With a focus on customer comfort, HSL has achieved scientific backing for its health claims 

As a leading provider of beautiful furniture designed to support your neck, back, and hips, HSL Chairs (HSL) is a popular household name in the UK and beyond. Its furniture collection, which includes chairs, sofas, and beds, is designed around people, with an expert exclusive chair fitting service to create bespoke sizes and provide customers with personalized, handcrafted furniture. 

The Glenmore Fireside ChairHSL has a unique approach to customer service, providing furniture that is designed to last while being kind to the environment, with a dedicated team to support customers throughout their journey. The business is proud to manufacture in Britain, with an emphasis on quality and comfort throughout the manufacturing process. 

Its dedication to physical comfort and support doesn’t stop once the furniture is manufactured. In fact, HSL has embarked on several research projects with some of the UK’s leading universities to provide scientific backing for its claims that HSL chairs are the comfiest in the market. To learn more about the company’s evolution, we sit down with Venessa Hodgson, Managing Director.  

Growth trajectory 

“We’re a family-owned and managed business, which brings vast opportunities for growth, as we don’t have to navigate the ‘red tape’ that is often found in other companies,” Venessa opens. “We’re agile and have the ability to make quick, yet effective decisions. As a family business, our people and culture are everything to us.  

“Since its foundation in 1968, the family has worked hard to grow the business and earn a strong reputation in the industry. First generation owners, Jeffrey and Patricia Burrows, initially set up HSL with the simple aim of producing comfortable, quality furniture by drawing on the joinery and textile skills of local people in the English town of Dewsbury, which is famed for its fine furniture making. 

“Although the focus has remained the same, the business has evolved tremendously since then,” she continues. “After 40 years of operating as a mail-order business, HSL opened its first retail showroom in Letchworth in 1995. While Jeffrey and Patricia didn’t originally intend to create a retail business, the second-generation owners, William and Debra Burrows, have grown our portfolio to 55 stores across the UK, supported by an incredible manufacturing facility close to where the business began 56 years ago.” 

British craftmanship 

Despite Venessa only working with HSL for ten years, she has witnessed several pivotal moments in the company’s evolution. “The last 12 months have seen changes to our management structure with the appointment of new CFO, Julian Cummins, plus family members, Ben Waters and Leanne Eastwood taking on the roles of Operations Director and Commercial Director respectively,” she explains. “We’ve also taken on a new Marketing Director, James Randall who will play a pivotal role in growing brand awareness beyond current markets.  

“I’ve seen changes and developments within our manufacturing facility too. British craftsmanship is crucial to us, and we consider ourselves to be a premium manufacturing retailer, but to maintain that status, we must operate a lean way of working and adopt new technologies as they emerge to drive efficiency across the process. Just recently we had a visit from a furniture consultant we’re working with, who was completely blown away with the manufacturing process and the quality of our products.  

The science of comfort HSL Chairs Solihull showroom

“While we manufacture furniture in a similar manner to several competitors, our product is unique in the market,” she states with confidence. “We’ve invested time, effort, and resources into finding ways to blend the science of comfort and posture into making incredibly comfortable furniture. We’ve recently partnered with Leeds University, for example, to conduct research that validates our claims of creating furniture that is not only comfortable, but also good for your health.  

“Specifically, we partnered with Dr Andrea Utley to conduct a research study on the health impact of relaxing in a perfectly sized HSL chair. Our aim was to achieve scientific backing for our products. The study had three HSL chairs of the same design but different sizes, and asked participants ranging from the ages of 20-to-80, to sit in a chair for a minimum of 15 minutes. 

“I’m delighted to reveal that we achieved statistical significance that being seated in the correct size HSL chair lowers your blood pressure,” Venessa declares. “Not only does it lower your blood pressure, but it also lowers your heart rate and perhaps most significantly, it increases the blood flow and oxygenation of your lower limbs. We’re currently working on a PR campaign to bring these statistics to the forefront of our operations, as well as exploring other research opportunities with Dr Utley.” 

On the topic of recent innovations, Venessa is keen to share some of HSL’s latest developments. “There’s always lots going on across the company,” she laughs. “A key area of focus at the moment is blending comfort with style. There’s still a stigma attached to riser recliners, but we’ve created a visually stunning product to mitigate this, and you would never guess that it is a recliner!  

“This innovation was driven by consumer demand; just because someone has mobility issues doesn’t mean that they lose their sense of identity or style. Many of our customers expressed a desire to hide functionality within the product design – and we listened. We’ve created a unique chair that doesn’t currently exist in the market, but we know it is sought after.” 

Product innovation 

As our conversation draws to a close, Venessa reflects on how being a family business enables HSL to quickly adapt and react to evolving market demands. “We recently opened a new showroom in Solihull and the customer response has been overwhelming,” she details. “The site is visually stunning and strategically nestled between lots of high-end, luxury retirement villages so we’re surrounded by an ideal demographic. Solihull is already becoming the busiest showroom within our 55-store portfolio. 

“We also recently underwent a refurbishment program for all our stores, which consisted of new signage and interiors. While we’re enhancing our digital experience and providing online visualization as the retail market moves towards online channels, we’re still focused on a bricks-and-mortar approach, as our stores offer customers a great opportunity to try our furniture for themselves.  

“We’ve got a 2030 plan focused on three pillars: growth, dominance, and refinement,” Venessa concludes. “While we want to ensure that we continue to dominate the specialist areas in which we excel, such as rise recliners and high-end motion furniture, we also want to grow in other areas through product innovation and operational excellence. We will also maintain a high level of personalization services and explore opportunities to prove our market-leading position in terms of comfort science.”