A retailer's view

The furnishing industry in the UK

Brexit, a pandemic and now supply chain problems. The last few years have been full of challenges for businesses. We spoke to Firdaus Nagree, founder and CEO of FCI London, about how home furnishing has changed in the last two years, where the furnishing industry currently stands and how FCI's ProjeX tool can support interior designers.

Aug 18 2022

Mr. Nagree, can you give us a short overview where the furnishing industry stands in the UK?

At the height of the pandemic, many middle and lower-end, off-the-shelf brands did really well in the UK. The higher-end brands struggled a bit more, but overall the pandemic had a positive impact on the UK furniture industry because people became more house-proud after spending so much time at home. They wanted to invest in furniture and decor that would enhance their spaces. Outdoor furniture sales increased substantially including both entry-level and high-end brands. 

The same can’t be said of the supply chain crisis. The furniture industry across the world has been hit hard by the obstructions in global shipping and supply. It was always going to be tough to negotiate, as the cost to transport a sofa or dining table isn’t in the same league as shipping mobiles or clothing or the majority of items on Amazon. Cost-effective freighting requires containers to be full. So you can imagine how many sofas you can get into one container – it’s a handful, compared to the hundreds if not thousands of small items that other industries can manage. So the cost per product shoots up and you have a choice to make: absorb the extra costs and take a hit to your profit margins, or increase your prices and experience the knock-on effect of less demand. It seems that the majority of brands are increasing prices. 

The impact of the supply chain crisis comes from everything in the industry being interconnected. These days, there aren’t many products that are made exclusively in one country. For example, European manufacturers are being impacted by the factory shutdowns in China, because they might need one small part for their product that is only available there. So now your Italian product is massively delayed because the one part that they need from China is only available with a double lead time. 

Your company offers a broad spectrum of services and furniture. How has living and furnishing changed in the last two years?

In recent years, the online aspect of the furniture and interiors industry has increased brands’ visibility exponentially. There’s a lot more emphasis on interior design being accessible to all people across a range of price levels, whereas before it was seen as the playground of the ultra-wealthy. This accessibility has made exceptional interior design more in demand than ever, and software advances mean people can see what the result might look like before they buy. This has been the inspiration behind one of the biggest projects that we are currently working on – the development of a global SaaS platform that will revolutionise how people access design advice and allow them to optimise their living spaces without spending an arm and a leg.  

The pandemic had a positive effect on the British furniture industry because people placed more value on their furnishings after spending so much time at home.  Ⓒ FCI London

In the B2B sector you recently developed the browser-based tool ProjeX. Can you explain what this tool can do?

Projex is our revolutionary project management platform that helps interior designers to manage every aspect of their projects, from furniture sourcing and project planning to managing deadlines and deliveries.

It was built especially for designers by our own designers and tech team. When we were thinking about the direction in which we wanted to expand the business, this was a no-brainer for us. We have a huge amount of expertise in this area.

By sharing our knowledge and providing practical advice and solutions, we hope to become their best friend in design – the people they can count on to help them out, whether it’s with all or just some aspects of their project. Projex is one of the most powerful tools that we offer them. It really works – we know because we use it ourselves. 

What needs in the industry made you develop this tool?

We’ve been working with and supporting interior designers for nearly 40 years. We understand all their pain points, from customer acquisition to product selection and finalisation, from managing profit margins to consolidation, delivery and installations.

So we decided to develop a tool that could help them manage all these pain points and make their lives easier. Our hope is that interior designers will use it, end up loving it for the difference it makes in their day-to-day and then end up adoring us and checking out all the other specially designed trade services that we offer. 

What developments do you expect in the next 12 months for your business?

Our global SaaS platform is going to be a game changer. We want to make people happy by transforming their spaces – that is our ultimate goal. If we can make someone’s space visually perfect to suit their style and keep it within their budget, it will go a long way towards contributing to their overall happiness, hopefully inspiring them to then pay it forward.

That’s what we’re designing this software to do - to give people autonomy over their home designs and bring their options to life before they commit to the real thing. We’re also looking at how tech innovation is contributing to luxury furniture and how can we use new trends to make the FCI experience better for our customers.

We're constantly dealing with new designers, new products and new brands and now we’re busy exploring the world of NFTs. The way we see the design world is changing and we’re excited to see what the near future holds for us.

Firdaus Nagree is the founder and CEO of FCI London. He is a serial entrepreneur, angel investor, father, husband and passionate scuba diver who has founded or funded numerous successful companies since 1999. After beginning his career as a strategy consultant with Accenture, he became involved in the London property scene, trading properties from the age of 21. He has been actively involved as an executive, board member or investor in a variety of sectors including Digital Hospitality, F&H, Construction, Interior Design, Retail, Bridge Finance, Proptech, Education, Aggregated Logistics, Property, On-Demand Food Delivery and Insurance.

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