A true origin story

William Colleran, Finance Director at Raskelf Group, shares a deeper insight into their recent restructure as well as future plans and investments.

Back in 2011, Alan and Elizabeth Colleran became a Dragons’ Den success story with their patented Duvalay Memory Foam Sleeping Bag. National Bed Federation (NBF) Award wins, major contracts and retail partnerships fuelled a decade of expansion and diversification, with sub-brands Summerby Sleep and Raskelf Contract Beds joining Duvalay in the portfolio. Last year, the group continued to grow, acquiring Nursery Connections out from administration, substantially broadening the spectrum of sleep products offered – ranging from sleeping bags, mattress toppers and bedding to mattresses for online retail, hospitality and children’s cots.

This breadth of product offering has allowed for further opportunity too, paving the way to unite these various business interests under a single umbrella, the Raskelf Group. “When we first set out to provide mattresses and sleeping products to the leisure industry back in 2003, Raskelf was our registered business name,” reveals William Colleran, Finance Director.

“Duvalay became our trading name in the leisure sector for years; then, over time, the business began to grow in multiple directions within the mattress and sleep sector. Following National Bed Federation (NBF) awards success, we emerged as a leading manufacturer of private label mattress ranges for major UK retailers, as well as for contract mattresses for student accommodation and holiday parks.

“We then launched Summerby, which has gone from strength to strength as a standalone brand – selling through major online UK retailers. Our acquisition of Nursery Connections last year then took us into the cot mattress business, with a customer base of the UK’s leading nursery furniture retailers.

“Those who have followed our journey since Dragons’ Den may know us best as ‘Duvalay’, but the Duvalay brand only represents one aspect of our offering – albeit a very important one! Moving towards a group structure more accurately portrays the full range of products we are so proud to manufacture and supply.

“The name ‘Raskelf’ also powerfully connects us to our origins. When we first started out 20 years ago, our goal was to become a leading innovator and trusted manufacturer within the sleep sector. To have accomplished that, working together as a family, feels very special.”

In addition to their ongoing growth, the Group’s workforce has increased to 120 skilled craftspeople, who produce 10,000 sleep products each week across its sites in West Yorkshire and Northamptonshire. And that’s not the only part growing either, as William continued: “We have had planning permission approved for a new 16,000sqft factory extension at our West Yorkshire site.

“We currently produce up to 2,000 mattresses a week on this site at Heckmondwike, but this output should increase by approximately 30% once the extension is completed. It is exciting to think about our increased capacity and what that will mean in terms of new jobs created and increased market share. Raskelf Group is ambitious in its goals and we are continually investing in our infrastructure to achieve them.”

As part of this investment, the group plans to introduce solar panels to their factory extension, with the longer-term ambition to use them across the wider site. This will ensure they are on a path to using more sustainable power sources to run the factory, while being part of its wider sustainability ethos, with the group also members of the NBF ‘Pledge for our Planet’ scheme and constantly reviewing product designs to embrace further eco-beneficial changes.

The group has also continued to ride the wave of wider industry challenges, including the cost-of-living crisis and inflation pressures of late, but has consistently tackled these head on to maintain a strong business performance. William said that over the past 12 months, the group has delivered growth, safeguarded jobs, acquired a new brand and will invest for further expansion as highlighted above. Looking ahead, forecasts are “healthy” for 2024/25 and beyond.

“Inflation pressures have been a huge headache for every business. Managing a rapidly changing cost base is extremely difficult; then, we have the subsequent effect of inflation tempering product demand. Having a flexible approach and good communication with suppliers and customers helps us to better manage this challenging landscape,” William said.

“Having been around for two decades, we are also inclined to take more of a long-term view – recognising that challenging times come and go. We have thrived in good times and been very resilient when required to do so. A lot of our strength comes from being a family business. We are close to our values, pull together as a team and are very focused on building a legacy.

“One of our values is that everyone deserves a good night’s sleep, whatever their budget, so we have concentrated on affordability without compromising on quality – making the most of our ability to be relatively self-sufficient and find lean ways of working as a manufacturer.”

In such challenging times, William adds that consumers are often searching for the best deal possible. “More than ever, we have noticed that people are waiting for big promotional periods to make their purchase. Again, a contributing factor is the cost-of-living crisis. Planning and implementing promotions have, therefore, become crucial to growing sales volume and managing to maintain our margins.”

As a final thought, and thank you, William was keen to express the group’s gratitude towards the NBF and colleagues across the sleep sector. “Having been in this business for 20 years, we have worked alongside a lot of people and there are so many whom we owe a debt of gratitude to – from sales reps and retailers who backed us when we came to them with brand-new product ranges, to suppliers who have kept our factory running with vital components (especially during the pandemic). We hope to continue to contribute positively to the industry for decades more to come.”

www.raskelfgroup.co.uk

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