BEHIND THE SCENES AT BOCONCEPT
Q&A with Adam Davison
Q&A with Adam Davidson
Director, BoConcept Scotland
Exciting things are afoot behind the scenes here at BoConcept Scotland. Just in time for the 20th anniversary of the opening of Scotland’s first store, we have been preparing to open not one, but three new showrooms in the next twelve months. By the time the anniversary celebrations come around 90% of Scotland’s population will live within a 1 hour drive of a BoConcept showroom. We’ve come a long way since first introducing Danish designed, customisable furnishings to Scotland all the way back in 2002.
To find out more about what is in the works, we have taken time to sit down with Director Adam Davidson and asked him to tell us about this latest stage of BoConcept Scotland’s journey.
The new BoConcept store concept launched at BoConcept Tachikawa, Tokyo
It’s an exciting time for BoConcept Scotland with several new store opening in the works, but in a time when many businesses are moving online, why are BoConcept doing the opposite?
The store openings are part of a wider growth plan for BoConcept Scotland, running alongside an equally ambitious project to expand our presence in the digital space. We already have a great system in place for allowing customers to work with our designers remotely, which has been a lifeline during lockdown, but in all honestly the place where you get to experience BoConcept at its very best is in the showrooms, and at present the tools to do not exist to replicate this online.
I think that in order to understand our ambition it is necessary to recognise that BoConcept showrooms are not just a furniture shop in the traditional sense. Instead of employing sales people who’s primary focus is to maximise units sold, our showrooms are staffed by experienced design professionals who are on hand to offer advice and guidance on all aspects of interior design. The showrooms are a design hub where sales are secondary to helping people find the right solution for them.
Of course, we are a business and we do sell products, but again they only really come into their own in the showroom environment. Online it is easy enough to show off a beautiful piece of furniture in a great space, but this only really scratches the surface of what BoConcept’s designs are all about. To truly appreciate the details that set our collection apart – such as design, detailing, materials, and construction – they really need to be seen in person. Previously this has meant that customers who do not live in Glasgow or Edinburgh have had to commit to travelling long distances to visit a showroom, but we want to change that.
What are you most excited about for the new stores?
Definitely the new store concept. The last full showroom that we opened was Edinburgh in 2016 and things have moved on quite a bit since then. Last year the brand launched a new concept for the stores, the first of which was Tachikawa, Tokyo that opened in May 2020.
The new concept will bring some fundamental changes to how the showrooms will operate, but one of the most immediately obviously updates is the shift in aesthetic. The design really maintains the grandeur of a high-end retail space whilst allowing the individual pieces to be displayed in a manner that enables customers to envisage how they would work in their own home. The look is industrial, but still polished, and something completely new for the brand.
In the UK, there are only two stores showcasing the new concept – York and Cardiff, so Ingram Street is scheduled to be the third, followed closely by Tillicoultry as the fourth.
The new BoConcept store concept launched at BoConcept Tachikawa, Tokyo
You mentioned it there, first up is Ingram Street in Glasgow. What can you tell us about this store in particular?
Ingram Street has been in the works for a few years and is due to open in Autumn 2021. We settled on the location in 2018, when we moved out of the showroom on Sauchiehall Street. The lease was up for renewal that year and the timing coincided with the second fire at the Glasgow School of Art, which resulted in street closures and such huge disruption to the neighbourhood that running a business there became unviable. To an extent our hands were tied and we had no option but to find a new showroom.
We locked down the Ingram Street property fairly quickly, but there was a lot of work to do before we could consider moving in, so opened up two pop-ups: in Princes Square and in Buchanan Galleries. Whilst neither of these stores were ideal individually, due to their small footprint, they both benefited from prominent locations and managed to deliver results better than we had initially anticipated. Ultimately though, having to divide the collection across two sites presented challenges operationally and so was never a long-term option.
What drew you to Ingram Street as a location?
One of the key factors for us was finding a unit with sufficient floor space and great access. We are still an emerging brand within Scotland and whilst those who are familiar with BoConcept already treat our showrooms as a destination worth travelling to in their own right, we do rely to an extent on footfall and passing trade for new customers.
