A local businessman who started out over 40 years ago has created a soft furnishings empire that is now believed to be the UK’s largest independent fabric retailer.
Peter Grimes's chain of four Simon Boyd shops now includes Premiership footballers, the top five star London hotel, The Corinthia and the world famous Gleneagles Hotel and golf resort among its clients.
With a factory outlet in Wrexham and stores in Chester, Knutsford and Shrewsbury, Simon Boyd Ltd is the last man standing in the fabric manufacturing business in North Wales and the North West following the demise of Laura Ashley and more recently the closure of Montgomery’s in Broughton in 2013.
The company now employs around 70 people across the four sites and Peter’s daughters, Nikole and Cordelia, are both directors. Nikole is based at the Shrewsbury store and Cordelia is in Knutsford.
They source most of their fabrics direct from mills in Italy, Spain, Turkey and Belgium, but they also stock big name brands such as Sanderson, Morris & Co, Romo and Harlequin. As a result, they have a range of more than 50,000 options of curtain and upholstery fabrics.
In addition, Peter has established an extremely successful separate property company, which has an extensive portfolio of properties in Manchester, Cheshire, and North Wales including apartments, shops and factories.
According to Peter, one of the secrets of their success has been the expert guidance of chartered accountants Coxeys who have offices in Wrexham and Saltney.
He said: “It’s absolutely imperative that you have the right financial and tax advice when you’re running a company. Coxeys have helped Simon Boyd to develop and grow – they are providing expert support that’s enabling us to maximise our potential and grasp opportunities when they present themselves.”
He recalled: “I always knew that I wanted to do something in business, there was an entrepreneurial spirit lurking within and I started with a small amount of stock which I sold to market stalls and shops in North Wales.
"Our first shop was in Chester and then we progressed from there to South Manchester, Shrewsbury and we bought the old Laura Ashley premises in Wrexham which is our factory, Head Office, and factory shop.”
“We aim at the middle market – the John Lewis customer is absolutely perfect for us. The products they get are from similar mills or the same mills as us but they go through a converter so we’ve always got the edge on price.
"The scale of the operation now has far exceeded my initial expectations."
Carla Huxley, the operations director, is a key figure who started in the business 21 years ago.
She said: “We have a huge catchment area. People travel for miles because of the size of our range and the sheer quality of our fabrics, allied to extremely competitive pricing. At the factory shop in Wrexham, people travel from as far as Barmouth and Anglesey while our Shrewsbury store actually covers Wolverhampton and towards Birmingham.”
“The Knutsford store brings in customers from the whole of the Manchester area and Cheshire, so between the four sites, we do cover a really large area. We even have one lady who makes regular trips from Ireland.
"We have our own workroom so we can provide bespoke manufacturing but we have just as many customers who come in just to buy the fabric, or to purchase readymade curtains.”
“We also do a lot of contract work. The Corinthia Hotel in London was a commission via an interior designer as we work in close communication with a number of designers. That was a fantastic job because we did the main dining area.
"Because we are specialists in this type of unique manufacturing the Project Manager travelled from London to our factory to commission us for the work. The windows were very big arched shape so the curtains had to be tailored specifically to those windows, so it was a very complicated job.”
“Through the Knutsford store, we carry out work for premiership footballers but because of client confidentiality I can’t name names unfortunately.”
Chartered accountant Michael Coxey said: “We are delighted that we have been able to play our part in the Simon Boyd success story. They are great ambassadors for business and industry, companies like this are the backbone of our economy. They have quality products and excellent pricing which is why they have such a loyal customer base in all the areas they serve.”