Toons continues to invest

A year on from our last sit down with Huw Williams, Managing Director at Toons Furnishers, we found out how the last 12 months has been for the business and what plans are in store for 2024.

Last April, Toons shared an insight into recent investments, sustainability progress and a shift away from the higher-end of the market. Now, 12 months on, we caught up with Huw Williams, Managing Director at Toons Furnishers, where the business has delivered a double-digit growth.

“We have had a reasonable year with the store experiencing double-digit growth year-on-year, which is much higher than the furniture and flooring industries current 0% growth. We have seen a fall in sales on lower priced items such as budget carpets and an increase in customers wanting interest free credit.

“This is mostly amongst our younger customers whose budgets are becoming under pressure from the huge cost of living increases the we have seen recently. Our elder affluent customers so far seem unaffected.”

In terms of consumer behaviour, Huw added that the colour grey is becoming a thing of the past while other colours are taking its place. “We are seeing customers moving away from the colour grey in both furniture and flooring with the trends moving towards blue, brown and greens. Also, the demand for leather is fairly weak at the moment.”

Another area of the business that is performing well is their very popular ‘cute wee coffee shop’, which went under a full refurbishment project last year. This has been a key driver in attracting footfall, as Huw continues: “The biggest challenge has been to drive footfall into the store. A great coffee shop is vital in this, which is something that we are proud to offer.

“We are also experimenting with different avenues of advertising to see which works best for us and are in discussions with ITV to possibly run our first TV campaign in 35 years.”

Other investments in the pipeline at Toons include roof works, its gift department and incorporating a new bedding department too. Furthermore, the company has just launched the first of two EV charging points.

“We have launched our first of two EV charging points which will be powered by the solar panels that were installed last August,” revealed Huw. “This has made the store self-sufficient in electricity and now generates energy surplus to requirements.

“We can make more profit by selling the energy via EV charging than selling the surplus back to the grid and aim to have the most competitive price in the area.

“In the next year, we are investing in replacing the roof on one of our buildings which is starting to show its age. We will be extending and refurbishing our gift department and bringing in a new bedding department to complement the bed department. We will be operating a linked sale offer with a discount off bedding when purchased with a new bed too.”

Earlier this year Toons also invested in the launch of its new interior design service. The company, which operates out of its Swadlincote-based 60,000sqft store, has partnered with Marguerite Harrison Interior Design to provide its customers with personalised advice and guidance. Rolling back to last year, Toons announced the launch of its new own-brand mattresses. The move into offering an own-brand UK manufactured mattress follows a successful own-brand carpets initiative, with Toons stating that it feels its customers can relate to its reputation as a strong and reliable brand.

The consistent investments are testament to the retailer as it continues to drive growth in challenging times. Huw added that suppliers and retailers need to work together in such times, while wider ecomony issues are also being monitored.

“Some suppliers are quite supportive with offers and deals but quite a few don’t ever offer anything. In these tough times suppliers and retailers need to work together to drive sales, which will be beneficial to both parties.

“Furthermore, it looks almost certain that the next government will be Labour and I have looked at their proposed policies. Some I agree with, such as banning fire and rehire and zero-hour contracts, however, some concern me greatly, such as eligibility for unfair dismissal from the first day. No maximum limit on compensation for unfair dismissal and removing the laws on limiting the impact of industrial action. These could have serious implications for anyone who employs staff.”

Next year will mark the 55-year anniversary for Toons where plenty more plans are afoot to celebrate the occasion. Huw added: “We have been in business for over 50 years in the East Midlands and have a good reputation for service and quality. We have a huge amount of repeat business and new customers from personal recommendations.”

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