To Rus­sians with love: ‘It can be nice do­ing busi­ness with you’

York­shire prop­erty and in­te­ri­ors firms are sur­viv­ing the re­ces­sion by win­ning Rus­sian busi­ness. Sharon Dale re­ports.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY -

RUS­SIAN oli­garchs are thin on the ground in God’s own county but that hasn’t stopped de­ter­mined York­shire busi­nesses from chas­ing the rou­ble rich.

En­tre­pre­neur­ial prop­erty and in­te­ri­ors firms have tar­geted Rus­sian clients by tai­lor­ing prod­ucts and ser­vices to suit their taste.

Leeds-based James Hare is a prime ex­am­ple. The com­pany is renowned for pro­duc­ing beau­ti­ful, top qual­ity silks and has just de­vel­oped a range specif­i­cally aimed at the Rus­sian mar­ket.

Sales di­rec­tor Saf­fron Hare says: “We are a fam­ily con­cern and we love to travel so we en­joy go­ing out to find busi­ness.

“We tar­geted Rus­sia about seven or eight years ago and it is now a good pro­por­tion of our ex­port mar­ket. In fact, I was there re­cently. We sell to shops and in­te­rior de­sign­ers there and we’ve been very suc­cess­ful be­cause the Rus­sians love lux­ury fab­rics and they love clas­sic English in­te­ri­ors.

“We have just de­vel­oped some new silks with them in mind. They love sheer fab­rics and we have used a tra­di­tional pais­ley pat­tern, which we think will ap­peal to them.”

The Rus­sians also love warm colours, says Saf­fron, be­cause they have such cold, long win­ters.

“Their tastes have changed a lot in the past few years. When we first went over there, the pre­dom­i­nant style was very op­u­lent, heavy and dark. Now it is still op­u­lent but su­per chic and very smart.”

York­shire-based in­te­rior de­signer Carolyn Parker agrees. She is work­ing with Leeds-based de­vel­oper Richard Burt, of Staunch Ltd on a £15m prop­erty in Wey­bridge, Sur­rey, aimed at Rus­sian buy­ers.

“They are very dis­cern­ing and love qual­ity, nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als such as mar­ble, wood and silks and gild­ings. Elab­o­rate decoration ap­peals as it is part of their own his­tory,” she says.

“Here they want a solid, English look with high end fin­ishes and beau­ti­ful, be­spoke fur­ni­ture made by crafts­men.”

Richard says Staunch tar­geted Wey­bridge be­cause it hadn’t been “bat­tered by the re­ces­sion” and there was a mar­ket for lux­ury homes.

“We de­signed the house with Rus­sian peo­ple in mind, which is why it is Re­gency style with a con­tem­po­rary twist. These peo­ple have homes all over the world and they don’t want them all to look the same. They want their home in Eng­land to look English and their home in France to look French,” he says.

“Inside it is all about op­u­lence. If you are pay­ing £15m plus you want the best of the best. I’m happy to say we have used a lot of York­shire com­pa­nies to sup­ply prod­ucts and we’ve also used cab­i­net mak­ers from this area. The site might be in Sur­rey but York­shire has ben­e­fited.”

Royal Oak Fur­ni­ture in the Dales vil­lage of Grass­ing­ton has cap­i­talised on the Rus­sian love of quintessen­tially English fur­ni­ture.

It has a boom­ing ex­port or­der book for be­spoke cab­i­netry sup­ply­ing ev­ery­thing from tables and chairs to or­nate pan­elled rooms and four poster beds.

Owner Paul Kent says: “We first started get­ting in­ter­est from all over the world through our fur­ni­ture dis­plays in Har­rods dur­ing the 1990s and it seems that the level of crafts­man­ship and ser­vice we of­fer is re­ally ap­pre­ci­ated abroad. True cab­i­net­mak­ing skills all but died out in the Eastern Bloc un­der com­mu­nism, so beau­ti­ful, hand­carved fur­ni­ture is now very highly val­ued in that re­gion.”

The team has been busy with one large or­der that is about to be shipped out and has pro­duced ev­ery­thing so that it can be flat- packed for trans­porta­tion. Paul re­mains on stand-by to travel over to Rus­sia to re-as­sem­ble the pieces.

“The mag­ni­tude of the or­der and the re­la­tion­ship with the in­te­rior de­sign com­pany in Rus­sia stands Royal Oak Fur­ni­ture in good stead for more work in the same vein,” he says.

Stone spe­cial­ist Lapi­cida, which is based in Knares­bor­ough, and has just opened a new show­room in Lon­don, is also pop­u­lar with oli­garchs.

Manag­ing di­rec­tor Ja­son Cher­ring­ton says: “We have a great many Rus­sian clients and the mar­ket is grow­ing as more and more of them are buy­ing prop­er­ties in the UK.

“Rus­sians are highly se­lec­tive; they want prod­ucts which of­fer them the ul­ti­mate in qual­ity, lux­ury and glamour. They love the aris­to­cratic look of nat­u­ral stone, but they don’t do shabby chic. Ev­ery­thing has to be su­per­sleek and highly dec­o­ra­tive, so mar­ble is a big favourite, as are semi-pre­cious stones such as our rock crys­tal basins, carved from a sin­gle block of crys­tal. Gold and gilt is an­other pop­u­lar theme and our new metal­lic stone walls are prov­ing a big hit with our Rus­sian clients and their in­te­rior dec­o­ra­tors.”

Find­ing these mega rich clients is down to net­work­ing and leg­work.

“It doesn’t come on a plate,” says Carolyn Parker. “You have to be pre­pared to travel and usu­ally the client will have a fa­cil­i­ta­tor but if you do deal di­rect I have found them to be ex­cel­lent. I worked for a Rus­sian lady and she was ab­so­lutely lovely. Just great to deal with.”

Saf­fron Hare also tes­ti­fies that Rus­sians make good cus­tomers and says traders have noth­ing to fear from trad­ing in the for­mer Soviet Union.

“We find that Rus­sian are ac­tu­ally a lot like York­shire peo­ple. They are very blunt and can some­times come across as rude but they are very straight­for­ward and easy to deal with.” Use­ful con­tacts: Carolyn Parker In­te­ri­ors De­sign, www.car­olyn­parker.com

Staunch developments, www. staunchltd.com

Royal oak Fur­ni­ture, www. roy­aloak­fur­ni­ture.co.uk

Lapi­cida, Knares­bor­ough and Lon­don, www.lapi­cida.com

James Hare www.james-hare. com

Royal Oak of Grass­ing­ton has won Rus­sian clients for its tra­di­tional, be­spoke fur­ni­ture, while Lapi­cida’s mar­ble tiles and rock crys­tal basins are must-haves for lux­ury homes. James Hare’s silks have also cap­tured a place in the Rus­sian mar­ket for lux­ury tex­tiles.

Rus­sian clients love lux­u­ri­ous ma­te­ri­als, and they also like a touch of clas­sic English style, es­pe­cially for their UK homes.

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