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Member Profile – Gresham Office Furniture

Gresham Office Furniture have been designing workspaces and furniture since 1976, could you tell us a little about the history of this family-run company and “true UK manufacturer”?

Gresham Office Furniture was founded 44 years ago by Ted Smith. Ted originally sold typewriters, and while typewriters were slowly declining in sales Ted realised the potential opportunity – he had to sell a desk and a chair to the same people he had previously sold typewriters to.

After 44 years trading & 200,000 sq. foot factory built in Horwich, Bolton, where we continue to operate the business from.

In 2006 Ted’s son-in-law, Julian, took over the company. Over the 14 years that Julian has been Managing Director, joined by his brother and Sales Director, Richard, Gresham has managed to double its turnover and expand into international markets such as the Middle East and USA.

We are proud to have won Manufacturer of the year in 2016, and we continue to be a true UK Manufacturer producing and assembling our products here in Bolton.

After entering the Middle Eastern market and being awarded “Best Newcomer” in the International trade Awards, to what do you owe your sustained success and growth in such a competitive marketplace?

With an ever-expanding portfolio, we pride ourselves on new design and keeping ahead of market trends.

We have the ability to prototype and manufacture new products on-site, whilst using the expertise of the entire team from welders to upholsterers. That in-house experience coupled with our talented purchasing team, who look for the best materials on the market, gives us a unique opportunity to keep ahead of the competition. 15% of our sales are one-off Bespoke items, therefore we feel that we offer a level of service that most can’t compete with.

Gresham Office Furniture is known for staying ahead of the trend and for creating products to enhance tomorrow’s working practices. Good design is often copied. When you have come across infringements, how have you dealt with them?

The office furniture design and manufacturing market is a very competitive market to be in. With so many designers and manufacturers, it difficult to monitor and audit for design infringement. When we have previously come across any infringement, we’d usually look to send a letter and a polite message to make them aware of the issue.

Going forward, we have looked at the best way to deal with this issue and feel having a deterrent is the best form of action we have available, along with the support and knowledge of the ACID team to help advise us in the event of any infringement. We have clearly stated on our website and in our product guide, that we are a member of ACID and will take further action and possibly prosecute should any infringement occur.

What is your message about the copying culture that pervades some of your sector and those who ride rough shod over the law?

Be original and add your own style, ideas and design to a product. Anyone can copy an idea, but now people are using the resources available to them to protect their ideas. If you do break the rules, you should expect to feel the full force of the law. As more and more people are held to account for the breaching of copyrights, then the less likely we will be seeing this happen in the future.

As a company who are fairly new to ACID membership, you are taking bold steps to demonstrate your ethics, and determined respect and compliance for intellectual property. What do you think could be done to promote this more generally in the UK?

We feel that visibility is always the best way to spread the word. The more companies and individuals that promote the ethics behind the meaning is a good thing. If a small team develop a design or product, the impact of an idea being copied is much bigger.

You have already been proactive in making the most of ACID membership and in implementing an effective IP Strategy by using the Member of ACID Logo, the IP Databank and utilising template legal agreements. What else do you hope to achieve with ACID membership?

Besides the range of services offered by ACID, the other benefit of the membership is sharing best practice and networking with similar organisations.

Gresham Office Furniture has been presented with an Investors in People award which demonstrates the value you place in your skilled workforce.  How do you inspire your people to continually strive for such high standards and how important do you think this is for the future of the company?

All team members at Gresham work to a set of company values. Approachability, Craftsmanship, Customer Focus and Integrity is at the heart of what we do regardless of a person’s role within the business.

We continue to invest in internal and external training to ensure our team members grow their skillsets and keep up to date with new ways of working, and we ensure our most experienced team members coach and pass on their knowledge to new team members. Ongoing investment in our teams will support our business growth in future years to come.

Is enough done by government to promote IP respect within corporate social responsibility?

We don’t think so. It should be mandatory for those who look to design products to sign up to a membership that has the ethics and rules to design principles. This would make a fairer playing field for everyone.

ACID is campaigning for stronger enforcement for design infringement. Since the 2014 IP Act introducing criminal provisions for intentional registered design infringement but also for individual directors, do you believe that if this is extended to unregistered designs infringement, it will become more of a deterrent, and would you support this?

The bigger the deterrent, the more chance people will comply. It is through having more support behind these ideas to discourage infringements, that we all stand more chance of protecting our designs.

Can you give us a steer on what you feel ACID’s achievements have been and what we could do in the future to raise further awareness about IP theft?

Becoming a member of ACID has helped to understand the process of protecting an idea and what actions should be taken upon infringement. The best way that awareness can be raised further is by the whole community spreading the word. People should advertise and shout about their membership, encouraging others to follow by their example, join the community and share the same benefits.

Gresham Office Furniture