Design Insider is excited to bring you a Q&A with Andrew Thorpe, the Contracts & Export Director at Sleepeezee. This Q&A is part of our MADE Campaign, focusing on the topic of export, supply chain & products, Brexit and customer expectations.
Please introduce yourself and your role at Sleepeeze?
My name is Andrew Thorpe. I am Divisional Contracts & Export Director at Sleepeezee. My roots within Sleepeezee are in the contract sector. I began working here for the first time in autumn 2009 and my initial focus was on marketing in conjunction with sales to the hospitality industry. At the time, Sleepeezee had already been active in the sector for several decades, so the brand was well established there. The progress since then has been strong via a number of different routes to market and we’re very proud to work in long-term partnerships with several different industry categories, including international hotel brands, nationally active hotel groups, independent and boutique hoteliers.
I am now over four years into my second tenure with the business. Since autumn 2018, my responsibilities have included an active involvement in Sleepeezee’s export business development – we are pleased with the progress the company is making in this area, which has a very bright future.
Tell us a little bit about Sleepeezee from a company perspective…
Sleepeezee has been manufacturing mattresses and divan bases since 1924, a well established brand with high consumer recognition. It’s worth noting that we cover a wide range of price points in the industry; we are predominantly active in the mid-market to luxury segments.
Sleepeezee is proud to hold a Royal Warrant from HRH The Prince of Wales, originally granted in 1985. Royal Warrants are regarded as a sign of the best in British design and are only granted to those who demonstrate the highest standards of excellence, quality and service with responsible management and production techniques.
Our focus is on pocketed sprung beds and mattresses – this includes traditional pocket spring units as well as fibre- and foam-encapsulated pocketed spring systems in combination with a wide spectrum of fillings, including natural materials as well as various comfort fibre and foam types.
Our proposition is extremely versatile from the range of upholstery fabrics that we offer in the context of our headboards and divan bases to our various mattress ranges, our products are designed to suit a very wide range of tastes in terms of preferred comfort and support/ firmness levels, as well as a broad spectrum of interior decor styles.
Sustainability is at the forefront of Sleepeezee’s philosophy, from the earliest stages of our product development processes onwards, including careful consideration of design for sustainability principles, use of ethically sourced natural materials and forward-thinking manufacturing processes.
There is a big focus on Sleepeezee products being UK made, do you export your UK manufactured products? Tell us a little bit more about this?
Our export range is a high-end, premium proposition, which combines very traditional mattress hand-craft incl. hand side stitching and hand-tufting, along with the finest natural materials incl. mohair, cashmere, silk, British wool and Talalay latex, combined with thousands of individually pocketed springs for a deep, luxurious and sumptuous comfort and support. These are combined with pocketed sprung base options with or without drawer storage as well as a selection of attractive headboard designs and a wide range of upholstery fabric options to suit all tastes and interior decor styles.
The export business requires a long-term commitment to pursue opportunities, as well as a solid infrastructure to support its development. We have forged some strong relationships with highly valued clients in many locations throughout the world. We have been working on our export project for several years and are now just starting to see some of the real potential.
Would you like to comment on the impact of Brexit on exporting your products?
Brexit provides us with additional business opportunities, e.g. scope to trade more freely around the globe and the recent Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council (CWEIC) online event arranged by the Royal Warrant Holders’ Association certainly brought some of those opportunities into sharp focus. I think it’s important to be open about this – there has admittedly been some added complexity in customs-related processes and communication during the first few weeks after the transition period ended, but we are in this for the long-term and are excited about the opportunities ahead of us.
Do you find that this is a similar opinion across your industry at the minute? Do you think a lot of mattress or bed companies would share the same perspective as you?
It’s difficult for me to comment about the competitive environment as I have heard very little to date from within the industry, whether on or off the record. In all honesty, we’ve been very focused over the first few weeks just in terms of managing some of the challenges. I think that when you have a trade agreement and related new export business guidelines, the sum total of which amount to thousands of pages, it’s inevitably going to take time to adapt to the new ways of working.
It’s important to be philosophical about these things and think long term – the predominant feeling is one of excitement about the opportunities ahead of us.
What does the future look like for Sleepeezee export? Are there any particular markets that are in focus currently?
The recent CWEIC event certainly opened up our eyes to several additional opportunities. We’ve worked very closely with our group’s sales organisations in the Benelux region as well as Germany, Austria and Switzerland. These are key locations, in which we’ve been involved the longest in terms of our export business development.
We have developed partnerships in some fantastic locations and established productive distribution partnerships in several countries including Russia and Ukraine, Greece, Italy, Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland, Serbia, UAE and South Korea and have several new market launches in the pipeline.
Our next points of focus are towards the East as well as the Americas in the medium-term. Different product standards and norms in certain markets can take time to understand and work through from a development perspective.
It’s taken some time to get to where we are currently; within the next five to ten years, we have some wonderful opportunities to capitalize upon.
You’re renowned for having a very loyal and established customer base. Why do you think this is and why do you feel that your customers stick with Sleepeezee?
We’re privileged to have a loyal customer base because the Sleepeezee brand and company is trustworthy and reliable. We do what we say we’re going to do; have the integrity to stick to our commitments and keep our promises. I believe that one of the Sleepeezee business’ distinctive qualities is the way our teams truly work in partnership with our customers, delivering quality products that are hand-made with care and offer excellent value in the market-place.
We also offer a full range of services to our clients – for example, the ‘old’ bed removal service we offer ensures that the materials are repurposed at the end of the product life cycle, working in partnership with recycling organisations. It’s all part of the proposition, which we will continue to develop and refine. Sustainable development is a key focus for Sleepeezee – we aim to grow our business, whilst at the same time having a positive impact on the planet and thinking about the next generations at all times.
What should your customers expect when they partner with Sleepeezee?
Clear and effective communication is very important. Sleepeezee has been around for 96 years and there really is no substitute for experience. We are well prepared and can anticipate the challenges our customers face then help to find solutions; we can support them with selling propositions in conjunction with key features and benefits. We are therefore good communicators with our customers to support their sales of our products, whether this is in partnership with our customers’ retail stores (bricks & mortar as well as online) or making a positive contribution to the guest’s sleep experience in the hotel room.
We stand by our products with our guarantee and great customer service so that our clients can always be confident in offering the excellent comfort, support and great sleep experience that Sleepeezee delivers for the years to come.
Contact Sleepeezee through the BCFA Product Finder.
The BCFA Product Finder is designed to find BCFA member companies and their products and services. There are four ways of searching either by product sector, market sector, company name by A-Z, or use the product search and enter the product or service name e.g. seating, to find companies offering seating and its variants.