ARTHOUSE TREND FORECASTING PAYS DIVIDENDS
For wallcovering / home décor supplier and BHETA member, Arthouse, 2020 was a record year in terms of sales numbers. The surge in interest in home improvement which saw overall growth in the DIY market of 1.7% (BHETA Q3 Home Enhancement Market Report) certainly contributed, but there other more specific trends together with a variety of company initiatives designed to capitalise upon them, at work as well.
As Arthouse CEO Paul Mullan says, “Lockdown and our reaction to it were important, but our exceptional performance over the last year was evidence of our strategic plan accelerating and not just luck.”
Arthouse is a £20m turnover company based in Rossendale, Lancashire and it sells through both online and bricks and mortar retailers. The company is hugely committed to forecasting; and has over many years looked at trends not only in design, but in consumer behaviour too. In terms of product development, it works two years ahead, but its commitment to looking at what consumers will buy and how they will buy it goes much further than colour and pattern.
Wallpaper has gone in and out of fashion throughout its history, but it has certainly been growing in popularity over the last two to three years. Consumer appetite for bolder colour, texture and inspirational motif has combined with digital printing and substrate innovations to make it on trend, more impactive and easier to handle in practical decorating terms. Agile designers and investment in technology has kept Arthouse at the forefront in terms of popular choice.
But product alone is not enough, and with help from BHETA in accessing data, understanding shopping behaviour has enabled Arthouse to make confident investment in operational and service innovations. All part of a programme of continual improvement across product development, supply chain and customer service, these investments nevertheless proved crucial as the commercial impact of the pandemic became more apparent.
Demand for product through the online channels accelerated threefold; and the company’s agility in adapting to this and enabling its retail customers to do the same was vital. The use of inspirational home-styling ideas and how-to advice, alongside a comprehensive product selector on its website, was important as consumers invested their time at home in learning new skills. But equally crucial was their ability to get the product! Arthouse was able to support all its retailers, including bricks and mortar in the face of this huge demand. It maintained a good stock position and added to its dispatch capability, particularly expanding the use of direct to customer deliveries. The potential for home delivery was one of several predications about the market which Arthouse got right.
Investment in technical capability – and not just in production – also proved vital. Thanks to its customer service functionality, Arthouse was able to transition to working from home, which proved immensely useful in terms of providing retail and consumer support through phone, conference calls, email and live chat.
While the company has undoubtedly prospered through its commitment to product design, its wider understanding of the market has led to much more comprehensive innovation. This proved vital when put to the test.