Think you know DFS? Think again! Why the UK's most loved sofa company is set to surprise you.
Let’s start with a fact. Around 1 in 4 sofas bought in the UK are from DFS. That’s mad isn’t it? But DFS has a 27% market share in the sofa industry. Which makes them a very big player indeed.
With that in mind, what if I then told you that each and every one of those sofas is hand-made to order? Yes really. Real life highly skilled people make each and every sofa, not mass-producing factory robots. More on this later, but that fact, and a few others, blew my tiny mind when I went on a trip with DFS to visit their Bridge Mills Design Studio. The trip (along with Melanie Lissack, Katy Orme from Apartment Apothecary, and Soozi Danson) was to mark the company’s landmark 50-year anniversary and to see their Design Team in action. I went to learn more about this British brand, and I can honestly say I came away looking at it in a completely different light.
There are two woodmills and three upholstery factories in the UK, but the Design Studio we visited is a separate building where the creative team develops new lines which will eventually make it into the DFS showrooms. The team scout around all the international design fairs, like Salone in Milan, for inspiration and trend spotting, and then bring it all back here to develop into their own designs. Below you can see all the moodboards and designs in development.
The moodboards are then put into testing in the dedicated on site workshop. There is a team of craftsmen based in the Design Studio who put all the new designs through their paces to make sure they are the best they can possibly be.
The fact that DFS has such a large market share, means that they are able to get a really good reading on the nation’s sofa buying habits. I was disappointed to hear that 59% of sofas sold are still grey. However there has been a 300% uplift in the sale of yellow sofa’s. Progress. I asked if they thought the rise of Instagram and people sharing their homes on there has had a direct impact on what people are buying from them. The Design Team said they had definitely noticed buyers being bolder with colour, specifically bold statement accent chairs, to perhaps sit alongside, and jazz up the grey.
The craftsmen and women who work in the Design Studio and the factories are very skilled…and they also have really good memories. Which brings me to my next surprising DFS fact. I mentioned earlier that each sofa is made to order. Well, each person who works in the factories knows how to make every single sofa and armchair oder that comes through the door. So there isn’t a team of people exclusively making the New Lark Tub chair for example. They all make each item on an order by order basis. So it’s not mass-produced and then sat in a warehouse waiting to be bought. DFS don’t hold any stock.
This model also enables them to offer their customers a wide range of choice when it comes to things like the type of filling, the legs, the scatter cushions etc, which is really good when you consider the price point of most of their products.
Research shows that the vast majority of the DFS customers still ‘buy with their bums’ and go into a showroom to test the sofas first before buying, rather than buying online without having seen it first. The comfort factor is very important. I tested out the new Patterdale sofa, from the brand’s Joules collaboration, and it was wonderfully deep and squishy, which is exactly as a sofa should be in my humble opinion.
And it’s not style over substance either because DFS is the first and only upholstered furniture manufacturer to receive the British Standard Kitemark. This means it’s product and service quality is 👌🏼 To achieve the certification, all DFS’ own factories and suppliers have undergone rigorous assessment, including tests for strength and durability.
After a quick safety demonstration it was our turn to have a go at making our own chairs. Me in charge of a hydraulic staple gun…what could possibly go wrong? Luckily I had upholsterer Andy on hand to make sure I didn’t muck it up. He has 22 years of upholstery making experience under his belt so I couldn’t go far wrong. And no he doesn’t take commissions…and yes, I did ask him ;-)
I was a bit hesitant at first with the old staple gun but soon got in the swing of things and it’s actually quite a good stress reliever (as long as you don’t get stressed by loud noises). Once the fabric was all securely fixed and attached, I screwed on the legs and it was good to go. I really enjoyed the process and would love to have a go at more upholstery in the future.
Now you’re probably wondering where the chair is going? After all, I do already have a pink Zinc Cuddler sofa from DFS in the living room. Well don’t worry, rather than being greedy and adding another pink chair to my collection, I wanted to give you all the chance to get your hands on it.
I’m running a competition over on my Instagram @gold_is_a_neutral to win it. Enter as many times as you like and once the winner is selected the chair will be delivered to your door.
I styled the chair in my bedroom. The tub style is ideal as an accent chair in the bedroom because of its low seat, but it’s definitely not just for chucking your clothes on because it’s super comfortable, as well as pretty.
One final fact that I learnt on that day, and which impressed me, is DFS’s recycling partnership with The British Heart Foundation which offers DFS customers the option to have their old sofa removed and if suitable, to be sold in one of BHF’s Furniture and Electrical stores up and down the UK, with the proceeds going to the BHF. This scheme began in 2012 and has raised a whopping £20m so far. So, many sofas which are no longer wanted are not being thrown on the scrapheap, they are getting a new life in someone else’s home which is a lovely thought.
So what do you think? Are you surprised by what you’ve read? And are you going to enter the competition to in the chair I made? Don’t worry, I did a very good job!
This post is a paid partnership with DFS but all words, thoughts and opinions are my own.