Shaper: Alistair Hughes

Show aired on 20th December 2014

Transcript

Alistair Hughes

Alistair Hughes is Managing Director and owner of Savoir Beds, a London- based company which creates bespoke beds that are widely regarded as the world’s most luxurious. Savoir’s heritage lies with the iconic Savoy hotel. The company was started in 1905 as the Savoy Bedworks with the aim of giving guests the best night’s sleep. Alistair purchased the brand back in 1997 with his business partner Stephen Winston and Savoir Beds was born. Previous to this Alistair graduated from Jesus College Cambridge with a degree in Economics and worked as a strategy consultant with LEK in the UK, Australia and the Philippines. Savoir’s tailor made beds have become almost as legendary as the stars who have slept in them and the brand now has 3 London showrooms and also exports worldwide with 9 showrooms internationally including New York, Berlin and Beijing.

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We come from the Savoy – in 1889 they decided they wanted to make their own bed. What’s more important to a hotel than a great night’s sleep?

I had blown my savings on my first business venture so I wasn’t flush with cash and I saw buying the Savoy Bed Works as a relatively low risk thing to do .

What I really liked was this fantastic story. If you are going to sell a bed, you want the most famous people in the world to have slept on it.

A luxury product needs a back story, it needs heritage, it needs crafts and quality and it needs to be exclusive and unique and bespoke. It needs to be special, that’s why people want it.

For me it was a question of how we tell people about it, how do we get it across that we’ve got two guys making these beds?

I don’t know many of my contemporaries who are involved in manufacturing, but it struck me that if you can be at the top end of any market you can make it work.

Emma Thompson was quoted saying we cured her insomnia. We got a fantastic piece in the Telegraph and the business began to take off.

We have a great bunch of people and we sell something fantastic.

The most important source of customers is referral. That’s what it is all about. In the UK, over fifty percent of our business comes from referrals by existing clients.

Don’t load things up too much.  Don’t put too much on people. Make sure your people are motivated to do the right thing.