“Fail to prepare, prepare to fail,” said the former Manchester United captain Roy Keane, repeating an oft-cited quote most commonly originally attributed to Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States.
The words might just as easily trip off the tongue of the man now driving another iconic Manchester institution: Nick Fox, the CEO of Housing Units, one of Britain’s elite independent home furnishing retailers, whose Failsworth premises draws in shoppers from far and wide.
Preparation for the January Furniture Show — still half a year away at the time he spares 30 minutes of his time to talk on the phone — is well underway. The spring 2019 shopping list is already complete.
“I've got the brainstormed notes in front of me at the moment,” he says, adding that he and his team will be expecting to see “ice cream pastel colours such as oranges, lilacs, peaches and celeries” at the NEC when the doors open January 20, 2019.
Those products won’t just be there by chance.
“These are colours and trends that we are starting to see sell already. We have also picked up on them from researching other industries outside furniture. We are now in the process of briefing suppliers — maybe half a dozen of them — and these are things on our list we’d expect to see on day one. We will head to them first at the show.”
The Housing Units team will number around six at the show — three looking at furniture, three at home accessories — but they won’t just be heading for the tried and tested.
“Yes, there will be some definites on the must-visit list, such as Baker Furniture for cabinet, but we often pick up new suppliers, or reopen accounts with people we haven’t dealt with in a while. Artedi would be one example from earlier this year.
“The show is fantastic for soft-cover upholstery. I really like Alpha Designs, and think they are an up-and-coming manufacturer. We started with them at the January show in 2017. We’ve had great success with a corner group of theirs introduced this latest January.”
But the NEC is not all about buying product. Some things, such as ideas, cannot be bought.
“We will be at the show all four days. Every night we will be out with colleagues from the industry, including other retailers. It is absolutely essential for independent retailers to be bouncing ideas and learning off each other,” he says.
At least, that’s the plan.