With the bed industry’s ninth annual awards ceremony slated to take place during this year's Bed Show, bed industry specialist Jan Turner talks to 11 past winners to find out what scooping an NBF award has meant to them, how they capitalised on winning, and what effect it has had on their business …
1. Mark Cort, commercial director, Bensons for Beds
Winner: 2017 Bed Retailer of the Year (over £5m beds turnover), also top retailer in 2012 and 2013 , and runner-up in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Highly commended Large Bed Retailer of the Year (over £5m beds turnover) 2018
The business: Bensons for Beds has over 50 years’ heritage.
Winning way: In 2017, we focused on innovation and introduced a huge range of new products. Our 2017 sales performance was strong, we opened 11 new stores and refitted four, developing them into megastores and creating contemporary new-look showrooms.
This allowed us to develop innovative retail principles and deliver a compelling customer proposition, as well as increasing availability and choice across all ranges and categories. We also launched dedicated sleep clinics in-store, which gave customers access to educational videos, guides and information on sleeping.
Capitalising on success: We have communicated our Bed Retailer of the Year award win and used the logo in internal communications, as well as in all of our customer comms. This includes store PoS, TV and radio advertising, and on our website, where we have a dedicated page that talks about our award win. In addition, we announced the award win across our social channels.
Results: Winning has helped us reaffirm our position as market leaders in our category. The award itself has added brand credibility, trade and supplier credibility, and helped strengthen consumer confidence. This has helped us convert more sales in store. What’s more, the award is a fantastic endorsement of our brand and all our products. It has also provided all of our dedicated workforce something to be rightly proud of.
2. Jerry Cheshire, founder and owner, Surrey Beds
Winner: 2014 Independent Bed Retailer of the Year
The business: Surrey Beds was founded in 2001 as a general bed retailer by Jerry Cheshire, a former Sealy sales representative.
Winning way: At the time, the business was experiencing immense difficulties due to a 16-week road closure outside the shop. To find new routes to market, we created an online presence, employed a digital marketing specialist and started to market our business through various social media channels.
We also began to focus on premium, higher-value products and brands. This meant the average invoice value increased, and although footfall was down, those customers that came to the store spent more. When the road re-opened, footfall increased and so did sales revenue – so even though the shop was almost closed for four months, Surrey Beds still recorded a YoY increase in revenue.
Capitalising on success: The award win was a big story. A celebration event was held, to which previous customers were invited, some of whom recorded video reviews and, along with inclusion in local newspaper articles, the win was used to maximise exposure. The trophy and certificate are displayed in-store to this day.
Results: Using the win to further promote Surrey Beds increased the shop’s profile and that of my own. This has in turn attracted more customers and additional business to the store. I later became a published author upon the release of my book, Sleeping Blissfully (available through Amazon).
3. Mike Murray, director, Land of Beds
Winner: 2012 Independent Bed Retailer of the Year, highly commended Large Online Bed Retailer of the Year 2018
The business: Land of Beds is based in Cheshire and has been trading for over 40 years. The business has stores in the north-west of England and a UK-wide ecommerce operation.
Winning way: The company has significantly invested in developing a bespoke in-house software package, enabling full end-to-end management of the multichannel retail operation. This has enabled the business to profitably scale the historic bricks-and-mortar side of the operation at a significant pace.
The company has transformed its business routines to become a digitally-led organisation, fit for bed retailing in the 21st century. The company is still 100% owned by Murray family members, so has been able to stay true to its founding principles in the changing face of modern retail.
Capitalising on success: The business used the accolade in all marketing material as an accreditation to help reduce the perceived risk for customers when advertising outside the normal catchment area. The award was an excellent way to demonstrate trust and authority when scaling the business on a national level.
Results: It’s difficult to totally quantify the direct impact of the award on the company’s bottom line, but it definitely helped conversion rates when advertised online, especially when dealing with customers who had never heard of us before and might have been sitting on the fence.
The award has also been very useful when it’s come to recruitment strategy, as the business can encourage potential candidates to “come and work for an award-winning business!”
4. Gerd Derieuw, sales group manager, BekaertDeslee
Winner: 2017 Judges’ Choice
The business: BekaertDeslee specialises in the development and manufacturing of mattress textiles, mattress covers and on-trend sleep solutions from its headquarters in Waregem, Belgium. It is part of Haniel, a German group of companies.
Winning way: With Skin+ we developed a new concept in the bedding industry with a novel treatment for mattress fabrics that, like lotions and creams, protects, repairs and rejuvenates the skin. The Skin+ technology works 24/7 and for the full lifetime of the mattress.
Capitalising on success: We promoted this achievement through a newsletter, our social media and our website. We sent an email to our customers explaining that we had won, and posted pictures of the award with our Skin+ visual on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
Next, we asked our employees to share the story on our website and their own social media, and issued a press release. A picture of the award ceremony was projected on the welcome screen in our main entrance hall, making it visible to all employees as well as customers, suppliers, consultants and people looking for a job.
