Toons Furnishers, located in Swadlincote, Derbyshire, has sold furniture and flooring for more than 50 years – the last five of them under the stewardship of MD Huw Williams, a champion of retailers’ rights, who shares his take on ranges, recruitment and more with Furniture News?…

The three words that best describe my retail business are quality, service, and friendly.

The last trade show I visited was the AIS INDX Furniture show in January which, although a little smaller than usual, had some great new products on show, and we bought some great new ranges.

If I had to praise one supplier for a particular service they provided, it would be Ashwood Designs – they are bang-on the button at the moment, with some great, very commercial products appealing to customers. Although affected by Covid like everyone else, their communication around delays and issues has been particularly good.

Right now, my business’ best-performing product is the Felix suite from Ashwood Designs.

… but my personal favourite product is my Relyon/Dunlopillo pillows. Having searched for years for the right pillow, these really work for me, giving me a great night’s sleep – they are worth every penny!

Our approach to recruitment is effective,?because the business is seen as an aspirational place where people want to work locally. When we do advertise, we generally get inundated with applicants’ CVs to assess before interviews. We have an excellent record on staff retention, with many having completed between 25-45 years’ service with us.

Our approach to staff training is tailored to the outcome. Statutory training such as health and safety are managed by an e-learning package. Product training is handled by reps and agents – all relevant staff get trained on any new products we put on sale.

We also do more in-depth training by sending staff to suppliers’ factories, so they understand how products are made and what materials go into them. This helps them offer customers quality advice.

The most significant change we’ve made in our business in the last 12 months is the launch of our trading website. We had already started a project in January 2020 to set up online trading, but the project was accelerated massively by lockdown. I am please to say that the online store exceeded all expectations last year, beating its targets.

The tastes that best reflect the audience in my store’s catchment are varied. We have a mix of customers who like both modern and traditional products. The store is very much a mid-market destination, with customers looking for decent-quality products and value for money.?

We get a huge amount of repeat business from loyal customers and from recommendations. We regularly take time to survey our customers. This feedback ensures we can maintain the high standard of our service and shopping experience.?

Our newest technology is a stock and sales system, which we’re in the process of purchasing. It will give us better information which will integrate with our online store and help us with productivity and customer service.

My number one selling tip is to be honest and helpful. Never sell something that doesn’t meet a customer’s needs just to get the sale.

Read about Huw’s take?on the issues facing the sector in the March 2022 issue of Furniture News.