A bespoke furniture manufacturer which has supplied hand-crafted desks to international ambassadors all over the world has celebrated its 20th anniversary.
Directors of ACT Furniture, which is set to turn over £1 million this year, say products made in its 16,000 sq ft factory in the heart of Bilston have been sent thousands of miles away to be used in embassies in Morocco and Moscow.
Co-founder Stephen Wilkinson said the international exposure had enhanced the company’s reputation at a time when this unique selling point was helping it to fight back against declining sales, after the firm was forced into job cuts.
Mr Wilkinson, who formed the company in 1989 alongside directors Stephen Clarke, Paul Edge, Guy Marsh and Stephen Winnall, said: “This year, without doubt, there have been some of the worst trading conditions we have ever seen.
“Like many companies in the West Midlands, we’ve had to make some tough decisions in making a couple of people redundant and introducing short-time working for a month or so.
“But we are still here, fighting, competing and, in the last couple of weeks, have noticed an upturn in sales again, and it appears the first green shoots of a recovery could be starting to push their way through.”
He said: “ACT has been going for 20 years, after the company we were all working for decided to move away from furniture making and concentrate its efforts on fruit machine cabinets.
“When we realised that our existing customers were not receiving the same level of quality and service, we knew there was an opportunity for us to do something about it and we quickly rented a factory in Upper Villiers Street in Wolverhampton and started production.
“A lot has happened in the following two decades, but the core principles of why we launched remain the same – expert craftsmanship, bespoke furniture and quality finish, supported by excellent service. This is what will help us to emerge from the downturn stronger than ever before.”
ACT moved to its existing site in Salop Street in 2000. The headquarters has a workshop, office and showroom.
Its cabinet makers hand finish and polish all of its furniture, using a blend of traditional methods and modern ideas to create anything from a small coffee table or storage unit to office desks and boardroom tables that can seat more than 40 people.
As well as its bespoke furniture, ACT produces its Nimbus and Stratus ranges and these can be found in courtrooms and law chambers, across education and health departments and throughout multi-national businesses across the UK.
Sales director Sue Lambert said: “Working through agreed dealers means we don’t always know exactly where our furniture is going. In addition to the contract for the international embassies, we’ve also completed a high-quality boardroom with media presentation storage for a London private bank, which wanted it made in veneers from the London plane tree.
“This type of tree has been planted along hundreds of pavements in the capital since the 1600s to reduce smog and pollution.
“However, not a single London plane tree was cut down to achieve this. Like all veneers and hardwoods we use, they were sourced from sustainable forests, which is just one of the ways in which we can monitor our impact on the environment,” she said.
“Going forward, we want to maximise our ability to do things differently and whilst we are expecting to see growth in public sector contracts, we are also keen to make inroads into the growing trend for home working where we can offer every product imaginable.”