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Q&A: Simon Fishpool, managing director of Fishpools

As family-owned furniture specialist Fishpools celebrates its 125th anniversary this year. Here, The Retail Bulletin interviews Simon Fishpool, managing director of Fishpools. What is the secret… View Article

GENERAL MERCHANDISE NEWS

Q&A: Simon Fishpool, managing director of Fishpools

As family-owned furniture specialist Fishpools celebrates its 125th anniversary this year. Here, The Retail Bulletin interviews Simon Fishpool, managing director of Fishpools.

What is the secret behind the longevity of the business – are there any USPs?

The key is to keep evolving and growing all parts of the business as the landscape continues to change. For many brands, high-street retail spaces seem to be in decline and suffering. We however continue to grow our showroom by reaffirming our great service, value for money, varied product selection and ensuring we continue to provide expertise in our industry.

What have been the key changes over the years (challenges and opportunities)?

Choosing and purchasing products online has been one of the biggest challenges and changes we’ve made as a business. We are constantly working on how to best combine offline and online retail, as well as reviewing our IT infrastructure to support this change in shopping style – in a way that makes the customer experience first rate.

How has the business handled digital?

The online market has certainly increased over the last decade and is an area which we are growing and expanding all the time. We see our online store as an extension of the customer’s journey. Many of our customers want to experience the product in person, however, in almost all instances, their journey starts online. This highlights the importance of needing to offer both a physical showroom and well-managed website.

Why only one store (have you considered more)?

We are celebrating our 125th anniversary this year as a family-owned business, started by Ernest Fishpool in 1899 at the very same location where our showroom is now. Therefore, for many families and customers, their relatives have been visiting the store for years and now future generations are doing the same thing. We have great customer loyalty as we’re such a historic business, so our showroom is very much a destination where people travel too from all over the Southeast. In terms of expansion, never say never, however with the current economics of land and property transactions in the Southeast, investing and growing our store is a better return at present.

What does the core customer look like?

We’re fortunate enough to have such a large showroom, packed full of inspiration across a range of styles and price points. This means we have a very broad mix of customers, from first time buyers to empty nesters.

What are the biggest categories, which brands sell best?

We work with an array of brands across furniture and accessories. The brands which interest us must have something different to offer our customers, provide fantastic designs and are easy to work with. Our biggest categories tend to be our larger ticket items such as sofas, beds and dining furniture – with brands like Cattelan Italia, Eichholtz and Parker Knoll being our most successful.

Have you considered own-label ranges?

We work with a huge number of suppliers to make sure we always bring the latest trends, styles and value to our customers. As part of our offer, we have several ranges which are exclusive to Fishpools within our stunning collection.

How important is the interior design service?

For many of our customers, they know what they are looking for and their preferred aesthetic, but just need help to get to the final look. Presenting a variation of product ranges in-person with an interior designer is one of the best ways to inspire customers. They don’t have to guess about what looks and feels like it works together as our experienced team ensure it is super-simple from start to finish.

What plans do you have for the future – what areas for growth have you identified?

The industry has evolved and will continue to evolve so much, with the rate of change likely to increase, so it’s important for us as a business to continue developing and progressing with the times. Reinvesting in store presentation and continuing to refresh our product ranges is our front of mind focus, 365 days a year, to meet every requirement of our customers.

How do you see the furniture and home-wares market changing in the future?

The increase in online and broader technology has hugely affected demand-side and supply-side of retail. Alongside this, election years and the current backdrop of cost-of-living constraints, the war in Ukraine and other factors all have an impact on our industry – so we don’t see our sector setting records for this year. Our customers however still want plenty of choice, value for money, inspiration and excellent service, which we will continue to provide every day and into the future.

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