From the momentous decision to exit the EU to Trump’s victory, last year was full of surprises. With the help of a panel of seasoned retailers, Furniture News looks at some of the most notable developments and their likely impact on the furniture industry.

Furniture News co-ordinated a panel of established furniture retailers to offer responses to a selected headline item from each month in 2016: Ross Beveridge, Archers Sleepcentre (RB); Mike Murray, Land of Beds (MM); Royce Clark, Grampian Furnishers (RC); Daniel Wade, Feather & Black (DW); and Steve Pickering, Sussex Beds (SP). A number of anonymous contributions were also made.

Last April, courts ruled that the name of the upholstery retailer Sofaworks (formerly CSL) infringed the business of the DFS-owned Sofa Workshop. Before changing the retailer’s name to ‘Sofology’, Sofaworks hit back at the notion that its brand name was liable for passing off.

How important is a name? Is this a case, as opined by Sofaworks’ founder Jason Tyldesley,? of “David and Goliath”, which “the big boys” were always destined to win? How successful has Sofaworks been in making the transition to Sofology?

RB: Establishing a name or brand has always been regarded as an important part of retail, but in reality most consumers will make what is a considered purchase infrequently, and the modern starting point is the internet. ?

Clever PPC campaigns and strong messages allow independent retailers to still have a market share. The rebranding to Sofology has appeared a relatively seamless move, although I’m sure the cost implications were frustrating.

With their vast TV advertising campaign and over 30 branches across the UK I would not expect their market share to be largely affected. They have already began establishing this brand, and I think they will look back on this as a positive move.

RC: A name for most is very important, but it really depends on the age of the name/brand. CSL/Sofaworks was a relatively new company, so the name held less value and it was much easier to change.

For what it’s worth, I think the new name is better, but I would guess for them it is still too early to tell how big an impact it has made (they certainly got plenty free PR out of the court case!). However, if a company came to us and said we had to change our name after 41 years, then that would be a totally different issue!

Anon: Brand name is critical to any retailer, as it is intrinsically linked with reputation. If, like us, you have been in business for decades, it is something you have spent huge sums of money to promote, and has become a name that generations of customers recognise as a hallmark of quality and excellence.

We cannot say with any certainty that the “big boys” were always destined to win this court case, but it was definitely a “David and Goliath” match. We applaud Sofology’s resolve to rebuild under their new name, and with the belief that “it’s what’s inside that matters”. It will take time, but fundamentally customers are looking for competitive prices for quality products. If Sofology can offer this, they will recover.

Explore the panel's responses to various events throughout 2016 in the year in review article published across the December and January issues of Furniture News.