Retail Focus with Lukehurst

Martin Lukehurst, Joint Managing Director at Lukehurst, talks about recent investments, future plans and why sustainability is important to the business.

Meet Martin

I’m the Joint Managing Director at Lukehurst. I deal with the day to day running of the retail business, focusing on sales and marketing activity.

Recent investments?

We have invested in our Sittingbourne store over the last few years. In 2021 we added a mezzanine which has given us an extra 8,000 sq ft retail space, allowing us to feature more contemporary designs to extend our target audience, whilst maintaining space for traditional furniture styles.

In 2022 we renovated the exterior of the Sittingbourne store with stunning contemporary cladding to bring the property up to date, improving the appearance to reflect the quality of the Lukehurst brand. We’ve received many positive comments and increased footfall, gaining customers who have been attracted by the new look.

Internally, in Summer 2023 we created a vintage-style gallery with one of our suppliers, Carlton Furniture.

We have also invested in local events, exhibiting at ploughing match, and holding an event at our Sittingbourne store in December in collaboration with Macknade, a local food hall, delicatessen, butchery and café.

Future plans?

We want to improve our operational efficiency. The main current warehouse is offsite and is not specifically designed for purpose, so efficient running is a challenge. We are therefore consolidating our warehouse facility, re-developing an existing on-site building into a purpose-designed warehouse. Having this on the same site as the store and fit out specifically for purpose, we will improve our operational efficiency.

On the customer and sales side, we are developing our ecommerce offering, and plan to hold more niche and bespoke customer events.

What is your mission?

To see Lukehursts grow into the next 4th and maybe 5th generation. We are an independent, family-owned retailer with stores in Rainham and Sittingbourne. We’ve been supplying homes with quality furnishings for over 50 years and offer UK wide delivery.

We pride ourselves on our customer service, and our friendly team are happy to offer expert advice to help you find the right products to meet your needs – we take time to understand our customer requirements, we don’t just try to sell the item with the highest price tag.

Our aim is to deliver quality products at value for money prices and great customer service.

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

We try to do our bit for the environment. We implemented a recycling programme whereby all cardboard is sent to a specialist recycling firm, and old furniture from customers goes to a specialist mixed recycling plant, to avoid landfill.

Although this costs, we feel it is worth it. Where possible, we upgraded a lot of our lighting to energy efficient units. We are investigating solar panels and electric charging stations for the store car park.

How has recent business been?

As things have returned to more normal trading times post-Covid, traditional sale patterns are returning. Business has been relatively steady, with growth more in upholstery sales than cabinet and a trend to more fabric (and aqua clean fabrics) than leather in sales.

What would you change in the industry?

We would like to see quicker lead times, and more support for UK manufacturing.

What challenges do you currently face and how are you overcoming these?

We face the same challenges as most businesses, such as energy prices, the cost-of-living crisis and the increase in minimum wage. As mentioned previously, we had updated most of our lighting to be more energy efficient, which helped with the energy price increase.

However, another challenge is the ongoing inequality of rateable value, whereby we pay high business rates for our buildings but online businesses do not have this cost. We try to overcome these by analysing our margins on all products, investigating costs, and managing our overheads carefully to keep costs down, so we can remain competitive.

Do you have any staff you would like to pay special thanks or recognition to and why?

It’s all about working together towards one goal – our entire team from cleaners, sales staff to the delivery team all play their own unique role. Testament to this is our recent Family Business of the Year award win from the Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce.

Why do you think customers choose your business?

Customers choose our business for quality products at good value with excellent service and Lukehurst is a name that has been in the area for over 50 years and is a trusted and respected brand.

A final thought…

We are founder members of the Minerva buying group 30 years ago. Through this network of retailers and manufacturers, it’s been a fantastic source of information sharing which has helped develop our business to where it is now and I would recommend anyone who isn’t a member of a buying group to visit the Minerva website.

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