29 May 2024, 12:16
By Furniture News Aug 08, 2018

Sweet Dreams hits 30-year mark

From a small bed factory on Burnley’s New Hall Street to a manufacturing enterprise turning over £21m, Sweet Dreams has come a long way in the last 30 years. In a story of evolution, investment and family values across three decades, Paul Farley celebrates the humble bed brand’s anniversary …

“Their knowledge and experience of the bed industry is second to none. They’re also very flexible and reliable, which is a real strength in our trading partnership.”

That’s a quote from Jo-Anne Fortune, bed buyer at Shop Direct, a 10-year business partner of Sweet Dreams and just one of a stockist roster featuring the likes of Next, DFS, Bensons and Dunelm, plus over 900 independent accounts, including 65 AIS members.

British manufacture, fast lead times and solid construction combine to make Sweet Dreams a tempting value proposition for any retailer looking for strong lines, reliable service and good margins.

And although the company’s bread and butter is its expansive bed offer – which comprises eight divan collections (over 70 models) plus adjustable, children’s and contract beds, bed frames and sofabeds – it also supplies an extensive range of cabinet furniture and upholstery. And, aside from its exclusive online range, Eden, all of these products are available only to bricks-and-mortar retailers.

Joining the portfolio this month is the Anniversary collection – a range of four divans which offer a mix of traditional and pocket springs, microquilted panels, damask ,and several colour and filling choices. 

The collection is the pinnacle of three decades of expertise in keenly priced luxury sleep products, and will be launched at the NBF Bed Show this month. To mark the occasion, Sweet Dreams will even be giving selected models away to stockists in a monthly prize draw.

A proudly British business, Sweet Dreams manufactures the bulk of its products in its Burnley factories. During peak periods, these facilities turn out some 3000 divans, 4000 mattresses and 1500 headboards each week, and this prodigious output means the company is able to promise rapid fulfilment. Its made-to-order lines can be deployed in 10 working days, and stocked items in just 3-5, while a DHD option is also available.

Despite two major fires hindering progress, and the rise and fall of its sister brand, Comfort Zone Sofas,  the company has steadily expanded and refined its manufacturing footprint in Burnley over the years to become one of the area’s most valued employers. 

Perhaps the most notable development in the company’s history was the purchase of land adjoining its Primrose Mill building in 2011, to which it added a £3m extension to increase its production and storage capacity, and introduce a showroom, in 2013.

Re-investment is a recurring theme at Sweet Dreams. In its last financial year alone, investment in premises, machinery and vehicles amounted to more than £875,000, proving that the company is certainly here for the long term – as its key personnel can attest.

Sweet Dreams is a family business at heart. Founder and MD Riaz Ahmed, an unassuming yet ambitious entrepreneur, oversees an operation that now employs three generations of family members – Riaz himself, his three sons Majid (manufacturing director), Adnan (operations director) and Imran (accounts manager), and grandson Jamal, who has embarked on a two-year training programme at the company.

Majid, who started working at Sweet Dreams at the age of 16, says: “I was the first of the siblings to come into the business, and this is my 26th year (I feel really old when I say that!). I’ve done more or less every job going – from loading and unloading and machine operating to work in all office areas. And it’s great that my son Jamal has come on board – we are following a similar route.”

Perhaps its best-known staffer, general manager Jackie McGarvey, joined Sweet Dreams in 1993, after working in sales for Repose Bedding and Elite Bedding. Over the years, Jackie’s commercial nous, determination and warmth have won her respect from the company’s staff and the industry in general.

“When I first joined, Majid had just left school and started work at his father’s company,” says Jackie. “The other children would come in through the summer holidays, and it has been a pleasure to see them grow into the people they are today. Riaz and his sons have always made me feel part of the family.”

As well as her wider team, Jackie is ably supported by sales manager Nick Williams, who came on board in 2013, and has helped generate considerable growth since. “It’s always a team enterprise,” he says, “and having the best people and the right products have enabled us to grow significantly over these last few years.”

No list of Sweet Dreams’ dramatis personae would be complete without Stephen Boyd, the company’s highly capable general manager from 1995-2004, who passed away in 2014. Stephen described his time with Sweet Dreams as “the most enjoyable part” of his career.

Today, Sweet Dreams strives to bring its stockists a product line that encapsulates the extensive expertise and passion behind the business. A notable success in recent years is its Well Being collection, which was designed to meet today’s demand for health-promoting, lifestyle-oriented models, and has proved a real winner for the company. Take the Aloe Soothe 2000 model, for example – launched in September 2017, this model alone has generated an impressive £206,000 in sales to June this year.

Having supplied everything from cane sofabeds to fabric upholstery over the years, there are few product areas Sweet Dreams hasn’t been brave enough to tackle, and the vast majority of its launches have gone on to become prominent lines across the nation’s retailers.

There’s no sign of the company’s ambition slowing, either – Sweet Dreams’ stockists have come to expect a steady flow of new designs, backed up by credible quality guarantees and good levels of service.

Given its unstoppable evolution and family-led DNA, that the company has achieved such impressive growth over the last three decades is no surprise – most would bet on there being at least three decades more in Burnley’s beloved bed expert.

Read more about Sweet Dreams' history in the September issue of Furniture News magazine, coming soon.

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