New man­age­ment in Fort Wil­liam proves it­self with record sales in 2015

The Oban Times - - News -

PEO­PLE in the West High­lands are canny buy­ers, but they are also loyal cus­tomers of­ten pre­fer­ring to sup­port lo­cal busi­nesses over a vast cor­po­rate con­glom­er­a­tion.

But when it comes to spend­ing on large value items, like fur­ni­ture, that doesn’t mean they don’t want some­thing that is com­pet­i­tively priced, good value and gives them plea­sure to look at or use.

Black­bridge Fur­nish­ings knows ex­actly where its cus­tomers are com­ing from - in all re­spects.

This High­land fam­ily-built fur­ni­ture com­pany, which was set up by James Mor­ri­son Fraser in In­ver­ness’s Waterloo Place more than 30 years ago, has had two gen­er­a­tions of ex­pe­ri­ence to come to un­der­stand what its cus­tomers are look­ing for.

Orig­i­nally a sec­ond-hand fur­ni­ture shop, the busi­ness changed to selling new goods when James Fraser, 41, took over as owner and di­rec­tor 14 years ago and moved Black­bridge Fur­nish­ings to Thorn­bush Road in the city.

The 10,000-square-foot show­room and ware­house in In­ver­ness now em­ploys 12 peo­ple, and three years ago the same size space in Fort Wil­liam was opened to cus­tomers on the west coast.

OP­POR­TU­NITY James came into the busi­ness straight from school, hav­ing helped his fa­ther out in the shop from the age of eight up­wards.

He saw an op­por­tu­nity to sup­ply his cus­tomers with the best qual­ity of fur­ni­ture at the most com­pet­i­tive prices by bring­ing in stock di­rectly from sources in Viet­nam, China and In­dia.

Black­bridge Fur­nish­ings has a huge net­work of con­tacts among sup­pli­ers which gives the busi­ness a big ad­van­tage when to comes to sourc­ing items quickly and sourc­ing more un­usual, asked-for items.

‘The way we buy our stock is di­rectly from the source and ship it here in con­tain­ers so we are su­per- com­pet­i­tive,’ says James.

Avail­able from the show­rooms are solid wood fur­ni­ture for liv­ing rooms, bed­rooms and din­ing rooms as well as leather and fab­ric suites.

There are spe­cial of­fers on so­fas, suits and cor­ner units at the mo­ment fol­low­ing a ship­ment and the com­pany is keen to al­low peo­ple to take ad­van­tage of the af­ford­able prices that Black­bridge Fur­nish­ings brings by buy­ing di­rectly from the source.

‘One of our main ad­van­tages is that we have stock that peo­ple can take home straight away,’ says James.

‘We carry more than a £1 mil­lion of stock in our ware­house. Peo­ple like the fact that they can get it straight away,’ he adds.

‘They don’t have to wait for about six weeks; they can get it straight away.’

‘We have peo­ple turn­ing up with vans or sheep floats or trail­ers and they just load it on.’

One of the rea­sons why the Fort Wil­liam store was opened three years ago was be­cause the In­ver­ness store was get­ting a lot of cus­tomers from the west coast, in­clud­ing the is­lands.

‘Things have re­ally taken off this year since Adam Brown took over as man­ager in the Fort Wil­liam store.

‘We had a few teething prob­lems ini­tially but sales have in­creased by 80 per cent com­pared

to the same six months last year.’

‘ We are try­ing to get our­selves known more on the west coast.’

Fort Wil­liam man­ager Adam Brown ex­plained that ini­tially peo­ple were un­der the as­sump­tion that Black­bridge’s fur­ni­ture would be more ex­pen­sive be­cause it was all new.

‘I have never been beaten on price,’ he said. ‘We are al­ways open to ne­go­ti­a­tion. I can say that be­cause we get them at such good prices our­selves.

‘I have never turned any­one away; if they have come in with a quote for a piece of fur­ni­ture, I have al­ways beaten it.’

