Each Friday, Furniture News puts five questions to a selected industry professional to explore their background and approach to business. Today, it's the turn of the Febland Group MD, Tony Febland …
How did you get into the trade?
Got into the trade by birthright. My dad started the business, and I was expected to join after schooling.
What was the turning point in your career?
The turning point in my career was when one of my companies – a haulier called Febland Europa – was carrying a load of reproduction Italian furniture from Pistoia to Manchester. We were instructed to unload only after proof of payment to the supplier. The customer failed to pay, so we were obliged to unload the goods in our warehouse.
At the time we dealt with ornaments, ceramics, Capodimonte and glassware. We had never bought furniture from Italy before, but it became apparent that there was a demand as lots of customers asked about prices of goods from this trailerload which had not been paid for – it was a hot line of baroque reproduction furniture with carved beechwood frames. And, before long, we started to buy a trailerload every week. The year was 1977.
How will the industry evolve?
The furniture industry will evolve in no regular and tidy way. The world is small, and many countries have a furniture industry which will attract importers, but, in my opinion, as the UK loses its prime status as a trading nation, the home-grown manufacturer will have his day again, custom-made, designer-led furniture will be produced in studios up and down the country, and the UK will be a centre for innovation and adaptability through its will to survive.
How can retailers increase sales and profitability?
Mainly by selling more stuff and at higher prices. Other than saying this, I don’t feel qualified to make judgements on the whole vista of the furniture and furnishing trade.
What brings a smile to your face in this industry, or do you have an amusing tale to share?
If you know the Febland range, you’ll know it is characterised by many pieces of outrageous aspect, which we see as niche market. Once I was in South Yorkshire trying my best to sell a large ceramic lamp in the form of a ceramic grotto full of hand-crafted fish and crustaceans.
The buyer, a doughty Yorkshire lady of a certain age, refused to be tempted because she considered it to be macabre. I was surprised at her coming out with this adjective as her language was pretty basic and local. I agreed with her that it was indeed macabre, but that this added to its appeal. “No,” she said, “I mean it’s a muck-harbourer. It harbours muck.”
This is an extract from an article published previously in Furniture News magazine. For more stories like this, you can subscribe to receive a regular physical copy of the magazine, or sign up to have a free digital issue delivered to your inbox each month.