WHILE furniture retailers have shrunk, retrenched or gone out of business, one of Reading's biggest has launched a marketing drive.

Peter Green, in Rose Kiln Lane has redesigned its website, launched its own magazine, brought in an interior designer and begun special events.

While competitors plaster windows with offers, Peter Green - with just two stores - has gone for subtlety.

Managing director Susan Noone said: "I think where we are unique is we decided to be very brave with our marketing strategy. A lot of retailers are slashing prices and you see these big red signs saying '70% off'. Our strategy is to be more stylish, more individual.

"Our Interiors range offers something different. You don't see many retailers doing that. They are normally brave during boom times. I feel customers still want a unique atmosphere in their homes and they are not going to compromise on that."

She believes that approach helped the firm win Furniture Retailer of the Year for 2009. Customers, she said want: 'something unique, individual that creates the sort of environment that makes their home their castle.'

Peter Green founded the company in 1954 in Eastleigh. He died in 1980 but his wife Norah continued the business. The shop moved to Chandler's Ford and, for nine years a further shop operated from Basingstoke until 2007.

The Reading opening in 2003 was driven by the rate of development. In Chandlers Ford most customers are in their mid 40s and local. At Reading ages range from 20s to 70s, many travelling from Oxford, Basingstoke, Henley and Marlow.

The trend for more home entertaining, increasing single households and the trend back to separate dining areas are other drivers of demand.

Research also shows the store most customers equate with Peter Green for service is John Lewis. Susan had no problem with that.

But research also shows 85% of purchasing decisions are made by female customers. That she said, was interesting in a male-dominated industry.

But she added: "Furniture has become a fashion item now. Lots of people like to change their furniture a lot more regularly."

Today (Thursday) an Indian themed evening takes place with a £3,500 Indian holiday up for grabs. Also starting on Thursday evenings is the chance to consult an interior designer, a free service to further differentiate the store.

*SUSAN Noone has worked in retailing in California, South Africa and Ireland.

She joined Peter Green as finance director before taking the top job where she manages the firm's 75 staff.

She said: "The advantage particularly in recession, is that when you come from FD to MD you understand the architecture of the business and the knock on effects of various decisions.

"Coming from that background gives me a sound structured approach to managing the business. At the same time I have surrounded myself with creative people who add flare to the business and I put my own personal touch.

"A lot of my experience has been with plcs but I prefer working for medium sized companies because you can make a difference and the impact of that is a lot faster."