BUYING British could be the best way to kick-start the country’s recovery.
That’s the view of Simon Bodsworth, marketing and development manager at Slaithwaite-based furniture firm Daval.
“We should be making a conscious decision to buy British,” says Simon. “It’s down to everyone in their everyday purchasing decisions – from furniture to suits to cars. The more we buy British the quicker we will be out of recession and on the road to recovery.
“As a company, we have made an active decision over the past few years to buy from more British suppliers.
“A lot of the furniture industry is based in Germany and Italy, but where possible we try to opt for British suppliers. It makes sense in terms of security of supply and in terms of building good working relationships to have suppliers closer to hand.
“You still have to make a commercially-sensible decision, but more and more companies are waking up to this way of thinking.”
In terms of his own industry, Simon is in no doubt about the advantages of being patriotic.
“To start with, buying British, as opposed to continental fitted furniture brands, would ensure our home-grown industry not only continues to produce world-class products, but maintains the innovation drive we’ve seen in recent years within the UK market – making sure we come out of this recession stronger than ever.
“But it’s the retailer, however, that could potentially reap some of the biggest rewards. Yes, they would obviously benefit from swift and efficient service from some of the UK’s best furniture makers, but they would also improve their margins simply by focusing on making their pounds go further and not chucking Euros down the economic drain.
“Germany might have brought us innovation beyond our wildest dreams in the past – and the Italian’s gave us a lesson in style yesteryear. But that was then. With the Euro against us, now is the perfect time to turn our sights to home-grown talent, while helping pull this country out of recession by pouring money back in and saving jobs to boot.
“What’s more consumers are demanding British. Spurred on by the economic downturn, and reinforced by the likes of Dom Jolly’s latest TV project, Made In Britain – where he is set to trade in all his ‘foreign’ goods for equal British-made alternatives – spending habits are continuing to change drastically.
“Consumers are more conscious about where their products are coming from, but they’re also more savvy about design and individuality.”
Simon says environmental issues also play a part. “The government says businesses have a major role to play in helping protect and enhance the environment,” says Simon.
“Companies are obliged to make commitments to reduce their carbon footprint. So the big ships from abroad must halt and let the trucks on Britain’s roads continue to drive the economy back to where it belongs.”
Simon has played a key part in the development of the family firm since joining the company at its Spa Field Mills premises five years ago.
But it was not always what he had planned.
Following school and college, Simon gained a degree in business studies at Sheffield Hallam University and undertook a one-year placement with a company in Hexham, which he discovered was a supplier to Daval.
“I was able to develop my business skills and marketing skills as well as getting involved in the design side of things,” he recalls. “Everything just seemed to click into place. There was an opening at Daval for someone to work in marketing and I seized the opportunity with both hands.”
Simon’s father, David, is chairman of the company – which he established in 1977 – while Simon’s uncles Tony and Alan are operations director and human resources manager respectively.
Simon says that being the son of the boss doesn’t mean he gets a cushy time. “You are constantly trying to prove yourself,” he says. “People think you get your breaks because you are a family member, but you are actually working twice as hard to show that is not the case.”
It does have some advantages, however. “A lot of our independent retailers are also family businesses and that helps them relate to us. They are often a father and son team – and they see us as bigger versions of themselves.”
Says Simon: “Being a member of the family, I have done everything from sweeping up to making the tea to helping develop out in-house software system, Option-I, which handles all aspects of a customer’s order.”
The system allows Daval’s customers – independent furniture retailers – to specify a much wider range of colours, styles and finishes when they select the company’s fitted bedrooms, kitchens, bathrooms and home office furniture.
The new system enables Daval to meet demand for tailor-made and one-off furniture quickly and put the firm at the forefront of the industry. It also means the company can operate “just in time” – reducing the need to hold large stocks.
“More people want choice and individuality,” says Simon. “That’s where the independents come into their own.”
Away from work, Simon’s time is taken up with his two horses. “The first time I sat on a horse was when I was two years old,” he says. “My father used to ride, so it must be in the blood.
“I go eventing and I’d reached quite a high level before I broke off to go to university.”
Simon has competed in events at venues such as Bishop Burton and Stoneleigh.
“I’m up at 6.30 every morning mucking out,” he says. “So I’ve already done a couple of hours work before I event get to the office!”