An iconic furniture and home furnishings retailer is expanding on several fronts at home and abroad as it looks to diversify in line with the changing retail landscape.
Arighi Bianchi, which is thought to be the oldest family-owned furniture business in the UK, with the third and fourth generations at the helm, is focusing on online sales growth and is eyeing a roll-out of its successful café-bar concept.
The £20m-turnover company, which is based in Macclesfield, is also responding to meet increasing demand from younger shoppers and from Britons seeking to furnish their overseas holiday homes.
Arighi Bianchi was founded in 1854 by Italian cabinet makers Antonio Arighi and Antonio Bianchi.
Today the company employs nearly 170 staff across its store, café-bar and three distribution centres in Macclesfield.
Arighi Bianchi’s 70,000sq ft store in Macclesfield is a quirky emporium offering sofas, beds, tables and chairs and accessories across four floors. Customers range in age from 25 to 95 and include celebrities and royals.
Director Nick Bianchi says: “The store is full of interesting items, has a touch of charm and is a bit quirky. We pride ourselves on being a place of interest where people can come and visit, browse and shop.”
Recently-added kitchen and florist’s concessions have added to the appeal, he says, along with expanded ranges of the Arighi Bianchi and Abode furniture brands which are sourced from across Europe.
Nick says the store competes with high street chains such as Next and DFS as well as the luxury segment of the market.
“We are seeing growth in sales among younger customers, and the internet is a factor in this,” he says.
“They probably knew us as a place where their mum and dad shopped and feared we would be out of their price bracket, but they are pleasantly surprised by what they find.”
With a fleet of 30 liveried vans and lorries, Arighi Bianchi is geared up for increased internet orders and for rising demand from owners of second homes in countries such as Spain and France.
Nick says: “Furniture ordered for overseas destinations is shipped by container. Our drivers meet the container at the port in one of our vans and provide a white glove delivery service. It’s a growing part of our business.”
Another area for potential expansion is a roll-out of the Café Bar Arighi concept. Nick says the 120-seater venue on the second floor of the store is a big draw for customers.
Continued investment in logistics is also scheduled, with the board mulling plans to create one super distribution hub rather than operating from the three current sites.
A team at accounting and business advisory firm HURST is advising the retailer’s board on its expansion strategy.
HURST partner Mike Jackson, who heads the firm’s business services team, said: “We were appointed because the company needed a genuine partner to help take the business forward.
“The board has a clear vision about how the business will develop over the coming years, by using its exceptional reputation for service and unique products to reach a wider audience, as well by investing in technology and logistics to support its growth.
“We are delighted to be supporting the board of Arighi Bianchi with strategic decisions and planning, while also providing insights into ways to use cutting-edge technology and practices to manage its growth.”