Q. You provide universities with design-led student furniture – can you tell us more about that?
A. David Phillips offer a full range of furnishing services to student accommodation providers. By operating both as an FF&E sub-contractor and as a traditional furniture supplier, we are able to supply the entire kitchen, fitted bedroom and loose package to new-build or refurb projects, while also having the infrastructure to service loose furniture orders of any size. The design-led aspect of what we do is very important as we pride ourselves on supplying product that will stand up to the rigours of the student experience whilst still being stylish. We do our upmost to make sure that we’re commercially competitive too. The balance of form and function is tricky to maintain but by paying close attention to our customers and the market in general we think we manage it pretty well.
Q. How long have you been working in the UK HE sector, and how has it changed over time?
A. David Phillips have been supplying furniture to the UK HE sector for a very long time but with the acquisition of PeelMount in 2013 and the formation of David Phillips Contract soon after it has become an even greater area of focus for us. The sector has changed an extraordinary amount in recent years with new accommodation now resembling high-end apartments. The furniture is key to the overall feel of any scheme so we work very hard to provide contract product with a residential feel – we think that this is the future of the sector and that the ‘same old same old’ in terms of both product and service is no longer good enough.
‘The sector has changed an extraordinary amount in recent years with new accommodation now resembling high-end apartments’
Q. What are you doing differently to reflect the changing sector demands?
A. The differences in how furniture looks are well reported but perhaps the biggest recent change in the sector is the expectation in terms of service. We now have warehouses and hold stock in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle and Livingston which allows us to offer extremely fast replenishment to our HE customers as well as providing a local resource to call on if needed during any project work. We are working with a large customer to offer a 24-hour delivery service and want to roll this out to other customers in time, too.
Q. You aim to create ‘home from home’ environments for those living in all types of student accommodation, how do you manage to suit all tastes?
A. ‘Home from home’ is a fantastic phrase to sum up what David Phillips Contract aims to achieve. It doesn’t matter whether a student has moved 50 miles or 5,000 miles, they are away, often for the first time, from everything they know well so their immediate environment is critical to their settling and enjoying their time at university. Furniture needs to be comfortable and stylish. Our mattresses and chairs are contact specification but with a domestic feel and our bespoke bedroom and kitchen furniture takes into account the need for extensive but discrete storage. We love to be involved as early as possible in the design of a scheme and we are confident that our interior design team can add serious value to a project that will be appreciated by investor, provider and end user alike.
Q. Does your approach change with residential and non-residential furniture?
A. We supply furniture to bedrooms and kitchens as well as all means of hub spaces and reception areas. Our general approach is the same but we are more often asked to produce one-off bespoke items for non-residential areas of a scheme.
Q. What does 2016 hold for David Phillips?
A. It’s going to be another big year. We are already attached to some of the biggest schemes handing over in the next 12 months and our capacity for project work is vastly increased. We have several new products about to launch and will shortly have student-specific showrooms in both London and Livingston to support our Contract HQ in Manchester – as well as launching a whole new level of service to our customers. It’s a really exciting time for the industry as a whole and we look forward to building on our past success.
If you’re attending the Student Accommodation Conference 2015 in London, why not visit the David Phillips Contract team at stand 26-27.