Much has changed in the 16 years since LOFT began as Buy To Let Furnishings in 2003. What began as a father-and-son team with only one van has now become a respected, nationwide furnishing provider, spanning the whole of the UK.
Benjamin took the time to discuss the lessons learned and how the Private Rented Sector (PRS) has changed over the last 16 years.
Hi, Ben. How would you describe LOFT’s achievements so far?
LOFT was established to deliver a service that the PRS demanded.
We have not lost sight of this over the last 16 years, and we have always developed and adapted our products and services in anticipation of market trends. Our achievements and growth are a direct result of providing a solution designed specifically for the marketplace.
LOFT’s original USP – furniture comes delivered, assembled and installed with old, unwanted items removed, replaced and recycled –remains at the core of our service offering today.
The idea for this service dates back to when I was 12 years old, working in my father’s second-hand furniture store in Manchester. He offered a removal service for estate agents, with items fit for resale being upcycled and resold – a service that LOFT still offer to this day!
The emergence of Buy-to-Let (BTL) in 2003/04 marked the beginning of a dramatic improvement in standards and resident expectations, with a boom in new-build apartment blocks being delivered across the UK.
BTL brought a luxury rental solution to the market, forcing traditional landlords to consider the importance of quality furnishings and interior design in order to make their properties more appealing.
Our replenishment service and furniture package solution was exactly what the marketplace needed in 2003 as the PRS began to gather pace and grow.
How did you move from a local, second-hand furniture business to a nationwide, residential furnishing provider?
Our growth has been organic. We benefitted from the BTL boom of the mid-2000s, but when the recession came in 2008/09, we lost a small fortune in bad debt when the banks lost confidence in residential development.
This forced us to take our replenishment service to new marketplaces, and after studying in Nottingham, I felt the student sector could benefit in a similar way to traditional landlords. University and facilities managers loved the LOFT service, and we found ourselves providing bulk, seasonal, summertime refurbishment solutions almost immediately.
The financial crisis had forced corporate institutions to look for safer places to invest and, with a distinct lack of luxury student accommodation in the UK, another boom ensued: Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA).
LOFT fully caught this wave and established Student Furniture, a dedicated brand for developers and contractors building university accommodation and PBSA.
Our Student Furniture brand helped LOFT to build a reputation in the marketplace for high-volume, high-intensity installation services, laying solid foundations for the next boom: Build-to-Rent (BTR).
What challenges and opportunities does high-quality BTR present for traditional private landlords?
BTR is raising the bar of the PRS in a similar way that BTL did in the mid-2000s. This is having a huge impact on the residential marketplace. Today’s residents are expecting a boutique hotel feel to their apartment, and developers are delivering – with co-working and social spaces which help to create a community.
LOFT have a dedicated brand designed for BTR developers and operators: Twenty Twenty Living.
Traditional BTL landlords must adapt and invest; it’s no longer viable to have old, unkept interiors when standards have been raised so dramatically.
Improved standards can lead to rewards for those who face up to the challenge. BTR has left a big gap in the ‘affordable’ space. The now-secondary BTL stock is attracting a different type of city dweller. If refreshed and furnished with an emphasis on design, homes that are for rent at affordable prices will always ‘avoid the void’.
So, what’s next for LOFT?
In 2003, I could not have predicted that we’d have warehousing and showroom facilities in both Manchester and London. LOFT now employ 135 people full-time and have dedicated departments that cater for landlords, agents, student accommodation providers and BTR developers.
On 23rd May, we unveiled the LOFT brand on our 16th birthday, helping to further strengthen the business and introduce a stronger emphasis on interior and product design.
Our future will remain market-driven, with imminent booms on the horizon for forward-thinking co-living, multi-family, and retirement and care spaces. LOFT will continue to provide products and services that equally consider the client and end user alike.
The future is #LOFTlife.
LOFT can transform a rental space on any scale, with inclusive, contemporary design advice and next-day delivery.
Contact us today to speak about how we can help upgrade your property