In Safe Hands - Yorkshire Life Article

Yorkshire Life Article

Yorkshire Life have published an article in their June 2011 edition which this post has been taken from. To visit the new Woods of Harrogate website please click on the link

 Home and Abroad

Times are changing for one of Europe’s most exclusive linen stores as Heather Dixon discovers.

Maybe it’s a little surprising if not a mystery to some in this age of seven-day-a-week high street shopping that Woods, the long established linen shop in Harrogate, doesn’t open for business at the weekend.

But perhaps it should be expected as a mark of one of the most successful family businesses in Yorkshire established more than a century ago and known for its commitment to high standards of service and the goods its sells.

A new generation of the Woods family is bringing marked change to the business shaped over the last 50 years by William Woods. His daughter, a new mother, Sarah Richardson, is not only talking about opening up a second shop in London but also a global vision for the company.

Sarah has grown up surrounding by beautiful fabrics, the highest quality textiles and the most luxurious soft furnishing accessories on which Woods has built its reputation. She has travelled the world searching for them. Working for her father and Woods has given her the broadest and most valuable experience. ‘I feel as passionate about the business as my father and, just as I have learned from him, so now he learns from me,’ says Sarah.

There is massive world-wide potential for Woods but we also need to refine what we have and develop slowly. I am looking to launch my own bed linen collection, for example. It’s about applying and developing the skills we have. I am always looking at new things and new ideas which will take the business forward.

Potential global success for Woods is huge through the internet, says Sarah. Their website already attracts international business. Last month it received orders from Australia for Merino wool blankets and regularly supplies to the US, the Far East, South America and Europe.

Her father is one of only a handful of people in the UK to be a Fellow of the British Institute of Interior Design, who has led the company’s comprehensive interiors design service which has clients around the country. There is a skilled team who hand-sew soft furnishings, curtains and upholstery and there are experts in antiques, fine art, gilding, wood carving and decorative plasterwork.

What our team and I try to achieve is practical and visually exciting, comfortable and unique to every individual,’ says Sarah. ‘Traditional needn’t be old fashioned. You can create country house style but with a touch of real glamour. Old floral patterns are back again only this time in bold colours. I think the trick is to create a look that remains timeless and isn’t victim of the phrase ‘here today, gone tomorrow’.

We base our business on trust. Although value for money is important to us and our customers, money is not our motivation. We simply love what we do. Above all, my aim is to maintain the standards and traditions of the past combined with trends, designs and fashions of the future. Standing still is not our style. It’s not an option.’

Sarah’s father welcomes change and the potential for greater international success but not at the expense of lower standards. ‘I believe it’s both important and inspiring to have new blood and enthusiasm to drive the business forward- especially when commitment to maintaining standards is deep rooted. In the case of a family company like ours, it is,’ says William Woods.

‘In particular, I know that marketing via the web is crucial to our future and, with the help of the younger, web-literate generation, I feel this is an area that we are now in a strong position to develop further.'

Although the new website was only launched very recently, orders are coming in from Japan, Australia, the USA and the Middle East as well as from our European neighbours and, of course, within the UK. We shall be monitoring this situation carefully with a view to growing our market in key locations. I certainly support the idea of opening a shop in London and I think the USA and Middle East may have particular potential for online sales. However, alongside all this we must remain focused on the all important business we have here in Harrogate.’