Polish RTA powerhouse Forte is taking its UK operation to a new level, offering retailers a plethora of tailored designs, backed up with a plethora of guarantees and marketing support. Furniture News asked national sales manager Victoria Ross to explain the new direction …

What is Forte, and what does it offer?

Founded nearly 30 years ago and supplying over 4500 customers worldwide, Forte is one of the largest European manufacturers of furniture for self-assembly. We have five state-of-the-art manufacturing plants, totalling 160,000m2, and we develop 800 new models every year.

We offer self-assembly furniture for all areas of the home. We offer a comprehensive living and dining range, but are best known for our upstairs collections of bedroom and home office furniture.

How long has the brand been present in the UK?

Forte has been present in the UK market for 15 years, but only in a very limited way.

Why did the business choose to relaunch its UK offer now – and how has it evolved???? ?

The decision to relaunch Forte was taken in 2019 following an in-depth analysis of the current marketplace. We could see the trend towards well-designed self-assembly furniture, and knew that we had already-successful products that would fit well in the UK. ?

Our original plan was set for a soft launch in summer 2020, but this was delayed due to the current pandemic situation. We have used this time to further develop our UK-tailored offer and to build processes, enabling us to supply customers with delivery terms that suit them, following the changes since Brexit.

We have taken a selection of the larger Forte offer and made all of the necessary adjustments to have these products immediately available to UK customers – bed sizes and styles have been changed to suit UK trends, and sideboards and TV units changed to better fit the size requirements of UK consumers. Where applicable, light fittings have been changed, and now come with either a UK or USB power supply.

Will UK buyers still have access to the complete offer?

Absolutely! The UK catalogue is just a snapshot of what Forte can offer. Customers can access our entire catalogue of almost 3000 SKUs, and order most items without having to meet high production minimums. We can also tailor any lines or programmes for a more specific need where justified.

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How does the product stack up in terms of value, quality and materials?

Forte product offers the highest quality in terms of value for money. With our in-house design team working closely with our quality department, all items are developed and tested for the rigours of everyday use.? We are constantly updating our range of finishes and our build technology, to offer the consumer the best possible experience.

What are the likely lead times? And, being post-Brexit, can buyers expect any headaches ordering from Europe?

The current lead time is six weeks, although we are often able to offer quicker turnaround. Since Brexit, we have invested heavily into our UK business to ensure we can offer customers the most practical ways to purchase and receive our products – including a fully declared option, minimising paperwork and costs for our customers.

Do Forte’s products come with any additional guarantees??

Everything is offered with a 12-month guarantee against manufacturing faults or problems. All of our facilities are audited by ISO and SMETA.

We also support responsible and sustainable forest management – as a manufacturer, we source our wood-based materials exclusively from legal sources, certified and controlled in accordance with FSC standards.

In terms of supply continuity, our wholly-owned chipboard manufacturing plant means we’re not subject to the supply issues that have affected some of our competitors in recent months.

Do you offer any services to streamline the buying process or support stockists?

We work closely with our customers to support them with whatever materials they need to maximise sales. We supply high-quality imagery and, in some cases, product videos, along with additional PoS material if required.

How are you planning to take your offer to the market from here?

We were so disappointed that the January Furniture Show was postponed and then cancelled, as we had planned for it to be our launch event – but we will be there in 2022, and look forward to being able to showcase our latest products and designs. ?

In the meantime, we are launching our new catalogue this month, and we have been working hard on perfecting the ‘virtual show’, to give both existing and new customers the next-best experience when looking at our stand.

Can you give us an idea of Forte’s ambitions?

Because we are starting with only a handful of existing customers, our growth plans are ambitious. Already in 2021, we are seeing significant YoY growth, and we have no limit to the infrastructure investments we are willing to make to ensure we have the best offer for our customers – both in terms of product, and the customer service they can expect to receive from us.

What brought you to the business? Who else is involved in the UK operation?

I joined Forte in 2019 following a really long recruitment process. I joined at a time of change within Forte, and I have seen our back-office systems and processes adapting and changing to meet the demands of the current market. ?

I am fully supported by a team of experts in terms of product development, sales, quality and logistics, both in Poland and here in the UK. We plan to add to our team in the coming months, as our business continues to grow in this market.?

What would you say to a retailer who has never bought from Forte before, but is keen to broaden their bedroom furniture offer (in-store or online)?

Come and have a look – we have such a wide variety of products in our good, better and best offer, covering most of the market’s requirements in terms of pricing and quality.

This interview was published in of Furniture News magazine.