“In many ways the second year,” says Jo Slaven — sales and marketing director at luxury upholstery brand Collins & Hayes — “is even more crucial than the first.”
“There was a lot of positivity around the brand last year,” she says of its relaunch under the ownership of Sofa Brands International after it bought the intellectual property rights in 2017.
“When we bought the IP there were still some successful models that were performing well in the market place so it was without question that these models had to form the foundation of the new collection. That meant when we launched last year a significant part of the proposition was made up of models that were previous best-sellers whilst also refreshing the entire fabric range focusing on beautiful, natural fibre fabrics which were well received.
“We had four models at the January Furniture Show when we relaunched in 2018, three of which were iterations of previous best-sellers.”
She adds that while Collins & Hayes has many brand advocates in the furniture retail sector, they fell into two camps; those who were pleased to see “proven product,” and those retailers that wanted to see more progression, meaning the 2019 January Furniture Show required a next-level approach.
It has paid off, she says, describing the event as “exceptional and beyond expectations.”
At this year’s NEC event Collins & Hayes had seven models on show, with Jo saying “newness has overtaken the performance of some of the previous best-sellers.”
Chief among the successes was Maple, introduced last autumn and shown in Birmingham among a wider variety of retailers for the first time. She describes Maple — which is available in both slip and fixed cover — as “upscale and curvaceous” with a lot of detailing. With its deep sit, the “comfort level is divine” she adds, saying Collins & Hayes managed to triple distribution of the product during the four-day show.
“Slip cover is a very important part of Collins & Hayes’ business. Some people might not think slip cover is still around but it very much is, and it represents about half of our business. This was reflected in sales of Maple.”
The launch of Ellison — “a slip cover model but with a tailored, contemporary look” — has allowed Collins & Hayes to stretch its price architecture, hitting a new opening price point for the brand.
Jo says: “To look at, you wouldn't know it was slip cover, but it has all the attributes that slip cover brings to the consumer; it is washable, practical, functional but also contemporary. Perfect for someone who doesn't want a very casual look and wants to change covers with the seasons.”
From a standing start, Collins & Hayes is now closing in on around 100 stockists, seen as the ideal distribution for the brand that produces casually styled and luxurious sofas & chairs.
“When we relaunched Collins & Hayes last year we did so in a very understated ‘signature’ way. This year we were much more confident — and the stand showed a real step forward in terms of colour and shape whilst maintaining the sophistication for which we are known.”
This is something it plans to build on with the twice-yearly introduction of “trend-worthy” fabrics through a concept it calls The Edit; a swatch featuring of-the-moment fabrics that can be used not just by the brand itself but by retail stockists too in their marketing. Its second Edit, called Sicilia, comprises rich, warm colours for the summer.
Of the NEC, Jo adds: “We captured many more stockists and I think retailers were pleased to see so much progression with the brand within a very short period of time. The January Furniture Show has very much done its job for Collins & Hayes.”