customers with smoke and mirrors. To complicate the buying process even more, our terminology is alien to many customers – we need to educate and demystify at the same time

Steve Pickering, Sussex Beds: Traditionally our industry has always been swayed towards a male bias balance. I believe a rebalance toward females, especially in positions of leadership, would be beneficial in terms of views and ideas. Considering the majority of our consumer decisions are made or influenced by the female party, it makes great sense to increase their influence within the industry

John Northwood (trade agent): Our sector has been lagging behind with the use of technology that is available now with some businesses. However, with the pandemic, a lot of individuals and businesses have now realised the benefit and are addressing this – but in my opinion, there is still a way to go

This article featured in the March 2022 edition of Furniture News magazine.