Bespoke furniture may be defined as furniture that has been customised, modified or otherwise changed on the customer’s request. Artisan Furniture’s Bespoke programme offers clients the chance to change elements of goods that they feel would do better with their market base. The programme empowers customers who know exactly what they want but are unwilling or unable to source these goods from scratch – bespoke is the next best thing.
A piece of furniture consists of a plethora of elements. While not all of these can be altered, a lot of them can be. It’s not possible to completely change the style of a product from modern to gothic, but the smaller elements within can be changed. These include size, design and finish for basic furniture and fabric, hardware and additional materials such as brass and copper for more specific products.
The customisability of each element dependents on several factors. Let’s start with size. A chair usually comes in a standard size that’s meant to fit most tables, and indeed homes. However, if you’re catering to the children’s market and do not wish to buy specially made children’s chairs due to their poor designs or build, you may wish to buy regular artisanal chairs in your dimensions. Another example may be a furniture company who’s market base resides almost exclusively in London. They may wish to shave inches of most products to cater to smaller London homes, and indeed buy smaller products in general. This would be opposite of a company who’s clientele is largely based in the countryside, where larger houses can afford larger, grander pieces of furniture like a full size Artisan Furniture Chesterfield sofa. Depending on the company, they may agree and create a sample for you in your dimensions and send then to you. Similarly, bespoke programmes allow you to change the size of other pieces of furniture in order to cater better to your market for greater profits.
Moving on to design. This is a grey area because it would be difficult to completely redesign a new product and keep it within a reasonable price range for the customer. Smaller design modifications are much more viable though. A client may realise that their customer base prefers intricately carved legs as opposed to the straight, minimalist kind. This is the type of customisation that’s definitely possible because it changes one element of the product while keeping the rest of it the same. Another example may be a seller looking to increase sales by focussing on a Scandinavian tabletop design, and hence asking their supplier to change an existing popular table to accommodate this. Small design changes can go a long way, and sellers recognise that.
One of the easiest elements in a product to change is the finish. Most furniture companies including Artisan Furniture offer their products in plenty of finishes – ranging from the classic dark brown oak to the modern jet black. Even though all products are not available in all finishes at the same time, they can be put into production if the client requests it. Conventional wisdom dictates that traditional finishes go well with Victorian style furniture while modern ones work well with minimalist, Scandinavian products. However, if a client believes that an unusual combination will work well with their customer base and is willing to pay for it, a traditional finish may be done on a modern style product or vice versa. There are no real rules – every seller does what they think is best for their clientele, and a change in finish is one the easier ways of doing that.
Moving on to the elements of the more specific types of furniture, fabric is the most important one. Fabric is likely the first thing that catches your eye when you look at a piece of upholstered furniture, and therefore the most important element. It’s also heavily dependent on the eye of the beholder, even more so than other elements. The American market tends to prefer more bold colours while Britons are more inclined to go for muted shades such as beige and grey. It’s merely a cultural preference and suppliers would prefer to cater to their particular clientele. For example, a seller selling luxury furniture might like to use leather on the chairs they sell, rather than the normal cotton velvet or linen. This, of course, increases cost but sellers may do a cost benefit analysis and calculate that they can make more money with leather chairs.
Hardware refers to the knobs, knockers, casters and other bits and pieces that make a piece of furniture complete. They aren’t incredibly important to the overall look, but a well chosen knocker on a regal chair can elevate it to the next level. The little things can be just as important as the all encompassing elements, and indeed be the reason a customer chooses this particular good over another similar piece. Accordingly, sellers tailor their goods and accompanying hardware to their market. This can go both ways – a mid range retailer may insist on a no frills, silver toned knob on the bedside they buy to cut costs. On the other hand, a luxury seller selling wing chairs is likely to be inclined to buy ornate knockers to put on the chairs in order to appeal to the luxury sector of the the market. The cost benefit analysis precludes success for them.
Sellers know their market best and sometimes, the off the shelf designs of their suppliers may not reflect their market base. In this case, opting for bespoke goods at higher prices is likely to be worth the increased costs in the higher sales they’ll receive. Depending on the supplier, costs may increase many fold up from 20%. But this is a decision that can be made by the seller, if they believe it’s worth paying more for a specially tailored good to their market and it’ll lead to more profits, they’ll buy bespoke products. Further, customised products that aren’t available elsewhere on the market may be marketed as distinct, exclusive products. This is likely to allow you to charge a premium for them, because of there exclusive nature and lack of access in the wider market.
We touched upon the downsides of bespoke furniture earlier, and the main one is price. While minor modifications such as changing the colour of a linen in a popular chair may have a tiny price increase, huge changes such as acquiring gothic, carved legs instead of the Scandinavian kind are likely to lead to high increases in price. Further, unusual modifications such as getting adult chairs made in kid friendly sizes will lead to price increases at least in the short run, despite the material cost of the chairs being cheaper. It’s always a risk to the manufacture to tailor a good for only one customer, and it disrupts the regular supply chain so the costs are higher. The more unusual the modification, the higher it’s likely to cost but you’ll likely be able to charge a higher price for them as well.
The other downside of bespoke furniture is the timelines. Starting production from scratch, packing and shipping them to ports and the sea voyage usually takes 8-12 weeks. Bespoke furniture is almost always made from scratch unless you regularly buy large quantities, in which case they made be placed under continuous production. Hence, it’s likely to be at the longer end of the 8-12 week period. Buying off the shelf products, some of which may be popular and hence in continuous production, takes a shorter period of time and may let you fill stocks quicker. The solution to the is to plan your stock levels accordingly and place orders on time, as well as anticipating demand with relative accuracy. Doing analysis and research on all of those elements will ensure you don’t run out of stock often and the longer timelines, at least initially, aren’t a detriment to your business model. In the long run, you may even proceed to buy large quantities frequently which will cut down on the time taken to produce them.
Therefore, we’ve seen the pros and cons of bespoke furniture. The element of specificity to your clientele and the exclusive nature of the product are the two main advantages that’ll lead to higher sales, despite the higher costs and longer timescales. A good seller should always do a cost benefit analysis before making a big business decision like this one. For a plethora of companies, buying furniture off the shelf is likely to be much more viable than ordering bespoke goods. However, for some companies who have a targeted market and are well aware of their demands, bespoke furniture can elevate their business model to the next level by buying exactly what their clientele wants at a premium price.
Artisan Furniture’s bespoke range is the way to go for handmade, artisan crafted furniture wherein every piece of made by hand. Look for more information on the website and contact our team for queries – they’re there to help.