Results: The brand was at the centre of every fair we organised in 2018. An award-winning product enjoys more attention and credibility, because people know it has been assessed by experts.
5. Chris Ward, group marketing director, Hypnos
Winner: 2017 Bed Manufacturer of the Year (over £10m turnover), plus manufacturer category winner in 2011 and 2014, and runner-up in 2013. 2018 runner-up Bed Manufacturer of the Year (over £10m turnover)
The business: Hypnos is a family-run British company that has held a Royal Warrant since 1929. It has manufactured beds for over 100 years.
Winning way: The panel of judges praised Hypnos for its domestic and international growth in the hospitality and retail sectors. It also noted that the company had secured approved supplier status with six international hotel chains, as well as appointing new distributors and agents in Spain, Benelux, South Africa and Germany, as part of its ongoing expansion efforts.
Now celebrating its eighth year of carbon neutrality, Hypnos was the first carbon neutral bed manufacturer in the world. It continues to comply with the most stringent requirements, including the PAS 2060 carbon neutrality standards.
Capitalising on success: As the only manufacturer to have won three times, this award is an impartial and trusted endorsement of our business, and as such is a great asset when promoting our company, both in the UK and abroad. We believe the title gives us gravitas – especially when we talk to new customers, because they know that we have strong values and robust credentials in the bed manufacturing industry.
Results: Winning this award has helped when seeking new business opportunities as it reinforces our ongoing commitment to high quality, British manufacturing, continued growth and sustainability.
6. Mark Baron, sales and marketing director, John Cotton Group
Winner: 2017 Bed Component Supplier of the Year – also category winner in 2015 and runner-up in 2016. Highly commended Bed Component Supplier of the Year 2018
The business: The John Cotton Group is a family company established in 1916 and split into two main categories - the Nonwovens Division (producing filling materials for mattresses and other market sectors), and the Home Textiles Division (supplier of filled bedding products). With an annual turnover in excess of £200m, the group operates across the globe in the UK and Continental Europe, Asia and Australasia.
Winning way: We invest over £2m each year in research and development, new machinery and staff training. We achieved the IATF 16949:2016 Automotive Quality Management Standard for our bedding business, and were the first in the UK to implement this in our industry sector.
We are also experts in textile fibre recovery from industrial or consumer by-products, and source a large proportion of polyester fibre from recycled plastic waste. On a weekly basis the Nonwovens Division alone diverts the equivalent of 10 million PET bottles from entering landfill or our oceans. We will be striving to extend circular economy vision by initially targeting ISO 14001.
Capitalising on success: We promote this achievement through our company website, on our email signature and in the reception area of our head office in West Yorkshire.
Results: Winning has provided John Cotton with significant recognition and a heightened status within the industry. We have seen a rise in the number of new enquiries for our new monobloc design, as well as an appreciation for our sustainable credentials.
7. Colin Heal, general manager, Newbridge Street Bedding Centre
Winner: 2015 Independent Bed Retailer of the Year
The business: Newbridge Street Bedding Centre in Newcastle is a family-run business, established by Geoff and Gill Gale in 1986.
Winning way: In the year leading up to the award we rebranded all of our stores under the banner of The Bed Experts, supported by a substantial media campaign. Judges noted that this was done on the back of customer research, enabling the business to re-engineer its focus from the ground up, press the reset button and achieve strong development in its new direction.
Capitalising on success: The award gave our company accelerated confidence in the marketplace, we promoted it online, on air and across all media channels. The following year we used its prestige to help launch a bed appeal to help the hundreds of children in our region who did not have a bed to sleep on. This helped awareness, and we raised nearly £20,000 to provide beds and bedding to these vulnerable youngsters.
Results: All of our staff were – and still are – immensely proud of this award. It brought prestige, a feelgood factor and good morale within the company, as it was an achievement to have our hard work and longstanding reputation recognised by the NBF.
8. Greg Flynn, sales director, Vitafoam
Winner: 2016 Bed Component Supplier of the Year
The business: Vitafoam has been manufacturing and supplying foam products to the furniture and bedding industry for over 65 years. It is a private, equity-backed company.
Winning way: Vitafoam brought Revo to market, a new cool sleep concept for the bedding industry. Customers had asked for a foam that had high airflow and could maintain a stable temperature for the sleeper while giving the support of a sprung mattress. Following discussions and development, we created Revo.
In 2016, Vitafoam also invested £1.2m in a Maxfoam Omega foam production plant, our Hyflo line. This allows Vitafoam to respond to customer ideas for bespoke products, and has created additional capacity with added features.
Capitalising on success: Vitafoam was very proud to receive this award from the bedding industry for Revo and our new production facility.
