The Big Question: Digital and instore investment?

This month we’re asking retailers, what was the last digital and instore investment the business made and why has this been important?

Jade Farthing – Haskins Furniture

When I was appointed Director of Haskins Furniture, investing in our showrooms was really important to me. Being a young woman, I love interior design and love seeing new colours and trends coming through. It wasn’t that long ago, 10 to 15 years maybe where we displayed sofas in rows and hung dining chairs from the ceiling! However, now with more inspiration from social media or home and life stye magazines, customers want to be immersed in that aspirational life that they see elsewhere. Especially if they intend on spending thousands of pounds. I want customers to come to my store and think ‘Wow, I want that whole room in my house’!

I have been slowly moving through our showrooms, painting, and updating the displays. It seems, just as we get around the whole store, we have to start again. One employee who has been with us 50 years thinks that he has painted every wall more than three times!

We have had three new stunning studios installed over the last 12 months; Ercol, Enchanted House and Orla Kiely, but not only that, we are investing in the showrooms as a whole. We are replacing all our lighting to LED, not only for commercial reasons but the lights we have chosen help to give a true indication of the fabrics and materials. We have re painted Hypnos, Relyon and Dunlopillo and refreshed the displays. It is incredible how much a little refresh can motivate the sales team and peak their desire to sell a product.

We can’t get away from online sales, but I believe our showrooms are still one of the most important selling tools, so I will continue to invest and ensure that when customers visit us, they don’t want to go anywhere else.

Kathryn Lukehurst​ – Lukehurst

The last major digital investment was implementing our internal retail management operating system. We previously ran a very archaic paper based system (which worked) but was time consuming, inefficient and costly. We have deployed a web based sales, stock and purchase order management system which is also fully integrated to our website and it streamlines our business from taking an order to stock in the warehouse. All staff use ipads or laptops in store direct with the customer. We have recently taken this one step further and through our retail system partner in the new year we will be implementing “man size” iphone style terminals in store for customers to browse our online collections that are additional to what we are showing in store thereby enhancing our offering digitally. These terminals are six foot in size and will be intuitive and interactive for customers to use. We are also undergoing a major re-development of the exterior of our Sittingbourne store.

Paul Glasswell – Glasswells

During the summer we invested in new members of staff to join our growing web and digital marketing team, to maximise online opportunities and grow our skill base in-house. This has allowed us to communicate with customers, and potential customers, more regularly through emails, blogs and social media, generating more visitors to the website. Our web team works hard to persuade a customer that it is worth coming to visit one of our fabulous stores, by ensuring our website and social channels showcase the huge choice, value and expertise that Glasswells has to offer.

Glasswells always invests profits back into the business to make improvements to the overall shopping experience, be it store refurbishments, investment in staff training and tech or switching to eco-friendly alternatives. We offer customers a place that they can browse comfortably for a few hours, with immaculate displays and expertise. Currently we are working on refurbishing the stunning atrium area at our Ipswich store, inspired by the extensive works already completed at Bury St Edmunds. The design will include an imposing feature wall, to showcase products across all of our home furnishing departments, incorporating digital display screens, improved lighting and refined signage. First impressions are very important and this investment is sure to create a real wow-factor when customers enter the store.

Nigel Lomas – Harvest Moon Interiors

Digital, when we first started online before the turn of the century it was simple. Hardly anyone else was there, furniture – that’ll never sell on the internet! It was exciting, brand new and like the wild west, no sheriff in site. Well, it did sell and wow, each year got better. Problem was all the big boys noticed and that’s where we are now, touch crowded.

Initially we did Google Ads ourselves and that too was easy to do, but by now you need a Google degree to play with it. So, we got a young Google credited agency to revamp our ad campaign, that’s where the investment cash goes, but it seems to work and we are getting more serious enquiries again. We still answer the phone personally 24/7 and that’s the other key to success, well it is in ours and we’ve been at it since 1995!

Investment in the store, one word. People. We needed a new Saturday format and found a lovely girl that knew nothing about furniture. But she had lived in six countries, scrimped and saved to get to Oxford, got a degree then a PHD in philosophy. Perfect, young, enthusiastic and a knowledge sponge, that’s it. Saturday is now a great day in store again. She loves selling and we love her. People, that’s the investment to make. It also helps to have over 40 pieces of tetrad on display!

Wendy Martin Green – Peter Green

Our latest digital investment at Peter Green is a subscription to Canva. This wonderful graphic design tool is only a few pounds a month but slices our time creating graphic pieces in half. It is a drag and drop system and allows you to edit, silhouette photos and place them on a transparent background. Templates are designed to create social media posts, presentations, posters, videos, logos and much more. Even though I have a comprehensive training in the Graphic Arts the templates and tools provided in this program are beautiful and also allow lots of room to get your creative juices flowing.

Our latest in store investment has been the creation of our new Commercial Contracts Conference Room, which we use to greet our customers and discuss their plans. We decided to show off our skills both as designers and suppliers by creating a biophilic environment. Biophilia means to mimic the outside. Studies have shown that organic shapes, plant life, natural textures and light can be beneficial the occupants and naturally increase productivity. We are so proud of our new facility which showcases wool carpeting mixed with sisal flooring, dark wood blinds, bent wood office furniture and solid wood cabinets. Paint colours were picked from photos of wild places and one wall is papered in a daring design of tropical leaves and monkeys.

Steve Adams – Mattress Online

Our last digital investment was our bespoke and in-house developed website – known locally as Hollywood – the new platform has allowed us to make significant improvements to the customer experience and for our team gives us vital insights into purchase behaviour and access to continuous data to keep ahead of the competition. The latest instore investment was our first Mattress Online branded store in Alderson Road, Sheffield. It was an important milestone for us not only as it is part of our brick and mortar strategy of growth but also for us to increase the local footprint, create more new jobs and it gave us the opportunity to promote some of our fantastic existing retail team.

Cassie Cooper – Linthorpe Beds

The last digital and instore investment has been to our website to make it more user friendly and create more sales. We are working on staff development and have a new operations manager starting to help the team create those vital sales opportunities. We hope we will see significant growth when we see the results of this latest investment.

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