John Doe: 40 years in the family

Nathan Doe, Managing Director of independent retailer John Doe of Diss, reflects on the history of the business as they celebrate their 40th anniversary year.

Norfolk-based independent furniture and flooring retailer John Doe of Diss is celebrating a milestone year during 2023, after the business recently reached their 40th anniversary. Starting life back in February 1983, John Doe opened his carpet business after 19 years as a carpet representative. John’s wife Angela, who used to run a successful high street fashion shop in Diss, soon joined him and turned her clothing shop premises into the first John Doe retail outlet, situated on St Nicholas Street in Diss.

Some 40 years on, the business remains in the family with Nathan Doe, the grandson of John and Angela, now at the helm and in the position of Managing Director. A few months on from their official anniversary celebrations during February of this year, we caught up with Nathan to find out what the company has in the pipeline for the year ahead, as well as reflecting on some key milestones throughout the four decades of trading.

“I feel so proud to reach 40 years. It’s rare nowadays that you hear a story like ours! Being a family run company ever since we were founded in 1983, now on to our third generation, and when considering the challenges, the whole country have faced over recent years, to not only still be here, but to be thriving and constantly growing, I feel this is a tremendous achievement, that not only by the family, but by every member of the John Doe team can be immensely proud of.

“To celebrate, we plan to host some exclusive events with old friends, employees and long-standing customers of the business. We also have some exciting new plans to advertise in ways we never have before including TV adverts, which you may have seen already.”

John Doe’s new TV ad is featuring across a huge list of channels including the likes of Sky Sports, Channel 5 and National Geographic amongst others, with the company eager to focus the advert on their huge 45,000sqft superstore rather than individual sale items as they firmly believe that the vast choice available in-store, along with their staff and premium service, is what really sets them apart from other furniture retailers.

“I strongly believe that what sets us apart here at John Doe is our tight-knit team and the service that we give our customers. I reiterate, we are a family company, not just family owned but a family right at our heart. Our company ethos and values reflect that of a family and this comes across in our working environment and ultimately the attentive, premium service that we offer every customer old and new,” Nathan said.

This ethos started from day one and while taking a trip down memory lane, Nathan shared some key moments for the business, including his own personal highlight of becoming MD a few years ago. “In 1993, my father and mother (Charles and Lisa) joined the family business, alongside my uncle Edward. In 2015, my grandparents and founders decided to retire, while I had joined a year earlier. My younger sister Megan and brother Charlie both joined during 2020, so we really are a family business to this day. I then became the third generation to lead the company, being appointed Managing Director in 2021.”

Throughout the years in-between family appointments, the business has continued to evolve and expand, and by 2008 the company was achieving significant year-on-year growth and the decision was made to design their own purpose-built showroom, measuring a huge 40,000sqft at Sawmills Road, Diss, which was opened in April 2011. Fast forward to 2018, work began on constructing a brand new 18,000sqft Delivery and Distribution Hub on the same premises as their current showroom. Then, during last year, John Doe decided to invest in major renovations including a brand-new mezzanine floor and the addition of Angela’s Coffee Lounge, named after Angela Doe.

“Today, we currently employ over 65 staff and we’ve built up an excellent reputation over the years, with all of the staff taking tremendous pride in the company’s standing,” Nathan said. “Considering the current economic news and events around the world, recent business has been very positive with no signal of slowing down any time soon. Business has boomed since January and we are looking forward to yet another big, exciting year ahead. There are a few trends we noticed pick up at the end of 2022 which have strongly persevered into the new year. These include strong, statement colours, especially green, curved furniture designs and Herringbone Luxury Vinyl Tile flooring (LVT). The opening of Angela’s Coffee Lounge has helped to significantly increase footfall in store too.”

As with any business, success is coupled with overcoming challenges. In recent times, Covid proved to be a series of hurdles, but a challenge that John Doe met head on. Reflecting on how they dealt with it, especially when becoming MD through such a trying period, Nathan revealed: “No one could predict what was going to happen, as a result it was important that we stayed calm and vigilant whilst paying attention and following the advice of experts. It’s important to acknowledge that the Covid-19 pandemic was of course a very difficult time for lots of people and businesses. However, because we have lots of different facets to the business, we were lucky to have been able to stay busy during this period. We were still able to carry out fittings and deliveries as well as continue to work with our commercial clients throughout the majority of the pandemic.

“During the periods that we were forced to close our doors due to national lockdowns, we took the opportunity to make some big improvements in-store in order to further improve our already fantastic offering. This included a brand-new state-of-the-art flooring display which we firmly believe has put us on the map as one of the best carpet and flooring retail destinations in the whole of the UK.”

Back to the current year, and to their 40th anniversary celebrations, Nathan added that they will continue to party on throughout the year, while also maintaining their investment into the business. “We plan to host some exclusive events and we will continue to invest in developing our in-store displays to enhance the customer experience, as well as the launch of our new e-commerce website in spring this year. We’re excited for the next 40 years!”

Save this article for later

You can revisit this article if you save it as favourite news!

Leave a Comment