17-09-2008 Skippers Furniture to make a targeted effort involving interior design projects
Skippers Furniture makes high-quality upholstered furniture for discerning Danish customers. Now the company also wants interior designers and customers abroad to get to know Skippers furniture.
Upholstered furniture manufacturer Skippers Furniture of Durup, Denmark, has a fine combination of owner Svend Skipper’s long-standing experience and knowledge of the furniture upholstery craft and his son Steen’s marketing and sales expertise for navigating a changeable market.
The final transfer to the younger generation has been put on hold at Skippers Furniture. Although it is true that 77-year-old Svend Skipper has transferred a large share of the decision-making to his son Steen, Svend still owns the company. Due to market uncertainties, Steen has so far put off the decision to take over his father’s work of a lifetime, but expects to make the decision in the not too distant future. In addition to complex legal and taxation matters that have to be clarified as part of a generational change, the company’s future prospects also require a careful assessment, and Steen makes no secret about the fact that the company needs to increase its turnover.
“Our problem is that the domestic market for high-quality upholstered furniture is approaching the saturation point. Getting new dealers and increasing turnover are difficult. So our challenge is to step up our exports, which is a big job for a small company,” explains Steen Skipper, who has a business college degree and is also a qualified furniture salesperson. He has been in charge of sales at the family company since he arrived in 1996.
The sofas and chairs produced in Denmark by Skippers Furniture are primarily sold through independent furniture dealers and a number of IdeMøbler’s shops. Skippers also collaborates with the furniture chain Home Design on a few select models and Home Design will launch a modernised version of the Berlina chair, from 1969, in a limited numbered edition, in conjunction with the publication of its next catalogue. Sales to furniture shops in Denmark are handled by an agent who has been representing Skippers for many years.
Skippers Furniture also makes use of agents on its export markets. In Japan, the agent is also a wholesaler and sales figures are starting to rise. By contrast, the Norwegian and Swedish markets are sluggish, even if Skippers Furniture has participated at the furniture fair in Stockholm the past two years. “It’s hard to find the right agents for export sales, which is a problem we’ve been struggling with in Scandinavia, but that I’ve hopefully resolved now. In February, we’ll return to Stockholm, but this time exclusively with Brdr. Krüger, so we will present a uniform quality that lets us focus on our Okamura & Marquardsen collection,” Steen explains. In the time ahead, he will be consolidating the company’s export activities in the other Nordic countries.
In the 1980s, Skippers Furniture had large exports of a range of chairs to the US and, up through the 1990s, the Salling-based company exported large volumes of heavy upholstered pine furniture of the company’s own design to Germany. Today exports are more sporadic, and the product range is again limited to design-led recliners and sofas in simple Scandinavian design.
Interior design projects
Concurrent with the company’s efforts to boost exports, Steen Skipper will intensify efforts to make architects and interior design companies aware of Skippers Furniture’s expertise within custom manufacture of interior design products. He emphasises that the company can manufacture just about anything in upholstered furniture, and the company’s size enables it to fit specific interior design projects into its production plans. Skippers is already one of Kinnarp’s regular suppliers in terms of upholstery and an external supplier for Illums Bolighus and others. Also, the company frequently delivers furniture for interior design projects through its retail dealers. “We want to target more efforts on design projects and our current range of furniture is also well suited for this type of assignment,” Steen says.
Exquisite, classic style
Skippers Furniture’s current product range focuses on recliners and sofas with an exquisite, classic design. Most of this furniture was designed by designers Okamura & Marquardsen, with whom Svend Skipper has collaborated since 1981.
“New models are developed in collaboration with our designers, our Danish agent and us at the factory. We’re not restricted to only working with these two designers and we’re always open to new inspiration, but at the same time, we have to admit that our teamwork with O&M is usually smooth-running. At the moment, we’re involved in a couple of new projects with young designers, and although it’s been educational, it’s also been a little difficult,” Svend Skipper admits. He explains that the new models from Skippers Furniture usually follow market trends: “We want to stay at the forefront but without getting too far ahead. We depend on being able to sell the furniture, after all.”