Furniture manufacturers say a drawn-out exit process from the European Union will inevitably lead to more anxiety among consumers but they will be seeking to expand to cushion against any negative impact.
The Timeless Chesterfields brand is owned and operated by Saxon Furniture Ltd, a family run, British company who have been expertly hand-crafting Chesterfield leather and fabric furniture for over 30 years.
Each Chesterfield is hand-crafted and part of the Timeless design, made in their workshops in Lancashire by time-served upholsterers, seamstresses and cutters, many of whom have grown up with the business.
Timeless Chesterfields are part of the design-orientated growth of the UK furniture industry, specialising in custom-made Chesterfield sofas.
They export approximately 20% of their stock to Europe and the International wider world, and are paying the price of an uneasy market with increased costs in raw materials and component parts due to a weaker pound.
All of the furniture produced is cut by hand from full hides and only the best quality European hides are used.
Managing Director, Matt Deighton, talks to Pound Sterling Live about how the varying currency fluctuations are impacting on their costs and whether any additional costs will be passed down to the customers at all.
He says, “Timeless Chesterfields is a Lancashire-based company with approximately 20% exports, so the weakening pound is bittersweet: while the exchange rate makes our exported goods more competitively priced, our costs for raw materials here in the UK are rising. For now, we're able to absorb the financial impact, but if the situation worsens it may affect our retail pricing.”
However, Chesterfields say their relationships with their customers have strengthened due to the fact they have absorbed the price increases to date and not fed these through to their retail pricing.
Currently, imports and exports remain the same for the business, and Timeless Chesterfields hasn’t seen any variance in these departments.
So was the company happy with the referendum result?
Deighton tells us:
“The initial and subsequent ongoing uncertainty caused by the result is unhelpful to businesses. The uncertainty surrounding Brexit has eroded consumer confidence and spending.
“Although there have been signs of recovery following the post-referendum dip, a drawn-out exit process will inevitably lead to more anxiety among consumers. We're hoping Theresa May acts quickly and decisively to achieve the best possible exit deal and avoid unnecessary delays.”
Before the referendum the company were considering plans to expand, and the good news is that these plans haven’t changed, despite the fluctuations in raw material costs.
Investing is the Best form of Defence
However, Deighton does see some complications arising from further Brexit discussions.
“Given the ambiguous nature of any possible exit deal we foresee many complications during the process to the implementation of the referendum result. Another factor that concerns us is the global perception of the UK. The fact that our furniture is British-made is a major selling point at the moment, so the country's reputation is of huge importance to us. An element of damage control may be necessary during and following our exit from the EU.
“To address these market conditions - and prepare for any further damage - we are looking to increase advertising spend in export markets and invest in additional retail space abroad.”
Over the years the company has established excellent transport links and is able to ship various consignments abroad by offering a competitive shipping quotation through one of their experienced and reliable shipping partners.
The company even employees a multilingual export manager.
The firm aren’t worried about free movement of people just yet, as the majority of staff are born and bred in Lancashire.
Although this may change if the company fulfils its wish to expand outside of the UK.
So what advice would Deighton give to Theresa May and her Government on behalf of Timeless Chesterfields? “I would say she needs to act quickly and decisively, to achieve the best possible exit deal possible and to avoid unnecessary delays.”
For Timeless Chesterfields, along side the majority of SME’s in the UK, uncertainty can upset the best laid plans.