Furniture phoenix thriving in competitive environment
Recovering from a devastating fire which totally destroyed its Manchester St factory in 1985 is testimony to the resilience of well-known Christchurch furniture manufacturer and retailer DA Lewis.
Mark Lewis and his brother Brent, run the business which employs 25 staff. They recall that they were able to recover quickly despite the massive destruction.
"We were up and running manufacturing furniture again within seven days of the fire and our father David was quoted in the media as saying we would do our best not to let our customers down."
Lewis's very public commitment to their customers pretty much sums up one of the keys to the company's success over the past 65 years. The company manufactures and sells top-quality furniture which meets, and inmany cases exceeds, the expectations of customers, many of whom are repeat customers.
"Our focus has always beenmanufacturing as this gives us a point of difference. Our customers can come to us and we can design and build customised furniture which you cannot get fromamass-market overseas manufacturer," says
Brent Lewis. Mark Lewis adds: "We can make one-off pieces for people."
The quality of their furniture very much reflects the skills, dedication and craftsmanship of their manufacturing team.
"Our furniture craftsmen take a lot of pride in what they do and are very skilled in what they do," says Mark Lewis.
DA Lewis also offers a very personal level of customer service as customers get to deal with and discuss their furniture needs with the owners of the business, says Brent Lewis.
"Customers have face to face contact with the people in charge of the whole production process from design through to manufacturing and delivery."
Such is the quality infused in all their furniture they often have customers coming back with the original pieces they bought to get them recovered, he says.
"The only thing which has usually worn out is the fabric so once that is replaced the furniture is as good as new again."
This combination of top-notch quality and outstanding personalised customer service explains why they have retail customers throughout the country. The company also supplies other furniture retailers in both the South and North Island with furniture manufactured in its own factory.
"We have had a very long association with other retailers," says Brent Lewis.
Mark Lewis adds: "DA Lewis is a trusted name in furniture manufacturing and retailing because we are one of the oldest specialised furniture manufacturers and retailers in the city."
This longevity has not led to complacency with the company ensuring that the non customised furniture they sell is in keeping with the latest styles and trends from overseas.
"The internet has brought the global market much closer so customers are more informed and know what trends and styles are available overseas, and we have to keep up with those trends."
DA Lewis's Sockburn showroom covers 22,000 square feet making it one of the biggest specialised furniture showrooms in the city. Recently, as a further sign of their commitment to the city and the province, the showroom has been completely renovated and modernised to create a smart, contemporary atmosphere, which the brothers say looks absolutely stunning.
"We think it is now one of the best furniture showrooms in the country," says Mark Lewis.
The brothers say both themselves and their parents before them have always been very proud to be living and running a business in Canterbury.
"We wouldn't want to have done this anywhere else. If we didn't believe in this city and province we would not have refurbished the showroom," says Brent Lewis.
"There is a fantastic future ahead for all Cantabrians. It is still a great city and province and we are very proud to be part of its future and helping people who have had furniture damaged or destroyed in the earthquakes," says Mark Lewis.
From letter boxes to lounge suites
From humble acorns grow mighty oak trees and the same analogy holds true of the origins of DA Lewis.
The business can be traced back to David Lewis's childhood. As an enterprising 12 year old he began making and selling letter boxes to Smiths City Market. His love of working with wood led him into a cabinet making apprenticeship which he completed in 1945 which in turn saw him form DA Lewis Limited in 1946.
Unable to afford dedicated premises for his fledgling business, he initially began making furniture from a backyard shed which was sold through a number of retailers in the South Island.
By 1961 the business had grown to such an extent it was relocated to much larger premises in Manchester St. There the business remained until it was burnt down in 1985. This marked the start of a new chapter in the evolution of the company culminating in the business moving to its present retail /manufacturing complex at Sockburn in 1988. Including the factory, it covers more than 110,000 square feet.
Mark Lewis says the industry has changed markedly in the last 10 years with many local furniture makers having closed their doors in the face of the rising tide of imported furniture from Asia.
DA Lewis has also had to contend with this change to remain competitive. As a result, the firm imports furniture to complement what it makes with sales split roughly 50/50 between imports and the furniture manufactured on site.
However, Brent Lewis is quick to point out he and his brother enforce the same strict standards of quality on the furniture they import as well in order to protect the reputation of their brand.
"We go and visit the factories where the furniture is made and test all the furniture we are importing. It has our name on it so it has to meet our standards of quality," he says.
To manufacture and supply, exclusive, quality furniture designed with unparalleled style and comfort.
The successful completion of our earthquake repairs, and showroom makeover, creating a fantastic furniture shopping experience.
That our wonderful city returns to some form of normality as soon as possible.
We are still manufacturing and selling furniture after 65 years, as the second generation of a familyowned business, building on the great success of our parents.