Furniture is the single biggest AIS trading category and covers all product areas from upholstery to cabinet and beds. Most of the leading Brands such as Duresta, G Plan, Baker Bedford and Tempur are available through AIS and more than half of our members benefit from access to furniture ranges with AIS. In addition to supplier brands we have our own exclusive Dreamworld range of over 20 beds which gives our members non-comparable options from leading makers under one Brand identity. The group buying power of AIS means that our members can be competitive at key price points and specifications and comes with a package of marketing support to help present these beds to their customers in store.
In an initiative in 2014 we also acquired the heritage brands of Ducal and Stag. Whilst initially famous within the cabinet sector they also have the potential to extend into upholstery. AIS buyers will be offering exclusive ranges under these Brands with Ducal positioned as a younger range in its design and target customer with Stag as more traditional.
Furniture & furnishing accessories
Our bi-annual Furniture shows in September and January each year make full use of our in house exhibition space to show a wide range of merchandise in cabinet and upholstery sectors. The January show is the larger of the two and is also open for non-members to attend. It is timed to overlap with a general major furniture trade show at the NEC so giving buyers added reason to make a destination trip to the Midlands. By concentrating on suppliers and merchandise not being exhibited at the NEC there are compelling reasons for non-member buyers to visit AIS as well as it being essential for our members to see AIS exclusive product and benefit from exclusive show deals only available to them.
We endeavour to achieve the following key points when putting a show together for AIS members.
- A broad mix of product in terms of style, customer segmentation and price points whist ensuring the ranges are the best available in each core sector.
- Ensuring that wherever possible, product is being shown or launched for the first time.
- To offer the best possible exclusive show deals – particularly in advance of key sales periods.
- To obtain, where possible, exclusivity in terms of design, fabric or finish.
- Improve and maximise gross and net margins.
The contribution of AIS members is key to helping us take the furniture category forwards and several members form a strategy committee together with key senior AIS personnel. This group considers all aspects of product and the challenges of independents competing in this market and help shape AIS direction and policy
We also work hard within the furniture team to build supplier relationships and encourage the best service to our members. Reflecting how important we believe this to be we have a Partnership Trading Manager specifically to foster improved service and relationships between us, suppliers and our members which is visibly demonstrated through our Gold Standard winners and Suppliers of the Year. The criteria and scoring for Gold Standard Winners reflects the need for members and suppliers to exceed customer expectations in today’s market.
It is also a two way exchange and we have Members of the Year nominated and voted upon by our suppliers. Whether suppliers or members all winners and gold standard achievers are invariably proud of that.
Another added value service we give to members is through the centrally held furniture suppliers database which contains a lot of vital supplier and product information to make members’ office administration more efficient. This is constantly being improved with new functionality for member system integration and represents a less obvious AIS membership benefit.
Beds & bedroom furniture
Beds often give the most profitable return per square foot for both furniture specialists and department store retailers in comparison to the other core furniture ranges of cabinets and upholstery.
The exclusive AIS Dreamworld Brand is an important part of delivering such profitability particularly since its re-launch in September 2011. The range plan initially came about from working very closely with a select number of members, in effect a strategic working party, that has continued to meet and helped develop and improve the range even further. Additionally, we have conducted a thorough market and competitor review that is available for all AIS members to read and to discuss the details and implications with us. The report covers the total bed market, member feedback, member uptake on Dreamworld models along with sales and repeat levels, gaps within the existing ranges, competitor review and service levels from suppliers. This is all part of the service we provide to help AIS members be competitive within the market.
In addition to the Dreamworld range AIS offers its members access to all leading bed manufacturers and Brands and we positively encourage excellent service levels from all.
Our bi-annual bed shows are now supplemented by a comprehensive range of bedroom furniture allowing our separate main furniture shows to concentrate on upholstery and dining furniture.