An expansion into bedroom furniture, more showrooms and even a New York launch in the pipeline – it’s a big year ahead for the Tom Howley brand, MD Simon Meyrick tells Amelia Thorpe.
2024 is the 20th anniversary of the Tom Howley kitchen brand – and a date that’s worth celebrating, suggests MD Simon Meyrick. "We are the fastest-growing brand in the luxury sector of the market," he says, "and have enjoyed double-digit growth most years since 2012." In November, the company opened its 20th showroom in Nottingham – and more openings are planned.
The story started in 2004 when Tom Howley, now creative design director, founded the company specialising in traditionally made, hand-painted kitchens. Since 2011, the business has been owned by the Neville Johnson Group, now called the BHID (Bespoke Home Interior Design) Group, which rolled out an expansion plan of some 2 to 3 showrooms a year until the pandemic. Since then the pace has been slower, which, says Meyrick, is partly due to pretty good national coverage already.
"It’s also the case that, due to the strength of the brand, people will travel further to visit a showroom than they would about 5 years ago, so we’ve achieved more coverage with a smaller number of showrooms – but that doesn’t mean to say that the programme is in any way finished." He indicates that a new showroom location is currently being researched, with the view to opening in 2025.
The Nottingham showroom in West Bridgford is spread over 2 floors and features 4 full-size kitchens, as well as bar, media wall, walk-in pantry and boot room displays. "We’ve spent the last 20 years perfecting the art of doing kitchens and, since Covid, we’ve started doing other areas of the house," says Tom Howley. "We’ve worked very hard to get them right." Now, he says, it’s time for a new addition to the portfolio. "Bedrooms will be the next big thing for us – we will be launching from May," he explains. "When we do anything, we don’t do it half-heartedly – we’ve been working on bedrooms for a good 12 months, and we will have new spaces dedicated to displays in some of our existing showrooms."
Is there a conflict with sister company, Neville Johnson, which also includes bedrooms in its fitted furniture offer? "No, we distinguish the offer completely," says Meyrick. "We are a different model of business, as Neville Johnson is not showroom-based, so we don’t really overlap – and we are also appealing strongly to our existing kitchen clients." Tom Howley furniture is made in its own factory in Glossop, with different product, sales and operational teams. "The benefit of being part of the Group is in shared facilities, such as finance, HR and IT," he explains.
And next? "We are looking at opening a showroom in New York in the next 2-3 years," continues Meyrick. "There is an appetite there for traditional British product and design and that we represent extremely well – it is a massive market, where we can take a share and do very well."
Current annual turnover is about £50million, and staff now number 350-400. Can the business continue growing at its current double digit rate? "We still only have approximately 2% share of the luxury kitchen market, so there is a huge opportunity to grow," says Meyrick. "But one thing we are absolutely insistent on is that the growth has to be measured and congruent and not done in a way that we damage the quality of the experience that our clients get."