Sussex Business Times takes a look at Sussex Beds, a local Hastings based company that has pulled through the hard times to now winning a national award. We take a look at their roots in Sussex, their recent win and their future.

NBF Bed Retailer of the Year (under £5m) - winnerStarting life in Hastings in 1981, Sussex Beds has gone through many ups and down over the years – including facing closure in 2014. But throughout its history its family roots have remained firm and the couple who founded the business still remain at the helm today, alongside their three grown up children.

It was in 1978 that young couple John and Sandra Pickering made their first foray into business after buying a small store trading as Miles House Furnishers in St Leonards. The store was successful, but in the summer of 1981 their focus changed after they visited a trade show and were inspired to open a new store specialising in beds and mattresses.

Just a few months later, in December 1981, the couple threw open the doors to their first branch of Sussex Beds in Queens Road, Hastings. Run in turn with their St Leonards store, which continued to trade as Miles House Furnishers, the Hastings branch boosted staff numbers and turnover, and new outlets across Sussex soon followed, including openings in Hailsham, Bexhill, East Grinstead and Haywards Heath.

At the age of 16 the couple’s eldest son Steve joined the company full time on the sales floor, closely followed by their second son Matthew and daughter Suzanne. The trio worked their way up and are now all directors in the company – which sells a range of exclusive beds, frames, mattresses and headboards. But the whole family’s mettle was tested in 2014.

Suffering from the rise in online shopping and the financial crash, the company suffered severe losses and was put into liquidation, putting more than 30 jobs at risk.

Determined not to give up, however, the family decided to take drastic measures. Led by Steve they brought in an external consultant who helped organise a complete company restructure and introduced new branding and management systems.

Steve Pickering“It was far removed from anything we’d ever done in the past but I felt we had nothing to lose,” Steve said. “The thought of having to close the company after more than 30 years, not to mention having to lay off our fantastic staff, was horrendous so we had to do something.”

The gamble paid off and over the following months the company’s finances were not only brought back into the black but overtook forecasts. And the overhaul was so successful the family is now embarking on an ambitious expansion programme, with plans to open a further 11 stores within the next five years.

The turnaround in fortunes also landed Sussex Beds with the prestigious National Bed Retailer of the Year Award, which recognised the efforts the whole team had made to help get the firm back on its feet.

Steve added: “Winning the award was a very emotional time for all of us. I’m so proud of the team and couldn’t have down it without them.”

Sussex Beds operates from seven branches in; Hailsham, Bexhill, East Grinstead, Newhaven, Haywards Heath, Portslade and Uckfield. For more information visit www.sussexbedcentre.co.uk or call 01424 212177.

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