Products: Designing a debut
September’s design shows are considered an effective launch pad for new products. Here seven designers and manufacturers give the inside track on what it takes to make a successful launch.
Dutch manufacturer Hakwood chose 100% Design as the platform to launch its collection of wooden wall tiles, says marketing director Holly Hak.
Don’t be scared to step out in the open and improve. Try to find the right balance between perfection and the pressure to launch. You obviously want your product to be perfect and it is easy to lose yourself in this process. Remember that launching the product enables you to collect valuable feedback from your customers and make your product better along the way.Does Hakwood have a launch strategy?Our strategies include launching new colour, texture and pattern concepts. We have an aggressive R&D department that works to create unique and technologically advanced products. Generally, we prepare between four and 12 months in advance. We target leading architects and designers because they seek innovative, quality products and push the limits of design, and through them we also reach their clientele and design-savvy consumers. In terms of launches, we have one guideline – show a product’s potential and let the creative professional imagine how they would use it.
Robert Barnby marks his company’s return to LDF with a stand at London Design Fair (G08), showing new pieces including his Concrete tables.
We launched in 2012 and have introduced new products every year except last year, when I had a year off. My business was going through some changes and I focused my attention on being in the workshop. Shows aren’t cheap and consume a huge amount of time, so I appreciated the breathing space. My stand this year is going to be more considered as a result.Did you develop a launch strategy for products as part of your business plan?
Being a recent graduate attempting to set up a workshop in the fairly remote location of Hay-on-Wye, I always anticipated having to get down to the London shows. At that stage it was particularly important to get noticed. Beavering away in your workshop is all very well but you need these platforms to get your products in front of the right people – potential customers or design journalists willing to give your brand a helping hand.Looking back on previous launches, what lessons have you learned?
Initially I always found pricing for trade a little tricky. Also, when discussing bespoke projects, I used to get pressured into giving a rough price. It’s too easy to get it wrong so I’ve learned to wait until I’m a little further down the process before talking costs.Are you concerned about clutter and competition for time and attention during the LDF fortnight?
The buzz is one of the things I go down for, it’s not just about selling furniture. The fun bit is meeting and being inspired by like-minded people. Workshop life can be a little solitary so shows are a great opportunity to remind yourself you’re not the only one.
Carpet and rug manufacturer Jacaranda will be in three different locations during LDF. Lucy Meager, director of the company, reveals how it is developing international markets for its products.
Shows are a good opportunity to show large pieces of carpets and rugs to new and existing customers. We always try to have something new to unveil at the September shows and at the main European shows in January and February. Last year we exhibited at Cologne, Milan, Deco-Off Paris and the Stockholm Furniture Fair. For the past few years we have launched products throughout the year so there’s always something new to draw customers into our showroom in Design Centre, Chelsea Harbour.Who are your products aimed at?
Jacaranda’s carpets appeal to the mid to top of the market. Our carpets and rugs are handmade from natural fibres to high standards so we can never be the cheapest and do not wish to compete with mass-produced and synthetic carpets. Our exports are growing and now account for over 30% of our turnover. We have distributors in most European countries and the US.Do you observe any guidelines when launching products to the trade?
Our products must be different to – or better than – anything already in the market. The quality must be good and the price may not be cheap but must represent good value for the quality on offer.How much time does it take for a product to become established after launch?
It takes four to six months for meaningful sales to filter through after a launch. Only after a year do we really know how successful a range will be.What did you learn from the first launch?
Go with gut feel. It’s definitely worth taking educated risks.
Eleanor Pritchard is known for her woven textiles, which will be on show at Decorex this year for the first time. She will be exhibiting blankets and cushions and Pritchard’s Aerial upholstery will appear on the Long Eaton bench (pictured above), made in collaboration with furniture company Assemblyroom.
When was your company founded and have you launched products yearly since then?I first set up the studio in 2003 but it was not until 2006 that we started producing a much more standard manufactured range of blankets. Since 2006, we have introduced new designs every year – and occasionally twice a year. In 2013, we launched the upholstery collection and we have added a number of new designs to this collection over subsequent years.
Did you deliberately develop a product launch strategy as part of your business plan? If so, what approach did you take? I think it started out as a much more organic process. But, over time, we have tried to make sure that we are more prepared and ahead of the game. We send out bi-monthly newsletters, which highlight any upcoming launches, so it is really important to have good images ready for these. We always launch products at trade shows so that we can reach as wide an audience as possible. That said, there are still plenty of times when it is a last-minute rush.
Do you observe any guidelines when launching products to the trade? We always make sure that our products are ready to order so, for example, all of the details about prices, shipping, currencies and so on need to be established before the launch. That way we are ready to respond immediately to enquiries and anticipate the kind of questions that are likely to arise.
