Colin Ward has reached 65, and looks back on his working life. He started working for the Hawkins family in 1972, when he joined John Hawkins Furniture Ltd based in Victoria Street, High Wycombe, Bucks. The company Managing Director was John Hawkins and his son Brian was also working at the firm alongside his father.
During the four decades that Colin has worked for the family he has seen the changing face of furniture manufacturing in the town, and the company. In the 1970’s High Wycombe had a thriving furniture manufacturing industry made up of small and large manufacturers, including some well known house hold names, such as Parker Knoll, G-Plan, and Ercol. The town also housed many foam suppliers, and fabric suppliers, as well as other businesses supplying everything associated with the manufacture of high quality furniture.
In the beginning Colin recalls that everything made in the factory went to small independent furniture shops around the country, the orders were usually for 3 seater sofas and 2 chairs, more commonly known as a “3 piece suite”. All the sofas and chairs were a standard set of sizes, and came in a set range of fabrics and colours, all designed for mass production. John’s son Brian eventually took over when John retired. The customer base started to change as the large multinational companies began to appear, and the small independent stores began to close unable to compete on price or choice. The growth of the larger stores brought in larger bulk orders but going to fewer stores, the “3 piece suite” was still popular, and the introduction of modular, and corner groups enhanced the choice offered to customers. Sizes and colour ranges were still standardised which made mass production work well.
During the late 1980’s furniture manufacturing in High Wycombe started to decline, the cheaper imports of furniture made it hard to compete, the larger stores began closing because of the financial problems facing businesses at that time. Brian decided to change the business model; and started selling direct to the general public. Colin was one of the original members of the factory who carried on working for the family in the new style business, making individual pieces direct to the general public. Customers were starting to see the advantages of buying direct from the manufacturer.
TailorMade Sofas is now run by Brian’s son Michael and his wife Melanie, the company has a reputation of providing a high quality service offering customers the ability to have any sofa, or chair made to their own requirements, upholstered in any fabric, and a choice of cushion interiors. Every sofa, chair, and corner sofa made is different, and Colin has adapted to the demands that have been made on him, although he has reached 65 he is one of our highly skilled craftsmen and wants to continue to work. We are very much a family business every member of the team feels that they are part of a family, the staff have all been included in family celebrations, and most of the members of staff have worked for the family for over 30 years!
Picture showing the family members and Colin