How a company started as a hobby became a mainstay in the fabrics and wallpaper industry - Lifestyle NZ
FabWall Designer Collections
How a company started as a hobby became a mainstay in the fabrics and wallpaper industry

How a company started as a hobby became a mainstay in the fabrics and wallpaper industry

The fabulous owner of FabWall is in his seventies, but has the vitality and vision to drive the growth of this luxury wallpaper and fabric brand.

Words by Nick Forrester

Greg Clayton is no stranger to the wallpaper and fabric industries in New Zealand — nor to the wider home decor industry in general.

Beginning his career in high-end period furniture in the 1970s, he moved around frequently for the next few years: switching to upholstery furniture, then a 12-year period in flooring as sales and marketing director of Poly-Flor NZ.

He then began his foray into wallpaper, joining Ashley Wallpapers in 1987 — where his passion for wall coverings flourished, among an industry where he would largely remain until today.

Then in the mid 1990s, he was at the spearhead of a push to amalgamate Ashley Wallpapers, Vision Wallcoverings, Auckland and Wallcoverings International, an Auckland-based importer and distributor. This succeeded, and he became the CEO and minor shareholder of the resulting entity Pacific Wallcoverings — which grew to wield an 80% share of the national wallpaper market.

But 10 years later, he grew disillusioned with the corporate world and left the company, taking a few years off to travel the world and to “do nothing and live a bit,” in his own words.

After a spell of travelling, he found he was developing an itch to get back into the industry he fell in love with: wall coverings. So in 2008, upon arriving in New Zealand after his spontaneous hiatus, he set about starting his own company, which he called FabWall Designer Collections — or FabWall for short, importing wall coverings, and adding fabrics to the mix later on.

Cabinet of Curiosities | Verena Wallpaper in Clay (CAB401)

FabWall’s success in wall coverings and fabrics

Initially a ‘hobby project’ that would allow Greg to coast towards his retirement, the company soon took off — and as it went from strength to strength, he found that his love of the industry was far stronger than his desire to retire.

So, three months before his 75th birthday, he is expanding the company to include more fabric offerings, especially FR Fabrics from Germany and introducing new commercial wallcovering brands from Italy & the US.

“Even though my love is wall coverings, we decided to pick up fabric because it’s such a bigger market, and we wanted to make a bigger mark on New Zealand’s home decor industry,” says Greg. “We’re still a minnow in the fabric industry, but our turnover is still quite a significant part of the business.”

So how has Greg continued to find success in these sectors, even in a relatively saturated market like fabrics? Throughout both fabric and wallpaper offerings, three things, he says, are key: the product itself, including the design and colour choices; the price; and the company’s communication and delivery.

While FabWall does excel in the first two, they are a given — but Greg says that communication and delivery have become increasingly important in the past two years.

“Since the intervention of Covid, the manner in which business is conducted has changed dramatically,” says Greg. “Delivery today is paramount and the consumer, once they have made their buying decision, wants their choices delivered in a timely fashion.

“If you are building a new house or doing renovations, almost all consumers want their orders supplied yesterday,” he says. “It’s an impossible task, but we strongly believe it should be supplied within a timely fashion.”

Because of this belief, FabWall commits to offering delivery 7-10 days from every Thursday following an order — meaning the company does not need to wait for large order quantities to fulfil each individual case.

“In the two years of trading under COVID constraints, we have not lost one roll of wallpaper or one metre of fabric — even as shipments are transported to New Zealand from Europe, South East Asia and North America.”

Havana | Jose Wallpaper in Varadero (HAV002)

Still going strong

It’s this consistency in delivery, as well as the development of strong working relationships with his retailers, interior decorators, upholsterers and specifiers that has cemented FabWall as a mainstay in New Zealand’s wallpaper and fabrics industry. And though Greg is a septuagenarian, he has no plans of stopping any time soon.

“I will not leave my business before I turn 80 — I have a young brain, and I have a lot of industry experience with a lot of long-standing relationships. And I love the work!”

Learn more about FabWall and its offerings.

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