Retail Focus with Chili Pepper Furniture

Gislene Oliveira, Founder and Managing Director of Chili Pepper Furniture, talks about future expansion plans and why the industry needs to put a greater emphasis on sustainability and social responsibility.

Meet Gislene

I oversee everything related to our day-to-day operations, from customer service to supplier interactions. Being a completely online business makes it a bit easier to focus on our customers and build relationships with them; they have always been our top priority. As a small, family-run business, I wear many hats and handle whatever needs to be done.

Recent investments?

Our most significant investment this year was in our brand new website. We focused not only on creating a visually appealing website but also one that is simple and easy to navigate. While online business offers great opportunities, it also requires us to actively generate leads and drive traffic, which can be daunting. Therefore, our efforts this year have focused on raising brand awareness, amplifying our SEO efforts, and attracting quality traffic and leads to our website.

Future plans?

We are looking to enter the European market since we now have some of our products stored there, making it easier and more cost-effective to deliver to our European customers. For our UK customers, we want to maintain our focus on accessibility for all of them and becoming a house name for unique, handmade and bespoke furniture. We have a significant project in mind, which is to launch our own furniture line in addition to offering designs from our suppliers. In the more distant future, we dream of bringing some of the beautiful and ethically handmade products from south America to customers in the UK and EU. It’s a dream that I hope will come true in the near future.

What is your mission?

Our mission is to bring happiness to people’s lives. We understand that our homes are our safe havens. In a world filled with uncertainty, returning home after a hard day’s work to relax and take pride in one’s achievements, whether in family, the home itself, or work, is a fundamental desire. Assisting people in achieving their dream homes is an honour, especially when we can provide them with high-quality furniture at great prices. That’s our mission, to help our customers take pride in the homes they have.

On sustainability, what is your business doing on this topic?

We are proud to emphasise our commitment to sustainability. Our primary supplier, responsible for 95% of our products, is a champion in both social and environmental responsibility. From the timbers used to craft our furniture to the communities of artisans who benefit from fair compensation and keep their craft alive. We prioritize ethical practices. We have taken a plastic-free pledge, opting for paper packaging instead of plastic. Additionally, all of our timber adheres to the European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR) standards for responsible forestry. Our partner factories have undergone Social Audits and have been awarded BSCI compliance certification, ensuring that workers’ rights are protected and upheld.

Here in the UK, we operate from a home office and utilise a third-party warehouse for storing and dispatching our items. This approach minimizes our environmental impact by reducing fuel consumption, energy usage, and office-related costs. These savings are then passed on to our customers, which is a win-win situation.

How has recent business been?

During the pandemic, when we initially ventured into the marketplace, our business experienced explosive growth. This year, we focused on migrating to our own platform and after launching our own website, we observed a slight slowdown in sales across the board. The rising cost of living and economic uncertainty have led people to become more cautious with their spending. This shift has encouraged individuals to think before making purchases, resulting in reduced waste and overspending. Fortunately, we have been fortunate to retain many customers who have returned to make additional purchases, and we’ve also formed some exciting new connections.

The trend we are observing is a shift towards buying what is truly needed rather than what is wanted. In times of crisis, people prioritise their purchases and consider where they buy from. Investing in high-quality products means they will last a lifetime, and when it’s time for a change, they can be recycled. As a result, we see a growing preference for conscious and eco-friendly living, which aligns perfectly with our business philosophy. We are eco-conscious and firmly believe in and encourage a greener way of living.

What would you change in the industry?

I believe it would be highly beneficial to see the industry place a greater emphasis on sustainability and social responsibility. Currently, there are numerous brands selling inexpensive products, and consumers often remain unaware of how these products are manufactured and the conditions under which they are produced. Similar to the fashion industry, we recognise that Asian manufacturers can offer cost advantages, but it’s crucial to remember that every business should prioritize ethical practices in both production and treatment of workers. While companies should certainly strive for competitive pricing, they should never compromise on quality and, most importantly, the well-being of human lives.

What challenges do you currently face?

As a new company navigating the wild waters of online sales, establishing brand recognition has proven to be a significant challenge, especially when competing with established names that have decades of trading history. It’s not an easy journey, but we have faith in our friendly approach, commitment to excellent customer service, and, above all, the quality of our products. We understand that building recognition takes time, but it will come with persistence. Our primary strategies for overcoming these challenges include a strong focus on social media presence, optimizing our SEO efforts, and maintaining competitive prices. Although our prices have increased by nearly double from last year, which is less than ideal considering the current economic climate, we are doing our best to absorb as much of the impact as possible. Our aim is to ensure that more people have the opportunity to purchase our products.

Why do you think customers choose your business?

Having recently been on our own platform, and working tirelessly every day to make things happen, we are incredibly excited about the future and where our efforts will take us. Our mantra moving forward is to embrace every opportunity that comes our way. We are immensely grateful for each opportunity and, most importantly, for our incredible customers who continue to support us. Thank you. And a special thanks to Big Furniture Group for giving us the opportunity to talk about our beloved business. It means a lot to us. Watch this space!

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