Results: Winning the award was a pat on the back from the industry. It’s enormously satisfying when plans come together and deliver results – Revo has become one of our established brands within a very short space of time. The award has fuelled our ambition, while the success of Revo and Hyflo allows Vitafoam to plan further investment in the future.
9. Elizabeth Colleran, sales and marketing director, Duvalay
Winner: 2017 Manufacturer of the Year (under £10m turnover). Highly commended Small Bed Manufacturer of the Year 2018
The business: Duvalay was established in 2003 by husband-and-wife team, Alan and Elizabeth Colleran, whose experience of sleep discomfort while camping led them to develop a mattress topper for the leisure industry. Since then, they have gone on to invent the world’s lightest mattress for caravans (made from recycled Coca-Cola bottles), and moved into the bed manufacturing sector (in 2015).
Winning way: Duvalay has been able to diversify into new markets quickly and efficiently, having secured distribution of its Hilary Devey Collection into China. Further expansion into South Korea and the US is planned for Q4 2018. A dedicated PR campaign led to its Diamond mattress being voted 2016’s Best Mid-Priced Mattress by The Independent, as well as securing the Good Housekeeping Institute Approved Stamp after scoring nine out of 10 during testing.
Capitalising on success: The award win was promoted on PoS, trade advertising and the company’s social media channels. Duvalay has also committed to extending the NBF brand through promotion on the leisure side of its business, including mattress collections for caravans and holiday homes.
Results: The award win has facilitated new retailers coming on board, extending Duvalay’s reach and giving credibility to the brand and its manufacturing expertise. It has cemented our company’s authority to produce mattresses in overseas markets, and has been heavily promoted within the Chinese marketplace, where it has seen initial sales exceed targets by +35%.
10. Steve Adams, MD, Mattress Online
Winner: 2016 Retailer of the Year (over £5m turnover) – plus E-tailer of the Year in 2015, and runner-up in 2014
The business: Mattress Online was jointly founded by Steve Adams and Steve Kelly. Our very first order arrived on December 16th, 2003, and 16 years later we’ve helped over half a million people.
Winning way: Steve and I have worked hard over the years to build a culture and business that has the essence and values of a local bed shop, but that is accessible nationwide.
Our experience of running face-to-face bed shops – combined with the convenience that the internet brings – gives us a subtle but important advantage. Our customers can read other customers’ transparent reviews to get a true understanding of the positives and negatives of each mattress.
Capitalising on success: Our award win successes are celebrated at every possible touchpoint. They’re proudly displayed on our website, our local Rotherham store, across social media, Google Adwords … even on our delivery vans! We’re honoured to have won three NBF awards, which puts us in the enviable position of promoting our organisation as multi-award-winning!
Results: Gaining recognition from the thought leaders of our industry offers a magnitude of benefits. It’s a fantastic accreditation that offers our customers added reassurance.
Since receiving our very first award back in 2014, I have no doubt this has contributed to our significant growth. The awards have played a significant part in retaining a profitable bottom line in a challenging market. We’ve certainly seen a correlation with growth in average order values, conversion rates and overall revenue – and one of the most important and unsung benefits of winning the awards is the boost in staff morale that comes with it.
11. Steve Pickering, MD, Sussex Beds
Winner: 2016 Retailer of the Year (under £5m turnover)
The business: Sussex Beds founders John and Sandra Pickering opened their first store in Hastings, East Sussex in 1981. Since then the company has grown, and currently operates through eight physical stores located in the South-east – and via a transactional ecommerce website. The business is still independently owned and managed by the family.
Winning way: In the two years leading up to the award we implemented a host of initiatives and structural changes, taking the business from six-figure losses to six-figure profit.
Comprehensive KPI dashboards were installed, enabling all levels of management to take control and responsibility of their departments and improve efficiency. A dedicated marketing team brought design and print of PoS and advertising in-house, together with online, social media promotion and advertising.
We also moved away from branded product lines to offer exclusive own-brand lines, resulting in greatly increased gross profit. The senior management team, with the support of a business coach, set in place strategic plans for growth, and we took time to develop our vision and values for a common goal that inspires our teams every day and is central to the overall success of the business.
Capitalising on success: The award was used for publicity through public relations in local and national publications. The recognition had an even bigger impact within the team, who were proud to inform customers, family and friends they work for a national Bed Retailer of the Year. Priceless.
Results: Receiving recognition motivates but also reassures and we returned with belief and confidence to continue to grow and improve. In the period since the award we opened new stores, introduced many more initiatives and increased turnover and profit significantly.
This article was originally published in Furniture News' Bed Buyer supplement, in September 2018. This year’s Bed Industry Awards ceremony will take place at the Gala Dinner on the first night of the Bed Show, at Telford International Centre on 17th of September.