Picture it . . . Spain 2003, the sun is shining, you are relaxing by the pool waiting on lunch. Then your host, who had invited a few friends for a short break casually asks us what turns out to be a life changing question: "What do you think about starting up a new furniture company?". Our host that day was Aamir (our Managing Director), and over the next few hours, quite a few bottles of wine and some amazing grilled chorizo sausages (he's a dab hand with a bbq) . . . . dwell was conceived.
The conversation that afternoon flowed nearly as fast as the wine as ideas were bounced around, we discussed lessons we had learnt, mistakes we had made (people can sometimes be just a bit too honest!) and most importantly what we thought a furniture company should and could offer its customers. We all felt there just wasn't that much choice out there and we wanted to offer something new and special.
In a nutshell "the brand" (the name dwell came a wee bit later) had to offer the latest and coolest design led furniture and but still be really affordable. We wanted shopping to be really easy so we had to hold stock so there was no waiting around, be multi-channel so our customers could order online, in store or over the phone and to top it all off, we wanted it all backed up with great customer service. Not a lot then! By the end of that lunch, we were all brimming with excitement about what we were about to do.
Only a few months later in November 2003 dwell was ready to be launched on British consumers. It consisted of a website, one very small store, a warehouse (both in South London) and a tiny print run of a 48 page catalogue containing only 148 products. We excitedly took our first sale on 15th Nov and delivered it with our one small van.
Since those early days our website has moved on to a full real time site allowing customers to browse the whole range, check stock availability, track their order and book a delivery and it now contains even more products than the catalogue.
From our one small store in Balham (we were convinced it was too big!) we became a chain of 39 stores across the UK including flagship stores in the top locations such as Westfield, Stratford, Bluewater, Trafford Centre and Tottenham Court Road in Central London. We couldn't quite believe it but yes, we were in with the big boys!
We had nearly 1,500 products at any one time and were launching hundreds of new designs every year to keep the range as hot and fresh as possible. We honestly believed, no other furniture company was as fast paced and dynamic as we were.
In 2008 a small percentage of the company was sold to an investment group and in Oct 2012 the remainder of the company also passed into their control and the founders Aamir, his dad Faizan, myself and Dave all left the business. Resuming a life of long lunches was on the horizon at last! Unfortunately things didn't go too smoothly with the new management team the investors put in place and in June 2013 Dwell Retail Ltd went into administration. In an attempt to save the brand, and more importantly people's jobs, in July 2013 we took the brand out of administration and re-launched it with 5 stores and the website.
Since then we have spent the past few years re-launching the brand. We have re-built relationships with key suppliers and improved the range, supply chain and the stores. However our most important success was re-gaining the confidence with our amazing customers, some of whom had a bad time during the admin period. The most frequent reaction from customers was simply the question "can I still get that sofa/table/chair?" which confirmed to us our belief that there was still life in the dwell brand.
In August 2014 we became part of the DFS Group and this has given us the benefit of working with a great team at DFS head office.
So the story of dwell isn't over and at some stage I will have to come back and update this again instead of having a nice long lunch!
co-founder and Marketing Director