Anthony Matthias, Qualita’s head of sales for the UK and Ireland, outlines the unique appeal of Qualita’s cabinet collections, and sets the stage for a January Furniture Show reveal this April which will take the brand to the next level …
What’s your industry background, and role in the business?
I’ve been in the furniture industry since the mid 1980s. I have very wide experience, from supplying MFI with flatpack IKEA-style product, to supplying David Linley Furniture with bespoke upholstery. From 2004-20 I worked for Sir Terence Conran at Content by Terence Conran, and have been very involved with selling, both domestically and internationally.?
I joined Qualita at the start of last year, and am head of sales for the UK and Ireland. Therefore, I work closely with our team of agents, but am also responsible (in conjunction with my Lithuania-based colleagues) for our portfolio of house accounts.?
How has Qualita’s product output evolved over the past decade?
In order to maintain our appeal, over the last decade we have evolved our portfolio from one that could have been described as more rustic, perhaps even farmhouse, into one which is much more contemporary in appearance. The original models are indeed still available but, together with the contemporary styles, we believe our current portfolio offers retailers and consumers alike much more choice.
Oak, and solid oak in particular, remains the timber of choice, and accounts for much of our output – though we do also work in walnut, ash and birch, as well as a variety of engineered woods. And since our output is a mix of our own designs and white label production, we are able and well placed to respond to the different and varied briefs of our clientele.? ?
Further, some six years ago we bought another Lithuanian factory and, as a result, started supplying the German and Swedish markets, and then started to offer those same products to our UK clients, significantly increasing our overall product offer but also shifting the look and focus from traditional to contemporary.
That said, there is no place for resting on your laurels, and we have worked diligently to further hone our offer to meet the demands of the day. Specifically, we identified the growing trend for consumers to want to be able to customise their purchase, and so today much of our portfolio is available in a wide choice of oils, leg styles, table edge options and so on, affording us that all-important USP.
As far as defining our looks and trends is concerned, well, since our portfolio is so large, we cover everything from the farmhouse look to the painted, more classical styles, through to the contemporary Germanic/Scandi look. But the common thread running through all our products is that they are thoughtfully designed, they are crafted using the most appropriate materials to achieve the best results, and the products’ quality speaks for itself.
Why does the portfolio remain popular with independent stockists?
Our collections – from table, to chair, to ancillary cabinet pieces – are highly customisable, which is definitely our USP. Retailers and consumers alike love the fact that they can truly ‘make it their own’. ? ?
How are consumer tastes falling into line with your products’ style and materials?
By not comprimising on materials and paying attention to detail, we see that consumers remain ready to invest in our quality furniture. Oak certainly remains the timber of choice, but we believe that by combining it with a contemporary design, we are offering the consumer the best of both worlds. ? ? ? ? ? ?
Has your approach to sales changed much in the past 10 years?
For much of the last decade there was little change – but it’ll come as no surprise that since early 2020 we had to change certain aspects of what we do and how we do it.?
Like everyone, we have embraced the use of the virtual meeting platforms, but nothing can beat a face-to-face meeting. Going forward, we see merits in both methods. Much can be achieved by screen-sharing product presentations, but we will always favour exhibiting, thereby enabling clients to see the products ‘in the flesh’.? ?
Has Brexit affected how you go about business in Ireland?
Historically we didn’t sell much in Ireland, but that is already changing, with sales building steadily. Brexit is with us, like it or not, but we have been careful in choosing the right logistics partner, who has the know-how, and the infrastructure in place, and that gives us (and our retail customers) the confidence as we look ahead to 2022 and beyond. ?
Do you have a particular favourite model/design?
Honestly, I don’t. We have a great breadth of styles, and they all hold appeal. But, if I were in the market for new furniture, I would probably opt for our Fargo table.?
How will Qualita’s branching out into new areas/partnerships with Laura Ashley affect your core independent business?
I believe it can only help. It will not only give us the potential for further strengthening existing relationships, but we also look forward to making new connections with retailers with whom we haven’t previously worked. ? ?
Are there any new design or service directions existing stockists should expect?
We are always striving to improve our service to our customers and so, with this in mind, stockists can expect an improved delivery service, including the option of DHD.? ?
What do you have lined up for the January Furniture Show?
I’m definitely looking forward to getting back to the exhibition and seeing everyone, new faces as well as old. In terms of what we have lined up, our stand will be an exciting mix of bestsellers and some new twists on existing products. Additionally, we are very excited to be relaunching the very popular Stockholm collection by Winsor, which now falls under our umbrella. And, if that isn’t enough, we shall also be launching a varied and interesting range of occasional furniture.?
So, all in all, there are plenty of good reasons to beat a path to our JFS stand this April, where visitors are assured of a very warm welcome!
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Pictured: River and Ortello, Qualita