Danny Van den Bosch, design director at Habufa turned round to me a few weeks before Christmas, we were visiting his facility in Eindhoven for their 50th birthday celebration. 'Marcus.' he said. 'Can you explain to me what is happening in the UK?' he paused and put his arm round my shoulder. 'I have never seen a country commit suicide before!'
The point was not lost. They supply some 450 stores throughout the entire continent of Europe with some of the most breath-taking furniture designs you have ever seen. We have been friends for 20 of those years, quietly importing the best of their designs every year, quietly supplying a small, but growing customer base within the 50 or so miles around our store.
We were talking about our new project to launch a national website in the UK with over 800 pieces chosen from their catalog. Including all their bespoke ranges. 'Habufa have already made plans to continue supply in to the UK.' he was at pains to explain. 'Even if the politicians end up cutting each other's throats, we have a route in to the UK which will continue.'
Habufa make some of the most beautiful furniture in the world, with over 4000 different pieces making up their catalog, and with up to 20% more added every year there are growing at a serious pace. This of course is because they trade in a customs free zone which still includes the UK.
'I don't believe that the UK will cut off it's links completely.' I was anxious to re-assure him, ' It would be totally ludicrous, wouldn't it?'
A moment of quiet reflexion, we both sipped at our glasses of French wine, whilst looking at a table full of plates of steaming spaghetti Bolognaise, bowls of Parmesan and a great Tiramisu to follow . We were sitting in his Dutch showroom, with the Italian food supplied by his Belgian relative. It was early evening and Brexit still seemed a long way off.
'We are creating the most beautiful website that has ever been used for furniture.' I told him. 'Its taken nine months and we are very fortunate to have a design genius in our company who is controlling the entire project. Its not easy' I added. ' But it means we can sell your products at the lowest prices in the UK'
He nodded. 'Okay we are going to make that work with you, even if we have to row a boat ourselves across the channel, we will get the products to you.' I laughed, Danny knew my sense of humour.
Now, three months later, the website is actually up and running and the praise from both Habufa, and our existing customer base has been overwhelmingly positive. It is really something new in the world of furniture. It combines every technique available on the internet to show the products in glorious images with a real attempt to re-create the idea of bespoke furniture that died out in the UK in the late 70's.
That combined with an enormous choice of designs that can be delivered from stock in Holland has given us an absolutely breath-taking opportunity. Have a gander for yourselves, and let us know what you think. remember even if Danny van den Bosch has to row the boat across the channel himself they will get the furniture to the UK.