An export-led recovery gives great comfort

Hypnos woke up to the highly successful idea of developing a new international presence



By Michael Cape

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As a British family-run bed making company, Hypnos – named after the Greek God of sleep – has been established in in the UK since the Edwardian era.

Yet it is only in the last few years that it has become a brand leader in the highly competitive sector by successfully raising its corporate profile both at home and abroad.

Some six years ago, its annual turnover was £20m with some £500,000 in exports. Today those figures have shot up to more than £60m of which £5 million comes from overseas sales, with its main markets abroad being the USA, the UAE and Europe.

Exports now figure prominently in the Hypnos business plan with overseas sales projected to reach the £20m mark in the next five years.

And it is due to its ongoing export success that the 100 year old company has received its most important accolade to date – the Queen’s Award. It previously received the Royal Warrant back in the 1920s which it retains to this day after five yearly reviews, and has been named Bed Manufacturer of the Year twice in the past six years by the National Bed Federation.

Yet like many UK companies back at the start of the Millennium, Hypnos was finding that trading was heavy going.

Stephen Ward (above) turned Hypnos from a company that was reactive into a pro-active one
Stephen Ward (above) turned Hypnos from a company that was reactive into a pro-active one

That’s when they appointed Stephen Ward, whose career had spanned 30 years in boosting the profits of manufacturing firms as group managing director.

That was the start of an “export led recovery” plan for Hypnos which at the time was described as “surviving not thriving.”

What Stephen Ward found on his arrival was a firm that was reactive not proactive on the export front. “If someone rang up they would sell them something,” he recalls. “It became increasingly clear to us that export was important and that meant focusing resource on developing our international footprint.”

The first two years saw Hypnos modify its “thinking process”, which resulted in two courses of action – the first was to retain the obvious credentials the company had built up over the years (the quality, the traditional skills, the use of natural materials) and secondly to modify the offering to suit different parts of the world.

The modification process saw it significantly extend its range to seek to cater for the complicated range of personal reasons that people want to buy a bed.

That’s why the Hypnos offering now includes 20 different mattress types, seven divans, 12 headboards and 53 fabrics. Hypnos also played the green card by emphasising that its beds are carbon neutral with all its components recyclable.

And it started to take notice of the demands of different overseas cultures – the Americans, for example, do not like turning mattresses, so Hypnos has provided a “single sided mattress” range for that market.

All this has gone down well overseas with Hypnos also making significant advances through sales to high-end global hotel chains.

“When I arrived Hypnos was in Division Four,” says Stephen Ward, using a football analogy. “Now we are in the Premier League and the Queen’s Award is equivalent to us going into Europe and winning the Champions League.