Yorkshire woodland acquisition to help bed-maker branch out

Leeds-based bed company Harrison Spinks is continuing its quest for sustainability by investing in 56 acres of North Yorkshire woodland from which it will harvest timber for use in the manufacture of its custom built beds. Picture shows: Alison Batty from Clarion's property team with Simon Spinks, managing director of Harrison Spinks Beds

Leeds-based bed company Harrison Spinks is continuing its quest for sustainability by investing in 56 acres of North Yorkshire woodland from which it will harvest timber for use in the manufacture of its custom built beds. Picture shows: Alison Batty from Clarion's property team with Simon Spinks, managing director of Harrison Spinks Beds

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bed-maker Harrison Spinks has bought a forest in Yorkshire to produce wood for its frames in the latest stage of its mission to create locally sourced products.

The family-owned business plans to use the 50-acre wood to provide raw material for its upmarket Spink & Edgar range.

The move follows the £3m acquisition of a Yorkshire farm, which it bought in 2009 to supply wool for its mattress fillings.

“Doing the same thing with wood was the natural thing to do,” said Simon Spinks, the managing director.

“The timber for our bed frames comes from Scandinavia and Russia, but we are driven now by a want and need to get locally sourced products wherever possible.”

The company bought two plots of woodland near York from the Government. The forests include Corsican pine and spruce trees. The company plans to incorporate the wood in its frames from next year.

Mr Spinks plans to manage the wood in a sustainable way and introduce a replanting project, according to guidelines set out by the Forest Stewardship Council.

He said the acquisition proved it was possible for manufacturers to source raw materials locally. He added: “The other important thing is it does not push the cost up much at all.”

The company also hopes to use wood chippings – byproducts from the manufacturing process – to heat its factories.

Harrison Spinks sells beds ranging from £900 to £15,000 and supplies the top 20 per cent of the bed market, which is dominated by UK manufacturers. Its customers include John Lewis and Barker and Stonehouse.

The company produces 57,000 mattresses a year from its two factories in Leeds, driving sales of £25m. Its biggest sellers are in the £1,000 to £5,000 range.

Mr Spinks said the company will soon start looking to overseas markets for its products.

He said: “We see a future for us in export, which will be in the next year or two. We will start from mainland Europe and take it from there. We have good contacts in America.”

He said he would consider opportunities in China, which has a huge demand for luxury goods.

Mr Spinks said innovation and investment have driven the success of the company. It has invested £4m in the last two years, he said.

Harrison Spinks was looking for a new site to help further expansion, he added.

Mr Spinks also pointed to the company’s innovative components business, describing himself as a “bit of a garden shed inventor”.

He said: “Most bed manufacturers don’t make their own springs and certainly don’t grow their own fillings.

“We even built our own spring machines, which have patented technology. Our components business might take us beyond beds [into new markets].”

Harrisons Spinks can trace its history back to 1840. Mr Spinks said his family has been involved with the firm for the last four generations. His father Peter, 67, the chairman, bought the business from his uncle, he added.

Mr Spinks, 41, joined the family firm when he was 19, although he had worked in factory during school holidays from the age of 11.

He said the business had a very simple ownership structure with no outside equity which allowed for a straight-forward decision-making process.

“That’s why we meet in the corridor and decide to buy a farm,” he said. “That’s why we are successful. We are able to make bold decisions and we are able to make them work.”

He added: “Over the years there have been testing times when I was a bit younger.

“I can’t work out if I’m getting more like him or he’s mellowing out. We don’t disagree on the big stuff and have healthy debates on everything else.”

Mr Spinks said he valued his father’s experience of having dealt with previous recessions.

He said the trading environment had been tough in the last two months, with consumers holding back for promotions, but the company continued to outperform its market.

Law firm Clarion advised on the forest acquisition. Alison Batty, a senior associate, said: “Having acted on behalf of Harrison Spinks during the purchase of the farm two years ago, it’s great to be part of the next stage of the firm’s innovative plans and to see them being embraced by green consumers.

“The strategy is now being taken further with the use of local woodland.”

bernard.ginns@ypn.co.uk

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