What lessons have you learned from your previous launches?We have learned over the years to make the message and the information as simple as possible. For example, the first time we showed in New York, we had very complicated information about shipping and ordering. I have learned since then that all the practical information that accompanies a launch needs to be as simple and straight-forward as possible.
How do you choose where is the best place to exhibit? What are the differences between the shows?We always look at who else is exhibiting at particular shows. This is a good guide because we want to make sure that we are in good company. Our approach is always to pick two – three at the most – shows a year to concentrate on. It is much better to pick just a couple of the right shows and do them well than to spread yourselves too thinly with lots of shows that might not be quite right for you.
That said, over the years, we have exhibited at many shows. In London we have exhibited at Design Junction, Clerkenwell Design Week, Origin, 100% Design and this year we will be at Decorex for the first time. We have also showed internationally several times at NY Now, Maison & Objet and most recently at the Stockholm Furniture Fair.
Australian photographer and designer Martyn Thompson is based in New York and coming to London to launch his fabric collections in the UK. He will be exhibiting at LDF in the Brompton Design District.
Aside from product development, how long does it take to prepare for a launch?We started discussing the idea of London about six months ago. Over the past four months we have focused on developing marketing images and material for press and social media. We feel quite clear about the vision of the brand and its aesthetic, so the process of designing stands is organic and a fun part of the business.
Is the cost of the launch a factor when deciding whether to introduce a product?We certainly try to be smart in terms of our launches and to keep things at a minimum. Collaboration has been key. While it’s too big a financial ask to participate in something like Decorex at this stage, we will have a presence there because we are collaborating with Pinch, which is using our collection in its upholstery.
How long does it take for a product to become established after launch?We’ve found it takes quite a few months before we notice an uptick in sales for new designs. This reflects an interior designer’s working process: they will call in samples and take some time to develop their project and get approvals from clients.
What lessons have you learned?Our first real launch was done in an outside venue and everyone who came assumed they were outdoor products, which was not the case. This was the first lesson for me – people are very literal. I’ve also learned that whatever you are making, it’s necessary to illustrate how to use it.
How would you advise a design company on launching its first products?Focus on what is unique about your product and play to your strengths.
Copper & Silk will be showing its new products at designjunction. The north London-based company designs lighting and lampshades and has also started to work with other leading designers, says creative director Daniel Fosbery.
Is September the best time to launch products in the UK?September is a very good time to show lights. One theory is that as it becomes darker, people become more concerned with lighting. But the main reason could just be that LDF and London Fashion Week are held in September so a lot of attention is paid to new products at this time.
Aside from product development, how long does it take to prepare for a launch?Generally the studio works a year or so ahead. One area we are very excited to expand is our collaboration with talented textile designers to create unique ranges of lampshades. Since our launch in 2010, we have continued to expand our collection of fabrics and lighting.
Do you spend more time and money on launches now than you have in the past?Our budget does increase each year, in line with our growth. Cost is always a factor for a small business – we have to ensure we spend a reasonable proportion of the budget on improving existing services and do not become distracted by the new. Our marketing on social media and through press releases is all done in-house, which keeps costs down and makes the marketing more personal. We are lucky to have skilled people working on our digital marketing.
How would you advise a design company on launching its first products?Be patient. Interiors take a long time from concept to completion and it may be a year before the product really starts to be sold. Also, make sure you have a good selection of information to send to interested parties – it is the best way to ensure your product is talked about.
Custhom is based in south-east London and specialises in wallpaper and bone china. According to co-founder Jemma Ooi, at this year’s LDF it is collaborating on a fabric with Two Lovely Gays, which will be used to upholster seating for Ligne Roset
When was your company founded and have you launched products yearly since then? Custhom was founded in 2010 and we have launched designs at various points every year. When we first started, we assumed the buyers’ calendar was one we should align with. However, it was never our aim to produce endlessly so we quickly moved away from that way of thinking. We now produce new collections when they are ready, generally at the next appropriate fair in the design calendar. A presence during a design festival is important but not necessarily within a trade fair.
Have you had a mentor or business partner? No but co-founder Nathan Philpott and I both trained in design to Masters level at the Royal College of Art, where we had the opportunity to get lots of advice from practising designers over the two-year MA course. This also gave us a network of friends to discuss and share problems with.
Are you concerned about competition for time and attention over the LDF fortnight? No. There are lots of creatives coming to London this week to look for interesting design. There will be a good atmosphere in the city and on social media.
How do you decide where to exhibit?We have exhibited at many shows but found showing independently at shops and galleries to be most successful for us. We are excited to be launching a collaborative design this year with Two Lovely Gays and Ligne Roset in its West End showroom. Collaboration gives us more scope to try something new.