Henry Tadros assumed leadership of British furniture manufacturer Ercol one year ago. What has changed?
Words By Emily Martin
IT HAS BEEN A YEAR since British furniture manufacturer Ercol announced that Edward Tadros was stepping down from his longstanding position – 29 years to be exact – of chairman of the business. Succeeding him was his son, Henry Tadros in July 2022, who continues the line of family members entrusted with managing this long-standing family business.
Founded in 1920 by Edward’s grandfather and Henry’s great grandfather, Lucian R Ercolani as a young Italian migrant. Henry joined Ercol in 2010 and, like his father, began in the factory before working across all departments as well as founding L.Ercolani, the refined luxury brand from the Ercol family. It’s part of a new transition for the company, which see’s Edward joining the company’s new board of directors, with David Finch as managing director of the business. I caught up with Henry to see how the first year has been, heading up a British manufacturing icon and the responsibilities that a family business bring.
How does it feel to head up the family business?
It’s an amazing position to be in. I feel a big responsibility in being the next guardian of the Ercol brand, and to continue on the work that my father, his uncles before him and my great grandfather have done over the last 103 years. To be the fourth generation of a company is a rare occurrence today, which I’m obviously very aware of and I really want to be able to grow the company and take us into new directions.
What experience prior to joining the business do you bring and how important was it to gain?
I studied history at SOAS in London, focusing on near middle eastern, Mongol and environmental Chinese history, which was purely out of my own interest in the areas. I’ve run a record label in my spare time, putting out about 50 records on vinyl over the last decade, it was an experimental label with a very niche cult worldwide following. It’s currently on hiatus as I’m too busy, but I hold it close to my heart. I knew I was joining Ercol for life, so I decided to follow my passion for music for a while before I got serious about furniture.
Perfect for dinner parties with family and friends, this cushioned Elisa small bench is incredibly comfortable
Why did you decide to work at Ercol?
I decided to work at Ercol because I felt like I could make a difference and help push the business into exciting new directions. I wanted to be able to reintroduce Ercol into the international markets that we had once exported to in large quantities in the 60s and 70s, and that in turn has led Ercol to the contract markets. Also, before I worked for Ercol, I worked at various trade fairs and external events I was constantly hearing peoples stories of their experience and life with Ercol, the dining set given as a wedding present to their grandparents, the amazing 70s fabrics an aunt had on her sofa, the vintage pieces found in a skip and then made good again, the vintage pieces found in Margaret Howell stores, the vintage pieces used in restaurants and cafes around the world. It’s difficult to put in words just how much life, history and personality Ercol has, and so for me it was really important to be a part of the company’s life and future.
The Aosta is an elegant, contemporary silhouette with clean lines and unmistakably Ercol design cues
Was there always an intention or desire from either you or your family to succeed your father in the business? Is it an important factor for Ercol?
I’m the youngest of three and I have no cousins on the Tadros side of the family, so we are a very small family in the business. My siblings are both a bit older than me and I could see them going their own ways and making their own careers away from Ercol. Yet I didn’t have any pressure from my dad about joining Ercol. He wanted me to decide what I wanted to do with my life and if that involved Ercol then that would be great; if it didn’t, then fine. I think he was extremely happy that I did decide to join the company. After I joined, I never really thought about succeeding my dad as chairman I was more focused on understanding the business and then developing the role and part of the business I was focused on. I knew that at some point we would start talking about gradually evolving my position to gain the experience to be confident in successfully following on from him.
What were your job roles within Ercol, before taking on the chairman position?
I joined Ercol and started an initial three years of training, I worked on the factory floor for a year working my way around the departments – machining, assembling, finishing, inspecting, prototyping and anything else I could learn about. I then moved into the office, and I took on the role of the area sales manager for south west, an area of 50 retailers that ranged from Haverfordwest to Reading and St Austell to Birmingham. I was out on the road, constantly driving and constantly learning. My final initial sales training involved me working for Vi-Spring, where I shadowed the team in Plymouth and their European team in Leuven for 10 months.
Ercol’s Ibstone Universal cabinet designed for placing in hallways, here in black
After this broad introduction to Ercol and the international markets I moved into my role as European sales manager focusing on exporting to the high-end retail and trade markets in Northern Europe, which grew into international sales manager as we started building our US and ROW business. Over the years the team grew, and I took on the role of international sales director and became part of the Ercol board.
At this time I was looking to the future and did an alternative MBA, the program for leadership development, at Harvard Business School, alongside various other courses in the UK.
Just before Covid struck, we had reviewed our brand and range structure and decided that we needed to sub-brand our higher end design collection. This became L.Ercolani. I was appointed the brand director of L.Ercolani alongside the sales role and was responsible for all the creative development and brand identity. In July 2022, my father decided to step back from his role of chairman and I took over the role.
Can you tell me more about L.Ercolani. What is it and why was it launched?
L.Ercolani is the new sister brand of Ercol. It is named after our founder Lucian Ercolani and is our elevated design brand. It contains all the iconic designs that Lucian created in the 1950s alongside, what I hope will be, our new modern iconic designs. There’s a harmony in the design aesthetic as our newer designs are designed in response to the design language of the Ercol classics: we look back to move forwards. The vision of the brand is firmly rooted in a century of design tradition, the key parameters of the designs are form and function and a warm yet minimalist aesthetic. The soft yet functional qualities of our designs can be used from the home to the office to the restaurant. Everything in the brand is made of solid wood in our Buckinghamshire factory.
What’s next for the business? Is there a direction you want to steer it towards? Markets to enter? Products to launch? New collaborations? Training opportunities?
We’ve been on quite a journey over the last few years. L.Ercolani was established, and the product developed. Ercol underwent a huge change in how we sell and developed a new graphic and in-store look and is constantly moving forward. Ercol is now starting the journey to establishing a route to use UK sourced timber. Working with ‘Grown in Britain’ (GiB) we will be launching pieces made from British timber in 2023. For L.Ercolani we are consolidating all our changes and focusing hard on the expansion of the brand in the UK market, working further in contract and interior design markets, and further building the retail network here. A lot of this work will go into our digital offering and how we interact with our customers to provide a seamless experience with us online. Internationally, L. Ercolani will continue to grow its US market and looking at opportunities in various Asian markets. After establishing what our design language is and the collections over the last few years, we do hope to have new collections and products to launch from 2024 onwards.
What factors to you think make Ercol unique/ successful? Why do you/customers love it?
In the UK, I feel we are a unique company in many ways. I do not know of another brand based here that has its own production on our scale that makes solid wood furniture for the home and contract markets. We are a fourthgeneration family-run business which has over 100 years of history and heritage. Our midcentury designs are pieces that we developed and made for everyone in the 1950s. They’ve come in and out of production over the decades but are our core DNA. We have an amazing capacity to marry high-tech machining alongside centuries old hand craft techniques. We use methods like steam bending, wedge and tenon joinery and dovetail joints, that are rare in furniture construction today. Our machining capability mean that we can spend time on these hand-crafted details, and by doing this we can make legacy furniture, and by that I mean pieces that generations will be able to use and enjoy. I think our customers understand this and it’s the main reason why there is such a love for Ercol. We’re generational in many ways and, ultimately, we are authentic. I think that resonates with most people, especially today.