"It's an extremely exciting time to be starting my new role, as we look forward to bolstering all areas of the business"
Sarah Bianchi - Managing Director, Arighi Bianchi
FURNITURE and interiors business Arighi Bianchi has announced Sarah Bianchi as its new Managing Director, as the Cheshire-based retailer embarks on an ambitious phase of growth to cement itself as a national brand, challenging online furniture store stalwarts such as John Lewis, Made.com and Next.
With a heritage that dates back to 1854, Arighi Bianchi - famed for its iconic grade II listed building in the heart of Macclesfield - is one of the longest running family-owned furniture businesses in the UK.
The company sells a range of contemporary furniture and accessories for the home, as well as carpets, flooring, blinds, curtains and fitted kitchens through its Kitchenality concession.
The appointment of Sarah Bianchi comes as the retailer looks to significantly increase is national e-commerce presence following a complete website overhaul and renewed e-commerce strategy. The business has also welcomed a fifth-generation member of the Bianchi family to its team to help spearhead this growth, as Lucy Mather joins as Head of Communications.
While the business had already experienced year-on-year digital sales growth since launching online in 2015, the closure of its store - the first time in its 167-year history – brought its ecommerce site to the fore. With a fleet of 30 liveried vans and lorries, the business was prepared for increased internet orders and rising demand from customers nationwide during the pandemic. As a result, 2020/21 saw a record year for online orders and this is now a firm focus area for growth as it aims to take market share from leading interiors brands. Last year the business turned over £18m.
Commenting on her appointment, Managing Director Sarah Bianchi says, “After a period of time in London working for City Corp and as Private Secretary to the Rt Hon Edward Heath MBE MP, I joined the family business aged just 23 and have since been responsible for running the carpet division, setting up the gift shop, HR, buying and now I’m taking the reins as Managing Director.
“It’s an extremely exciting time to be starting my new role, as we look forward to bolstering all areas of the business – from continuing to invest in our physical retail experience to expanding our online site and digital presence.
“It’s undoubtedly been a challenging time for our Macclesfield store due to the lockdowns, in fact it was the first time ever that we had to close our doors for this length of time - we didn’t even close during the war! But having already firmly established our online presence prior to the pandemic we have managed to continue to trade well and, in fact, we’ve had a record year online.
“One of my priorities as Managing Director is to build our national brand. We’ve already made some great progress here attracting a younger audience and gaining coverage for our online products in national home interest media. As such an established business in the North West, we’re extremely well known among the older generations – but we want to communicate the breadth of our offer and showcase the contemporary furniture and accessories we stock that appeal to fashion conscious buyers.
“We are very active on social media and are continuing to invest in our digital services. Most recently we launched an online sofa design visualisation tool and offer video design consultations, Live Chat and an exceptional e-commerce experience.
Sarah added: “I’m also proud that Lucy, my daughter, has joined us to support our digital progression. Lucy is helping us to utilise the latest digital techniques to reach our audiences nationwide, through the site, social and PR.”
Arighi Bianchi caters for all types of interior styles – from stylish, bright contemporary furniture to more traditional looks. It has designer ranges as well as a wide range of products from independent makers, with a focus on quality and provenance. The business also offers an interior design service and its store has a popular Café Bar within its 70,000sq ft interiors emporium.
The business expanded beyond its physical store by launching a transactional site six years ago and has gone from strength to strength establishing itself as a national brand. It’s now on track to more than double its online sales in the coming year.
It has also been working with many social media influencers to expand its reputation among younger audiences. Its quirky home accessories are also firm favourites for journalists in the home interiors and design sector, with the brand appearing in national media.
It was Sarah’s great Grandfather Antonio Bianchi who founded the business, alongside fellow Italian craftsman Antonio Arighi. Employing 150 people, the business is still owned and run by members of the Bianchi family.