Global by name, global by nature – and it is testament to cabinet giant Global Home Group’s strength that it has come through the worst disruptions of the pandemic with a product offer that’s more appealing than ever – across both its CHF Global Home and Corndell brands, which will be present at INDX Furniture this month. Furniture News quizzes the former’s MD, Ivan Foster, on the details …

How has Global Home Group negotiated the challenges of the past two years?

Like all importers and distributors, CHF Global Home and Corndell have faced unprecedented challenges since the start of 2020 – the pandemic and lockdowns, spiralling freight and raw material costs, and adapting to Zoom-based discussions, just for starters.?

We made early decisions to trim back capital expenditure and run a thorough review of the whole business, covering the UK, North America, Australasia and Asia. As is often the case when a business is confronted by an avalanche of problems, we found areas where we were able to work with much-improved efficiency.?

The Global Home Group business has traditionally cast its net over many markets and sales platforms, and, for sure, this wide catchment has enabled us, by and large, to smooth the path through the troubles precipitated by the pandemic. We continue to identify and enter new partnerships with quality retailers – the Global business really is exactly that, both in terms of sales and supply.

From your stockists’ POV, is it ‘business as usual’ now, or are you going about things differently??

The pandemic financial support packages proved invaluable for many UK retailers, and it is encouraging to see so many wake up to the fact that ‘proper’ websites, whilst expensive if they are done properly, really do produce increased sales.?

Naturally, when shops were closed, those with good transactional sites – and internet specialists – really had a bonanza. Now, even the (let’s be kind in this description) more traditional luddites have finally accepted that the internet will catch on – the high street and retail park operators that have come through this well are the ones who have the vision to adapt to the changing face of retail. I don’t think we’ll see a reversal of consumers’ willingness to purchase from a digital screen image, that is here to stay.?

Of course, price reviews are always painful. After five years of virtually unchanged prices, like everyone else we had to pass on a big chunk of the increased costs that came our way. High-volume, low-value items like bookcases and big sideboards took the brunt of the pain – not surprising, when door-to-door freight costs are +600% higher, and raw materials +30% more.?

However, we went through every SKU cost in detail, and in some cases actually managed to reduce prices! Early this year, I’ll be revealing some more surprising downward pricing again – Global Home is pretty darned good at thinking outside the box when it comes to design and production.

So, you’re pretty well equipped to negotiate any supply chain difficulties?

For a long time, we have encouraged ‘small and often’ ordering.Two- or three-working day delivery on stock items is something we have taken pride in achieving.?

After the first lockdown, everything went bananas – record weeks of order intake, an absolute frenzy as shops catered for a seemingly insatiable desire from consumers to get spending. Naturally, that demand impacted on our stocks, but we coped very well – until shipping delays and lockdowns in our manufacturing bases of Vietnam and India curtailed delivery and production mightily.?

We have a very large consolidation warehouse in Vietnam and thankfully that was pretty full, so the effects of the delay were somewhat mitigated. Since that first reopening, we’ve had another lockdown and then opening, etc etc, and things have settled down to a more normal level. Now we have the effects of the HGV driver shortages (more costs to ‘encourage’ hauliers to accept business), as well as stubbornly high ocean freight.?

What I’ve found incredible over the past months is retailers being so understanding of price increases and delivery delays. Thankfully, we are pretty much back in full production – with luck, transport costs will become more realistic, and we will get back to something more ‘normal’.

What new ranges/products are you introducing this year?

It’s a fact that whilst retailers always want something ‘different’, what they actually buy and sell is largely ‘same old’! So, we’ve done some very creative diversions on what actually sells in volume, at the same time introducing new collections that are most definitely a departure from the safe bets.?

I am always conscious that there are no secrets in this industry. The speed at which variations of new designs appear in the market is remarkable – so I’m cautious not to reveal too much, too early!

Why have you elected to exhibit at INDX Furniture this year?

We have always had a large presence at the January Furniture Show, showcasing new products and re-presenting old favourites. However, for 2022 it seemed incongruous to try to gain new customers when what we are striving to do is service our existing and loyal client base. I felt it would be grossly unfair to that customer base to be spreading the available product too thinly, to the satisfaction of no-one.?

Seller/buyer loyalty is the key for me here. INDX offers the perfect alternative, with most buyers attending already well known to us. We are also close to completing a dedicated mobile showroom which will be touring the UK and Ireland this year, and beyond.

What’s Global’s longer-term plan??

Well, I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you …

How can Global help independent furniture retailers differentiate their cabinet offer this year (both in-store and online)??

By the spring we will have expanded a deliverable – and that is absolutely key – product offer, using our well-established Vietnamese partners, including a doubling of the Global Home finishing facility, and bringing up to speed our new Indian manufacturing partners.?

This is a project I am very excited about. We are starting with a blank canvas, working with people who are keen to operate with new and innovative methods. It’s a cliche, but watch this space!

Find Global Home at INDX Furniture, taking place at?Cranmore Park,?Solihull from 23rd-25th January.