Reflections on 13 years of Bed Industry Awards

To introduce Furniture News’ Bed Industry Awards supplement, which featured in November’s issue, the magazine’s editor-in-chief Paul Farley recalls his first memories of the awards programme, and his thoughts on the impact it’s since had …

My earliest memory of the National Bed Federation (NBF) Bed Industry Awards is one of pride, apprehension and a bald man.

Furniture News and our sister publication had sponsored two of the debut awards’ categories, so, as editor, yours truly was duly called upon to take the stage and say a few words about each.

Even back in 2010, I was hardly new to the bed industry – but to be confronted with so much of it in one place was somewhat overwhelming. I remember the walk from table to stage being very long indeed… and praying that the host, comedian Lee Hurst, wouldn’t take any cheap shots at me while I was up there!

I’ve since had the honor of participating in all but one of the awards’ judging processes, as they transitioned from earnest debates over a table in Furniture Makers’ Hall with my trade press peers to hitting the show floor with eminent buyers and designers on the eve of each show.

I may be a little less fresh faced and nervous these days, but each awards evening still holds a certain degree of trepidation. Will everything go to plan? How will the winners react? And, perhaps more importantly, how might the losers?! That so many take the awards so seriously is testament to the esteem in which they’re held in this sector. In the stores, showrooms and marketing campaigns of the winners that make the most of the accolade, these awards matter.

Having played a part in their delivery over the years, I’m still heartened when I see the awards logo on the side of a delivery truck, or on a TV ad. However, I think my biggest takeaway from the experience is having such privileged access to so many stories of progress and success. No matter the volatility of the trading environment – ​​and it’s been plenty volatile of late – the accounts that come across the judges’ desks are often truly inspiring, and proof of the sector’s will and ability to evolve, no matter what’s thrown at it.

Across the past decade, we’ve seen the rise of online, and its (sometimes begrudging) acceptance from the more traditional quarters. In turn, we’ve seen the same online leaders adopt more traditional approaches to retail, reminding us that, in business, nothing is ever clear-cut.

I’ve witnessed fierce competition between bed and component suppliers that echo the trends of the day, or reflect the ongoing pressure to behave more sustainably (an area in which the bed industry continues to raise the bar). It’s been an education – and a pleasure.

This year saw a host of new categories introduced, widening the field and giving more businesses the chance to shine. I particularly welcomed the launch of the NBF Member Sales Agent/Rep of the Year category – the more that’s done to celebrate the individuals making a difference right across this rich industry, the better.

In short, the Bed Industry Awards are important – perhaps essential – to the industry, and it’s been a privilege to play my part over the years. It’s a privilege, too, to be asked by the NBF to work with them to deliver this special celebration of the 2022-23 awards. Thanks to a combination of exclusive insight, some very deserving finalists, and Furniture News’ already-high standing in the trade, I’m certain this supplement will help convey the awards’ message to an even broader section of the industry, both at home and abroad – that the UK bed industry is world-class, ahead of the curve, and ready to take on all comers.

Discover this year’s winners and finalists in Furniture News’ exclusive Bed Industry Awards supplement.

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