UK-based furniture supplier, The Cotswold Company, shows us that success starts with a product fit for a lifetime 

Over 30 years ago, in the small rural village of Bourton-on-the-water, The Cotswold Company was born. Starting out from that single location, the business is now nationally recognized for its dedication to quality service, traditional techniques, and classic style. Over the course of three decades, The Cotswold Company has undergone numerous evolutions, as company Chief Operating Officer, Alan Joseph, relates: “Once the first stores were well-established, it was acquired and developed into a large-scale mail-order business but beset by operational problems and therefore closed in 2008. At that same time, we were running a wholly online furniture business called Pine Solutions that had a great kernel of an operating model and was one of the early movers into the online space and growing rapidly.

Alan Joseph, Chief Operating Officer

“By 2008, Pine Solutions had grown substantially with a portfolio that included oak and painted as well as pine finishes and so as online retail pioneers, we knew it was only a matter of time before bigger, more established general merchandise discounting brands moved into furniture. As such, we were keen to develop a brand capable of supporting our vision of selling high-quality, traditionally-made cabinet furniture, differentiated by service proposition. Something we knew traditional furniture stores would struggle to do and would set us apart from the discounters.

Second-to-none service
“We bought The Cotswold Company in full in 2008 and immediately added the original founder as an advisor to our board, setting about re-establishing a physical presence in the Cotswolds as well as hiring design and creative expertise from the area. Ever since then, we have been dedicated to bringing Cotswold-inspired furniture and homewares to customers across the UK. Our brand is all about traditional English furniture, made using classic woodworking techniques which ensure the products are strong, solid, and reliable as well as beautiful. We want to help people create homes for life – both for a lifetime and to cope with everyday living. The additional challenge we set ourselves was to have the best service and value price points for what we were selling and although this can be difficult, it has proven tricky to replicate which has helped to drive our continued success.”

The Cotswold Company’s enduring focus on the happiness of its customers has helped sow the seeds of long-term success. As Alan enthuses: “One of the cornerstones of our business is our focus on customers. That focus has been a conscious effort since day one. Our goal is to make sure that the products we sell are good quality, and the service we provide is second to none. We build relationships with our customers and offer assistance throughout the buying process. It’s about trust. A lot of purchases are at crucial life milestones like a new child or a first ‘big bed’; perhaps a new grandchild or moving house, which means our service is very important to our customers, and in truth it’s a real privilege to be a part of that process.

“People’s homes are very personal spaces, so we manage customer relationships incredibly carefully. That means making sure the entire process – from purchase to delivery – is completely seamless. We realized early on that to provide that full-service experience, we needed to be working with the best delivery companies and wherever possible, doing it ourselves. By putting our people in our customers’ homes with our branding and training in assembling our products all day, every day we could improve customer satisfaction, reduce returns and waste and we could also take the opportunity to train our delivery teams in sensitivity and customer relations.

“We’ve been insourcing logistics and warehousing since 2012 when it became apparent that the motivations of our 3PL were at odds with what was important to us and so all the logistics systems and operations are managed by our own people, which isn’t all that common in retail. A lot of businesses don’t do that. For The Cotswold Company, keeping everything in-house is so important because of the nature of the products. They are big, bulky goods that require careful handling if they are to arrive in perfect condition. It’s not straightforward, but fortunately we have a team of experts making it happen.”

“However, all of this is for nothing unless you start with perfect product every time and so we are obsessive over production techniques and finishing. This inevitably led to us direct-sourcing more than 80 percent of our product with only the best suppliers surviving the process. By having our own people in workshops across Asia and the UK overseeing production quality, material preparation and timber selection as well as performing 100 percent quality inspections of everything we produce we have dropped return rates and customer disappointments to a fraction of our competition.”

Going for growth
Moving away from its origins in the online retail world, The Cotswold Company decided to open a network of bricks-and-mortar stores across the UK. “We wanted to give our customers somewhere they could come to get a feel for the products and experience the brand in real life. What we found, unsurprisingly, was that there was a whole generation of people who were not comfortable spending money on products they hadn’t seen. Our stores allow customers to test-drive furnishings before committing to them as well as meeting actual human beings passionate about our product. We found that, through the retail experience, we were able to bring the brand to life in a new way,” Alan details.

With an established logistics network and successful stores across the UK, the future is bursting with possibility for The Cotswold Company, as Alan concludes: “We’ve got big plans ahead. We’ve been entering new categories over the last couple of years and there will be some more that we will find ourselves involved in as we continue to evolve. I think there’s still a lot of growth left in the business, new territories to expand into and store locations to open. It’s really an exciting time.”