Last May, Breasley Pillows’ mattress and bedding division was bought out of administration by Breasley (UK), saving 60 jobs and ensuring the brand’s continuity. The buyer – which also owns the UK arm of Chinese mattressmaking giant, Mlily – has invested in staff and facilities to ensure a bright future for the new business, explains business development manager Stewart Ritchie …
What happened to the business last year, and why was the decision made to acquire it?
Unfortunately, the old Breasley lost sight of its core customer base, as it focused on larger-volume projects but also failed to develop its catalogue products – which had previously been very original and commercial. Becoming complacent was its ultimate downfall.
The business was purchased with the belief that its historic reputation for innovation could be resurrected – and that the experience in the company could be utilised, giving more control to the management team and enabling it to make key decisions based on its skills and judgement.
It was important to streamline the business to make it more agile and better able to react to external factors, to operate a more cost-effective model by adjusting the sourcing of raw materials, and to oversee quality control, ensuring that we were confident with the quality of product made.
Has any additional investment been made?
We are in the process of extending our current production facilities – premises have been secured, and machinery is due for delivery in the near future. Further storage has been acquired to increase material access and finished goods stock, meaning quicker delivery times.
We have completed the full set-up of a second shift to double our production capabilities, and have increased our staff numbers by +20% – combined with the implementation of an internal restructuring programme to provide the best platforms for our team to drive the business forward.
There are further short- and medium-term plans to strengthen the manufacturing process and widen the product offering, pushing the boundaries but remaining strong in our areas of expertise.
What new products/directions can customers expect from Breasley this year?
Breasley has been a very successful business for a number of years, which was admired by the current ownership – but it is clear there was a reduction in innovation in recent times, so we’ve challenged ourselves to reignite passion in the products made at Breasley.
We are on the brink of unleashing all-new collections to the trade, which have been created using an engineered process of logical specifications – we’ve defined the differences in comfort levels through the ranges, adopting the latest technologies in foam production while, critically, focusing on the visuals to attract consumers.
From the entry models to the pinnacle of our upmarket collections, we’ve used the same thought process, and there are planned developments under way for the rest of the year. Our emphasis is on the products’ look as much as their comfort – we want them to stand out on shop floors, and to draw consumers.
Will you continue to make the ranges established by the previous owner?
As previously noted, we believe in innovation, and seek to push the boundaries in the marketplace – so we’ve reached out to our retail partners to explain the changes, and we plan to fully develop all the collections over the coming months to ensure we’re providing the most commercial offerings that we can to all retail outlets – while providing support through our marketing channels.
What can customers expect in terms of service and support?
I think it is fair and right to note at this stage that we’re aware of recent upsets that we’ve caused to many retailers – we’ve come through the business’ transition in the midst of Covid and Brexit, with the subsequent raw material shortages, shipping costs spiking, foam prices increasing +50% and retailers forced to close, all in a very short space of time.
I would like to take this opportunity to publish an apology, and to note that we’ve used the lockdown period to our advantage, by implementing new processes to ensure we’re able to exceed retailer expectations moving forward.
We have plans to amend our production set-up, so we will be producing for stock to reduce our lead times on mattresses, and this will allow us to better monitor demand, and more prepared to call on components more efficiently to replenish our own stock. Current operational changes will allow us to hold in excess of 3000 mattresses at any one time, spread across a wide commercial collection to suit all needs.
We are in the process of signing off on new PoS to maximise the visuals of the products in-store. It will emphasise the key selling points and differences across the ranges, giving clarity and enabling easily understood collections.
How do you plan to take your product to market this/next year?
We’re in the process of rolling out showvans to enable previews of the new collections that we’ll start to launch over the coming weeks. We have increased our showcasing on multiple social media platforms to generate interest, which will be supported by new websites that are currently in development (Breasley’s homepage will be updated shortly).
Recently, we’ve secured stands at upcoming trade shows – that I personally feel we all took for granted prior to Covid. I will be genuinely thrilled to be back in the atmosphere of a trade event, and look forward to presenting new ranges alongside a sales team who are fully on board with all of the developments and changes that have taken place in Breasley.
Are you ready for the potential challenges which could arise?
We’ve spent time building new relationships with suppliers – some old and many new – in an attempt to have a better insight into the shortages that face the industries we rely on as a buyer of materials.
Retailers rely on us to produce the product, but we need the materials from our suppliers, many of whom have had their own supply chain concerns. I think this past year has demonstrated how reliant we all are on each other, so we have prepared as much as possible, with investment into additional storage for materials and finished stock to cover ourselves for months of orders in advance.
It is a different challenge during lockdown, as a reduction in retail sales clearly means that we then face the issue of keeping production in operation. I’m proud to say that we’ve not had to furlough anyone in production since the end of the first lockdown, or had to lay staff off during the downturn, as we are passionate about the investment in the staff, and are ready to embrace the well-deserved busy periods that retailers and manufacturers strive for.
What are your personal thoughts on Breasley’s position and potential?
For me personally, Breasley has been a huge influence, as I saw the initial launch and success of roll-up mattresses when I was in retail, and recall seeing the buzz around the company at trade shows over years gone by.
It is great to be a part of a business that has been at the forefront of the industry, and I believe that, against healthy competition, we can push forward under the guidance of the new ownership to provide the best-value, stand-out mattresses, without losing sight of the core customer who put Breasley there in the first place.
This interview was published in the April 2021 issue of Furniture News magazine.