Moore than meets the eye
Entering their 75th year, Moores Furniture Group Ltd has come back from the brink to re-establish themselves as an award-winning kitchen manufacturer
It’s been a long journey for Moores. Operating from its factory in Wetherby, Yorkshire, the company first began making furniture nearly 75 years ago, supplying kitchens for public sector housing throughout the 1960s before expanding into private development and retail markets. Today, the business has become recognized as one of the UK’s leading kitchen manufacturers, with a reputation built on quality craftsmanship and superior customer service.
Despite its longevity, recent years for Moores have not been without difficulty. Like many businesses, the company grappled with a fall from profitability coinciding with the prolonged aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. A management buyout backed by Hilco Capital in November 2017 put Moores on the fast-track to recovery, with two years of phenomenal growth culminating with its receipt of ‘Turnaround of the Year’ at the 2019 Turnaround, Restructuring & Insolvency (TRI) Awards.
However, the challenges kept coming. March 2020 brought with it the arrival of Covid-19 in the UK. But for Moores, unlike many, the pandemic has served to underline its resilience. “We initially closed down for a period of six weeks,” says Moores CEO Steve Parkin. “Very quickly however, we bounced back to work, and within weeks had returned to delivering our usual service, with our customers seeing very little impact. Despite the limitations on trade, we’ve grown in that two-year period overall, with a dip in 2020 followed by growth of 23 percent last year. This year, we’re expecting to grow by over 20 percent, putting us back in line with our 2019 trajectory.”
Whilst other businesses may have been inclined to reduce investment during this tough period, Moores recognized that if they were going to achieve their ambitious growth plans following the pandemic, it was key to make crucial investments across their infrastructure. “It sounds crazy,” Steve admits. “We invested around £3 million in a brand-new fleet of 25 tractors, along with containers, and a further £1 million on upgrades within the factory. From scratch, we also purchased and installed an environmentally-friendly boiler – a £2 million investment, helping us to burn our own waste wood and support our sustainability roadmap. Added to that, we upgraded our saw cutting technology, spending hundreds of thousands of pounds rewriting software to make the systems more effective and to improve the quality of the operation. We are opening a fifth line in the factory to meet the rising number of orders.”
Crucially, Moores’ success has come without sacrifice to its employee base. “Not one Moores employee lost their job during the pandemic,” Steve says. “Everybody received 100 percent of their pay during the shutdown, and our company was featured on the BBC news as a case study of how a company in West Yorkshire had responded to the challenge of the pandemic. It gave us the opportunity to talk about how we’d looked after our people, and to share information about our health and safety procedures, including sending masks and gels to our employees’ homes, helping them to not only look after themselves, but their families as well.”
Keeping confidence high
For Moores, the pandemic has underlined the value of communication. “We held virtual meetings with a crisis team every day and sent out weekly communications to let everyone know what was going on, a practice that worked so well we have kept it in place,” Steve explains. “We also communicated closely with our customers and our suppliers, keeping them informed of everything we were doing, and keeping confidence high.”
In particular, Moores expects their embrace of virtual communication software to be one for the long term. “There’s a new, efficient way of meeting people now,” Steve says. “Just yesterday, I was able to gather all of my customer service and customer care staff together on a screen for 30 minutes. Previously, that simple task would’ve taken significant effort, whereas now we can do it almost instantaneously. Face-to-face remains the best way to build a relationship, but for quick, instantaneous work, using Teams or Zoom has been great. We’re also now very open-minded to more flexibility in the workplace where it works for both parties, such as working from home. Of course, we still have 250 people who work in a factory for whom that isn’t an option, but on the other hand, after a long time apart we’ve seen that many people do want to come into work and enjoy the camaraderie the workplace has to offer.”
In a period characterized by precarity, what’s the secret behind Moores’ success? “There are several key elements to our success. We have a great relationship with Homebase,” Steve says. “Under the leadership of CEO Damian McLaughlin, they’ve been an unsung turnaround story in the market. We continue to provide them with products and services of the highest quality, and they’ve embraced us in turn. Together, we’re now set to sign a new five-year agreement, so there’s still room for growth.
“In the Private Developer Housebuilder and Public Sectors, we’ve also really developed our service proposition, winning new business across both new builds and refurbishments,” Steve says. “About ten years ago Moores lost their way with the major house builders. It takes time to rebuild that confidence, and we’ve been working really hard to regrow our market share. We’re already big with Barrett, Persimmons and Redrow, and in the last 12-to-18 months, we’ve been embraced by Bellway, one of the top five builders in the country.”
Part of the challenge for Moores is matching the ever-evolving demands of their customer base with exciting innovations across their product ranges. “Rarely is there a single paradigm-shifting development that arrives and makes everyone’s chin hit the floor,” Steve explains. “Instead, it’s lots of incremental changes taking place which, when combined, make a kitchen exciting. In color, for instance, where the majority of consumers typically play it safe with white or grey, more and more people are starting to be braver, opting for in-vogue colors like dark greens or dark blues.
“Similarly, storage is becoming more important, as people recognize the need for more space in their kitchens,” he continues. “We’re also seeing the expansion of the kitchen into a communal area – people are adding multi-functional installations like kitchen islands, which can be used as workstations as well as preparation or dining areas. For us, this means working hard with the likes of Blum and Kessebohmer to develop new and innovative components to satisfy these demands for optimized utilization.”
Great new ideas
In 2021, Moores was awarded the ‘Ideal Home Storage Solution of the Year Award’ for their Roux Kitchens collection and was shortlisted for the ‘Made in Yorkshire’ Awards in the same year. “Throughout our time, Moores has always been a leader in the market, and we’ve worked with some fantastic supply partners to introduce great new ideas,” Steve says. “Wilsonart, for instance, have an on-trend range of really thin worktops developed using a new polymer, and we’re working with them to fit those into our kitchens.
“We launched our Roux Kitchens collection some years ago now, as a premium proposition in collaboration with Michelin Starred Chef, Michel Roux Jr,” he continues. “We introduced that to Homebase back in 2020, and in Guildford we developed a whole shop filled exclusively with Roux Kitchens, as a means to showcase the range. Over time, our plan is to gently roll Roux into more and more Homebase stores, alongside the House Beautiful and Country Living kitchen ranges we already supply.”
Beyond their production line, Moores are increasingly turning their attention to sustainability to hit carbon neutrality by 2025. “This goal is very important to us,” Steve says. “Gradually, we’re transitioning our fleet of vehicles into hybrid or electric models, and we’re actively encouraging electrification through the installation of chargers across our site for people and visitors to use free-of-charge. We’ve appointed dedicated people to analyze our environmental credentials, whose sole role is to ensure that we’re doing all we can to control and utilize waste, and to avoid the unnecessary burning of fossil fuels. Of course, there’s always more to be done, and we’re always looking to bring new ideas onboard.”
As Moores look to an exciting year ahead, they are putting a strong emphasis on customer service. “We’re recruiting heavily in order to fulfil our ambitions, and to meet our customers’ requirements,” Steve explains. “We’ve taken on nearly 50 people in the last quarter alone, with considerable recruitment still to come. As we move out of the pandemic, it’s clear that consumer confidence across the UK is growing, employment levels are rising, and that positivity is only going to benefit business. When it comes to our sector, people are getting used to investing in their homes. Our order book is the highest we have seen it in two decades, and we’re experiencing a Q1 that is way above anything we have seen in over ten years. It’s fantastic to see business flowing in our direction once again.”
Moores Furniture Group
Services: Kitchen Manufacturing