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MANUFACTURING: Furniture firm fortune after makeover.

A family firm of Black Country furniture makers is sitting pretty after a change of image brought them a massive change in fortune.

The company was down to a single new order at its lowest point only a relatively short time ago, but a little good fortune combined with the expertise of a Business Link West Midlands adviser, has turned the company around.

Repose Furniture, based at Brick Kiln Street, Brierley Hill, was formed in 1999 by dad, John Elcocks, aged 57, who already had a wealth of experience in furniture manufacturer and upholstery with some of the country's leading brands.

Mum, Janet, looks after the accounts and son David, aged 29, organises production with his father.

In addition to the Elcocks family, the company employs ten people at its factory.

Early last year, however, things weren't looking quite so bright.

Lisa Elcocks, aged 32, daughter, and the company's sales manager and production coordinator, said: "In January 2006 we came back after Christmas to what was supposed to be our busiest time of the year to find one order on the fax machine.

"We were wondering how on earth we were going to survive."

Then Lisa noticed that one of her suppliers had suddenly acquired a bright new look, a logo and stationery to match.

When she enquired how and from where, she was directed to Business Link West Midlands adviser, Gail Smith.

"Gail was absolutely fantastic. She came down to see me, suggested some ideas for improvement and gave me the opportunity to put us back on the map and develop the business."

The company were advised on a new look, new logo and a marketing strategy that included a brochure, a website and a presence at a key industry exhibition.

But it was a subtle change in direction that really began to channel the skills of the revitalised Elcocks family when they switched focus from making domestic three-piece suites to mobility furniture for the healthcare market.

Lisa said: "About 20 per cent of our business was with mobility customers and developing that side of the business was the only way we knew we could survive.

"We had never had a brochure or a proper logo or even proper stationery. We got everything in place and relaunched at Naidex, the national homecare and disability exhibition at the NEC in April last year."

Repose Furniture's presence at Naidex, combined with a listing on the exhibition website, brought a sudden rush of attention which had an almost instant effect on orders.

Lisa said: "By June last year we had to hunt for alternative facilities because the premises we had weren't big enough any more."

Repose had to renovate their new building as they took it over but were broken into twice.

Business Link was able to help and suggested a route for grant aid to tackle the problem.

"Because we were regenerating and staying in the area we were able to get a grant to sort out the security for the building," said Lisa.

Now there's little time for the Elcocks family to put their feet up.

Having pushed the business forward, there's plenty more to be done to reflect the services Repose now offer, including bespoke recliner furniture that caters for a huge variety of specifications.

CAPTION(S):

Business Link West Midlands adviser Gail Smith puts her feet up with the Elcocks family at Repose Furniture, from left, Janet, John, Lisa
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jul 19, 2007
Words:571
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