Encouraging signs at Devonshire

Nicolle Hockin, Managing Director at Devonshire Living, shares an insight into how the last 12 months have been at the business, future plans and top performing products, as well as an emphasis on sustainability.

Since Managing Director, Nicolle Hockin, took control of Devonshire Living in 2019, just as Covid-19 began to spread worldwide, the business, like many, has had to adapt to numerous challenges. Spearheaded by Nicolle’s strategy to continue to invest in the business has provided Devonshire a solid platform to grow, with the year ahead showing “encouraging” signs.

Reflecting on the past year, Nicolle said: “It’s certainly been another unpredictable year, but then every year since Covid has had new challenges to overcome so it feels normal now to think, ‘what’s the world going to throw at us next?’.

“In particular these last 12 months we’ve had shipping and exchange rate fluctuations once again, the cost-of-living increase (and whispers of ‘recession’, which never helps sales), operational increases (not helped by the 10% living wage rise in April), and the Red Sea crisis (have you noticed that everything seems to be a ‘crisis’ lately?).

“Unfortunately, due to these and other factors we have lost a handful of our top retailers in the last year, which did put a big dent in our annual turnover figures; but we’re slowly replacing that lost revenue with new customers coming on board. On a positive note, our remaining accounts on the whole are showing encouraging growth, especially with the new ranges we launched in 2023 and early 2024.”

More on the success of new products later, as another area the business has heavily invested in is within its sales and marketing. In April last year, Devonshire appointed Anthony Lewer and Mike Brown as Area Sales Managers, who have both done an “excellent job of bolstering our customer service support on the ground, attracting and opening new accounts, and giving key insights in to the direction we are moving in”, as Nicolle says.

“We’ve also spent a lot of time on product development, with a plan that now takes us well in to 2026. We’ve always had a turbulent relationship with the furniture shows, but after joining AIS back in October we committed to INDX in January and received a superb reaction, and will also be exhibiting at the Minerva Spring Show in May (Hall 2, Stand 25, if you’re visiting).”

To help bolster marketing, Devonshire has implemented new CGI imagery through a partnership with Chilli Pepper Designs, where they worked on new ranges and also replaced dated images on older collections. Alongside this, Devonshire is slowly adding more lifestyle shots in to their portfolio, to aid with online sales and catch the consumer’s attention.

Another area of key investment planned for 2024 is focusing on sustainability and how the company can become a more eco-friendly business. As Nicolle continued, they have “barely touched the surface” but have some exciting initiatives moving forward. “Sustainability is an area that is becoming much more of a consideration for customers and producers alike. Later this year we will be working with an environmental specialist on identifying all our carbon-producing processes and working on a plan to reduce and eliminate wherever possible.

“We are also working on our packaging makeup and waste management, to reduce the amount of plastic we are bringing in to the country and how it is discarded. We are also looking at our timber sourcing and how we can encourage the use of more sustainable practices and recycled materials in our products.”

In terms of products, Nicolle shared some success stories they are seeing, which are not the most typical when thinking of Devonshire. “We’re on an ambitious growth trajectory at the moment and it really centres on new furniture ranges outside the realms of what people think of as ‘typical Devonshire’ product. The traditional woods and styles have always done well for us and of course we will continue to update and improve them, and we also have some gaps in our offering that we have projects ongoing to fill.

“But largely at the moment we’re having a lot of fun playing with new styles and materials based around more modern trends, such as our marble occasional collection launching later in the Spring. Those who visited us at INDX in January will have seen the new range Wiltshire in Oak (Dining) and Painted (Bedroom) and that has gone down a storm – most of our retailers reported repeat orders the day after it hit the floor. At the show we also unveiled a new oak range which, after a few tweaks based on recurring feedback, will be available in the Summer. As for what else is in the pipeline, you’ll have to watch this space, I can’t give away all my secrets.”

Nicolle added that the traditional legacy ranges, which have been around for over 20 years and have a large number of pieces in the range, consistently perform well due to quick lead times and stock availability. “We believe these are doing well because they are low maintenance, good quality, built to last, and there is nothing ‘offensive’ about the design – it’s a lower consideration purchase compared to something unique that might not fit your style in a couple years’ time. Our product is by no means the cheapest on the market, but when times are tough for consumers, our research shows that they are willing to spend that little bit extra with the confidence that the piece is made well and will last them for many years.”

Devonshire’s research also points to a reduced demand for buying full room sets, with consumers focusing on individual purchases. “They will buy a coffee table here, a sideboard a few months later, a nest later on again – and they don’t necessarily need to match. Small takeaway items are moving much more quickly than larger investment pieces, likely because they are not so heavy on the purse strings.

“We are also seeing that the historical ‘high sales’ winter and ‘low sales’ summer periods are evening out. For example, the majority of our customers had a somewhat disappointing January, but a better performing March. You would think that when cash was tight consumers would stick to sales periods, however it seems that retailers are increasing their number of sales throughout the year and spreading their transactions that way.”

Following a positive start to 2024, Nicolle added: “A big thanks to all our old and new customers for continuing to support us, and the excellent reaction we’ve had to our newest projects. The business has gone through a lot of changes in the last few years since I became Managing Director, and the response we’ve received as a team in all areas has been overwhelmingly positive. We’re excited for the next 12 months and beyond.”


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