The pivotal point in time was March 2010. We had a successful and growing online business with a large physical showroom and warehouse, selling Oak Furniture nationwide in the UK – branded OAKEA – which I had set up 5 years earlier. The inspiration for this business came after having run and grown a UK based Furniture Factory and supplied hundreds of retailers for 5 years. The normal business model at the time, for the typical UK retailer – my customer – was to take a deposit from the consumer, order the furniture from a wholesaler, and then deliver 6-8 weeks later. I saw an opportunity in importing in bulk, supplying the public quickly, and cheaper, from stock, instead of furniture sourced ‘to order’ from local wholesalers – and then deliver using our own vehicles and drivers resulting in impeccable service, instead of outsourcing this important function.
At this stage, March 2010, we were importing furniture by the container load, direct from China. But our suppliers were not factories. They were large wholesalers who kept THEIR designs i stock in bonded warehouses in China, ready to ship to importing retailers. This was a good concept and worked well for us, but it was always our ambition to get to a stage where we could develop our own designs and import direct from the factories. And as the market moved towards more retailers catching on to the idea of importing container loads from the wholesalers, competition on their designs increased and margins started to suffer. So 2010 became the year when I took the plunge, brought my own designs to Vietnam, and started searching for factories, while intensifying own product development and design.
This started an 8 years adventure spending lots of time and resources in Vietnam and Indonesia, consistently building knowledge and network, learning culture, language and systems, and experiencing and assisting in technology implementation.
Then, in June 2016, Britain voted to leave the EU. The resulting drop in the value of the GBP caused a sudden, huge and devastating effect on our finances, being a business depending on Import in USD. We had 6 months of production scheduled, geared towards forecasted growth in demand, on the basis of an expected remain vote, which would have brought public confidence back and replace the somewhat sluggish demand leading up to the referendum with renewed vigor.
Thankfully, OAKEA was always run with a very healthy balance sheet and the existence of OAKEA was far from threatened. But The huge losses caused by the drop in the value of the GBP, combined with many of our competitors having made the same misjudgement and started to discount prices, since too much, now too expensive, furniture, was rolling into the warehouses, making them overflow, was very sobering. We too had to discount furniture which over night had increased 20% in price.
I had to decide between spending the next many years rebuilding the business and bring it back to its former glory – or sell up and develop a new business using all the skills, network and knowledge we had built over the many years. And the latter seemed a lot more rewarding.
It took two years to sell off all assets – stock, vehicles, warehouse equipment etc..
S2U Design was set up shortly after starting sourcing our own designs from Vietnam and Indonesia – in 2010. This was in order to offer sourcing and development services to any importer, anywhere in the world. We have undertaken various small scale consultancy jobs over the years, but the focus was on OAKEA’s needs until the closure in 2018. Now, having finally terminated the UK retail activities summer 2018, S2U Design has been kick started and invigorated and the focus over the coming years is on investing in key USPs for the benefit of Retailers, Manufacturers and Designers:
Speed-to-Market – As a sourcing company, we offer ‘ready to manufacture’ unique designs available to any importer worldwide. You can see some of these items in the ‘designs’ section. We find these designs in factories, who are good at manufacturing, but lack marketing skills.
Images and marketing support – We have our own photo studio in Ho Chi Minh City and we know exactly what type of images a retailer needs to start presenting and create demand BEFORE new designs arrive in their warehouse. We also offer photography as a stand-alone service
QC – Everything and anything ordered from us comes with full QC reporting – and a system for dynamic and bespoke QC efforts for continual improvement of your product
If you are a factory wanting to make Return of Investment for completed but ‘Stranded’ designs, which you have the IP rights for, contact us and we can help
If you are a retailer, frustrated about the time it takes bringing new designs to market, contact us and we can help!
If you are a talented furniture designer with ambitions to bring your fully documented designs to the mass market, contact us and we can help! – both in terms of finding or creating the right supply chain for your product/concept – and/or finding the right retailers or wholesalers to market and sell your design worldwide.
We have the first-hand experience, the empathy, the hands-on mentality and the ambitions to make your projects come off the ground, where-ever in the world your business is.