DFS factories working round the clock for Christmas

Ian Filby
Ian Filby
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FURNITURE RETAILER DFS has broken records in its UK manufacturing operations this December as its factories race to complete orders in time for Christmas.

Ian Filby, chief executive, said the business is reaping the rewards of introducing double shifts at its three sites to meet customer sales guarantees.

Ian Filby in DFS' factory in Doncaster

Ian Filby in DFS' factory in Doncaster

DFS has factories in Doncaster, Alfreton and Long Eaton, employing 900 people and producing around a third of the group’s products.

Together with other British suppliers, around 50 per cent of DFS products are now made in Britain.

Today the group reported “continued strong momentum” in first quarter results, announced another big hire with the appointment of Gwyn Burr as non-executive director and brushed off questions about long-rumoured plans for its return to the London Stock Exchange via an initial public offering.

Mr Filby told The Yorkshire Post DFS has had “a very good quarter on the back of a strong second half” with gross sales up 15.3 per cent to £197m, including £8.4m from its acquisitions of the aspirational Sofa Workshop and Dwell brands. Underlying gross sales rose 10.4 per cent, while core earnings soared by 53.7 per cent to £10.3m.

He said results aggregated for the last four quarters for the year ending November 1 represent a record 12 months for the Doncaster-based group.

But he would not comment on whether he is planning an IPO. “We have had two years of press speculation,” he said. “I don’t comment on press speculation.”

Mr Filby said Advent International has been a great owner of the business since buying it for a reported £500m in 2010.

He said: “That’s the opportunity we saw in DFS. The level of investment in the company is at unprecedented levels in various things like re-platforming the web to professionalising the company to expanding the store estate as well as manufacturing.”

Mr Filby said DFS increased the talent pool at the company by bringing in the likes of BBC director Helen Normoyle as chief marketing officer, Boots director Tim Stacey as online and business development director and former John Lewis managing director Luke Mayhew as a non-executive director.

Yesterday, the group confirmed the announced of Gwyn Burr as an additional non-executive director. Her background includes senior executive roles at Asda and J Sainsbury. She is originally from Rotherham.

Mr Filby said: “We look forward to benefiting from her expertise in developing our business and enhancing our corporate governance.”

DFS made its first foray into continental Europe in the last quarter with the opening of a store in the Netherlands.

This follows the expansion into the Republic of Ireland two years ago.

Mr Filby said he was “highly encouraged by a small start” in the Dutch business in Cruquius.

In the UK, DFS reached the milestone of 100 stores in 2014 and opened in Yor and Ayr in the last quarter.

As for the state of the economy, Mr Filby said consumer confidence, credit availability and the housing market are all pointing in a positive direction for the first time in six years.

He added: “It’s nice to have a gentle tailwind for a change, rather than a strong headwind.”

Graham Kirkham, now a billionaire Conservative peer, founded DFS in 1969 and sold it not once but twice, most recently to Advent International, generating a £300m windfall for the adopted son of a miner.

Broadening appeal

Under CEO Ian Filby, DFS has tried to broaden its appeal to a wider range of consumers.

DFS consolidated the Sofa Workshop and Dwell brands into the group in August following investments into the businesses last year.

Mr Filby said the consolidation “develops further our established partnerships with these complementary, aspirational brands and builds on the success we have achieved with our exclusive ranges of high quality sofas handcrafted in the UK under brands such as Country Living, House Beautiful and French Connection”.

December is the slowest month for DFS, the calm before the Boxing Day sales kick off one of its most important trading periods.

Mr Filby said the group is entering the period with its best-ever range.

He added: “I am confident that we can build on the strong performance of the first quarter and that DFS continues to enjoy excellent prospects for long-term profitable growth as one of the UK’s best-known brands, a major British manufacturer and the country’s leading retailer of upholstered furniture.”