Adam was born and brought up in Fort Wil­liam be­fore mov­ing away to study me­chan­ics in In­ver­ness and a BSc in motorsport man­age­ment and lo­gis­tics be­fore achiev­ing a Mas­ters in busi­ness man­age­ment and fi­nance.

He moved back to Fort Wil­liam to be near to fam­ily and friends and started work­ing in Black­bridge Fur­nish­ings’ store in Ardgour Road, Caol.

COM­PET­I­TIVE Since April he has been con­vinc­ing peo­ple on the west coast that Black­bridge Fur­nish­ings has the most com­pet­i­tive prices around - and it is work­ing.

‘We have a mix­ture of peo­ple com­ing to our store: from peo­ple who want to take out our nine months’ in­ter­est-free fi­nance to peo­ple who are high earn­ers.’

One of the most pop­u­lar lines, says Adam, is Black­bridge Fur­nish­ing’s Kin­craig oak range, with its rus­tic but clean, sim­ple lines in a va­ri­ety of op­tions for the liv­ing room, din­ing room and bed­room.

While in the so­fas, the Novella range has proved to be ev­ery­one’s favourite with its ex­tra­or­di­nary plump com­fort, re­lax­ing po­si­tions and durable leather at as­ton­ish­ingly good prices.

And of course, be­cause it is in stock, it can be picked up there and then or de­liv­ered within a mat­ter of days.

‘It all de­pends on how im­por­tant it is,’ said Adam.

De­liv­er­ies are made from In­ver­ness to the Fort Wil­liam store twice a week or if nec­es­sary in be­tween times and the com­pany de­liv­ers di­rectly too.

‘How far do we de­liver? Any­where. We have de­liv­ered even to France and Spain,’ says James. ‘I make it hap­pen.’ He cited one cus­tomer who wanted a mat­tress by the Fri­day of the same week, but de­liv­ery would not nor­mally be un­til the Mon­day.

‘I had the mat­tress made by our sup­plier and de­liv­ered by the Fri­day,’ said James.

‘ We have been in the trade for a long time, so know the right peo­ple to go to.’

These busi­ness re­la­tion­ships al­low Black­bridge Fur­nish­ings to make re­quests for be­spoke items within the ranges on of­fer - big­ger cof­fee ta­bles and plasma tele­vi­sion stands are pop­u­lar.

‘We go to fur­ni­ture shows two or three times a year to see what is hap­pen­ing to de­signs, although trends are slow to change,’ says James. ‘ Some of them never catch on!’

‘We do have some things in our show­rooms which are out of the or­di­nary, to catch the eye, for in­stance, we have a patch­workquilt-style sofa and a range of alu­minium fur­ni­ture called Avi­a­tor, which peo­ple might buy one or two pieces from, like a lamp ta­ble or cof­fee ta­ble, as a state­ment piece.

CUT­TING EDGE ‘We can do cut­ting edge if it is wanted, as well as the more tra­di­tional,’ he adds.

The ma­jor­ity of the fur­ni­ture comes ready-as­sem­bled or part-as­sem­bled like wardrobes or beds, in or­der to get them into homes, but there is a range of flat-packed Mex­i­can pine fur­ni­ture called Corona, which, Adam says, un­like some flat-packed fur­ni­ture, has stood the test of time in its show­rooms, de­spite much han­dling and mov­ing around.

If re­quired, Black­bridge Fur­nish­ings will of­fer an assem­bly ser­vice for those who are not able to do so them­selves.

‘And if any­one has is­sues with the fur­ni­ture, it can be re­turned and re­placed within days, un­like with the big brand stores in the cen­tral belt, where it can take weeks,’ says Adam.

While Black­bridge Fur­nish­ings does have a web­site at www.black­bridge­fur­nish­ings.co.uk, the best way to see the full ranges on of­fer, get a feel for their so­lid­ity, build qual­ity, com­fort and ask ques­tions - and of course ne­go­ti­ate! - is to visit the Fort Wil­liam or In­ver­ness stores.

The way we buy our stock is di­rectly from the source and ship it here in con­tain­ers so we are su­per­com­pet­i­tive

James Mor­ri­son Fraser

New man­ager Adam Brown

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