‘Independents are the backbone of our business’

Gareth Williams, managing director The 1810 Company, gives Rebecca Nottingham his predictions for the industry and reveals how the business has strengthened its support for retailers to help them in a post-pandemic market

Q & A

Q: It’s been a while since we last caught up – so fi ll us in on what 1810 has been up to? A: Like most of this industry, we’ve experienced some massive highs and, at times, some worrying lows. During the fi rst lockdown, the industry slowed to a complete stop in March and we were signifi cantly down on sales in April and May. But since then we – like most – have experienced a signifi cant rise in demand. We hit record sales in July. We took the quiet period of last

year to take stock and re-evaluate the business, to make sure we are on the right

path. We have an even

clearer three- and fi ve-year strategy in place as a result.

The slower pace in quarter two actually enabled us to drive forward new product development plans as well. Our new Henry Holt collection, for example, took us nine months from conception to having physical stock to get out into the market. We also started on an 8,000sq ft extension project of our offi ces and warehouse space here in Mold.

Q: What’s the story you’re hearing from your retailers? A: If our orders are anything to go by, a lot of retailers are already planning projects well into February/

8 Q: Retailers have been under

immense pressure from a sudden spike in demand. What have you done to support them? A: As an owner-managed company, we are able to react quickly to the changing needs of our retailers. As a direct response to feedback, during the fi rst lockdown, we launched a ‘prep and handwash’ sink as hygiene became a priority for consumers. On top of that, to make it easier

for retailers to deal with us and place orders, we have developed and launched the 1810 HUB – a new account management app. It basically

allows retailers their own orders to anywhere,

input any

March, even April. Now that the Covid vaccine is being rolled out, there’ll be even more consumers venturing out, so I can’t see that demand dropping off, to be honest. From both a brand and industry perspective, I’m confi dent we’ll have a strong year. There’s no question that we’ve been through a challenging period, but a lot of consumers are strongly in that mind-set of updating their homes because they are spending so much time in them – and we are benefi ting from that. Also, I think the levels feel exceptional because they’re coming off the back of what was a relatively quiet two to three years caused by Brexit uncertainty.

time. We have absolutely no intention of reducing the number of staff in our sales team, but instead, because they aren’t having to input orders all day long, we see them being able to take on a much more proactive role to further support our dealers.

Q: How have retailers responded to the 1810 Brand Ambassador programme? A: We introduced the Brand Ambas- sador Programme at kbb Birmingham in March to give something back to retailers that are loyal and support our brand. It’s really taken off and I think that acceleration is partly down to the benefi ts the programme offers, but also because retailers have been looking for even more support from suppliers during the pandemic. I started this business 11 years ago and it makes me immensely proud that so many retailers want to be closely associated with the brand. The retailers have to meet certain criteria, but it’s about reinforcing that we recognise independents are the backbone of this business and that we are prepared to stand by them. There are a range of benefi ts, including a dedicated support line, training programme, display packages and online margin guarantees of 25 to 30%. We’ve also reacted to the increase in demand and are expanding our sales force with the introduction of

three new business development managers (BDM). To support our retailers further, we’ve reduced the size of the region covered by each BDM and that has created new positions – which is a really positive story for us and our dealer network but also the wider industry. This means that, because they have a smaller area of responsibility, the BDMs can offer an even stronger service to the retailers in their region.

Q: How do you think the industry will change as a result of Covid? A: I’ve been really impressed with how the industry has adapted to the changes brought about by Covid, but there’s loads of new opportunities for retailers. Think about how people are using their homes and take advantage

of this upsurge in

renovations. Why not expand into other areas? Most kitchen units can be adapted for a home offi ce, so highlight that to clients so you benefi t from all their project needs. We’re going to see much more ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking. The prep sink we launched – that was a direct result of retailers really listening to the needs of their clients and coming up with solutions for their needs. I can see that continuing forward.

• For the latest job opportunities at The 1810 Company see page 55 or go to

· January 2021

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