Seven years ago, The Furniture Awards were developed by Furniture News magazine in partnership with the January Furniture Show to bring the industry’s most creative, intelligent and industrious suppliers to the fore. In this article, we celebrate these inspiring alumni, and catch up with some of last year’s winners …

“In a highly competitive industry, it’s crucial to seize every opportunity to stand out,” says Furniture News’ Paul Farley, who co-ordinates and chairs the annual awards programme.

“As the biggest gathering of furniture and interiors suppliers in the UK, the January Furniture Show presents an excellent opportunity to celebrate the industry’s best and brightest.”

With UK trade shows currently on hold, it will be some time before the next instalment of The Furniture Awards is able to take place – but Kate Pilling, marketing manager at January Furniture Show organiser Clarion Events, is looking forward to seeing it return.?

“The Furniture Awards are always a highlight of the show, and a fantastic way for us as an organiser to support and champion excellence in the industry,” she says. “The winners are always a diverse group, as the judges select the very best from across the furniture and interiors sector. We look forward to continuing to support the awards.”

Selected from a shortlist by an evolving panel of top retailers and industry experts each year, the awards have recognised a good number of champion suppliers over the years, across various pricing and product categories.

Last year’s winner in the Living & Dining Cabinet was Fortune Woods UK. “As a fairly young company, we were thrilled to be nominated for our designs over the last few years – and indeed to win the best Living & Dining Cabinet supplier award for 2020,” comments sales director Mark Bonner.

“Winning the award gave us more exposure and helped enhance our reputation as a leader within our market sector. Indeed, the 2020 January Furniture show was by far the most successful that we’ve attended.”?

From left: James Howard (head of sales, January/Manchester Furniture Show); Paul Farley (editor-in-chief, Furniture News); Craig McGowan (MD, Fortune Woods); Mark Bonner (sales director, Fortune Woods); and Rob Whotton (creative director of regular awards sponsor, Orbital Vision)

Mark says his team is continually working on new designs, and looks forward to presenting these to new and existing customers in the near future.

“The pandemic has been a challenging time for all businesses, and as an importer/wholesaler, have become even more testing and difficult to manage in recent times. Fortune Woods are committed to leading the market in both service and design, and we’re working closely with all our valued customers during these unprecedented times.”

In the Bedroom Cabinet category, Wiemann scooped its third consecutive win – an unprecedented achievement, which truly helped cement the supplier’s status in the UK marketplace, says Simon Hewitt, MD of Wiemann’s sole agent in the UK and Ireland, Litmus Furniture.

“There’s no doubt that being able to describe ourselves as ‘award-winning’ – not just once, but three times – has enhanced Wiemann’s reputation and been a fantastic platform for talking positively to our existing and potential retail partners about the quality and value of our products? and service,” he says.?

“The wins have been a great morale-booster for the team, who strive so hard to always deliver great products and service.

“Now, we’re cracking on as much as possible with business as usual. When the going gets tough, you can retreat into a corner and wait for things to get better – or you can jump in with both feet and find the opportunities that are always there for the taking, with a view to emerging from the other side stronger than ever.?

“We’re still spending and investing in the UK. We’ve still got plans for launching new products in the early part of the year. We are able to deliver and install safely. We have products that can be sold online just as well as in-store. We see no reason why we can’t continue to drive sales successfully with both existing and new retail partners. Bring it on!”

In the Upholstery category, Collins & Hayes Furniture fought off stiff competition to be crowned 2020’s winning supplier (building on a Highly Commended performance in 2016).

“The Collins & Hayes story started in 1870, and it has always been in our DNA to deliver enduring comfort and understated style to all living rooms,” says sales & marketing director, Jo Slaven. “To win The Furniture Awards in 2020, our 150th year, was a fabulous accolade, and testament to the preservation of our design credentials and brand values.

“We won with Bailey, a versatile and modern modular range, and the Banks chair, once part of our collection in the 1960s, which we reinvented to create a modern classic, statement piece. Thank you to the judges who deemed us worthy.

“But who knew what that year would bring? It was a very challenging year indeed for our industry – a year in which we all learned a lot, and took nothing for granted.?

“With that in mind, we must approach 2021 with energy, flexibility and creativity, as the world and industry as we knew them have changed. At Collins & Hayes, our focus, first & foremost, will be on teamwork and partnership.”

The Furniture Awards will return alongside the next edition of the January Furniture Show, now taking place from 23rd-26th January, 2022.

The alumni to date:

2020

Winners: Wiemann (Bedroom Cabinet), Collins & Hayes (Upholstery), Gingko Electronics (Accents), Fortune Woods (Living & Dining Cabinet), Silentnight (Mattresses & Divans)

Highly Commended: Cintique/Celebrity (Upholstery), Gallery Direct (Living & Dining Cabinet), Arte-N Furniture (Bedroom Cabinet)

2019

Winners: Wiemann (Bedroom Cabinet), Parker Knoll (Upholstery), Hartman UK (Accents), ALF UNO (Living & Dining Cabinet), Sealy UK (Mattresses & Divans)

Highly Commended: Silentnight (Mattresses & Divans), Jual Furnishings (Bedroom Cabinet), Thought Machine (Accents), Alpha Designs (Upholstery), Gallery Direct (Living & Dining Cabinet)

2018

Winners: Tetrad (Living), Wiemann (Bedroom), Gallery Direct (Dining), Think Rugs (Decor),?

Highly Commended: Alpha Designs (Living), Fortune Woods (Bedroom), Bentley Designs (Dining),

2017

Winners: Nolte M?bel (Bedroom), Bentley Designs (Dining), Tetrad (Living), Flair Rugs (Decor)

Highly Commended: Cottonsafe Natural Mattress (Bedroom), Evanyrouse (Dining), Asiades HK (Living)

2016

Winners: Think Rugs (Value), Bentley Designs (Mid-level), Nicoletti Home (Upper-level)

Highly Commended: Gallery Direct (Mid-level), Collins & Hayes (Upper-level)

2015

Winners: Bentley Designs (Value), Gallery Direct (Mid-level), Henderson Russell (Upper-level)

Highly Commended: Time Living (Value), Tetrad (Upper-level)

This article was published in the February 2021 issue of Furniture News.