HSL Chairs to double store network

Chris Hudson, chief executive, HSL Chairs

Chris Hudson, chief executive, HSL Chairs

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Specialist furniture manufacturer HSL Chairs is set to grow to more than 100 stores within the next three years.

The Dewsbury-based manufacturer and retailer has grown from 11 stores in 2011 to its current 47 stores.

Since 2014, HSL has added one store per month to its network. This is set to grow to two stores per month from October onwards.

The group’s turnover rose 37 per cent to £35.9m in 2014, following a 28 per cent rise to £26.1m in 2013.

As well as growing new business, HSL said its like-for-like sales had continued to grow through the expansion.

HSL chief executive Chris Hudson told The Yorkshire Post that the growth of its retail network is part of an ambitious strategy to grow the 47-year-old company through good customer service.

He said: “The heritage of the business was in mail order, so the catalogue was very important to us.

“Six years ago, we were probably doing more than 50 per cent of business by mail order. Now it’s more than 95 per cent retail.

“The reason for that is you shouldn’t buy a chair without trying it first.”

HSL products are designed for older people and those with physical needs, such as arthritis or injuries.

Its range of around 40 products - which includes chairs, sofas and beds - offers a variety of features, such as recliner and riser functions, as well as “comfort” options.

Most chairs come in four different sizes to ensure users are properly supported.

Currently, HSL’s non-retail sales are taken through mail order telephone services. The company does not offer online sales through its website.

“You might say there’s a demand for that, but it doesn’t go with our vision,” Mr Hudson said.

The company’s vision is to “change people’s lives”, he said.

“Everything we do strategically as a business, we ask ourselves whether that will help that aim. That’s everything from product development, to store location, or to a new business initiative.”

HSL’s products enable people to retain independence through comfort and safety, he added.

Due to the accessibility needs of many of the company’s customers, finding the right properties for expansion can be a challenge.

HSL sources single storey buildings with on-site parking and a location that fits its demographic profile.

It then uses an in-house team for its shop fitout.

Mr Hudson said: “Since we’ve been tasked with delivering a store a month, we’ve never failed.

“The store acquisition is a challenge, but you’ve just got to work really hard.”

The firm recently launched a home consultations service to complement its store network, following feedback from customers and occupational health workers.

HSL staff take products to homes of customers who struggle to get to a store, to ensure customers can try out the furniture before making a decision.

The breadth of the store network means HSL can offer this without adding a premium to the products, Mr Hudson said.

The service, which was initially rolled out in Yorkshire, Lancashire Lincolnshire and the North East, will go nationwide from September.

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HSL was founded in 1968 by Jeffrey Burrows. The second-generation business is now owned by son William Burrows, who serves as non-executive director at HSL.

Chris Hudson joined the board as property acquisitions and marketing director in May 2013 as the business focused on expansion.

He was appointed managing director in August 2014, before becoming chief executive in February 2015.

Mr Hudson said that the company, which also manufactures 50 per cent of its products at its Batley headquarters, is focused on progressing to the “next stage of corporate environment”.

He said: “The ambition is to grow in a very planned fashion.”

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