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Q&A Series: Caroline Horgan of Scatter Box
04 April 2019|Q&A Series

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As part of our partnership with Harvey Norman, at Guaranteed Irish we are highlighting some of our members stocked in Harvey Norman stores throughout Ireland.

The Scatter Box brand is under the umbrella company, Abbeylands Furniture Ltd. Established in 1979, Abbeylands Furniture started out as convertors of foam and fibre suppliers to the manufacturing industry. Today Abbeylands Furniture employs 32 full time members of staff and is celebrating 40 years in business this year.

We chat to Caroline Horgan, Managing Director at Abbeylands Furniture Ltd. about the success of the business & plans for the future!

What’s the story of Scatter Box? 

When I took over Abbeylands Furniture Ltd. from my father Danny Fitzpatrick in 1999, the sector was in steep decline. I had to look at the capabilities of the company to survive and 13 years ago we diversified into home interiors and our brand Scatter Box was launched. Today we manufacture and supply luxurious handmade cushions, produced from original hand painted designs. Alongside this we stock a range of beautiful velvet upholstery furniture, original hand painted art, home accents, curtains, bedding and throws. We supply many renowned retailers throughout Ireland and the UK, like Harvey Norman, EZ Living, Right Price Furniture, Michael Murphy, Dwell, Furniture Village & Barker and Stonehouse.

What was the process of diversifying into soft furnishings like?

When I took over the company, it was devastating to see the trade dying and factories closing due to the growth of leather imports. It wasn’t really an automatic decision to move into soft furnishings, but we looked at all products that fitted within our resources and factory capabilities and produced beautiful sample products in-house like futons, beanbags and cushions. But of course we had no customers, no sales or design team. Sales and market demand were our first challenge, so we approached major retailers such as Dunnes Stores, to supply own label. From this we were successful in securing large orders, which gave us a start. Then we needed more customers in the mid-market level, so we decided to target the furniture retailers. With this in mind, Abbeylands exhibited in Dublin in September 2005 with a full selection of products and memory foam pillows. The reaction to soft furnishings was amazing, but the feedback was for a more co-ordinated range. We went back to the drawing board and came up with a collection of co-ordinated cushions and throws, and re launched in 2006 at the January Furniture Fair at the NEC, Birmingham with our new trendy brand, Scatter Box. We came home with a full order book and leads.

What has it been like navigating the export market so far?

While we have made progress diversifying into other markets in recent years, the UK still remains our largest export market. With the uncertainty of Brexit, we have started to explore the prospect of exporting to other European markets. We are currently working with Enterprise Ireland’s Brexit team, who are keeping us up to date on all of the latest information. As a country we have weathered much over the past decade. And like the unpredictability of our climate, we must be ready for more change to come.

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Why is it important to you to showcase Irish artists?

Irish design is incredibly important to us, as Irish design is synonymous with fashion and creativity. At Scatter Box we have an in-house creative team of 6 people, all with a creative design background across graphics, fashion and interiors. We also commission work from Irish designers and collaborate with them to produce beautiful commercial pieces. The emergence of digital printing within the industry has allowed colours and patterns to be transferred into home textiles at a reasonable price for the consumer.

Could you talk us through the development process for your products?

We firstly look to colour trends, trends in paint colours, furniture and flooring colour trends. Furniture is where the customer makes their biggest investment, and we need to compliment this. Our buying and creative teams travel worldwide to trade fairs and markets in order to find inspiration and gather new ideas. Commercially we have to look at what sold last year, what our customers liked and how can we build upon this without repeating ourselves. However, the real heart of our inspiration is based on our team’s gut instinct. The number one criteria is that we have to love it.

How does Scatter Box benefit from Guaranteed Irish membership?

At Scatter Box, we are incredibly proud to support Irish design and love to support local craftsmanship. You can see that when you walk into our factory in Navan and find that 43% of our cushions are made in-house and the rest is designed here by our design team or hand painted by Irish artists. We feel that the Guaranteed Irish symbol will help communicate to our customers that they are supporting an Irish manufacturer and in turn the Irish economy. We know the Irish customer is well travelled, has a natural inclination for creativity and appreciates quality handmade interiors that will sit in their home for years to come.

Any exciting plans coming down the line?

So far 2019 has seen us make our debut at Ambiente, the Messe Frankfurt trade fair, which took place from 8-12th February and provided us with a great platform to introduce our products to the European market. We weren’t sure what to expect, but we are thrilled with the positive reaction to our collection and with the number of international buyers that visited our stand. So far we’ve taken orders from Germany, Holland, Belgium, Italy, Poland, Spain, France and have a full lead generation. Abbeylands Furniture Ltd. celebrates 40 years in business in 2019, so there will definitely be a celebration or two to mark this milestone. Finally, we are also developing a new product range to launch at the Dublin Furniture & Homewares Show in August 2019.  

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The next time you shop at Harvey Norman, be sure to look out for the Guaranteed Irish symbol and #SupportGI.

Guaranteed Irish is a not-for-profit business membership organisation championing nearly 600 homegrown and international businesses in Ireland.