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Comfortable future ahead
Riding on the rising demand for exclusive fashionable furniture, Comfort Design has become a one-stop shop, specialising in creating comfort for customers
By: HO WEI JIE,HUANG CAN,QUEK CHUEN KIAT,TAN YIN YUN
AS CATS are known to be creatures of comfort, local cats' café Neko No Niwa wants to create a comfortable environment for the felines.
The cafe has a spacious area with an assortment of sofas for resting, cat climbing furniture for activity, and cat boxes that conveniently facilitate a game of hide-and-seek. All of this furniture was custom-made by Comfort Design, a local small and medium-sized enterprise (SME).
Originally a furniture wholesaler, Comfort Design decided to change its business model when managing director Bob Chew noticed a shortage of fashionable and well-designed chairs and tables in Singapore. At the same time, there was increased consumer interest in fashionable furniture. Perceiving a gap, he seized the opportunity and the company is now striving to be "The Chair and Table People".
Comfort has over 2,500 designs in its catalogue. Its strengths lie in its variety of products and the extent of customisation it can offer. It aims to be a one-stop shop, specialising in creating comfort.
Notable clients in its contract furnishing business include NTUC Food Fare, DBS Bank, BreadTalk Group and Minor Food Group.
Riding on the rising demand for exclusive furniture, Comfort produces trendy designer models to meet customers' needs. This part of the business allows customers to create an aesthetically pleasing and comfortable space of their own.
In Comfort's three-level showroom in Eunos, the products are displayed such that customers are not only able to see and touch, but also mix, match and compare furniture. The showroom serves as an imaginative space helping customers to conceptualise spaces of their own.
Comfort is currently expanding its showroom and building space. This is its third expansion in five years. Through the expansion, Comfort wants to cater to its customers better by offering a more attractive showroom, greater variety of designs, bigger quantity of stocks and faster turnover time.
To avoid becoming outdated, Comfort's products and furniture models are both functional and designed to withstand the test of time. Extensive partnerships with furniture designers ensure new designs are produced every two weeks. Mr Chew and his team also go on frequent overseas trips and conduct extensive market research to get fresh inspiration from industrial trends.
Should customers be unable to find the furniture design they have in mind, Comfort is able to help here too. Having in-house departments for carpentry, welding, spraying and upholstery within the same building allows "The Chair and Table People" to customise furniture according to their customers' special needs. Standard products can be modified to suit the customer's requirements (for example, changing the colour of the chairs and tables).
If the product is to be made from scratch, mock-ups can also be created to ensure that the customer is satisfied with the design before starting production.
Comfort's one-stop solution enables customers to turn their ideas into reality. Sometimes, these ideas might even inspire designs for ready-made furniture. One example is the butcher blocked table, which was originally a custom-made design requested by a customer. It gained popularity among Comfort's other customers, and the company decided to create a butcher blocked furniture series to meet this demand.
Much thought also goes into Comfort's furniture to ensure user comfort. Its furniture models often have value-added features designed for ergonomic comfort and functionality. One example of this is its office chairs that are designed with anti-shock mechanisms and tension adjustments to ensure the user is comfortable when spending long hours on the chair.
Comfort's furniture has warranties ranging from one to five years, covering any material or workmanship defect during manufacture. The Comfort service team is committed to repairing defective products on-site or - if complex repairs are required - bringing them back to the workshop for reworking at no additional charge.
Manufacturing is done mainly in China and Malaysia, but products that require short lead times or high degrees of customisation with little margin for error are produced in Singapore so that the company can keep a tighter watch on quality control. One example is the manufacture of restaurant booth seats, which often takes place at the final stage of a restaurant's renovation process. Despite the shorter time frame, Comfort ensures that quality comfort is not compromised by making them locally.
Relationship building is an integral part of Comfort's success. Customers - be they interior designers, corporates or individuals - find working with Comfort comfortable because their needs and concerns can be addressed with a single visit to the company's one-stop shop.
Customers can also enjoy peace of mind after their purchase as the Comfort experience does not end after the sale is closed. For individual customers, this comes in the form of good after-sales service and a warranty scheme.
For corporate clients, Comfort makes it a point to maintain close relationships with them. Comfort sales representatives visit them on-site with the designers to engage in continual follow-up action. Even after the project is done, they also make time to connect with their clients, such as frequenting the restaurants that engaged them.
In this reciprocal relationship, Comfort also does Facebook blasts for clients on its own page. Grace Shen, Comfort's marketing director, sees it as "keeping themselves at the top of clients' minds at all times".
The emphasis in building strong and sustainable relationships has allowed customers to enjoy working with Comfort. A large number of repeat business clients, often multinational corporations, have paved the way for Comfort's overseas expansion.
Many MNCs often re-engage Comfort for subsequent projects with their subsidiaries or overseas offices, thereby allowing the company to grow steadily together with them.
One example is Comfort's collaboration with Minor Food Group, a company with a portfolio of food-and-beverage outlets across the Asia Pacific region. The collaboration initially began with a single F&B project in Singapore. Subsequently, the partnership was expanded to include other brands in the client's portfolio and other countries such as Thailand and the Maldives.
Internally, an open, meritocratic and caring company culture ensures that employees are kept happy and relaxed while working.
"Ours is a family business, but this does not mean that we run it in a family way. We are very open," Ms Shen explains. "Our doors are always open. Staff can come in to talk to us any time . . . We even Skype with our employees."
A motivated workforce is something Ms Shen seeks to have. She stresses the importance of addressing employees' needs and reiterates her belief that "only when their hearts are at peace, can they work at their best. A happy and healthy employee is a productive one."
To bridge any divide between the family and its employees, Comfort holds quarterly team- building sessions. It is through these efforts that Comfort hopes to build a caring culture, cultivating a sense of camaraderie, ownership and belonging among its employees. Comfort Design has come a long way since Mr Chew noticed a shortage of fashionable and well-designed chairs and tables in Singapore. By transforming itself into a specialist in chairs and tables, Comfort has managed to fill this gap with its wide variety of quality products.
With Comfort currently expanding into the residential market, clients can look forward to enjoying its unique range of products and services in their homes. The future for Comfort Design looks comfortable indeed.
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