As the country and the world moves into uncertain times, we’ve decided to look back on the journey of the family business Tibard. In the past forty years, Tibard have evolved to become one of the nation’s favourite uniform providers. They may deliver uniforms to thousands of businesses across the country, but they had quite humble beginnings. Paul Andrews spoke to them to find out more.
It all began back in 1979 on August 12th when John and Sue Shonfeld founded a company in their spare room in a small village in Tameside, Greater Manchester. That summer would be an especially fragile time in the country just following the infamous ‘Winter of Discontent’ striking and industrial upheaval; many businesses failed before they got started. But this tenacious duo knew they had an idea and the determination to create a company that would endure these tumultuous times.
Their vision was simple – They wanted to create a fully integrated system for the production and laundering of chefswear within the hospitality industry. At this time there wasn’t another system out there like this catering to these sort of companies, especially not with such an innovative approach, and so Tibard was born.
The next three years would be marked with profit and company growth for John and Sue Shonfield as they managed the production and upkeep of chefswear for hundreds of establishments on a national basis. They worked tirelessly to build the business and even roped in their children to help prepare the garments for delivery! At this time the companies using Tibard included the likes of Brewers Fayre and Beefeater.
To keep up with the rising demand for Tibard products and maintain the same level of customer service for their growing client base, John and Sue knew they had to get out of their spare room. So in September of 1982, the first Tibard location came to be on a small industrial unit in Denton, Tameside. For the first time, John and Sue could directly employ and oversee the production and the business side of things, setting the stage for what was to come.
The business continued to grow and their hard work and endeavour paid off when in the winter of 1987, Tibard reached its first million in annual turnover. This point was a completely unprecedented milestone, with the average £1 million business taking eleven years to reach that coveted milestone, Tibard managed to do it seven!
During the late 1980’s, an increasing amount of British companies were choosing to move their production entirely offshore due to cost. Tibard were happy to buck the trend and stuck to their original vision of high-quality chefswear made in Greater Manchester.
Committed to this vision, they undertook their biggest risk to date and set out to build their own 25,000 foot manufacturing hub in Dukinfield, Greater Manchester in 1989. A purpose-built factory, allowed them to increase the rate of manufacturing chefswear by hiring local seamstresses and account managers.
However, just when Tibard was finishing the move to Dukinfield, the country was hit with a recession. The recession of the early 1990’s marked a precarious time for British based manufacturing. Yet, Tibard garment’s popularity in the industry continued to endure as people continued to rely on them for the quality and durability of their uniforms.
Successfully enduring the hard times, Tibard exited the recession unscathed and achieved their next financial milestone in 1993 by reaching 2 million in turnover. This event marked a real turning point for Tibard and they recognised that in order to continue to grow, innovation would be the next big step for the family firm.
In the formative years Tibard was a small team of around a dozen employees but in 1994 it was time to expand. During the year Tibard’s workforce grew to thirty from machinists and seamstresses to account managers and salespeople which allowed the business to boost productivity in their Dukinfield location.
Four years later, Tibard took another step in innovation, launching their first website. Online sales were still small in 1998, but this innovative family business recognised the viability of having an online space even back then, and it was this pioneering attitude that meant that Tibard was one of the first workwear websites in the UK.
Innovation and entrepreneurial drive continued with the acquisition of a local laundry operator and the formation of Tibard Laundry Services in 2001. After twenty-two years of managing laundry services, this was the next natural step for Tibard – offering laundry separately from the integrated system and the business began to regularly launder hospitality clothing from across the North West.
The next stage in the journey was personal as, twenty-three years after helping with the start of Tibard, Rick Shonfeld, son of Sue and John, re-joined the business. Rick enjoyed a successful career working at a New York design agency and returned to the family business to make a real mark on the creative direction of Tibard. His appointment was also the realisation that Tibard had become a real family business. Rick oversaw the next stage of Tibard with the launch of the high-end chefswear brand Oliver Harvey.
Officially launched in 2009 Oliver Harvey was the culmination of the company’s collective knowledge of the hospitality industry. They recognised the desire in the industry for a heritage chefswear brand that had the feel of a luxury fashion retailer. So, the range of chefswear developed to include new jacket styles, a specialised women’s fit chef jacket and high-quality leather apron collection, all of which have been massive successes for the business since their introduction.
As we entered the 2010’s, digital innovation took a stronghold of everyone’s lives and Tibard saw the opportunity to provide customers with a brand new experience and the Tibard Cloud system launched in 2017. An online portal that allows a multitude of sites to log on and order uniform under their business account and allows head offices to keep track of spending. Overall this new system allows businesses to easily update their new uniform in all sites and gives managers the freedom to purchase when needed. As well as digital innovation, Tibard revitalised their manufacturing facility in 2018. They learned that the adjacent industrial unit in Dukinfield was up for sale and opportunities like that do not come round too often. They invested millions of pound to expand their production, build a state of the art warehouse and office space as well as a corridor unifying the two buildings.
In 2019 Tibard proudly celebrated their fortieth year in business with a party for suppliers, customers and employees alike. After four decades of hard work, it was an opportunity to kick back and reflect on forty years of a job well done.
But the journey does not end there. In 2020, like most businesses across the country, Tibard suffered a huge challenge posed by the coronavirus pandemic. When the Government put Tibard’s traditional market, hospitality, on hold, they watched their order book vanish from 200 orders a day to 0. However, the state of the art manufacturing facility was therefore without work at a time when the NHS desperately needed scrubs, gowns and other PPE so they utilised all their touchpoints from suppliers to competitors to offer their factory to meet any shortfalls. This is something they continue to do to this day as well as seeing their traditional customers ordering again, following the reopening of the hospitality industry in July and the Eat Out to Help Out scheme. The entrepreneurial journey continues.
We look forward to continuing to see the journey of this innovative, entrepreneurial family business.
Find out more about the business at www.tibard.co.uk