There’s more to AW Hainsworth and Sons than meets the eye. Pudsey, near Leeds, where the company was founded and where the group’s head office remains today, is a traditional Yorkshire town. A throwback to times gone by, even the rag and bone man can still be heard every morning calling out in his shrill voice as he buys and sells his nick-nack merchandise.

More famous perhaps for being the hometown of the beloved Pudsey Bear and the great English cricket captain, Ray Illingworth, most, even in the textile industry, would be surprised when told that Pudsey is also home to AW Hainsworth and Sons—an international textile manufacturer with influence which spreads far and wide.

Founded originally on wool cloth manufacture, this global company, dynamic by nature, is still a family-owned company and has been for its 200 years of existence.

It retains, however, all of the virtues of its heritage, continuing a tradition of fine wool cloth manufacture, whilst also looking to diversify and expand foward into the 21st century.

Despite its size and its influence Hainsworth remains little known—its varying companies, divisions and products trading under different brand names.

It is big in the leisure industry, for example. Few would know that Riley and Superleague, world renowned in the manufacture of competition standard snooker and pool tables and equipment, fall under the Hainsworth umbrella.

Expansion into the leisure industry is an example of the strength of the group’s strategy of investment through acquisition and diversification.

Roy Goodyear, divisional sales and marketing manager, stresses however that despite the remarkable growth and size of the Hainsworth group, the values held dear for 200 years—product innovation, manufacturing excellence and, importantly, a commitment to customer service—are retained.

Merging linked areas

A key area of business for AW Hainsworth & Sons continues to be its laundry textiles division. In April 1997, Hainsworth’s previously separate product groups of Qualitex Fabrics, L Harwood & Co and GE & W Wike combined together under the single banner of Hainsworth Textiles.

Mr Goodyear explains the reasons behind the merger: “Hainsworth Textiles has three principal product areas—narrow fabrics, laundry and industrial textiles—which until recently were separate divisions. The aim of merging these closely linked areas is to enable us to provide a even better service for our customers—an integrated and central source for our increasingly diverse ranges.”

On the laundry side the range of products available from Hainsworth Textiles is extensive. It includes ironer clothing, such as needlefelts, molleton, base clothing and sheetings; press clothing; guide tapes and feedbands; linen transport products such as laundry bags, hampers, trolley liners and conveyor bags; and ancillary products including Castrol smearing wax. Castrol is one of the largest wax distributor in the world and, says Mr Goodyear, its trust in us as one of its distributors is a massive recommendation.

Explaining that he hoped that the merger would keep the laundry industry informed of Hainsworth’s range of products, Mr Goodyear said: “In the past we have failed to promote the company name enough, and many people aren’t aware of the extent of the range of products we do, or of the size and manufacturing capability of the company.

“We are now much more strategically placed to serve the laundry industry. Before, we were just content to increase market share,” declared Mr Goodyear.

Confident in the manufacturing competence of Hainsworth Textiles, Mr Goodyear stresses that, in the approach to the new millennium, a company has to do more for its customers: “Our technical expertise in textile laundry products is second to none and our attitude has always been to get on and do the job. We recognise, however, that we have a wider role to perform in terms of service, and providing our customers with the right information is essential.

“The laundry industry in the UK is serviced primarily by two companies. We believe that we have the edge over our competitor in most aspects. Both companies offer a high level of quality but where I do feel we score is in the level of service we offer.”

Hainsworth’s committment to customer service is founded on paying attention to detail. Gill Rushton, marketing manager, explains: “We believe in being intelligence active in the market, and we have a team dedicated to producing reports on the performance of the different sectors of the laundry industry.”

Mr Goodyear described how these reports assist Hainsworth Textiles to provide a high level of service: “Our reports keep us up-to-date with trends in the various sectors of the laundry industry—cyclical and seasonal. By using the knowledge we gain from these reports we can prepare for any eventuality and respond immediately.”

Mr Goodyear explains that Hainsworth Textiles also places great emphasis on supplying management information to customers: “If you’re a buyer, there are certain questions you need to ask. We see it as our job to ensure that our customers have the information they need at their disposal. All our customers receive comprehensive sample packs co-ordinated with code numbers and ordering systems.”

“We try and think for the customer. We retain detailed information on all aspects of their business, such as current stock supplies. This enables us to understand their needs, offer better advice and respond more quickly.”

“We believe in knowing our customers better than they know themselves. Personal contact is also an important aspect of our service. We have a very professional technical sales team, whereby each individual customer has a dedicated internal and external contact responsible for looking after their needs.”

  “I treat the service of our customers as a religion. If we are to succeed we have to be better than everyone else,” he concludes.

Teamwork pays

Attention to detail and teamwork is the key. Mr Goodyear believes that by staying in touch with its customers today, Hainsworth can better understand their needs tomorrow.

He says: “We have a big team of boffins committed to technical and product development. They work very closely with the sales teams and with our marketing department to use the market intelligence we have acquired to develop new products. Only by working together as a team will we achieve our aim of being number one.”

Mr Goodyear believes that the best way for Hainsworth to stay ahead and to maintain the quality of its product and service is to harness the technology of the 21st century.

He says: “The future is at our fingertips. Today’s technology touches everyone’s business and we are looking at ways in which we can utilise this. Business is moving faster than ever before and to be the best we have to be able to respond more quickly. Tommorow’s technology is helping us to achieve this today.”