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Question Time - Luxaflex

Chris Lapthorne has been head of sales and marketing at Luxaflex since 2006. He gives Blinds & Shutters his thoughts on the industry


What got you started in the industry?
Actually I had been working in the confectionery industry, wanted a change, saw an advert for a sales manager at VBM in Birmingham, and eventually we became part of Hunter Douglas.

Who has had the biggest influence on your career?
Believe it or not it has to be my father, who taught me to always treat people the way you would like to be treated and always be honest with them.

What advice would you give someone entering the industry today?
Be honest and friendly, build relationships and don’t be afraid to take a risk. Trust your gut feelings; decision-making is both rational and intuitive.

How would you define the Luxaflex brand?
Luxaflex aspires to be stylish and innovative, to appeal to consumers’ desires for something a little different, that is quality but also practical.

What was Luxaflex’s big breakthrough?
I guess originally manufacturing the metal venetian blind all those years ago.

How has the company changed over your time there?
Rather than being led by product, we have become more consumer-focused, trying to create the desire in the consumer for our products and establishing a loyal network of dealers with high quality showrooms where the consumer can enjoy a high level of personal service.

What do you feel is the greatest threat to the industry today?
Manufacturers driving down prices. There will always be someone willing to sell at lower prices than you.

What have you learned from this recession?
Good business practice, keep a handle on costs, but keep investing in new collections and marketing initiatives.

What is the best thing about your job?
The diversity, for example being in the studio for a TV commercial shoot one day, seeing customers the next, preparing new collections another... every day is different.

Is there still room for innovation in terms of product offering?
Absolutely – new ideas are being tested all the time, whether in operating systems, fabrics or styles. Innovation will always be there.

From where does Luxaflex draw the inspiration for its products?
We follow closely fashion trends and work closely with interior designers.

Is the consumer more knowledgeable when it comes to shading?
We are trying to help them become so, for example with our energy efficient calculator online etc, but I think too many consumers still do not know how many options they actually have.

Who do you most admire in business and why?
Difficult to say, but I guess it has to be Richard Branson – an entrepreneur who seems to really enjoy what he does.

What has been your best business decision?
It might sound boring but employing the right people and working together as a team.

And the worst?
Not sure – ask my boss!

Do you live to work or work to live?
Working hard enables me to do the things that I want to do but it has to be enjoyable, otherwise you don’t give it your all.

How do you enjoy yourself away from work?
Spending time with my wife and little boy – he has even been coming golfing with us since he was six months old! – playing tennis and enjoying the relaxing and beautiful Derbyshire Peak District where we live.

Can the market look forward to a less turbulent 2011/2012?
My view is that, with the economy as it is in its fragile state, any recovery generally will be very slow.

What can we expect from Luxaflex in the future?
We will continue to invest in new products and marketing programmes with far more wide-reaching consumer advertising to create awareness of our products and support our dealers as the current Style Your Window campaign [pictured] illustrates.



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