More than 70 bed industry brands presented their latest products at this year’s NBF Bed Show, which took place from 18-19th September in Telford, and also saw the annual Bed Industry Awards bestowed upon another batch of worthy winners …

From the lively Dunlopillo Go digital display at its entrance to the new Services and Knowledge hubs at its rear, this year’s Bed Show presented visitors with a colourful view of the breadth of the UK’s bed trade.

The NBF-organised event has long been a simple – yet effective – launch platform for myriad UK-manufactured sleep solutions, from mattresses to machinery (inclusive of a fair few headboards this year, too).

Despite the absence of industry heavyweight Silentnight, and the general feeling that visitor numbers were slightly lower than previously, this year’s exhibition delivered its customary blend of new lines and networking opportunities.

Jessica Alexander, executive director of the NBF, says: “Once again, the Bed Show was fantastic, and feedback from exhibitors and visitors was really positive. 

“Over the years the event has become known and admired for its formula-winning format, and we were pleased with our visitor numbers this year. The industry has had a challenging six months but our NBF members pulled out all the stops to deliver some quality, eye-catching stands, and some exciting new products.”

New this year were several specialist hubs, each of which offered visitors a place to engage service providers, learn about the industry, or simply take a break. The Knowledge Hub, for example, featured automated talks delivered by organisations including The Furniture Ombudsman, ACID, Euromonitor, the Furniture Makers’ Company and the NBF itself.

The show’s first evening saw more than 500 members of the trade gather back at The International Centre for the federation’s popular gala dinner. 

Former rugby star and TV presenter Martin Bayfield compered the gathering, entertaining the trade with sporting anecdotes before announcing the winners of this year’s Bed Industry Awards, which recognised high achievers from across bed manufacture, retail and production for their innovation, growth and marketing activities.

“It’s the eighth year of honouring the industry’s stars and another wonderful year of high calibre entries,” says NBF president Tony Lisanti. “It is brilliant to see the winners’ hard work and innovative ideas rewarded on such a special night in the bed industry calendar.”

The Large Bed Manufacturer of the Year (over £10m turnover) prize went to Harrison Spinks, which was praised for its strategic pursuit of vertical integration. In the past year, it has started weaving its own cloth (including its own FR chemical-free one), cutting its own timber from its own forests and spinning its own wire for its own springs. It also has won two Queen’s Awards for Enterprise and a host of other accolades.

The runner up was Hypnos, for a year in which the company saw significant overseas growth, investment in internal process improvements and impressive careers outreach to students, schools and the Armed Forces, and was also named one of 10 Rising Stars in the Sunday Times Profit Track.

Taking the Small Bed Manufacturer of the Year (under £10m turnover) trophy was Millbrook, which impressed the judges for investing in service and marketing in a difficult economic climate, with a new team in place and high-profile partnerships to align itself with a healthy lifestyle. 

Duvalay was highly commended for capitalising on the successes of recent years, expanding its capacity and increasing exports into South-east Asia and China.  

Bed Component Supplier of the Year was Maes Mattress Tickings, which has developed a product for the UK market, that is non-toxic, biodegradable and contains no FR chemicals, yet meets the UK FR requirements, while praise was also given to John Cotton Group for consistently delivering high standards, understanding its customers’ needs and adding to its portfolio of commercially attractive, environmentally-conscious and unique inventions.

Scooping Large Bed Retailer of the Year (over £5m beds turnover) was Dreams. With LFL sales and profits both up in the period under consideration – it was first in the Sunday Times Profit Track 100 in April – excellent customer feedback scores and impressive initiatives in communications both externally and internally, this company was a stand-out for the judges.

Bensons for Beds claimed the runner-up spot, thanks to its innovative use of VR technology and its sound marketing, based on extensive customer research backed up by a clear strategy. 

The winner of the Bed Retailer of the Year (under £5m beds turnover) category was the Macclesfield-based Arighi Bianchi, which was chosen for its commitment to ongoing comprehensive staff training, praise from its bed suppliers and its customer service.

Peter Betteridge – The Bed Expert – based in Kingsbridge, came second for having an impressive 12 months which saw the company rebrand, introduce its own label product range, receive a number of customer service awards and export to over 20 countries.

The winner of Small Online Bed Retailer of the Year – the first of two new categories – was bed-in-a-box brand Otty Sleep, which was praised for being profitable, built with no external investment and creating its own identity. It has developed a competitively priced product which has won a Which? Best Buy award, and has plans to expand into Europe. 

Hügge, another rolled mattress brand – was the runner up. Some 200 crowdfunders helped the company get off the ground in less than 24 hours, and the company exceeded first-year targets for net revenue. Product differentiation and an emphasis on customer service is at the heart of this ambitious business, which is also eyeing overseas markets.

Argos picked up Large Online Bed Retailer of the Year for its continued growth and its commitment to maintaining market share and profile while driving digital innovation. Finally, the runner-up in this category was Land of Beds, which was recognised for its transition from high street retailer to fully integrated, profitable multichannel retailer with over 60% of its sales made online. 

“The Bed Show will be back in 2019 for its 10th year (17-18th September) and we are looking forward to making it a show to remember,” Jessica concludes.

See the November issue of Furniture News for highlights of the event's product launches.