Onwards and Upwards! - Fair Trade Furniture
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Onwards and Upwards!

A good bounce-back year

2021 was our first year of operating in our new location (Dorset). This lovely pavilion-like office is the new ‘Global Headquarters’, from which the streamlined version of the business (Fair Trade Furniture 2.0!) is now run. So we were very curious to see what would happen in our first full year. January and February started very strong… with much higher levels of demand through the Spring than we expected, and this continued right through the summer until September.

The first half year was in fact the biggest we have ever had in 14 years, and despite only doing 3 shows in total (compared to 10, 15 or even 20 in former times) the year as a whole was not far off our best years pre-Covid. That was all very positive news but it did bring some challenges with it…

We had to crank up capacity with our Indonesian producer partner – which was good news for them but it took some time to catch up. This led to pretty long lead-times in the second half of the year.

Thankfully communication is so much easier in this era of Zoom and Facetime. We can now have a live conversation not just with Deddy our immediate partner, but also his technical team and the actual weaving workshop – as captured here.

The capacity delay was exacerbated by what I call the ‘worldwide container scandal’… prices up by a factor of 6 or 7 compared to pre-Covid levels (that’s not a percentage figure… our most recent actual cost was £16.5K compared to £2.5K in 2020: OUCH!!), plus very limited availability of slots, frequent delays in transit, and to rub salt in the wound poor communication and customer service!! What a recipe for stress and disgruntlement.

When our containers did come in we had to work our socks off to get the backlog of orders built and assembled, and then delivered around the country. Here are some pics of a container being unloaded up at our facility in Ashmore – beautiful in summer, but the coldest place in Dorset on a bad winter’s day!!

By the way… if you’re interested in learning more about our UK operation have a look at this video which we took while we were unloading the big container that came in just before Christmas… a click shoould take you through to Youtube.

So overall 2021 was a very good year for us and our partners… a great relief after all the trials and challenges of 2020.

Exciting plans for 2022

We have 4 wonderful shows booked for this season:

Harrogate Spring Flower Show: April 21-24
Malvern Spring Festival: May 7-10
The Garden Show at Stansted Park: June 10-12
Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival: July 4-9

Hampton Court 2021 – show garden called A Place to Meet Again – Winner of Best Lifestyle award

We are particularly excited about Hampton Court because this year we are going to have our own generous space – independent of Country Living Magazine – with a special show supporter package which we have negotiated with the RHS. This should allow us to make more of a splash, and have a much higher profile. So do come and see us if you plan to visit this show, or any of the others for that matter. We love to see existing customers and hear how you are getting on, and as I say to people (when I remember!), “as a customer you have a life-time invitation to come and have a sit-down at any of the shows we go to… it’s the least you deserve!”

Nearer the time we will let you know if we have any tickets available for these shows and make them available to a few lucky customers on a first-come-first-served basis.

The joys of a delivery run

Our main driver Martin bags most of the fun and satisfaction of delivering our furniture, but when we can Prue and I like to keep our hand in. It’s so good to see how people react to their new furniture, and such a positive way of completing the customers’ buying experience.

In January we had the pleasure of taking a Jogya set to a couple of custromers with a superb Malvern summerhouse in the countryside near Buckingham… a wonderful position with super views. And such a lovely choice of fabric (Delta Tangerine).

We were also delighted to take an unusual combination of Semarang furniture to a lovely couple who live outside Reading – she likes our asymmetrical high-sided chair, but he prefers a straight back, so for him the high-backed version of the Companion chair works a treat. We thought that was an excellent compromise.

To those of you have sent in photos over the years, a big thank you. It’s a joy to us, and a big help to future customers to see how the furniture looks and works in a wide variety of settings.

And finally

We have had a marvellous 12 months in our new home, and as Covid has eased we have derived so much pleasure welcoming family and friends to this gorgeous part of Dorset. The three grandchildren have of course stolen our hearts completely, and there is a fourth on the way from my daughter Julia.

Prue and I are due to get married in June so we are very excited about that and clearly in for another hectic year!

So it just remains to send you my best wishes and remind you that you are welcome to come and see us here at Rose House (Iwerne Minster) if you are passing…

PS Here we are on top of the Janiculum Hill in Rome last Sunday just before the Italy-England 6 Nations match! What a cracking weekend that makes… thoroughly recommend it to any Rugby fan who hasn’t yet discovered it.

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