Vic Smith - Owner, Vic Smith Beds
There is a massive shortage of skills in the British UK furniture manufacturing sector. Having been a cabinet maker for many years, having had my own workshops and factories, to me, the answer is very clear. There is not enough time, money or incentives set aside to entice new blood into the industry. The mid-range furniture companies don’t any longer really have a place in UK retail stores because of the cheap Chinese imports in oak. If you want cheap board furniture, it is not cost effective to ship it from China. So you will find small one man to fifteen man set up constructing and knocking them out cheap in your smaller run down industrial unit in Manchester & Birmingham. Top end, hand man made bespoke, obviously doesn’t have the volume end of the market so these have their niche place and being bespoke can charge accordingly. If there were proper government fund schemes with a real future at the end of the qualification then we would see an uplift in skills and quality within a relatively short time. Until companies invest in people’s future, you will find the workforce job hopping for an extra few quid in their pay packet. After all, if you were the grunt in a factory, pinning A to B and C to D all day long, with no real skill involved, does it really matter where you work? Value your workforce, increase their skill set, and give them a future.
“GIVE YOUR WORKFORCE A FUTURE”
The British Furniture Industry, especially cabinet has always been a roller coaster. Nowadays making a good job sell at the right price to the retailer isn’t good enough. The retailers needs have changed. The customer wants a quicker turnaround and a keener price. Obviously this isn’t anything new and there are ways to achieve it. A core range with limited skus for a faster turnaround and additional pieces such as different options on bedside dressing table, stools and mirrors, slightly longer lead time. This allows the retailers customers to make an instant decision and add to the range. The days of bulk buying cheap Chinese containers, I think are limited and have seen their day to a certain extent. British Furniture Industry , if it has the balls can grow. Of course this is only my opinion, what do you guys think?