Andrius Minicius, director of Qualita, answers Furniture News’ questions about the company's strongest product area and the issues surrounding it.
Tell us about your dining room offering
In the dining category, we’ve recently unveiled a new collection called Trinity, which features splayed legs on the tables and case-goods, and an H-frame on the dining tables, evoking that trestle feel which has been gaining popularity lately.
The doors and drawers have push/pull mechanisms which add another feature to the range whilst also giving the fronts a clear, unfussy look, and allowing the angular shape of the cabinets to sustain the main focus. Of course, like all Qualita products, these can be customised in any way including alternative handles, should the customer wish.
This is taking the oak sector forward for us, and establishing further differences between what we do and the commoditised parts of the market, where the same styles are marketed by so many – not something we want to compete with. We’d rather give our stockists something that’s more unique and help them stand out from the competition too.
What are your historic and current bestsellers and why are they so popular?
Our bestselling established range is Goliath. I think one of the reasons for its success is how it crosses over from contemporary to rustic farmhouse in its feel, and this gives appeal to different types of customer. It’s a through leg design, and also has the curve at the end of each piece, which gives its own handwriting and sets it apart while keeping that wide appeal. It has a strong presence.
What trends are you currently experiencing?
With oak having been in such oversupply, and the market being so competitive, there’s clearly a challenge in the mid-upper market to move on from the mainstream in the offer but not so far that the design becomes so advanced it alienates the customer. Obviously, finding that elusive sweet-spot is what we’re all aiming for.
Painted furniture has become a growth area, and we produce that, but I can’t see it reaching the heights that oak has. We’ve found that by offering new options of oak finishes, it’s freshened up the offer and gives the designs a higher perceived value. Soaped oak, blond oil, bleached oil and latte lacquer are all finishes that stand out from the usual clear lacquer on offer predominantly.
Have customer preferences in this area changed much over time?
Customers are more daring than before, but it’s a gradual change. They are more ready to mix and contrast interior schemes, and there’s some great retailers out there who have really helped inspire us with their in-store displays.
What are the main issues affecting this product area?
In the product area as a whole, there are some styles that are really strong sellers but marketed from different places, which creates a big pressure on price points and margins – so we try to keep out of that battle. Also, oak has its idiosyncrasies, and educating the consumer on what features may be desirable and what aren’t is important.
What are the key issues affecting your product at a retail level?
We supply our customers with unbranded brochures to help them establish their exclusivity and market the product the way they see fit, and this should help protect their interests and provide assurance. With all the options and flexibility, if we’re doing our job properly as a supplier we should be removing the issues affecting the product at a retail level.
We have to listen to our customers and respect their experiences so that if there’s an aspect that they want which is different to our standard option, we do it. For example, one store we supply likes to have metal runners on all the drawers, so instead of wood ones, we simply make all their orders as standard to the specification they require.
What are your observations on how best to retail your oak dining product?
Highlighting the European solid oak design features and rustic timber option with just enough cracks and knots helps. Lighting is always key, and getting bold colours into the room set – whether it’s on our chairs, or in other ways – can make it really fresh. With all the options we have, there’s a risk of it being overwhelming – we’ve seen it done really well in many stores that have the fabric and a dozen finish options with the display, and all the handle and custom options at the ready should they be required.
What are your personal tastes and preferences?
Personally, I like mixed materials, and bringing in other design cues from outside the furniture market. Taking this into account, we’ve got things up our sleeve ready to launch later this year.