Furniture buying is recognised as a good barometer of economic activity but as more people search for bargains online it has been good news for a South Wales-based internet retailer, Right Price Furniture. The company reports that turnover is actually up by 62% compared to 2 years ago and it now employs more staff to cope with the demand.
Right Price Furniture was established by furniture entrepreneur Darren James who recognised the opportunities to sell furniture online after many years experience of operating traditional furniture showrooms. “Critics said no-one would buy furniture online, but this has been proved not to be the case,” says Mr James. He set out to‘extend’ his Bridgend showroom by adding a virtual shop display that could be seen across the whole of the UK. The process was not without difficulty, and he has become an expert on solving both the tangible problems, such as reliable nationwide furniture delivery, and the less tangible but equally formidable challenges of achieving a high prominence on the internet.
Right Price Furniture was one of the first UK companies to break the mould of traditional furniture retailing by going online and using the cost savings to offer furniture at prices up to 60% lower than on the high street. Not surprisingly, the move was not popular with other retailers but since the Credit Crunch more of them are turning to the internet in search of sales.
Mr James believes Right Price Furniture’s success is due to getting the balance right between traditional high street retail and internet-only retail – which has mushroomed since the Credit Crunch. Right Price Furniture retains a showroom at its Bridgend headquarters and also has its own furniture workshops to provide wax and lacquer finishes to customers’ specifications and undertake minor repairs.
“High Street retailers that go online are still trying to support high overhead costs. Internet only retailers may – or may not – be reliable and they have no way of dealing with the inevitable percentage of returns occurring with this type of operation,” explains Mr James. “Customers are reassured by the fact that they can visit us in person, while our workshops mean we are able to provide a professional finishing and repairs service. Customers feel confident they can return any purchases they are not entirely satisfied with.”
Right Price Furniture sells traditional and contemporary styles of wooden furniture through its website, in oak, ash, pine, dark and painted finishes. It is also the UK’s largest retailer of solid oak furniture from West Country-based Devonshire Pine Ltd, one of Britain’s last remaining commercial-scale furniture makers. “Selling on the internet will continue expanding in the future,” predicts Mr James. “And we have proved it is possible, even with products such as furniture, to be successful. There will always be some who try to use it as a quick way to make money, but we aim to be here for the long term and believe competitive prices and good service are the keys to success.”