Ardmore-based furniture manufacturer WaterfordWood is marking its 50th anniversary in business by returning to its origins.
The company’s founder and managing director Paul McCarthy said high-quality handmade furniture would be top of the agenda from nowon a direct response to the challenge posed by low-cost imports.
‘‘Mass-produced furniture from lower-cost countries has affected our market, so we have decided to go back to our roots and produce high-quality solid wood furniture, which was the intention in 1959. Our focus now is on offering high quality products tailored to meet individual requirements,’’ said McCarthy.
‘‘Handmade furniture can only be called ‘handmade’ when it is constructed by the woodworker. Our skilled craftspeople are dedicated to producing heirloom quality furniture. For example,we use dovetail construction for drawers instead of the cheap butt joint and nail methods.’’
WaterfordWood manufactures fitted and free-standing kitchen and bedroomfurniture for retail and wholesale customers at its factory and showrooms in Ardmore, Co. Waterford.
Adapting To Change
The company has adapted to developments in the marketplace over the years. ‘‘I started making one-off pieces of solid wood furniture. The kitchen units were all handpainted and the bedroom furniture hand-grained and lacquered. The business grew very quickly in the 1960s, so we demolished the old house and built a large workshop, installing new machinery,’’ said McCarthy.
‘‘In the 1970s, the market changed from free-standing to fitted furniture, sowe built larger premises to accommodate the type of machinery required to mass-produce kitchens and bedrooms, and chipboard became the new raw material.
‘‘In the 1980s, there was a downturn in the economy, and the fitted furniturebusinessbecame overcrowded so we sold off our equipment and geared up to produce wood-veneered boards for exporting customers. Now it has come around again.’’
McCarthy advised smaller ventures like WaterfordWood, to prioritise customer satisfaction.
‘‘You must be hands-on and prepared to work 12 hour days when necessary.You must be available to the customers every day, including Saturday and Sunday.You only get one opportunity to fulfil each customer order,’’ he said. McCarthy said paying heed to customer feedback also paid off.
‘‘Our customers visit us here in our showroom and workshops to place their orders. New products are developed by listening to customer requirements and using that information.
‘‘Sometimes they will bring in their own design and show you what they want. If it looks good, then we make it a standard item and keep making it,’’ he said.
The company has responded to the concerns of its eco-conscious customers by changing the raw materials it
‘‘We ensure that all our furniture is environmentally friendly. Everything we make is manufactured using recycled pitch pine and hardwoods from sustainable forests,’’ said McCarthy.
‘‘In the coming year we plan to update some of our equipment. We want to be able to do things a bit quicker and make life abit easier. We will be ready for any upsurge in business when the economy becomes more stable.’’
Original Appeared in THE SUNDAY BUSINESS POST, DECEMBER 13 2009
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