18 June 2024, 06:58
By Furniture News May 26, 2016

Peter Delaney, Gallery Direct

Peter Delaney is the MD of Gallery Direct. Established in 1973 as a family-run framed mirror business, Gallery has since grown to become one of Britain’s leading designers, manufacturers and worldwide distributors of home decor to the international interiors industry.

How did you enter the trade?
I was working for the civil service earning some money to go travelling during a year out before university when my father suggested becoming a sales rep for his mirror business. I was offered £38 a week plus commission, but the real draw was the rather impressive Nissan ZX Coupe that came with the job – not bad for an 18 year old!

It was only meant to be for the gap year, but within a few months I was the most successful sales rep in the business, having even opened an account with Harrods. I was enjoying the work and had a few quid in my pocket for the first time ever, so I stayed and I’ve never looked back.

Who was your inspiration?
I take ideas and energy from around me – news stories, bright ideas, sadness and grief, which make me realise how lucky we all are and give me strength to aspire to even greater things.

What was your career low point?
In 1997 our business hit severe problems. We had a serious fire in the factory that nearly wiped us out. It was a scary event which led to a number of us battling the fire and being taken to hospital with smoke inhalation injuries. We lost everything. We had to relocate, battle with insurers, remake and restock, whilst maintaining confidence with current clients.

… and the high point?
A few months after the fire, one of the best episodes of my career took place. The factory was replenishing and recovering and I was dispatched to the States to seek additional sales which culminated in an amazing order for 127 40ft containers of mirrors to one client. Happy days!

It was like being in a perfect storm where everything, after the shock of the fire, went right for us. I was involved in the whole process, the design, the manufacturing of the product, packaging, shipping and logistics. The buzz and satisfaction of getting the order fulfilled on time was fantastic – it was my Geoff Hurst moment!

… and the turning point?
I took over the business from my father and his partner in August 2003 after the business ran into difficulties. I bought the company and took control. The business at this point needed a new direction and energy.

My overriding principle is that it is all about the content, and in our case that’s the product. People have to desire the item and then they ask you how much it is, when can they have it, etc? Our procurement base needed to be widened, so we established an overseas manufacturing base and pushed British-led design across a whole range of manufacturing capabilities.

Describe a typical working day
When I’m in the office and not travelling, I get in at about eight, say hello to the team and have a bit of fun catching up with their news, then grab a coffee. I aim to get three important tasks done per day – it makes me prioritise things.

At the end of the day I ask myself ‘did I add value and make a difference to our business and our clients?’ We are a strong growing team here at Gallery, and it’s great to see people progress and hopefully take more satisfaction out of what they do. I like to think it is a fun but professional place to work. I head off home at between 6:30 and 7:00pm.

Working hard is in the genes, but I’m also focused on my family and the community I live in.

If you had to start over, you’d probably pursue which career?
If I could have sharpened up my ‘line out’ throwing I would probably have pursued a rugby career.

What date on the business calendar do you most look forward to?
The New Year launch – the buzz and excitement from seeing the new catalogues printed and putting out our wares on the stand at the first show of the year, followed by interaction and feedback from customers, and of course hopefully the resulting full order book!

What is the most important issue affecting your business right now?
Managing success and growth – we now have over 60,000 pieces in stock in our UK and China warehouses, ready to ship to clients in 17 countries. We have an ambitious expansion programme to become a real leader in all home decor and have increased our range this year by over 60% in various categories, including furniture and textiles.

The development of a clear goal and a strong management team is vital. We have a great team at Gallery who are developing and growing into a world-class group of professionals. We have great retention, but the momentum of helping the team grow is vital to our ongoing success.

What company do you most look up to?
You can learn from companies and everything around you. Outside of our industry, I do admire Boden, the clothing company, as they really understand their marketplace, their content is good and their customer service and marketing ideas are fantastic.

What would you most like to change about yourself?
Having the strength to go for the granola and yogurt options at breakfast, rather than the full English!

What do you enjoy most about working in the trade?
The product and the customers. I love getting involved with the products and seeing ideas transferred from sketchpads to stores, and the excitement that this process from concept, prototype and beyond brings to our clients. I love when we check our first batch of a design. Understanding our clients’ needs is a critical part of my role. The satisfaction I get from being able to adapt and change something, to meet or exceed their expectations, is fantastic.

Leave us with an industry anecdote please!
A few years ago, we used to have a small upstairs office on our stand at the furniture show that we used for any clearance offers – it was nicknamed by the sales team ‘the cupboard of love’.

One year I squeezed into the cupboard of love with two burly chaps looking for some deals. I subsequently dropped my stock sheets on the floor and as I bent down awkwardly to collect them there was an almighty rip, as my trousers split. I don’t know if the two fellas were more embarrassed, or myself, as I emerged from the cupboard of love with a rather obvious air vent in my trousers.

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