DFS sofas back in demand after weak autumn

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​​SOFA specialist DFS Furniture reported strong trading over the past four months as the market picked up after a weak autumn when balmy weather deterred customers from shopping.

The Doncaster-based firm said weak footfall and trading last year led to a 24 per cent tumble in earnings to £23.8m in the half year to January 25.

DFS’ chief executive Ian Filby said: “​When you get a real, long sequence of warm weather in the summer and autumn it changes the cycle of customer demand.

“It came good from the back end of November. We’re pretty optimistic about current trading.

“Not all the issues have gone away, but when you look at the drivers of our market - the general sense of consumer confidence and ​the increase in housing transactions - that can drive the market harder than disposable income, which is still under pressure for a lot of people.”

The company said its strong performance over ​​the past four months will contribute to a positive start to the second half.

DFS is in the process of broadening its appeal to more upmarket shoppers who previously​ ​considered the ​brand to be too downmarket and promotions driven.

​​Earlier this year it announced a new brand partnership with Dwell, the contemporary furniture and home accessories retailer.

“This will help us to broaden our customer appeal by extending our links with more aspirational brands,” said Mr Filby.

​DFS hopes the link up with Dwell will replicate the success it has seen with the launch of high quality sofas handcrafted in the UK under the Country Living, House Beautiful and French Connection brands.

“It’s early days with Dwell, but we’ve been delighted with the early performance,” said Mr Filby.

“They attract a customer group that’s really compatible with out customers. We’re quietly pretty excited.”

He added that DFS has invested in the three growth areas driving retail - value, as seen by the rise of the discount grocers, added value, as seen by the success of the likes of John Lewis and Waitrose, and web sales.

At the value end of the market the group is selling a fabric, three-seater sofa for £299, which is guaranteed for 10 years. In online, tablet searches have soared.

Tony Burdin, chief executive of Sheffield Mutual Friendly Society

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