Why Bill Beaumont Textiles are keeping it in the family
PUBLISHED: 00:00 13 April 2017 | UPDATED: 10:02 13 April 2017
Lancashire rugby legend Bill Beaumont has passed his family business to the next generation - and it's working well, writes Roger Borrell.
When you’ve just joined a company and the boss tells you he is off to New Zealand to watch rugby and, oh, by the way you’re in charge, the phrase ‘dropped in at the deep end’ springs to mind.
And when you are the boss’s son, the pressure rises a notch or two. Happily for Daniel Beaumont, he came through the experience with flying colours. In fact, he did so well that the son of England rugby union legend Bill Beaumont is no longer in temporary charge – he’s the managing director.
The Beaumont family name is not just famous for sport but is also a well-respected player in the Lancashire textile industry.
The roots of Bill Beaumont Textiles go back to 1888 when Towns Green Mill on the less than romantically named Dole Lane in Chorley was taken over by Joseph Hargreaves, Bill’s great-great grandfather.
The company thrived down the generations until the 1960s when cheap imports meant weaving on the Park Mills site was unsustainable. But that wasn’t the end of the story.
The business has a track record of adapting to the times, establishing itself as a supplier of textiles to the apparel trade, often industrial fabrics from Wellington boot liners to waxed cotton for Barbour coats.
When William Blackledge retired he handed over the reins to his nephew, Bill Beaumont, whose wife, Hilary, became the design director. Bill had joined the family firm from school, balancing a full-time job with playing rugby for Fylde, Lancashire and ultimately captaining England and the British Lions.
He eventually bought the business outright and changed it to Bill Beaumont Textiles to take advantage of a name that had become well-known to a larger audience through Bill’s appearances as a captain on BBC TV’s A Question of Sport.
With more and more garments being made in the Far East, once again the company changed tack, concentrating on soft furnishings and today that forms the major part of its business.
It is based on the Lower Healey Business Park in Chorley with a large, modern warehouse holding 20,000 rolls of fabric. Daniel, who is married with one son, is the sixth generation to take charge.
‘I went to Manchester University to study Business, Finance and Economics and always thought I would end up in the business one day,’ said 34-year-old Daniel, who has two brothers, Sam and Josh.
He qualified as a chartered accountant and started work in London. ‘When I got married our life plans didn’t involve raising children there so we went for a change of lifestyle and career,’ he said. They sold their former council flat and had enough to buy a very nice house back in his home town of Lytham, where Bill and Hilary still live.
Bill, now 64 and at the pinnacle of the sport as chairman of World Rugby, said: ‘He joined us as operations director in 2011 just as I was going to New Zealand for two months. It was dropping him in at the deep end but Daniel’s arrival allowed me to take a step back and, by then, the business needed new ideas. He was the catalyst for expansion and improvement.’
The Beaumonts knew that in a difficult market retailers were reluctant to tie up their cash in large volumes of stock so they diversified yet again filling bespoke orders from samples of fabric from the their extensive portfolio. This led to turnover growing by 50pc in five years with 2,000 orders now completed every month.
Daniel concentrated on better stock control and a higher level of customer service. ‘While we might not have the biggest range we have the best customer service. If people want to speak to us on the phone, we’re available,’ he said. As well as cut pieces, they introduced a made to measure service and this added value and profit. They now have 1,000 UK retailers including John Lewis and Dunelm Mill.
They’ve also started exporting with a distributor in China, a market where all things English are immensely fashionable and, while Brexit brings some uncertainty, Daniel says they are starting to get more enquiries from outside the EU.
The fabrics are made mainly in India and Turkey with some coming from Spain. They also started their own wallpaper lines two years ago, pitched at the middle market.
‘It’s not been an easy challenge for Daniel,’ said Bill. ‘He has had a lot thrown at him but he has responded. I am now the company chairman and we speak on a regular basis. We still have that passion as a family and we want to see him succeed.
‘These days the business is streamlined and decision making is a lot better. We are able to pick up trends. Daniel made changes and we now have a team of very enthusiastic people.’
Daniel, who played rugby until five years ago, added: ‘I wanted to create a culture that was enthusiastic, a little younger and upbeat about the future. I introduced a bonus scheme based on the success of the business and that has gone down well.’
Hilary continues to watch trends so their textiles are up to the minute – greys and duck egg blue remain popular – and she has just taken on former student Rhiannon Phillips as a textile designer and buyer.
Bill said: ‘We have been in Chorley for the lifetime of the business and that’s where we see our future. We are very optimistic about the town and the company.’