Made in Yorkshire - Harrison Spinks mattresses

PUBLISHED: 00:00 04 June 2015 | UPDATED: 11:54 04 June 2015

Simon Spinks Photo by Clive Harris

Simon Spinks Photo by Clive Harris

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Innovation and entrepreneurial talent is vital for a prosperous future. We launch a new series highlighting people and businesses that lead the way, beginning with Harrison Spinks, Leeds. Esther Leach reports

Wire and springs are manufactured on site Photo by Clive HarrisWire and springs are manufactured on site Photo by Clive Harris

The story of Harrison Spinks, luxury mattress manufacturers in Yorkshire since 1840, is not complicated just, well, a little overwhelming. The business, in a sprawling industrial park on the outskirts of Leeds, is built on the success of wire springs and its many different applications. ‘I see everything in relation to wire springs,’ said managing director Simon Spinks.’ We’d go to the pub and talk about nothing else. We’d scribble drawings and notes on bits of paper and then decide to give the idea a go – business plans, spread sheets, they really don’t come into it at the beginning. We’ve got those experts of course but really it’s all about ideas and the small group of people who can work out the problems and make them happen.’

The family-owned business employs more than 300 people and sells its range of beds under the Somnus, Spink & Edgar and Harrison brands. It also manufactures own-label mattresses for major high street department stores. But it doesn’t by any means end there.

The ideas and designs are unique and the company has successfully adapted its spring technology for use in furniture, car seats and even footwear, winning many an award along the way. Who would have thought for example, that the piece of wire Simon Spinks toyed with as he talked about his company could be not only crucial to the comfort of a mattress but adapted to become a vital component in trainers worn by athletes? The P1.0 Pro Touch trainers have unique micro springs in the midsoles of the shoe to provide extra comfort and lower shock levels than regular trainers.

Innovation is such an important part of the business that the company has machinery on site to manufacture its own wire and develop groundbreaking spring technology. It has just installed looms to weave fabric exclusively for their products. And as reported earlier in Yorkshire Life the company owns and manages a 300-acre farm with woodland in Bolton Percy, North Yorkshire to provide natural materials for its mattresses and its new range of sofas. It also grows timber for bed and upholstery frames.

Down on the farm where sheep are reared and crops are grown to provide natural fillings for luxury mattresses and upholstery Photo by Tim IllingworthDown on the farm where sheep are reared and crops are grown to provide natural fillings for luxury mattresses and upholstery Photo by Tim Illingworth

‘The idea for the farm came out of a conversation with people we work with at John Lewis the department store who encouraged us go ahead with the idea of using natural fillings for our mattresses,’ said Simon. ‘We now rear sheep and grow flax and hemp. The Texel, Leicester and Swaledale sheep yield thicker, stronger and more resilient wool, ideal for mattresses.’

The natural fillings are also used in their luxury range of sofas and armchairs launched at the beginning of the year. New spring technology developed for the range plus the use of natural materials means more than half of foam and other manmade materials have been removed from the sofas. The fillings are sustainable, recyclable and bio-degradable and it’s the company’s goal to eventually remove all foam and use only natural products.

The company has also developed a new, low height spring essentially for its mattresses but which is now being used in car seats too, eliminating foam cushioning and creating thinner seats which means more leg room. The seats are 20 per cent lighter than conventional car seats and so vehicles use less fuel and in turn produce less pollution, says Simon. The new ComfortThin seats are available in vehicles around the world from this year.

The company’s original thinking and commitment to improving the environment have won it two Queens Awards for Enterprise, one for innovation and the other for sustainable development. It is thought to be the first UK bed manufacturer to have won two such awards in the same year.

Something like 57,000 mattresses are produced each year with sales worth £25m and, said Simon: ‘Our growth is predicted to at least treble by 2016. We will be a £80m-£100m business and we can put a lot of that down to our relentless innovation.’ w

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