The unit in a newly built retail and office building on Ingram Street, adjacent to Royal Exchange Square and the Gallery of Modern Art, delivered on both counts. The unit itself is a great space, with a nice frontage, but perhaps the deciding factor was its proximity to the heart of the city and surrounding high-end neighbourhood. As an affordable premium brand, we believe that design is for everyone, and in that regard it matters to us that our showrooms can be easily accessed by all. That said, we understand the demographic that make up the core of our customers is closely aligned with that of the luxury retail stores of Glasgow’s Merchant City, so from a brand positioning perspective there really isn’t anywhere better.
What can Ingram Street’s customers look forward to when the store opens?
The new concept will be fantastic. Somehow, it’s as if the concept and unit were made for one another so the completed space will be something really special and will undoubtedly attract the attention of casual browsers and design enthusiasts.
For our customers and designers though, I think the most significant thing will be having the collection all under one roof in a spectacular space. Being able to see and interact with a huge range of designs will make it much easier to explore or compare options, and ultimately find the right solution for each client.
3D Visualisation of the facade of BoConcept Ingram Street
Next in line is Tillicoultry, which is going to be something a little bit different, is that right?
Yes, the new store in Tillicoultry is scheduled to open not long after Ingram Street, in late Autumn 2021. Managing two new store openings in such a short timeframe is going to be a lot of work and we’re already sweating a bit just thinking about it. Tillicoultry will be a standalone store but located within the same complex as Sterling Furniture, allowing customers to benefit from the wide range of options available across multiple brands when designing their space. Believe it or not we have been discussing opening a showroom there, in one form or another, since the mid 2000s. Over the years we have considered various options including operating a concession within Sterling, but ultimately the opportunity to run the showroom independently felt like the right thing to do.
To the casual observer, Tillicoultry may not strike you as an obvious location within Scotland to open a showroom, compared to one of the other cities such as Aberdeen or Inverness, however Sterling Furniture in Tillicoultry is actually the biggest furniture shop in the UK and so draws in customers from all over the country. As with Ingram Street, this will enable a new audience to discover BoConcept and will also reduce travel times for existing customers who live north of the central belt.
What are going to be the highlights that customers can look forward to at Tillicoultry?
You guessed it, Tillicoultry will be the fourth showroom in the UK to feature the new concept, so that’s definitely something to look forward to. Also, in addition to being located at the biggest furniture store in the UK, Tillicoultry will also be our biggest unit with a showroom covering over 5,000 square feet.
As if that wasn’t enough, there is also a 3,000 square foot mezzanine which whilst we will not open initially, we have plans to extend into, creating new opportunities for how people can experience BoConcept in Scotland.
The new BoConcept store concept at BoConcept York, UK
Last, but certainly not least, a little further down the road is Aberdeen. What can you tell us about this most northerly opening?
Aberdeen has long been on the list of locations that we’ve had earmarked for a potential showroom. As a company, BoConcept Scotland have had a lot of business coming out of the city over the years despite it being almost 100 miles to the nearest store. The challenge has been finding the right space. We are currently looking at 3 possible locations but have made the commitment to bringing BoConcept to Aberdeen in late Spring 2022.
The Aberdeen store will follow Ingram Street and Tillicoultry in featuring the new store concept, however we really see the highlight here being convenience for those living locally of having a showroom on their doorstep. BoConcept Aberdeen will be an interior design hub, not only for the city but for the North of Scotland, and will improve access to our products and services to the extent that around 90% of Scotland’s population will live within a 1 hour drive of a BoConcept showroom.
This brings us almost to the end. 2022 will mark 20 years of BoConcept in Scotland, do you have any special celebrations planned?
Yes, absolutely! Looking back, it’s been a hell of journey and definitely one worthy of celebrating. I’ve got a few ideas of things I’d like to do, but to be honest at the moment making sure everything runs to schedule for the new stores is taking up every spare minute we have so party planning will have to wait.
Thankfully the anniversary itself will fall a little later in the year, in November to be exact, so thankfully we still have a little time to pull together a suitably stylish celebration.
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