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 Vikas Shah, director of Swiscot Textiles and Charlotte Thomas …
How did you get into the trade?
I owned a design and branding agency for just over 10 years, and when I got out of that, I joined the family business which, at the time, was a fabrics trading company since 1968. I set myself a challenge then, to grow that into a substantial brand-led firm in retail and commercial markets.
My passion for design and all things beautiful resulted in the launch of our consumer brand, Charlotte Thomas, one of the most widely-recognised names in bedding, bath and kitchen textiles, producing products ranging from standard retail up to very luxurious bedding woven from 22ct gold.
What was the turning point in your career?
In terms of my career in textiles, there have been many turning points. The financial crisis from 2007 has been a major test, involving re-engineering our entire growth strategy, and gearing our business around a dramatically changed market. It has taught us a lot of important lessons.
Fortunately, at Swiscot we are a great believer in philanthropy, and that in hard times like these, putting good into the world empowers and strengthens us as a business. We support and are a proud patron of the London-based charity The Elephant Family.
Our commitment to social responsibility and environmental concerns are high on the business agenda, and hopefully we are moving, as the industry aims to minimise the impact of business activities on wider society, and where possible, we enrich the lives of those involved directly, or indirectly, with our organisation.
However, our motto is that these are things you should not shout about – they are the responsibility and obligation of an enterprise, not a favour to the world.
How will the industry evolve?
The industry will become increasingly global, rather than the ‘buy cheap from the East, sell to the West’ mentality that has pervaded our culture for such a long time. The step change comes from the world being full of consumers, with different tastes and trends, and often more business coming from markets which are not local to you.
How can retailers increase sales and profitability?
If I knew the answer to this, I’d be a millionaire! I think retailers simply need to appreciate that customers want more choice of brands and different products, and rather than giving huge preference to incumbent brands, variety is critical to developing long-term profitability.
What brings a smile to your face in this industry?
This is a great market to be in. There are not many other industries which are so global and so creative. And what brings a smile to my face? Well, certainly seeing a customer walking down the road carrying one of our bags, or hearing people in a cafe talk about our products. These are the things which tell me that we are doing the right thing!
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.