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Export Award For Rose & Heather

Export Award For Rose & Heather - Manufacturers Of Ancient Kauri Furniture

Rose & Heather Offshore Ltd, manufacturers of exclusive furniture made from ancient kauri extracted from Northland swamps, has won a Trade New Zealand Export Award for growing exports from $620,000 in 2000 to more than $2 million in 2002.

Managing Director Martin Bell says the family owned business started exporting in 1992, focusing on Australia because of its proximity, close cultural and design synergies and because it offered an audience five times the size of New Zealand.

“To become established in the Australian market and position ourselves as a premium brand we chose to ride on the coat-tails of David Jones, an established company operating in our market segment.”

He says this was a very successful strategy, but in 1998 the company decided to make a total commitment to the Australian market and sell directly to clients, opening its first overseas retail outlet in Sydney’s Northshore. It now owns and operates two retail stores in Sydney and two in New Zealand, employing 50 staff in its workshop and retail stores. “Opening our own retail store enabled us to move from selling product to selling our brand. By establishing a very close relationship with our customers, we can sell them the whole bedroom suite, not just the bed.

“We’ve found that our niche is bigger in Australia than we envisaged, not by population but by lack of competition in the niche market. Our competition is not other furniture manufacturers, but overseas travel or a new car – how the customer decides to invest their discretionary income.”

Rose & Heather currently offers about 200 furniture products in four ranges designed to appeal to clients at different stages of their life. Constructed according to traditional cabinet making techniques, the products are recognised for their quality.

To strengthen its position in the market, the company also sells complementary products such as bed linen and lamps. These are sourced from a range of New Zealand manufacturers and artists who individually are not export capable. Mr Bell says sourcing locally and exporting collectively under the Rose & Heather brand gives the company exclusivity of product in offshore markets.

The ancient kauri furniture – some of the kauri dates back 36,000 years - is all made at Rose & Heather’s Newmarket workshop by 42 cabinetmakers. The company runs its own apprenticeship scheme to ensure it has a continuous supply of craftspeople competent in traditional cabinetmaking techniques.

Because it controls the entire process from sourcing the product through to after-sales service, Mr Bell says one of Rose & Heather’s greatest strengths is the intimate relationship it is able to establish with the end users of its products.

“We can react to feedback from customers in our retail stores, incorporating their suggestions into our product design and construction.

“We also offer a level of customer service which exceeds what most Australians are used to. Some of our customers spend 5-10 years with us, ordering and accumulating products on an annual basis. Almost 40% of our business is repeat and our best advertising is our furniture in somebody’s home.

“We find it is important to think of Australia as being part of the domestic market, both in attitude towards customer service and product design. We display identical products in both markets and we’ve achieved this by simplifying our designs and moving away from our early New Zealand colonial style to contemporary classic.”

Trade New Zealand Account Manager Anne Chappaz congratulated Rose & Heather Offshore Ltd on its Export Award, saying the company was a successful mix of family values and craftsmanship combined with strong business practices.

"They have ‘a customer is always right’ attitude that sees a high level of care displayed in their retail outlets and also in after-sales service. They have also added value to their business by offering clients an interior design component that complements the furniture purchase."

Exports currently accounts for 62% of Rose & Heather’s total sales. As well as Australia, sales are made around the world via its web site and to visiting tourists.

The company is researching which offshore markets to expand into beyond Sydney. Mr Bell says it will probably open a retail store in Melbourne next year and one in London in 2006. He says the company is aiming for annual exports in excess of $6 million in the next five years.

As with Sydney, he says location of the stores will be all-important, as will the calibre of sales staff.

“The importance of the individual in our business is paramount. You can have the best product in the world, but it’s worth nothing unless the calibre of individual selling the product is outstanding – and that’s what we offer.”

About the Trade New Zealand Export Awards:

The Trade New Zealand Export Awards, sponsored by DHL Worldwide Express, recognise outstanding achievement and growth by New Zealand exporters in international markets. Winners become contenders for the Exporter of the Year in their sector category, and category winners (with the exception of the Emerging Exporter Category) then vie for the Supreme Exporter of the Year Award, announced at an annual dinner on 12 June 2003 in Christchurch.

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