vida-living-dundalk-extIreland’s largest furniture wholesale and distribution business is relaunching as VIDA Living and making a seven-figure investment in its UK operation.

The privately owned group — previously known as Furniture Link International — is bringing together its various brands, which in the UK includes FLI and Wilkinson Furniture, together under the VIDA umbrella as part of the relaunch.

VIDA is investing about £3m in all in its UK operation, which — after its acquisition of distributor Wilkinson last year — includes increasing inventory, upgrading IT systems, improved quality control, major warehouse upgrades and a big investment in logistics.

That has included switching from third-party carriers to using its own delivery fleet, with the company having 12 of its own trucks, five of which are currently involved in UK deliveries.

The investment has also included an in-house design team for cabinet and upholstery to provide exclusive and desirable collections, designed for the UK market.

Before it was bought by VIDA, Wilkinson Furniture was operating from an 18,000sqft warehouse, but that has been upped to 84,000sqft after it moved under VIDA’s stewardship.

Niall-Wogan-VIDA-LivingManaging director Niall Wogan, left, says the acquisition of Wilkinson — which saw a large office staff turnover, subsequent warehouse move, as well as IT and logistics changes — brought teething troubles, but these have now been resolved and the business is geared up for growth and high service levels.

“We have the infrastructure to achieve 400 per cent growth in our UK business,” said Mr Wogan. “We are currently running at around £5m a year — selling solely to independent stores at the moment — but have the facility in place to do £20m a year in the UK alone.”

vida-living-warehouse-internalBesides its Cheadle warehouse and showroom in England, Dundalk is home to its vast, wholly-owned 240,000sqft head office site in Ireland, meaning VIDA holds around £7.5m of stock at trade prices across the distribution centres at any one time.

Investment in stock has been substantial, with the group’s rebrand as VIDA also bringing about changes in total SKUs, which have been streamlined by about 400 to 1,250, with higher stock being held of the best-selling lines.

Mr Wogan said: “We quote delivery at four weeks, but 85 per cent of orders are delivered within two. As part of the improvements at our UK business we have started providing customers with a weekly report — but instead of telling them what we do have in stock — we tell them only what isn’t.”

Its UK relaunch has also seen it assemble a new team; with national sales manager Chris Atkinson — formerly of Barker & Stonehouse — joined by ex-Kevin France Upholstery md Tony Divito as sales manager, and sales regions covered by Annabel Simmons, Marc Cotton and Michael Goodman, formerly of Willis & Gambier, Lebus Upholstery and Wilkinson Furniture respectively.

VIDA is taking a 3,100sqft space at the January Furniture Show, where it will exhibit its own-designed living, dining and bedroom offer, with big-things expected of its leather-look Pellaria upholstery programme and its expanded marble dining and living collections.

Including its Irish and International business — which includes customers in 16 countries across five continents — VIDA Living has total global sales of about €20m with its current run-rate taking that closer to €25m a year. It employs 95 people worldwide including 31 in the UK. The business was founded 31 years ago by John Wogan, who remains executive chairman.

* Shropshire based Furniture Link UK has familial links, but is a separate, autonomously run and owned business.