Manufacturing Today looks into innovation over at the UK’s leading bed manufacturer, Dreams, and it is never quite as it seems 

In an evolving landscape, Dreams stands tall as the UK’s premier specialist retailer. Established in 1985, Dreams has continued to cement its position as a pioneer in the field, boasting a rich history of manufacturing excellence. The company consists of a team of over 2300 employees spread across its factory, distribution centers, retail outlets, and its head office, affectionately known as Bedquarters.  

The past year has seen Dreams undergo significant transformation, driven by a keen understanding of consumer trends and a relentless pursuit of innovation. Chief Commercial Officer, Paul Solly, sheds light on the company’s recent strides, particularly in product development and manufacturing enhancements. “We are always innovating our product range to meet the changing needs of our customers. In March 2023, we updated our Dream Team mattress range with several improvements and introduced a new Dream Team Gold range tapping into growing consumer trends.” 

Shaun Bailey and Paul Solly. Shaun Bailey, MP for West Bromwich West visits the Dreams bed factory in Oldbury, West Mids on September 28 2023 for a tour of the factory to celebrate 20 years of Dreams being in production
Shaun Bailey and Paul Solly. Shaun Bailey, MP for West Bromwich West visits the Dreams bed factory in Oldbury, West Mids on September 28 2023 for a tour of the factory to celebrate 20 years of Dreams being in production.

Responding to shifting consumer preferences, Dreams incorporated several key improvements into this range. Provenance emerged as a crucial factor, with customers increasingly valuing products made in the UK from locally sourced materials. The Dream Team Gold range embraces this ethos, featuring sustainably sourced British wool fillings from selected Black Country farmers, aligning with consumers’ growing eco-consciousness. 

Moreover, heightened concerns regarding hygiene and antibacterial properties spurred Dreams to integrate innovative materials like CopperLeaf and copper-infused foam into its mattresses. These elements not only enhance durability but also provide an added layer of protection against viruses, bacteria, and odors, addressing pressing health considerations in today’s climate. 

Cutting-edge innovation 

Temperature regulation emerged as another pivotal focus area, with Dreams pioneering the use of Thermoswitch fabric technology. This cutting-edge innovation leverages liquid crystal technology to detect and respond to overheating, ensuring a comfortable and restful sleep experience. By embracing these advancements, Dreams not only meets but exceeds consumer expectations, evident in the overwhelming success of the Dream Team Gold range. 

However, these advancements didn’t materialize without substantial investments in manufacturing capabilities. Over the past few years, Dreams has allocated significant resources to upgrade machinery, enhance efficiency, and elevate product quality across its manufacturing sites. “As our business began navigating the pandemic, and demand for homewares increased, we needed to invest in improving our manufacturing operations. From March 2020 to December 2023, we invested over one and a half million pounds in machinery and facilities upgrades across our manufacturing sites. These projects predominantly focused on efficiency gains, product development initiatives, product quality improvements, and welfare and health and safety improvements,” says Paul. 

Ahead of the curve 

Central to Dreams’ success is its unwavering dedication to quality and customer satisfaction. The company’s rigorous quality control measures, coupled with a commitment to sourcing high-quality materials, underpin every facet of its operations. Whether it’s training skilled craftsmen or implementing stringent quality inspections, Dreams leaves no stone unturned. “All of this is to ensure that, regardless of any changes to materials used, product design or manufacturing process, quality is never compromised.” 

Beyond traditional bedding, Dreams recognized the burgeoning popularity of gaming and seized the opportunity to diversify its offerings. Collaborating with industry leaders like X Rocker, Dreams introduced gaming beds equipped with state-of-the-art features such as smartphone-controlled lighting and built-in chargers.
This venture highlights Dreams’ commitment to staying ahead of the curve and catering to emerging market trends. Man stitching Dreams Matterss

Moreover, Dreams’ steadfast commitment to sustainability sets it apart in an increasingly eco-conscious landscape. From embracing renewable energy sources to last year achieving eight consecutive years of sending no waste to landfill, Dreams demonstrates a holistic approach to environmental stewardship. In 2023, Dreams won a National Recycling Award for the work of its Recovery Centre, a purpose-designed facility established to receive customer product returns and restore them to a ‘good as new’ condition for resale. “This award is testament to the success of our center’s refurbishment program, and how it has significantly minimized the number of returned items ultimately sent to landfill or waste-to-energy centers. We’re proud to say that last year, our Recovery Centre saved more than 22,000 items from being unnecessarily disposed of. 

“The award also credited the crucial role our Recovery Centre plays in extending the life of Dreams’ products,” Paul expands. “Its spare parts department posts out between 30 and 40 replacement parts every day that customers can use to fix broken beds that would otherwise be discarded and replaced. The Recovery Centre is indicative of Dreams’ sustainability focus and is one of many eco-initiatives.” Awards like the National Recycling Award serve as a representation of the company’s pursuit of sustainability and corporate responsibility.  

As for Paul, his career trajectory hints at the importance of understanding customers and nurturing high-performing teams. His invaluable advice – embracing innovation, empowering teams, and embracing failures as learning opportunities – resonates deeply with Dreams’ ethos of continuous improvement and adaptation. “I’ve spent my entire career working in the retail sector, for brands such as Marks & Spencer, Matalan, Tesco and The Fragrance Shop. I started out as a store manager, before moving into merchandising and ultimately into my current role at Dreams as Chief Commercial Officer. I lead our buying, merchandising, ecommerce, technical and ethical teams as well as the Dreams Bed Factory.”   

Commitment to colleagues and customers  

When asked about the most important lesson that working in the industry has taught him, his response is twofold. “The first is to understand your customer and create a proposition that meets their needs. This is central to every decision we make at Dreams. 

“The second important lesson is that colleagues and teams are the secret sauce that make a business work. At Dreams, our people are our greatest asset. Our teams, from the manufacturing department and beyond, are comprised of the industry’s most highly skilled, dedicated, and hard-working colleagues. It’s this, our high performing, motivated and empowered people that drive business performance more than any strategy or product.” 

When asked about the one piece of wisdom he’d offer to someone pursuing a manufacturing leadership role, he said: “My key business advice would be to test and try as many new ideas as possible, even if they fail – the lessons learnt can be essential. And importantly, have fun doing it!” 

With that in mind, looking ahead, Dreams hopes to maintain its status as the UK’s bed retailer of choice, driven by innovation, customer-centricity, and a steadfast commitment to sustainability. “Above all, we will be building on our continued commitment to do right by our colleagues, the communities we impact, and the planet, operating as a force for good.”