23 May 2024, 23:36
By Victoria Noakes Aug 18, 2016

Peter Spinks, Harrison Spinks

Peter Spinks is the chairman of Harrison Spinks, one of the UK’s most established and innovative bedmakers. The fifth generation family business won the NBF’s Bed Manufacturer of the Year award at last year’s Bed Show, and has developed a reputation as a leader within the bed industry.

How did you enter the trade?
Making beds has been in the family for quite some time now but I wanted to do my own thing before joining the family business. After completing a Furniture Design course at Leeds College of Art, I joined Wilkinson and Warburton, which had just started selling beds and furniture. I absolutely loved it, I was a natural salesman but was always getting into trouble for only selling Harrison beds!

Some three years later my uncle offered me the opportunity to buy his share of the family business. I pulled in all my resources and worked hard over the next 10 years to finally pay him back. I spent the first six months working in every department to truly understand how the business worked from the bottom up, something which my son Simon did and my grandson Daniel is doing. Almost 50 years on and I’m extremely proud to have seen how the company has changed and evolved.

Who is your inspiration?
Tom Clarke, the founder of Silentnight. He learnt his trade from his wife who used to work for Harrison in the 1940s and taught him the art of making a quality bed. Tom started Silentnight from nothing and built an incredible empire and brand – a true inspiration to our industry.

What has been your career high point so far?
My career high point was definitely when Simon and I developed our patented Revolution spring. The spring-within-a-spring system meant we could not only create the most comfortable beds available but we absolutely blew the competition out of the water with our high spring counts.

... and low point?
I do wish that I delegated sooner to my son Simon. For such a long time tried to do everything and certainly burnt the candle at both ends.

... and the turning point?
When Simon took over the main day-to-day running of the business, he quite rightly wanted to put his mark on the business too – he instigated the relationship with one of our partners, John Lewis. The partnership really elevated our business and took us to the next level. This then inspired us to develop and grow our other mattress brands and as a result we have seen consistent growth year-on-year.

Describe a typical working day
I work full time on Tuesdays and Thursdays – after leaving home at 10.30am, I arrive at the office for about 11am. I check my emails, pay the electricity bill and chair the monthly board meetings before heading to The Greyhound on the way home for last orders at 3pm! I’m in a really fortunate position that after years of hard work I can still be involved in the business but not have the pressure of the day-to-day running of it.

If you had to start over, you’d probably pursue which career?
Beds have always been in my family so I haven’t really known anything else. I think, being a Spinks, I was always destined to work within the bed industry.

What date on the business calendar do you most look forward to?
I always look forward to the National Bed Federation Show in September. It’s a good opportunity to catch up with clients as well as having a beer and a chat with your peers in the industry. We also won the NBF’s Bed Manufacturer of the Year award for 2015-16 so we had extra celebrating to do this time around!

What is the most important issue affecting your business right now?
While we’re really fortunate to have fantastic and very loyal staff, as we grow, the need for new staff continues to increase. The industry as a whole is struggling with finding good people.

This is possibly as a result of manufacturing and craftsmanship not being as appealing to young people so there is a lack of new blood coming into the industry. It is the responsibility of the bed industry to keep this time-honoured practice going and encourage young people through apprenticeships and training schemes.

What company do you most look up to?
Completely unrelated to beds but I really admire Morgan Cars. I had the pleasure of visiting its factory a few years ago and was really inspired by the tradition and craftsmanship that still goes into making each and every car bespoke. There are a lot of similarities between Morgan Cars and Harrison Spinks; we both have a strong heritage and use time-honoured techniques to create innovative, bespoke products.

What would you most like to change about yourself?
I’m not sure what I would change but I know what I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t want anymore hair – I get an extra 10 minutes in bed nowadays!

What do you enjoy most about working in the trade?
For me it’s getting to meet and get to know some really interesting people. The NBF show in September in particular provides a great opportunity to network and understand where other people are coming from, which gives a whole new perspective on the industry.

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