Cabinet Maker paid a visit to Highgrove Beds Group to find out why it pays to invest in order to stand out from the competition.
It was an unseasonably warm and bright day when I pulled into the extensive car park that adorns the new Highgrove manufacturing facility in Liversedge, where, to me, only the signage on the building and extensive warehouse space made it obviously a place of industry rather than, say a high-end hotel or conference venue.
By any standards this is impressive, with the 250,000 sq ft office, showroom and manufacturing facility sitting proudly on a 20 acre site. But whilst the building, was pristine on the outside, at the same time it is unarguably a manufacturing facility – to the tune of more than 5,000 beds per week.
Upon entering I was promptly greeted and made to feel at home by Shane Harding, head of marketing at the company, who filled me in on how business has been going since Highgrove invested in the very site in which we were sitting.
“We moved to the new site more than a year ago now, bedding it in, and putting the necessary infrastructure in place. The previous site was about ten minutes from here in Gomersal. The move came at just the right time, and the company now has the benefit of not being land locked, allowing room for greater expansion as the business plans to double its turnover in the next 3-5 years.”
In fact, a new extension was already in progress during my visit, with the purpose of doubling the size of the distribution department. “The success of Highgrove,” continued Shane, “is all about the owners, founder Wazarat Ali and his son Saleem.”
Indeed, the business’s humble beginnings saw Mr Ali working from a small manufacturing unit with one truck and making just three kinds of mattresses, all using Bonnell springs. His small team focused on what they did best - making the mattresses, whilst he travelled around Manchester and Liverpool making sales and opening accounts.
With a keen eye for business Ali saw a gap in the market for producing higher quality, lower end products, driving costs down and efficiencies up. This is still the case some 16 years on, and he personally oversaw the redevelopment of the new site.
“Ali is realistic in terms of the way he looks at the business,” explained Shane. “He realized that businesses in this part of the world can have a certain perception attached. It was important to stand Highgrove out, and as the business has moved forward, it has become more about developing new products rather than copying what’s already out there”
In line with this philosophy, three distinctly different brands are now available and predominantly targeted at the independent retail sector. Established brand Highgrove is now totally pocket focused, creating a simplified ‘good,’ ‘better,’ ‘best’ story which can be easily understood by retail sales staff and consumers alike.
Recent addition, Sanctum, is a hand-tufted and side stitched luxury pocket specification aimed at the premium end of the market. Sanctum has recently attained the British Wool Platinum accreditation, with luxury Natural fillings, silk, mohair and cashmere are used throughout the range. Whilst base specifications have been upgraded to include enhanced storage. The brand is supported in-store by high impact in-store displays, which are available free of charge to stockists.
Also brand new for the company is the entry-level brand moresleep, which incorporates both Bonnell and Pocket specs, offering retailers value, choice and a seven-day delivery service. POS includes free branded footmats and pillows for appointed stockists.
But it’s not just the products that have benefitted from development, you may also have noticed something of a new look for the company’s website, which went live at the end of 2016.
It doesn’t stop there, as a new Appointed Partner Programme is shortly to be rolled out, offering wider benefits for independent retailers, such as new high impact in-store POS and Fastersleep express delivery service which allows the receipt of deliveries within 7 days of order.
Rise of the Machines
Having learned all about the new brands, it was time for my favourite part of the visit – the factory tour. And there was a lot of factory to tour! Again, I have to say that I was somewhat surprised just how tidy the facility was, considering all the activity that takes place there and the extension work being under way. I was able to see the plant and machinery - that was made possible thanks to a £2 million investment – in action, talk to some of the machinists and see the volume of components and materials held on site.
I asked Shane how the company had been dealing with the rise in raw materials prices in wake of the Brexit vote last year. “The family took the decision to invest heavily in stock,” he explained. “Perhaps it isn’t seen as the most fashionable thing to do, but not a bad idea considering we have witnessed significant raw material increases in recent months of up to 20% simply because of the drop in sterling value v the euro. Some of the larger players put their prices up in September and tactically others have to follow suit, but it is a tricky issue. In the next 12 months, manufacturers will have to become even more efficient, driving out complexity and re-engineering products in much the same way as they did during the recession years.”
As we came back to the meeting room and looked out of the glass doors in reception, it appeared to me that the weather had changed and the rain was coming down. “I told you Ali liked to be hands-on,” explained Shane. I paused for a moment, thinking I must have missed something, then looked again to see the man himself, busily getting involved in the jet washing of the outside reception area in a real time demonstration of the hands-on approach he takes to every aspect of the business.
It is clear that Ali enjoys what he does. “If I don’t like it, I won’t do it,” he said simply. “I like to challenge myself and I like competition. All horses can’t win the race. There has to be a number one, and I want that to be Highgrove.
“We’ve made a big investment in the business, our products, processes and people as well as the industry in which we operate, but now is the time to work even harder. What we do now will set us up for the next five years.”
We Mean Business
Saleem, who joined his father in the business in 2007, agreed with these sentiments: “Last year was a very challenging year for the business, moving site isn’t easy however we still increased market share with turnover up of more than 20%. For us, it was about getting settled in the new facility which houses more machinery than we’ve ever had before. Already the automated machinery has increased production and decreased lead times, so much so that we’ve also invested in a new fleet of 22 trucks, with another 10 in the pipeline. Our short-term plan is to more than double our business from where it is now, and the investments we have made will allow us to do that. Highgrove is here, full on and we mean business.”