We chat to head of brands Kellie Wyles about its winning licensed collaborations strategy.
DFS has been making furniture for five decades and hand-makes every sofa to order. With years of experience going into handcrafting tens of thousands of sofas every year at its three factories in Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, DFS is the biggest sofa manufacturer in Britain.
Over the last five years DFS has grown its market share in the aspirational segment with the addition of the Exclusive Brands range, but also the acquisition of Sofa Workshop, Dwell and most recently, Sofology. DFS introduced the first of its Exclusive Brands range in 2012 to broaden its appeal to older and more affluent aspirational customers, while retaining its core mass market appeal.
Its Exclusive Brands range encompasses collections with House Beautiful, Country Living, French Connection and coming in November, Joules.
Kellie Wyles, head of brands at DFS, is responsible for managing relationships with existing partners and developing products that are right for them, as well as exploring new opportunities with potential partners. She explains the strategy behind the Exclusive Brands concept.
“The aim of our exclusive brand partnerships with French Connection, House Beautiful and Country Living is to broaden our appeal to more aspirational customers as part of our growth strategy. While we already have a leading competitive share in all customer segmentations that we target, we have a clear focus on strengthening appeal to customers who are seeking furniture that is handmade to order, preferably in the UK, and with accompanying guarantees around quality.
“Each collection has at least four ranges and we’re always looking to expand and refresh these. The briefs to our design team are ever-evolving to ensure we’re providing exciting, trend-led products for our customers.”
Leveraging the appeal of these brands has been an enormous success for DFS, delivering 35% growth last year, building on a 75% uplift in the previous year. The company has high expectations for its latest collaboration with premium British lifestyle heritage brand, Joules.
“We’re delighted to be collaborating with Joules on this new partnership celebrating the best of British design and manufacturing,” says Kellie. “Joules is an extremely popular British brand with a very distinct design identity that translates exceptionally well into upholstery. Combined with our quality and British craftsmanship we’re confident this partnership will appeal to consumers. The product will be in store from the end of November.”
Joules joins with French Connection, House Beautiful and Country Living which all have collections with DFS. The House Beautiful collection won the Best Brand Licensed Homewares product at the Brand & Lifestyle Licensing Awards back in April.
“We’re extremely proud of our work in licensing so it was brilliant to be recognised by the industry,” says Kellie. “We’re always on the look out to bring fresh and exciting products to our customers and developing the right exclusive brand partnerships will continue to help us do this.”
It’s a well-thought out process when DFS selects partners to work with. The company looks for brands with values that echo its own and celebrate British design and manufacturing where possible. Kellie explains the process: “We carefully select brand partners that will broaden our product range so that we will delight new and existing customers. We look for brands that value our tradition of hand-making all products to order and our own UK manufacturing base.”
In return, it’s a win-win relationship for the brands as well, giving each brand an opportunity to expand its product offerings in a new and unique way and reach out to new audiences.
“The brand partners bring with them their own identity which complements our existing range,” says Kellie. “Combining their distinctive style, textiles and prints or even unexpected details which customers already love, with DFS’ impressive upholstered furniture design and manufacturing capabilities makes for a winning combination for all.”
It’s a strategy that is quite clearly working for DFS as the results speak for themselves. And there’s likely to be more licensing collaborations in the pipeline, although DFS will always be looking for quality, as opposed to quantity.
Kellie says: “Our aim is to create the right licensing partnerships to appeal to our consumer audiences and we’re always looking for ways that we can broaden our appeal across the upholstered furniture market.”
A colourful twist on the classics
The new Joules Collection, exclusively available at DFS, encompasses a range of country, coastal and colour-inspired sofas, armchairs and footstools. Each piece has been designed to embody the quality, Britishness, colour and humour that makes Joules stand out from the crowd.
Designed by DFS’ design director, Philip Watkin and Joules’ head of concept, Laura Douglas, each piece is handmade to order in Britain. The collection combines Joules’ unique hand-drawn prints and unrivalled attention to detail with the traditional skills of DFS’ craftspeople.
Laura Douglas, head of concept at Joules, commented: “At Joules we’re always looking at new ways to delight our customers and meet their lifestyle needs all with bringing a touch more colour to their lives.
“We’re excited to do just that through our first ever sofa collection in our unique Joules designs.”