Long-term

Andrew Cussins on Sofas & Stuff’s approach to business matching the demands of its customers

‘There are so many joys of having a family business. The biggest positive is that you are all are trying to do things as well as you can, as you’re in it for the long term. I am incredibly proud that we opened our own factory in Preston 18 months ago. If we were a public company we would have never done that, but as a family we take a very Japanese view of business – longevity,’ says Andrew Cussins, Sofas & Stuff co-founder.

‘Working with Julia, our sons and nephews gives us an independence and flexibility that another structure wouldn’t afford us. It enables us to be brave, agile and responsive to the needs of our customers and the company.

‘Julia and I made the conscious decision never to ask Sam or George to join the family business. We didn’t want them to feel any pressure to work with us – although we loved the idea. They both independently came and asked to join the business at different points in their careers, mostly because of the opportunity you have to make a difference working here. Sam worked for a company that employed more than 30,000 people, so it was very difficult for him to make a difference there. Fortunately, they found a genuine interest in the furniture industry, and their involvement in the family business has been a real asset to the company.’

Another asset has been the chain’s determination to get its store locations right – the King’s Road, London opening will be just its 24th in 15 years.

‘We don’t believe in opening hundreds of showrooms. I believe we open showrooms where the people who live there would want a showroom – where it would resonate with the locals. When selecting new showrooms, we look for locations that align with our brand values. The King’s Road, with its rich cultural and design heritage, perfectly resonates with our passion for expressive interior design. We seek areas that reflect sophistication, a discerning appreciation for quality design, and a community that values unique, handcrafted furnishings.

‘Our target customer is someone who appreciates individuality, craftsmanship and a genuine commitment to quality in bespoke furniture. We aim to attract those who see furniture not just as a functional element but as a means of expressing their personality and style. We know that our customers want to invest in furniture that is going to last, and they love that we make it ourselves in our own UK factory.

‘Our customers know that their sofa can say as much about their personality as their clothes, and we help them express themselves. Success for us is when our customer unwraps their sofa and they are completely thrilled. Too many people put up with not bad, average, okay… and that’s nowhere good enough for our customers.’

It seems many customers want to express themselves in the manner of the Alwinton sofa, which remains the bestseller. ‘It’s a wonderful iteration of the classic British sofa, with a deeply comfortable seat and low Howard arms. Our customers gravitate towards this model time and time again as it’s such a versatile, timeless piece.’

The chain has a long-standing partnership with the Victoria and Albert Museum, with its third fabric collection – Threads of India – recently released.

‘The V&A partnership is incredibly close to our heart. It has an unrivalled archive of textiles from around the world. I couldn’t think of a more inspirational establishment to collaborate with than the V&A. It is a constant source of inspiration,’ says Cussins.

The relationship ‘reflects our immense curiosity about design, past and present, and connects with a similar passion felt by many of our customers. Six fabric designs have been created [for Threads of India], drawing upon the magnificent array of South Asian objects housed in the museum. Each design reveals a different aspect of India’s artistic legacy, allowing people to infuse history into their contemporary living spaces.

‘I have a passion for India. It is absolutely my favourite place on the planet. That’s why I wanted to create a collection based on Indian textiles. The collection works so well as it’s only when you look closely, you see the parts of the story of India in them – in the motifs and shapes, the animals, fruits and flowers. We have created gorgeous textiles that on close examination reflect South Asian heritage – they fit well in English homes as the fabric allows the customer to infuse a small part of this Indian, and indeed, global history into everyday living spaces.’

A FAMILY AFFAIR

The Cussins’ connection to furniture retailing dates back to pre-World War II, with Andrew’s father Manny Cussins – also known for being Leeds United chairman between 1972-1983 – taking the reins of a modest shop in Hull, which grew to become John Peters. The journey continued with the acquisition of prestigious firms such as Waring & Gillow and Maple & Co. Andrew joined the industry officially in 1980 as an apprentice in the family firm, before launching Sofa Workshop just five years later, eventually selling to MFI in 2002. Seven years later he and his wife Julia set up Sofas & Stuff in Fittleworth, West Sussex. Its 24th showroom is due to open on King’s Road, London on 1 March. The family approach continues, with two of their sons, Sam and George, both directors in the chain and a nephew helping to lead a team of more than 190.

INDIAN ARTISTRY

The Threads of India collection tells a story of India’s unique textile heritage and traditions through fabrics inspired by opulent riding coats, tent hangings and dress fabrics. The inspired contemporary designs, presented on a linen and viscose blend, pay homage to this legacy, offering a tapestry of colours for a bespoke living experience. Threads of India seamlessly blends history with modern design, encouraging enthusiasts to discover the intertwining of tradition and innovation within each fabric. This collaboration highlights the enduring allure of India’s artistic legacy, and underscores Sofas & Stuff’s dedication to infusing the timeless elegance of the past into contemporary homes.

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