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Family run furniture business celebrates 25 years with huge prize draw for customers!

A World of Furniture

Family run business A World of Furniture is offering one lucky winner the chance of a lifetime. To win £5,000 worth of holiday vouchers, customers just need to pick up and complete an entry form from one of the firm’s four showrooms located in Salisbury, Poole, Blandford and Chandler’s Ford and pop it into one of the store’s letterboxes. With the competition running for the whole of 2019, there is plenty of time to plan a visit.

Owner Mark Hotson said, “We wanted to recognise 25 years of trading and celebrate our 25th anniversary with our customers.” In today’s uncertain climate there is definitely a great deal to celebrate for a locally based retailer who has moved with the times to keep customers interested and visiting its range of showrooms in the South West.

Mark Hotson and his wife Lucy set up the business 25 years ago having dreamed of running a business that wasn’t hindered by the constraints of money and time, but was more about creating something that they really wanted and believed in.

An entrepreneur from an early age, Mark started out selling apples from his parent’s garden in Oxfordshire and soon progressed to selling potatoes from one of his father’s garage forecourts. A brief stint working in farming was followed by an urge to travel and then meeting the woman who was destined to become his wife and business partner.

As Mark and Lucy began to make a home in Oxfordshire they realised it was difficult to find pine furniture; there seemed to be no one really specialising in pine at this time and so they decided to set up their own business and call it A World of Pine.

A growing family and a move to the West Country saw them searching for suitable premises in Bath, Bristol and Frome, but thanks to a touch of serendipity, a drive along the A36 and an urgent need to put fuel in his car, Mark chanced upon the ideal premises in Southampton Road, Salisbury and the store was opened in 1994.

Both Mark and Lucy had by this time a level of experience in the retail industry and in those days it was about increasing the level of stock, amazing prices for the customer and a speedy delivery service. It was simple but effective and as their range increased they changed their name to A World of Furniture.

If you ask Mark what changes he has seen to the furniture retail business in the past 25 years, he comments, “It’s become far, far broader. Pine was big, appealing to 70% - 80% of people but now it is all about a much broader offering. People still have pine in their homes, but they also have painted furniture, oak and glass furniture, there is a more romantic look, with people looking to see how they can accessorise those key furniture pieces. We’ve had to match that demand and branch out into sofas, clocks, lamps, all sorts of things. People are no longer going to one place for a specialist item.”

Previously A World of Furniture was one of the first big retail stores to adopt a “stack it high, sell it cheap” approach, but Mark explains this approach has changed dramatically in the past two years. It is no longer about just having the product and being the cheapest: A World of Furniture stores are beautifully laid out. They have changed and smartened up staff uniforms and put in false ceilings and attractive additional lightings. They have wider selections available, for example tables ranging from £200 to £2000 and bedding centres in every store.

There is a total focus on the customer experience and a really friendly service where money and time do not get in the way of treating the customer pleasantly and effectively. Mark says, “Online sales have fallen back in the last five years as people are coming back into the stores, wanting to visit, wanting to touch and appreciate the furniture and most of all enjoy the experience of engaging with knowledgeable staff who know about the products in front of them.”

For this reason staff training is very important to Mark and A World of Furniture has an excellent track record for keeping most of its 30 or so staff and developing their potential. In fact this is one of the highlights of running the business for Mark and ties in with one of his other great passions and businesses which is also about people, but focuses on Mark and Lucy’s passion for the countryside.

In 2003 Mark had something of an epiphany when he had the opportunity to take a trip to the Arctic with bushcraft and survivalist expert Ray Mears. This led to Mark and Lucy setting up Countrylore Bushcraft in 2007 which takes adults and children into the countryside and reconnects them with their natural surroundings.

That awareness and love of nature and the environment has also led to another ground breaking initiative. With a business that sells products made from trees, Mark feels a need to redress the balance and so working with the Forestry Commission A World of Furniture links every wooden furniture sale made at each of his four stores to planting a new tree. Currently over 80,000 trees have been planted as a result of this practice.

Mark’s caring nature also extends beyond the environment and straight to those who are most in need. For the past 10 years A World of Furniture has supported the Trussell Trust which uses the firm’s Salisbury depot as a location to package up donated food into hampers and deliver it out of six of the company’s vans to those in need. Parcels go out far and wide to people in Wiltshire, but also Hampshire and Dorset. Mark says, “It is one of the things that our staff really look forward to doing as they can see what a difference it makes.”
Doing things differently in business is one of Mark’s mantras and his advice to anyone thinking of starting a business is to be passionate about what you are doing. He says, “Believe in what you are doing, and do it because you want to do it; it will become a vocation, a lifestyle choice and if you enjoy it, the people with whom you interact will enjoy it too. But you must do it from the heart.”

Looking ahead Mark is optimistic, but issues a word of caution about the current business climate. He points out that the last two or three years been very difficult for business: lack of consumer confidence, lack of understanding of where our country lies in the world; whether we are represented correctly by politicians has all led to a decline in customer confidence. People are reluctant to spend money. However Mark is confident that once a concrete decision is made and a definite outcome for BREXIT is finalised then matters will improve and consumer confidence return.

Mark concludes, “In 2019 I would like to think that in the Dorset, South Wiltshire and Hampshire areas we are probably still the largest independent furniture retailer with four stores serving over three million people. With BREXIT sorted we will look to expand further, but it is very important it is all well thought through and we continue to do the best for ourselves and for our customers – always ensuring there is no cost to our high levels of service. With that in mind, I am happy to celebrate 25 years of A World of Furniture with whoever wins our £5,000 worth of holiday vouchers, as well as with all our customers and staff and look forward to marking 30 years in five years’ time!

For more information about A World of Furniture visit: www.aworldoffurniture.co.uk or T/: 0800 1223334. For more information on The Trussell Trust, visit: www.trusselltrust.org

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Release Date: 1st May 2019

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