Contract Flooring Journal (CFJ) the latest news for flooring contractors

Home> Headlam Group <EXCLUSIVE Headlam: We’ll continue to provide a best-in-class service

EXCLUSIVE Headlam: We’ll continue to provide a best-in-class service

John Clark, managing director for regional distribution at Headlam, discusses the history, current circumstances and future of Headlam

1 Tell us a little about the history of Headlam?
Headlam’s history dates back to 1948 when the business traded under a different name (Headlam, Sims & Goggins). It changed its name to Headlam Plc in 1989 and made its first acquisition in 1992. Over the years Headlam has continued to consolidate the previously fragmented UK floor-coverings distribution market, whilst investing heavily in its distribution network. It now operates 67 businesses and trade brands, some of which are nearly 100 years old, across the UK and Europe (France and the Netherlands). Headlam’s scale and operating expertise have ensured that it is the UK’s leading business-to-business floor-covering distributor.

2 When and why did you join the company?
In 1992 Headlam acquired Alvin Morris in Leeds, who I was working for at the time. I was keen to be part of a business with such a strong focus on customer service and exciting plans to grow.

3 Why are your company’s products different than your competitors’ products and what’s the secret to creating a successful flooring product?
Our product and service offering covers the needs of contractors, independent retailers and fitters, as we offer the widest range of products with the deepest range of stock. We also have our exclusive brands including Everyroom, Lifestyle, JHS, Kingsmead and Crucial Trading.
We provide a wide service offering to customers, including stockholding and storage, and we can provide next-day delivery on customer orders through our national distribution network. Our knowledgeable salesforce combined with our fantastic customer service team have helped us become the UK’s No 1 choice for flooring.

Meeting our customers’ needs is key and we must continue to offer the best service available. Our customer surveys have highlighted how important it is to make ordering products from us as easy as possible. Therefore, we have invested in our digital offering, so contractors, fitters and independent retailers have the option to buy from us through our apps, websites and trade counters, as well as our reps and sales teams.

4 Who, outside your company, do you most admire in the industry?
Two people were fantastic mentors in my career, and both had strong people management skills.
Graham Waldron, the former chairman of Headlam, would always take time out of his busy schedule to check in with his team. Every year he would ring all the Branch Managers on Christmas Eve to show his appreciation.
Dave Francis, who I worked with for around 25 years, taught me the benefit of having a sense of humour. He was also a big advocate of training and was well-known in the industry, which is no surprise as he was a great character.

5 What three challenges do you feel the industry is facing and what is Headlam doing to overcome these (sustainability, supply, consumer confidence, etc)?
The future shortage of fitters will be a challenge across the industry, so we have committed to building future industry capabilities through a new partnership with Business in the Community and other organisations. These include the Contract Flooring Association (CFA), to deliver an industry-standard training course.
According to the CFA, its members reported a 16% labour shortage, which equated to 1,200 fitters in 2022. From September 2024, five people from Leeds will have the opportunity to undergo extensive flooring training. The course will last around 26 weeks and they will receive a Headlam Diploma. At the end of the course, we will support them in finding a job with contractors or retailers.
Sustainability is another important challenge. Our recent customer survey highlighted a growth in sustainability awareness from consumers and we have recently hired John Grant as our Head of ESG who is leading several projects to meet customer needs.
Consumer confidence has remained a challenge. Consumers have less disposable income and value for money is increasing in importance. We must continue to provide the best value for money through great service and a great product offering. Our Lifestyle and Everyroom brands are good examples of how we have provided great value products.

6 Can you give an outline of your most popular product ranges and explain a bit about them?
Our Triumph loop carpet tile has been a longstanding best seller. This carpet tile is suited to commercial retail, hospitality, office, and workplace sectors. It is recognised by architects and contractors across the UK and is both hardwearing and long-lasting.
The construction of this carpet tile (a 100% solution-dyed nylon, with a Latex Bitumen secondary backing) adds both texture and a stylish finish. It is also a practical, durable, and well-suited option for contractors in high-traffic, commercial areas. We offer it in 24 colours, with a ten-year commercial wear guarantee and it is tested for fire resistance to BS EN13501-1, achieving a Cfl-s1 rating.
Another popular product with our independent retail customers is Tomkinson Twist from our Tomkinson brand, and it is a stylish carpet for the home. Made from an 80/20 wool twist composition, it is available in five weights, in 24 colours, and four and five metre widths.

