Sep 11 2008
The foundations of the Plumbs business were laid by Tom and Bernice Plumb who began selling rigid cotton seat covers and cushions on a market stall in Blackburn.
In 1954 a cushion cover would have cost 3s 11d.
The market business flourished and the product developed with the introduction of a variety of stretch man made fabrics.
The first shop was opened 35 years ago. In 1967, Geoff Plumb, now Chairman, began to work for his father cutting out scatter cushions. These were then sent out to be sewn by women in their own homes. Many of these ladies continued to sew for Plumbs for 20+ years. As business flourished Geoff wanted to try a mail order advert.
In November 1967 Geoff ran a small classified advert costing £8 in the Scottish Daily Record. Orders rolled in and the first mail order venture was a success.
This sparked the idea of placing a full page advert in the Daily Mirror. The advert went in February 1968 and proved to be an outstanding success.
1971 was the year of a terrible postal strike – this caused chaos to the mail order operation and so a large number of Plumbs shops began to appear across the United Kingdom. Sales increased and more products were offered.
The idea was novel as at the time no chain stores such as Marks and Spencer or British Home Stores carried home furnishing departments.
In total Plumbs had over 90 shops stretching from Plymouth to Kirkcaldy.
Requests were frequently being made for a measuring service in the home. Customers were looking for a more fitted product and furniture was becoming more complicated. The ‘in home’ service gave reassurance as all the measuring was done by the professionals.
The recession of the early 80s put an end to the shop days. All attention was now focussed on the emerging home consultancy service.
In the 21st century, Plumbs are now striving to become the established market leader for reupholstery and curtains, as well as loose covers. Over a quarter of enquiries now come through the internet and recommendations. A far cry from the first classified adverts in the 1960s.
The company is still very much a family business, and many employees have several members of their family working at Plumbs. This is also true of the Plumb family, with lots of family members actively involved.
So after 50+ years, the story continues for Plumbs.