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 Andrius Minicius, Qualita MD …
How did you get into the trade?
I got into the trade by pure chance. I was doing my Bachelors in Economics at the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga, and desperately needed a year off to do something completely different. My brother had a sawmill at the time, and he had also worked in the UK a few years before. He said I could go to London and try to find clients to buy the pallet timber that he was manufacturing in his sawmill, or potentially even get some clients to buy construction timber.
The idea sounded different enough from doing another year at the university, and I decided to risk it. However, I could not sell timber or pallet planks or anything for construction, as the market was too competitive, with too many big players.
Time was going by and we still wanted to do something, so we decided to open a small shop and try to retail various interior details such as cladding, skirting boards, beading and flooring, and some standard furniture that we would buy from Lithuanian factories. A small shop was established in Battersea.
What was the turning point in your career?
We managed to acquire a large furniture factory in Lithuania that suffered cash-flow problems. We managed to revive the company with the cash that we had accrued selling bespoke furniture, and established a strong manufacturing/wholesaling arm alongside our bespoke service.
How will the industry evolve?
It all depends on consumer expectations, which are partially formed depending on the fiscal and monetary policy the Government undertakes, but more importantly by what the media says and the overall mood it conveys.
How can retailers increase sales and profitability?
In the growing era of online retailing, bricks and mortar retailers must make a clear point of difference for every client that walks in through the door. Every purchase from a high street shop must be an experience for the end-consumer. Customers have to appreciate how much added value they get for not buying online.
What brings a smile to your face in this industry?
I always find it fascinating how small and interconnected the furniture industry is. People move from company to company, from one position in the furniture industry to another. There is a limited number of retailers, and they buy from a yet more limited number of wholesalers and manufacturers.
So many people in the industry know each other by name, and a lot of business is done through word of mouth and mutual trust. Coming from Lithuania, I thought the UK furniture industry was immense – but having spent eight years in the market and only two years wholesaling directly, I realise that although the industry turns billions, the people in the circle are just one large family.
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.