For many people, the idea of buying beautiful home interior products with someone else’s money would seem like the dream job. For Dani Taylor, Head of Buying at Cox & Cox, this is her reality.
But, with this power, comes great responsibility. Here, we chat to Dani about the important logistical considerations of buying for an e-commerce business, as well as seeking her advice about getting into the minds of the target audience and make them want to buy.
How do you and stylist Danielle Waving go about planning for the next season of Cox & Cox products?
We start with trend research and tradeshows; Maison et Objet in Paris, Formland in Denmark & Salone Del Mobile Milano in Milan. We see what the new trends are and figure out if and how we can fit them in to our unique Cox & Cox style.
We love visiting concept stores and interior shops wherever we are travelling; some of our top picks are Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Paris – and London of course. We are away in Europe at least once a month (often more!) visiting them.
Next, we create trend boards of each of our existing trends and mood boards for new trend ideas, adding the new products that we find.
Collaboration is very important at Cox & Cox. Danielle and I present the trends and then later the products to every team in the company. Everyone has a valuable viewpoint and thinks of questions we might not think to ask − from Dan our Operations Director about how to send it, to our Customer Experiences Manager Audrey on what a customer might ask – all these things have an impact on what we end up buying.
How do you and your team get inspired?
Well we all love shopping and magazines, so that really helps!
We are very lucky at Cox & Cox because we travel a lot, and of course we always make time for the shops. Our suppliers are really fantastic and often show us the best new stores, bars and restaurants so we are constantly finding fabulous new places.
The inspiration for a new product can come from the bar stools at a cool restaurant or the planters in a hotel courtyard. We love Danish restaurants and Copenhagen definitely has some of the best in the world, everything is expertly curated; from the plants hanging on the walls to the plates you eat from and the chairs you sit on.
How do you detach yourself from personal bias when you are picking products?
I love interiors – I think you have to have a real passion for products to work with them every day. I have been at Cox & Cox since 2012, and like everyone my personal tastes have changed over the years, but foremost in my mind is that I am buying for our customer and not my house!
I am always thinking about what our customer would want in their home, and of course what will sell well – I think my taste and style does come through in the look of Cox & Cox but isn’t the most important factor in the selection. Saying that I do have a lot of Cox & Cox products in my house. I love our linen bedding and handmade dinner plates – I think it’s so important to have beautiful things that you can use every day that make your life a tiny bit happier!
Definitely the double hanging chair. We had this specially made for us, and I knew it would be a winner.
Myself, my husband Pat and our two-year-old son think it’s the perfect thing to sit in at home in the garden. Living in Somerset it’s not often that hot, so we line ours with sheepskins, chuck on a chunky knit throw and have it on the veranda so we can get maximum use out of it.
The hanging chair is classic Cox & Cox and it’s the top of all of my friends’ wish lists – if not already in their homes!
Does being a solely e-commerce business affect your product choices at all?
Being mail order is certainly in my mind whenever I am buying. The most important thing is that I need to make sure that the product in the photo that our customer fell in love with, is what turns up to their door.
I have to consider if it is assembled or flat pack, how fragile it is and how well it will travel, and how we can get it to them. Mail order is convenient, but it certainly has its challenges, especially when you are sending a huge and expensive sofa or outdoor furniture set.
Which product has been the biggest success in the last year?
We’re really thrilled at the success of our new and exclusive custom-made furniture range. All items are premium quality and made to order by hand in the UK by a team of super-skilled craftspeople.
We have expanded it recently with beds, headboards and some of the most comfortable mattresses you have ever experienced. We are proud to champion British made furniture, and we love the flexibility and colour choices it allows us to offer.
What is the most rewarding part of the job for you?
I love to see our products in customers’ homes – when they send pictures on Instagram of something I have sourced or designed I get so excited.
I love to speak to our customers and hear what they would like to see in the ranges, and what does and doesn’t work for them. It really helps to inform the next season’s buy, and they never fail to surprise me using products in a way I would never have thought of.
Even after so long as a buyer I get really excited to go to any supplier showroom or factory, even if I have been before.
My job has given me so many opportunities to travel and see how things are made. I have been to glass blowing factories in India, wood mills in Poland, traditional upholsterers in the UK and huge rug looms in Holland.
What has been the hardest lesson you’ve learnt in buying?
That you can’t control everything all the time.
We have great suppliers and we work closely with them to ensure that the products we receive are great quality and are what we are expecting, but even our top suppliers have issues from time to time. We occasionally have a whole product line turn up that we are unable to sell due to finish or quality. Thankfully it’s the exception and not the rule, and each time it happens we improve our process so that it (hopefully) can’t happen again.
What is your favourite season to buy for?
I started out as a Christmas buyer and I still buy our entire Christmas range now – in fact I think that no matter how big we get, I always will.
I absolutely LOVE Christmas, which is lucky as I pretty much have to buy it from December through to June! I design most of our Christmas wrapping paper, crackers and ribbons and am thrilled to do our Christmas trends every year.
Do you do quality checks when you sign with a new supplier?
We are very hot on quality control and we have several procedures that we need a new supplier to follow in order to work with us. These include factory and material checks, pre-shipment checks, and of course checks when they get to the Cox & Cox warehouse.
There is the occasion where we have to stop working with a supplier if they aren’t able to control the quality of the items that they are importing. It’s very frustrating particularly if it means we can’t have a fabulous product – but if it doesn’t come to us as expected then it isn’t worth the risk.
Luckily we usually work alongside suppliers, training them on best practice and can correct any faulty procedures far in advance.
We have noticed the new pets’ collection of products! What were the challenges of expanding into such a different area?
We have a passionate team of pet mums and dads working at C&C, so we speak to all of them and do plenty of user trials before we bring in a new item.
You could describe Suzanne, the buyer of the pet category, as a bit of a pet pro − she is slightly obsessed with her dogs! The biggest challenge for this area was figuring out how we could make it the Cox & Cox pet range, and not just the pet range that you could find in any high street pet shop.
Obviously the products have to be practical, but most importantly they have to fit in with the aesthetic of a Cox & Cox customer’s home, so the colour, material and design are really important. I think when you see the capsule range you’ll agree she’s nailed it.