While Acorn Stairlifts is well-known as a leader in its field in the UK, most people will probably be surprised to hear that one of the company’s stairlifts is installed somewhere in the world every nine minutes!
In fact, over the last 20 years, Acorn Stairlifts has grown into a £136m turnover business, exporting to 80 countries and employing 800 people in the UK and 1,400 around the globe.
Acorn Stairlifts was set up in 1992 by its current owner, originally buying and selling second hand stairlifts. As demand outstripped supply, the company began manufacturing its own products. Over the last 23 years, it has supplied more than 400,000 stairlifts direct to the customer as well as to dealers and distributors in the UK and overseas. With its headquarters in Steeton and two other manufacturing plants in Shipley and near Edinburgh, Acorn Stairlifts has invested £8m in new plant and machinery during the last five years and now makes one million components annually.
Dave Belmont, company secretary, explains the business’ success. “Determination, focus and hard work have made us one of the market leaders in stairlifts globally. We are fortunate that as a private company, we have benefited from ongoing investment and a long term vision. For example, we have invested heavily in setting up our own subsidiaries overseas which allows us to promote our brand and ensure that our sales and service levels are maintained, whatever the country. We have been able to make strategic decisions to invest in markets which we believe have potential, rather than having to focus on immediate returns.”
Acorn Stairlifts has subsidiaries in the USA, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Ireland, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Over the last four years, its worldwide exports have more than doubled, rising from £35.7m to almost £80m and it is the market leader in the US. Its impressive export growth was recently recognised at the EEF/Aldermore Future Manufacturing Awards where it took gold in the Outstanding Export Award, was runner-up in the Business Growth Award and was named British Manufacturing Champion by being crowned Winner of Winners.
“As well as the quality of our products and customer service, we have built the business around the speed of our response. We will often install a stairlift within three days of a consumer contacting us, and sometimes even the next day in an emergency. Given the sheer size of the United States, we had to invest heavily to build up critical mass so we could provide similar levels of service cost-effectively.
“Looking to the future, we will be adding further territories and our plan is to find ways to continue to grow and be even better at what we do. A product like ours can literally change someone’s life and it genuinely gives us pleasure to know that we are helping people to live in their own home longer or to get out of hospital more quickly because we are able to install within 24 hours. For us, it’s more than just a business, for example, we’ve recently pledged to provide up to 60 stairlifts a year free of charge for people cared for by Marie Curie across the UK.”
Acorn Stairlifts also this year received the Made in Yorkshire Advanced Manufacturer/Technology Award from Insider in recognition of the success of its modular FastTrack® system. Using FastTrack, Acorn can often install a stairlift on a non-standard staircase faster than any of its competitors – sometimes before one of its competitors has even sent a surveyor.
Leeds law firm Clarion manages Acorn Stairlifts’ trademark portfolio around the world.
“With its strong track record in handling international intellectual property work, Clarion was an obvious choice for us given our need to protect our valuable brand names in relation to our innovative business and products. The team have been unfailingly friendly and helpful, they speak in a language we can understand and always provide a swift response.”
Esther Kirwan, partner in Clarion’s IP practice, adds: “With almost 500 staff in Yorkshire, Acorn Stairlifts has grown into a major local employer as well as taking the region’s reputation for manufacturing excellence around the world. Generally, the better quality the product, the higher the risk is of it being copied so it is vital that innovative British made and designed products like these are protected across all jurisdictions.”
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