As a first step it is a good idea to find out whether there appears to be enough demand for your upholstery business. This can very much depend on the range of upholstery services that you plan to offer, the distance you're prepared to travel, your skills and expertise. You might intend to concentrate on offering traditional, craft upholstery services to customers such as antique dealers and restorers, stately homes, the National Trust and, of course, members of the public that want their antique furniture refurbished. Or you might decide to focus on modern upholstery methods and offer services to local furniture manufacturers or trade customers such as pubs and restaurants that need to reupholster their seating.
You might be planning to offer such a specialist service - for example, reupholstering a particular type of antique (those from a certain country or period, for example), or boat and motorhome interiors - that you attract customers from all over the UK and possibly even beyond.
Whichever type of upholstery work you plan to offer it is worth checking out your local area to see how many competitors you are likely to have. A look at the Association of Master Upholsterers and Soft Furnishers (AMUSF) member directory or a browse on Yell.com and other similar online or print directories will give you an idea of the number of upholsterers who are already operating in your area. Don't forget that some antique dealers and antique restorers also offer upholstery services.
Have a good look at existing upholsterers to establish:
- the type of work they do - traditional or modern
- the customers they target - members of the public or businesses and organisations
- the range of other services they offer - for example upholstery fabric sales
- the prices they charge
Why will customers choose your upholstery business
It's very important to do all you can to make sure that enough customers choose your upholstery business rather than existing firms. Your market research might indicate that there is a gap in the market you can fill. For example, perhaps there are no local businesses that are members of the AMUSF and that offer a top quality, traditional service. Or maybe a recently opened marina would give you the opportunity to offer upholstery services to boat owners and boat builders.
Find out what customers want
You might consider going to local antiques fairs or markets and asking dealers and restorers who are exhibiting whether they would be interested in your services. It's also worth approaching businesses such as furniture makers or interior designers to find out whether there are any services they would be interested in. Don't forget to give everyone you speak to a business card or a printed brochure if you have one.
Use the Record sheets to note down the results of your market research.