BEAUTIFUL business concepts can be created by chance encounters, especially if they take place in Last of the Summer Wine country.
Steve Adams got the idea for Mattress Online when he was having a relaxing break in Holmfirth, the West Yorkshire town which has become famous for the fictional exploits of Compo, Clegg and Foggy.
Mr Adams had been working in a number of sales and tech-related roles, but felt he wasn’t achieving his true potential.
“Then, when I was on holiday in Holmfirth, I found myself sitting next to my now ex-business partner who sold mattresses, an area I knew nothing about,’’ he recalled.
“He had an idea to sell mattresses online. He thought it would work. He knew where to source the product. I knew how to sell things online.
“We launched the website from my bedroom in 2003,” he recalled. “We took orders which were dispatched from a warehouse in Birmingham.
“We were one of the first retailers to do next-day delivery. There was no Amazon Prime in those days. Things just fell right for us and we felt we could do something different.”
From humble beginnings storing mattresses in a garage, Mr Adams has built a £34.5m turnover enterprise. He bought out his former business partner in 2019 and is now the sole shareholder and CEO of the Rotherham-based business.
Turnover has increased by more than 200 per cent in the last 12 months, as more people bought goods online during the pandemic and placed a premium on a good night’s sleep.
His calculated gamble has paid off magnificently and Mattress Online is now one of Britain’s fastest-growing companies.
He’s created an agile, cash-rich business with no bureaucracy which aims to buy a number of stores as part of a strategy to increase profits, while breathing new life into the high street.
“I believe entrepreneurs are born,” he said. “There is an element of risk, and a willingness to lose it all, in being an entrepreneur that not everyone feels comfortable with.”
The pandemic failed to halt the company’s rapid growth. Mr Adams and his 61-strong team have reeled in record-breaking figures.
He added: “In March 2020, when the first lockdown was announced, I did have our finance guy asking how long we could go before we ran out of money.
“We also had to consider how we segregated warehouse staff. We did have 15,000 mattresses in our warehouse at a time when many factories had closed which was a big boost for us. We have such a big stockpile because we never want to let our customers down and it’s hard to predict trends in sales.
“Our initial sales lift during the pandemic was due to the fact that all other bricks and mortar retail was shut,” he recalled. “We could also recycle customers’ mattresses and give them a new one.
“Habits have changed during the pandemic,’’ he said. “Customers of all generations are more comfortable about using the internet.
“My parents haven’t been back to the supermarket since the pandemic started, for example. There has been a mindshift everywhere.
“We have also opened up a relationship with other suppliers to provide beds in a box,” said Mr Adams.
“We have won the UK licence for Caspar, a 700m dollar company out in the US.”
Acquisitions of bricks and mortar are also part of his long-term strategy.
Mr Adams said: “There are still many consumers with the traditional mindset of wanting to lie on a mattress, and I want to give them that opportunity in an environment that’s less pressurised and more comfortable than the typical formulaic national retail chains.
“It will help to open up relationships with suppliers we don’t have at the moment.
“It’s a very profitable way to safely grow the business. It’s a sound bet and we know the types of shops we want to buy. They will not be massive out-of-town shops.
“They will be good quality independent stores and will continue to do what they have always done with a better supply chain.
“I would love to acquire about 10 over the next five to six years which should bring in between £800,000 to £1m a year each.
“It’s a win win,” he added. “We also want to appear in Google local searches. I feel high street retail is going to change, and not for the better.
“It will be much harder for the high street to compete and we want to help keep the independent high street alive. There will be a trend for more experiential shopping at a time when Amazon seems to be taking over the world.”
Customers can also slumber safely, knowing that Mr Adams has tried every mattress.
He added: “There is a new trend for customisable beds with temperature controls as health and wellbeing becomes more important. Getting a good night’s sleep is the key to living a healthy life.
“I have three sleep trackers at night with data points to assess the quality of my sleep.
“We all sleep in 90-minute cycles, and I have an alarm system which mimics sunrise, so I am getting out of bed with the right mindset.
“We are also looking to buy another website in our field. Getting the funding to buy out my former business partner has opened my eyes to our ability to grow.”
Steve Adams co-founded Mattress Online in 2003 and bought out his former business partner in 2019. He is now the sole shareholder and CEO.
He manages the company day to day, supported by a senior team.
Mattress Online is growing rapidly but Mr Adams maintains a hands-on approach at the Rotherham headquarters.
During the pandemic, he has safeguarded jobs and created new roles across the company in departments including marketing, customer service, finance, warehouse and logistics.
He plans to mix online sales with a bricks and mortar offering. He’s got a shop acquisition strategy which should help to provide a sustainable future for the region’s high streets.
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