7 How important do you feel offering a bespoke and unique flooring solution is to a business?
Meeting and exceeding customer needs is key to our business and that often means offering bespoke and unique flooring solutions. We have the right teams and capabilities to service many different customer groups with bespoke solutions, and our broad ranges ensure that we have the right product available for next day delivery.

8 Is sustainability and ethical manufacturing a key commitment to your business, and if so, why?
Our environmental and social commitments are a key part of our strategy and we have focused more on these areas over the past few years. We have commissioned a company called SEDEX to regularly measure our ESG (environmental, social, governance) performance, and we share our internationally recognised ethical audits with our customers and suppliers.
We are also committed to reducing our carbon footprint. JHS, a contractor-focused brand, offers a selection of sustainable products such as Colour Foundation, Highfields and Ocean Drift which are made from Econyl.
Econyl regenerated nylon is 100% recycled yarn made from nylon waste such as fishing nets, fabric scraps and old carpet tiles. As part of the Econyl manufacturing process, the yarn never loses its original quality and can be recycled and reused, making it a great sustainable solution for contractors. Our Net Zero plans are also in the process of being approved by the science-based target initiative (SBTi), which is a globally recognised verification scheme for carbon reduction.

9 What innovation can your clients expect from you in 2024 and into the future?
To improve the customer experience and make it easier to purchase from us, we are investing heavily in our digital platforms. Our new website ( launched recently to showcase our product and service offering. We are also refreshing our online trade portals this year to improve the customer experience. Our MyHeadlam app, for customers on the go, will also be redeveloped to make it even easier to use.
To improve product knowledge and increase capabilities across the industry more training has been added for our sales teams.
We are also opening more trade counters, making it even easier for contractors, fitters and retailers to collect and store their goods. We are also refitting our older trade counters to increase the service we offer. These are there to provide a localised service to the industry and are not open to the public. Finally, we are developing some inspirational coloured collections, with industry-leading environmental credentials that meet the needs of our customers and end users. We have several very exciting product developments in the pipeline for this year and 2025.

10 What flooring trends are you seeing at the moment, and how do these influence your product development?
We are seeing growth in modular hard flooring, which is a key focus, as we look to develop our products and offerings. In terms of colour, grey remains important in textile floorcovering, but we are seeing a trend back towards warmer beige and grey colours. This is reflected in our recent (and future) product launches.

11 What is your major selling point with contractors? What do your products offer them that others don’t?
We’re concentrating on improving our service and product offering, whilst making it easier for contractors to buy from us. We are also very flexible when it comes to customer delivery times.
Our ambition is to have 110 trade counters within a 30-minute drive for most parts of the country. This will make it even easier for our customers to buy and store products.
We also provide our customers with access to the largest and broadest range of products in the UK. Our contractor-focused brand, JHS, is covering flooring products such as LVT, commercial broadloom carpets, carpet tile, sheet vinyl, entrance matting and much more.

12 Where do you see the company in five years?
Contractors, independent retailers and fitters remain key focuses of our business, and we are committed to providing them with the best service. We are training and developing our teams and improving our processes to provide better service. We want to remain industry leaders, building future capability through new talent to support the wider industry.
Trade counters are also an area of focus to service fitters and provide local services to the wider flooring industry. We often provide a storage service for local, independent retailers, as well as collection services for contractors. These are only for the trade and not end consumers.
Additionally, we will continue to provide a best-in-class service to our major retailers, large house builders and contract builders.

CAPTION: John Clark

Please click to view more articles about

Stay Connected




Popular articles