For more than 100 years A.H. Beard has been Australia's leading manufacturer of quality mattresses and bedding.
Now the fourth generation family-owned business has ambitious plans to take on the world.
Their international journey began less than five years ago with an approach from Emma Wang, a principal of Shanghai Green, a leading homewares group in China.
Ms Wang convinced the A.H. Beard family to form a partnership with a view to selling its mattresses and bedding products in China.
It was an offer too good to refuse.
The first shipments were sent in 2013 and since then A.H. Beard has since opened 34 branded stores across the mainland – with ambitious plans to increase that number to 100 by 2023.
Remarkably, the company has doubled its revenue every year since its push into the Chinese market.
With 7000 local manufacturers, China is the world’s biggest bedding market, worth a staggering $7.4 billion a year.
Mattress fit for a king
A.H. Beard is the first international company to market handcrafted mattresses in China. The entry price point for an A.H. Beard mattress is $4000.
It’s top of the range Signature series hand sewn king size mattresses sell for jaw dropping A$75,000.
Each handcrafted bed is certified Australian Made and includes the signature of the bed’s Australian master craftsman.
“And yes, we sell quite a few at that price,” says A.H. Beard CEO Tony Pearson.
“Literally everything is hand sewn, which is very rare these days,” he says.
“Each (Signature) mattress takes 10 days to make and only four people in the company are allowed to touch those beds.”
Strict attention to detail
One of those people is master craftsman Neville Middleton, who has been with the firm for 35 years.
Mr Middleton pays meticulous attention to detail to ensure each bed is flawless when it leaves the factory floor.
Signature beds are filled with the highest quality natural fibres including cashmere, mohair, alpaca and fine merino wool.
“Quality and service have been the keys to company’s great success,” says Mr Pearson. “This is what differentiates us from our competitors.”
One container a day
A.H. Beard director Allyn Beard, who is also Deputy Chairman of Australian Made, Australian Grown campaign, says the company is now shipping one 40ft container to China every day.
The hand crafted beds are an aspirational purchase for China’s burgeoning affluent middle class, many of whom are shunning Chinese made products in preference to high quality international items.
“The Chinese have more trust in products certified Australian Made," Mr Beard says.
“They want a hand crafted product with high quality components and natural materials.”
Also, China now has “educated” consumers who are aware of the health benefits in buying a quality mattress.
“They have a ferocious appetite for health and the importance of sleep,” says Mr Beard.
To celebrate the great success of the partnership, the A.H. Beard family last month welcomed franchisees from Shanghai Green China to its Sydney manufacturing facilities at Padstow, an outer Sydney suburb.
The visitors were treated to a tour of the complex to see first hand the manufacturing process and the impeccable work of its master craftsmen – some of whom have been with the company for 30-40 years.
A.H. Beard has come a long way since Enoch William Beard first opened the doors in 1899 with an offering of handmade straw palliasses and tufted horsehair mattresses.
Since then it has sold more than two million handcrafted beds and now employs 400 staff in 11 factories across Australia and New Zealand.
In 2012 A.H. Beard was inducted into Family Business Australia's Hall of Fame.
A.H. Beard Chairman and Managing Director Garry Beard, who has been in the bedding industry for more than 35 years, says the company is aiming to become the number one prestige brand in bedding in China in the next few years.
“From being a leader in the Australian market we now see ourselves as being a major world leader in bedding,” he said.
“The future growth lies with our Chinese partners with the aiming of supplying more international markets in coming years.”
The company now has its sights firmly set on the huge South Korean market and other key Asian markets.
“We look forward to taking you all on that journey with us,” he told guests at the Shanghai Green reception.