The Harlequin Effect Part 2
Interview continued with Luke Birchall . Harlequin’s U.K Sales Manager
Hi Elsie here.
Since I began my career in 1995 The magic of Harlequin has never failed to inspire me. They get it right every time because they not only source the best designers but they are also creators of quality, they know what the people need and want from a good up to date design that will also last the test of time.
They do not just tap into the on trend look but put their own personal spin on it.
I have tried to find the secret Harlequin ingredient but it is alluding me, they just get it right every time.
I have been lucky enough to know several fantastic representatives of Harlequin‘s the people who are at the front line of the Harlequin brand . Luke has kindly agreed to chat with me and navigate through Harlequin’s past, present and what may be in their future!
I hope you enjoy part 2 of the Harlequin interview.
Hope you enjoy it and thank you for reading.
E.Wolfe:- In the present times of Harlequin your customer service is second to none, how has this helped to mould the company and carry you forward?
Luke Birchall:- Our customer service is something we are so very proud of at not just Harlequin, but all Walker Greenbank brands. In a market that is so competitive and with so much great product out there from various suppliers, we need to offer not just outstanding product but also an outstanding service to our trade customers. I honestly feel that this is a quality that we are known for in the industry and something that keeps our customers coming back to us time and time again.
E.Wolfe:- Production has always been in England, a fact Harlequin are proud of especially in these economically challenging times; how has this aided the group when so many other companies are seeking cheaper production further afield?
Luke Birchall:- We are extremely proud to have as part of our Group both the Anstey Wallpaper Company based in Loughborough and the Standfast and Barracks fabric printing company based in Lancaster. All the brands wallpapers and printed fabrics are manufactured in these factories and will continue to do so. Both factories are positioned at the higher end of their respective markets and also offer a manufacturing service to many other UK design houses. If you are passionate about interiors, it is easy to see the quality of the products that come from our factories. Just as with the development of our brands over the recent years, we have also invested heavily in our factories and now have the capacity to digitally print fabrics in Lancaster, which I truly believe is the future of printing in the UK. In the same way at Anstey we now have the facility to produce beaded wallpapers which have in a short time, become amongst our best-selling qualities. With this constant cycle of reinvestment into the brands, people and the supporting factories I can see a very healthy future for the Harlequin Group brands.
Harlequin Momentum Beaded wallpaper
Momentum Wallpaper Close up
E.Wolfe:- Harlequin are beginning to use designers at the top of their game such as Clarissa Hulse & Orla Kiely how is this affecting the group brand in the current market and how is it being received by designers and buyers alike?
Luke Birchall:- We were always unsure about introducing recognisable and known designers into the Harlequin brand as we had always done so well without them! However, the world of interiors is becoming ever more discerning and if we can attract a new customer to the brand by working in conjunction with an established designer this can only be a good thing for both parties and will attract new followers to our collaborator as well. We decide to work with established designers who very much have their own style which will dovetail with the Harlequin brand. For example the recent collection with Clarissa Hulse and our wallpaper collaboration with Orla Kiely have both been hugely successful partly because they are instantly recognisable styles in their own right.
Clarissa Hulse and The Kallianthi collection with Harlequin
Orla Kiely In collaboration with Harlequin
E.Wolfe:- Harlequin like most companies has wallpaper books that have coordinating fabric. In recent times Harlequin made a move to create pure wallpaper books focused on one wall papering, providing a go to focal point for customers. What do you feel is the most innovative decision that has been made in recent years by Harlequin?
Luke Birchall:- We have always produced coordinating fabrics and wallpapers and these were always presented in the same pattern book. We found through trialling different methods of presentation that sales were encouraged when the books were presented separately and individual focus was given to either the fabrics or the wallpapers. This has enabled us to develop stand alone wallpaper and fabric ranges that have no direct coordinate but will work with other elements of the Harlequin portfolio. Most of our business still comes from the coordinated ranges but it is beneficial and more flexible to be able to produce a stand alone range.
Boutique Wallpaper collection. Harlequin
Artisan Embroideries by Harlequin
I feel that our most innovative decision in recent years was the creation and launch of our Scion brand. As most other companies were slowly trying to increase their price points, we decided that there was a huge opportunity for a design-led, funky and price conscious brand to complement the growing Harlequin brand. And so Scion was born only three years ago! We had to ensure that the brand was different enough from Harlequin to be able to stand on its own and to have its own identity so we opted for a fun, Scandinavian approach to designs. This year we have launched Scion‘s fourth main collection, Levande, which I’m glad to say has been well received and is selling through exceptionally well.
“Lotta” Fabric by Scion, Harlequin
E.Wolfe:- Harlequin have made steps to become a lifestyle brand, creating lamp shades, bedding and other decorative items to coordinate with their beautiful wallpapers and fabrics. How is this working out for the company in today’s market?
Luke Birchall: – Our decision to produce more lifestyle products was taken around 6/7 years ago and has been a major driver in how and why the brands are more widely recognised. We now have licensing agreements with Brink & Campman (Rugs), Bedeck (Bedding & Towels), Christie (Towels), Make International (Housewares) and Stoneglow (Home Fragrances) amongst others and this is an area of the business we are very keen to expand upon. We select suitable manufacturing partners who are specialists in their fields operating in a similar place of the market to Harlequin or Scion. This is attracting a new customer to our brands who may not have been familiar with the Harlequin or Scion names. The Scion brand for example is only just over three years and already has a whole host of lifestyle products available. We are finding that people know, for example, the famous Mr Fox design, not from the ‘core’ products of fabrics and wallpapers, but from the beautiful rugs produced for us by Brink & Campman or the Mr Fox mugs or eggcups made by Make International. This is then in time generating sales of our fabrics and wallpapers. The whole licensing part of the business is hugely exciting and I can see a significant amount of growth being generated through these activities.
Kallianthi Lamp shades by Harlequin
Scion living Mr Fox collection
Harlequin Bedding and Rugs
Come back Next week for part 3 the final instalment to The Harlequin Effect Interview?