Aspire Furniture

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Aspire Furniture's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Aspire Furniture is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

www.aspire-furniture.co.uk

THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
18 | ASPIRE FURNITURE
Managing Director PaulMurphy
Aspire’s head office
and showroom
Aspire Furniture, based in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, is a
manufacturer and distributor of beds and mattresses.
Managing Director Paul Murphy explains that Aspire
serves the growing online retail market. Paul says Aspire’s
market segment still enjoys rapid growth year-on-year, despite
the challenges the retail sector continues to face. Paul explains
the firm’s history and discusses his team’s ambitious plans for
further growth.
Retail is changing. Since we started our business from humble beginnings in 2013,
several retail giants have encountered serious problems. Rising costs fuelled by a
weaker pound, increases in minimum wage and business rates hikes coupled with
a squeeze on disposable incomes, have created a perfect storm putting pressure on
retailers from small corner shops to great institutions steeped in heritage. Not all
of retail is contracting. UK online sales have almost doubled from when we started
our business to today and the trend is set to continue for many years.
The e-commerce revolution has meant retailers can now offer consumers a much
wider range of products. The bed and mattress market in the UK is worth in excess
of £2 billion at retail so it’s no surprise many retailers want a piece of the action.
Beds and mattresses are bulky, awkward and hard to deliver, proving a challenge
as consumers expect fast delivery anywhere in the country. This is coupled with the
fact that there are so many colour options, storage options and sizes, it makes it
difficult for a retailer to manage stock. By answering these questions for retailers,
Aspire has gone from a mere £80,000 turnover in it’s first year of trading in 2013-
2014, to expected revenues of £12 million in 2018-2019.
FACTS ABOUT
ASPIRE FURNITURE
»Managing Director:
PaulMurphy
»Founded in 2013
»Located in Barnsley
»Services: Manufacture and
distribution of beds and
mattresses
»No. of employees: 41
Aspire Furniture
19ASPIRE FURNITURE |
INDUSTRY & PRODUCTION
Sleep easy
We are privately owned and pride
ourselves on the fact we have built
this high growth company through
sheer hard work and prudent financial
management. In 2013 the company
was just me working from my dining
room table. I worked with other UK
manufacturers to develop products
specially designed for online retail,
and while things took a while to get
going, soon enough we were making
sales. In 2014 my business partner
Kit Burgoyne left his job and joined
the business full-time and we moved
the office up to the spare bedroom
in what would prove to be the first of
a number of premises moves in the
subsequentyears.
The company began to grow rapidly
and soon we had six staff working
from the two spare bedrooms in
the house. We had a sales target
of £40,000 a week and when we
achieved this, our operations director,
Ben Dobson, would cook T-bone
steaks for lunch. The business was
becoming successful, but the level
of growth meant our cashflow was
constantly under pressure.
Corporation tax was a particularly sore
point at this stage of the company’s
growth. We were making profits and
the balance sheet was growing, but
it was all tied up in stock and debtors
meaning we had little cash at bank.
Rest assured
We overcame the financial pressure
by working extremely long hours,
taking the minimum we could out of
the business to survive, and running
the business from my home to keep
costs as low as possible. I would like to
thank all the staff from the early days
who were unquestionably overworked
and underpaid, but their dedication
and determination has got us to where
we are today. I am also proud that
every one of those people remains
with us today.
With time we became financially stable
while maintaining the aggressive
growth, ultimately moving into unit 7
of Norton Thorpe mills, a small 1500
square foot unit we affectionately
named Shed 7. This heralded in
the beginning of our journey into
manufacturing ourselves. We learned
how to make basic products in this
compact unit and in 2016 we acquired
a 10,000 square foot unit and start
manufacturing properly. Today we
have 34,000 square feet of space,
around 40 employees, supply several
high-profile retailers and sell over 2000
units a week.
As the business progresses, we
continue to invest and develop our
products and services with ecommerce
constantly in mind. Adopting systems
automation, producing the best online
marketing materials, leveraging data
analysis and constantly improving
packaging and logistics to give
retailers a best in class solution. We
are expanding our product range as
key customer’s encourage us to enter
new categories so our solutions can
Beds in the latest on-
trend fabrics
As the business
progresses, we
continue to
invest and
develop our
products and
services with
ecommerce
constantly
inmind
BEST PRACTICE SPONSOR 2020
19ASPIRE FURNITURE |
INDUSTRY & PRODUCTION
Sleep easy
We are privately owned and pride
ourselves on the fact we have built
this high growth company through
sheer hard work and prudent financial
management. In 2013 the company
was just me working from my dining
room table. I worked with other UK
manufacturers to develop products
specially designed for online retail,
and while things took a while to get
going, soon enough we were making
sales. In 2014 my business partner
Kit Burgoyne left his job and joined
the business full-time and we moved
the office up to the spare bedroom
in what would prove to be the first of
a number of premises moves in the
subsequentyears.
The company began to grow rapidly
and soon we had six staff working
from the two spare bedrooms in
the house. We had a sales target
of £40,000 a week and when we
achieved this, our operations director,
Ben Dobson, would cook T-bone
steaks for lunch. The business was
becoming successful, but the level
of growth meant our cashflow was
constantly under pressure.
Corporation tax was a particularly sore
point at this stage of the company’s
growth. We were making profits and
the balance sheet was growing, but
it was all tied up in stock and debtors
meaning we had little cash at bank.
Rest assured
We overcame the financial pressure
by working extremely long hours,
taking the minimum we could out of
the business to survive, and running
the business from my home to keep
costs as low as possible. I would like to
thank all the staff from the early days
who were unquestionably overworked
and underpaid, but their dedication
and determination has got us to where
we are today. I am also proud that
every one of those people remains
with us today.
With time we became financially stable
while maintaining the aggressive
growth, ultimately moving into unit 7
of Norton Thorpe mills, a small 1500
square foot unit we affectionately
named Shed 7. This heralded in
the beginning of our journey into
manufacturing ourselves. We learned
how to make basic products in this
compact unit and in 2016 we acquired
a 10,000 square foot unit and start
manufacturing properly. Today we
have 34,000 square feet of space,
around 40 employees, supply several
high-profile retailers and sell over 2000
units a week.
As the business progresses, we
continue to invest and develop our
products and services with ecommerce
constantly in mind. Adopting systems
automation, producing the best online
marketing materials, leveraging data
analysis and constantly improving
packaging and logistics to give
retailers a best in class solution. We
are expanding our product range as
key customer’s encourage us to enter
new categories so our solutions can
Beds in the latest on-
trend fabrics
As the business
progresses, we
continue to
invest and
develop our
products and
services with
ecommerce
constantly
inmind
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
20 | ASPIRE FURNITURE
be applied to new product types.
TheUKcustomer base continues to
expand and growth of our business
in the UK is set to continue at a rapid
rate, but it was events in 2019 that
present our biggest opportunities.
Barnsley to Vegas
We use a different type of foam to
the rest of Europe which means our
mattresses come with a significantly
higher cost than European
manufacturers. In this regard I would
urge the government to think carefully
when introducing new regulations
as misaligned legislation can cripple
export opportunities for the UK.
Despite our struggles to break into the
European market several factors have
fallen in our favour creating a huge
opportunity in the USmarket.
One of our key customer’s is a US
company. The US, China trade war
and anti-dumping legislation has had
a substantial impact on the US bed
and mattress market. The US mattress
market is worth in excess of $30
billion and growing. Only $7 billion is
manufactured domestically with the
rest imported, mostly from China. We
headed to Las Vegas to visit a trade
show to understand the differences
between UK and US products, when
our customer heard we were doing this
they quickly arranged a meeting with
the US buying team, having expressed
a desire for us to supply them in the
US as well as the UK.
Our trip to the US made us realise
that there is a great deal of
positive sentiment towards British
manufactured products in the States
and the opportunity in front of us is
both substantial and achievable. We
plan to supply our first customer in
early 2020 and to expand into other
US customers throughout the year.
The solutions we have developed for
the UK market can also be applied to
the US and with time we can provide
a best in class solution there as well as
here. We believe that our US division
will ultimately become substantially
larger than the UK. For us, successfully
negotiating a UK-US free trade deal
would be fantastic and enable us to
invest in the future with confidence.
For us,
successfully
negotiating a
UK-US free
trade deal
would be
fantastic and
enable us to
invest in the
future with
confidence
Hundreds of beds
upholstered every week
Top upholsterer Sam Wilcock
handcrafting a bed

