19 June 2024, 12:45
By Furniture News Oct 21, 2016

Richard Naylor, Steinhoff UK Bedding Group

Richard Naylor is the marketing, design and development director for Steinhoff UK Bedding GroupThe Steinhoff Bedding Group consists of two manufacturing sites in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire and Wellington, Somerset, and produces white label mattresses, divans, headboards and pillows as well as products under the Dunlopillo, Myer’s, Relyon, Slumberland and Staples brands.

How did you enter the trade?
I entered the bed trade in 2004, when I was approached by Chris Tattersall, the then sales director, to join Relyon. I had been working for Kesterport for three years and had developed a good knowledge of the overall furniture trade through them, and this was a good career step for me.

Who was your inspiration?
Definitely my father, John. He pushed me hard and made me understand that hard work always gives you results. He was a farmer and intentionally had me working in the fields from an early age to teach me the values of a hard day’s graft. His life mantra was “work hard and play hard”, which I fully subscribe to now.

What was your career high point?
It has to be either meeting HM Queen Elizabeth II or winning the 2012 Olympic Village mattress contract, which was the largest single order and delivery contract for beds and mattresses in UK history. To be honest, I have been privileged to be involved in a number of high points, but the latter two really stick out for me because they are events which are unlikely to happen again.

… and low point?
I am not going to pull any punches here. It was definitely working for Hilding Anders when they owned Horatio Myer’s & Co. I have never experienced such a disjointed company – they were clueless on their direction and understanding of the UK bedding market.

… and the turning point?
I would argue that when I was asked to join the Steinhoff team as a director was a turning point because of the sheer enormity of the role. These types of roles within our industry are few and far between, and I genuinely feel excited on a daily basis about the potential that our business has and the part my role plays in shaping our future success.

Describe a typical working day
Honestly, every day is different, as new opportunities are presented to me frequently by our commercial teams – but I do get up every day thinking ‘I love my job’. No two days are ever the same, particularly as I work across multiple manufacturing sites with differing brands and a host of different product types.

I am really geeky about sleep comfort, and particularly enjoy discovering new technologies and developing the marketing assets around them.

If you had to start over, you’d probably pursue which career?
I was lucky enough to enjoy a rugby career which saw me represent my country and play for the Leicester Tigers amongst achieving other honours.

If I could pursue another career away from beds, it would definitely be as a professional rugby player in the modern era. Rugby is a great team game that is very competitive, and I admire the complete dedication the players have. I am still pals with an ex-Tigers player who is now the head performance analyst for the New Zealand All Blacks, and you would not believe the level of professional discipline they employ.

What date on the business calendar do you most look forward to?
Without sounding too cliché, I think all business days are important as we are all trying to grow our companies within a very competitive marketplace.  However, I did very much enjoy the Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers’ Big Shots clay pigeon event this year, where I won best novice gun. And of course, I very much look forward to the NBF Bed Show in September – who doesn’t?!

What is the most important issue affecting your business right now?
It has to be Brexit and the effect it has had on the strength of the pound compared to other currencies – in particular, the strength of the dollar on our suppliers’ raw material prices.

For example, almost all tick manufacturers buy their yarns in dollars, and because the dollar has strengthened against both the pound and euro, it makes the cost of producing tick more costly. Consequently, we have had to change our buying strategy to help mitigate the effect of volatile currency markets. This, and market confidence, will be the biggest challenge for our industry pre and post Brexit.

What company do you most look up to?
I have always loved Apple, but then again who doesn’t? I also like to keep abreast of what Lego are doing because they are so very good at what they do.

I also take a keen interest in marketing campaigns that are outside of our industry because it helps keep my thinking fresh. I particularly liked the Dollar Shave Club campaign on social media, which was really effective at building their brand. It clearly worked because they have just sold to Unilever for $1b!

What would you most like to change about yourself?
I suffered a few injuries playing rugby and have had surgery as a consequence. If I could change anything, it would be to make those injuries disappear, as I still love playing sport and competing and have recently taken up paragliding and road cycling – which are both challenging when your body is not 100%.

What do you enjoy most about working in the trade?
I think we are lucky to work in such an interesting area of business, and I am grateful to Steinhoff for understanding the opportunities that remain within our sector. Their investment in innovation, research and development surrounding sleep will be considerable over the coming years, and this is a very enjoyable process to be part of.

Leave us with an industry anecdote or a few words of wisdom please!
Well I do have a few stories, but I am pretty sure they are not for public consumption. I do like the saying ‘find opportunity in every room’, and as such I always try to maximise commercial activities for our business whenever I can.

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