www.aspire-furniture.co.uk

This article was sponsored by Aspire Furniture. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss.

Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss

Even by the standards of the day –this has been one of the most exciting and unpredictable years in British politics.

The leadership election we’ve just seen marks a huge moment in our country’s history. This government is taking a decisive new direction, embracing the opportunities of Brexit and preparing our country to flourish outside the EU.

As international trade secretary, I’ll be driving forward work on the free trade agreements that are going to be a priority for the government. Free trade isn’t just an abstract concept bandied around by technocrats. It is crucial for a strong economy and for the ability of families to make ends meet. Free trade benefits people in every part of our country, as British firms export to new markets and people doing the weekly shop have access to a wider choice of goods at lower prices.

The essence of free trade is in the title: freedom. It’s about giving people the power to exchange their goods without heavy government taxation or interference. Commerce and free exchange are the engine room of prosperity and social mobility. I’m determined to tackle the forces who want to hold that back.

One of my priorities is agreeing an exciting new free trade deal with the US, building on the great relationship between our two countries and the Prime Minister and US President. But I’ll also be talking to other partners including New Zealand, Australia and fast-growing Asian markets.

And with the EU too, we want a friendly and constructive relationship, as constitutional equals, and as friends and partners in facing the challenges that lie ahead – a relationship based on a deep free trade agreement. Our country produces some of the world’s most successful exports, and the opportunity to bring these to the rest of the world should make us all excited about the future. It is this excitement, optimism and ambition which I believe will come to define this government.

For too long now, we have been told Britain isn’t big or important enough to survive outside the EU – that we have to accept a deal that reflects our reduced circumstances. I say that’s rubbish. With the right policies in place, we can be the most competitive, free-thinking, prosperous nation on Earth exporting to the world and leading in new developments like AI. To do that, we’ll give the brilliant next generation of entrepreneurs the tools they need to succeed. Since 2015, there has been a staggering 85 per cent rise in the number of businesses set up by 18 to 24 year olds – twice the level set up by the same age group in France and Germany. We’ll help them flourish by championing enterprise, cutting taxes and making regulation flexible and responsive to their needs.

As we do that, we’ll level up and unite all parts of the UK with great transport links, fibre broadband in every home and proper school funding, so everyone shares in our country’s success.

2019 has been the year of brewing economic and political revolution. 2020 will be the year when a revitalised Conservative government turbo charges the economy, boosts prospects for people across the country, and catapults Britain back to the forefront of the world stage.



Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss
Secretary of State for International Development