Aluminium extrusions help make Burgess chairs both sleek and sturdy.
Tables and chairs made for the convention and hospitality industry have to be light, so they can be set up and put away quickly and easily. But they also have to be tough, in order to deliver long, useful service and withstand rough handling.
Aluminium fits the bill on both counts for Burgess Furniture, market leader in Europe for contract furniture manufacturing.
“When it comes to the stacking and handling of chairs, aluminium wins every time,” says Managing Director Jeremy Burgess.
Burgess Furniture counts some of the best-known names in the hospitality industry among its clients: Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, Intercontinental – the list goes on and on.
About 85 percent of the chairs Burgess Furniture produces are made with aluminium frames in a variety of shapes using different extrusions from Hydro’s extrusion plants in the U.K. Some have pleasing waves and grooves, while a new addition features a triangular extrusion.
“The beauty of aluminium is you can design your own extrusion, and incorporate your design into the aluminium,” Jeremy Burgess says. “You can’t do the same with steel.”
Burgess chairs are eminently stackable.
Indeed, the Burgess Furniture prides itself as a design leader. Innovation is one of the company’s watchwords. It was the first European manufacturer of the aluminium stacking banquet chair. “We like to think we have the best quality product in the world,” he says.
And, adds Sales and Marketing Director Simon Richards with a smile, “We’re widely imitated but never copied. We’re very well known for our traditional products, but design and innovation are very important in maintaining our position as the market leader.”
The company’s newest line, the Configure-8 table system, features anodized aluminium extrusions in the folding legs and frame. The table comes in various sizes and can be configured in many different layouts during conventions and other events, thanks to a system of discreet linking clips.
Aluminium makes the system both light and sleek in design. The light weight comes in handy for making the most out of the system. “They need that flexibility,” Jeremy Burgess says. “Our goal with the largest table in the family was to get in less than 25 kilograms. This one is 24.”
The Configure-8 is their first table utilizing aluminium in the frame and legs. “It has a really different look,” Jeremy Burgess says.
Hydro delivers a special alloy that has gone through a unique treatment process to produce the exact characteristics Burgess Furniture needs to make the chair frames. “The alloy is critical for the long life of the product,” Jeremy explains. “It lasts much longer in the field – you can find 25-year-old Burgess chairs still being used.”
Jeremy says Hydro has been able to deliver more value-added services as their relationship has developed.
“I’m generally happy and impressed with the technical standards that Hydro has been able to maintain. Before, we bought raw extrusions; now we’re moving a step closer, with Hydro doing anodizing and fabrication. It makes our life easier. With this product, we can be more of an assembly operation, rather than a manufacturing one.”
And as Burgess Furniture produces the tables and chairs from their huge product range only as orders are received, the company wants its supplier to come through. “We need on-time delivery and dependability,” says Simon Richards, sales and marketing director.
Burgess Furniture exports about 50 percent of its U.K. production, and sells its furniture in around 50 countries around the world. A joint-venture in the U.S. has tapped into booming demand in conference and hospitality markets like Las Vegas, which attracts millions of visitors each year.
In fact, the company has been experiencing 20 percent growth in recent years, and has been branching out into the Middle East, Russia, and the countries of the former Yugoslavia.
|The company’s newest line, the Configure-8 table system, features anodized aluminium extrusions in the folding legs and frame.
||Jeremy Burgess, managing director of Burgess Furniture, learned the business from his father Gerald, who founded the company nearly 50 years ago.|
All in the family
Gerald Burgess first saw the advantages of aluminium in the 1940s. A keen bicyclist, he began producing components such as handlebars of aluminium. A friend saw his handiwork, and asked if Gerald could make a few chairs for him, using the same materials and techniques.
Gerald quickly concluded that he had found himself a potentially lucrative business, and Burgess Furniture was born.
The business grew with Gerald, who was also a professional rally car racer, at the wheel. He even employed some highly imaginative marketing tactics, like stopping at a hotel when he was abroad for a rally to see if he could make an impromptu sale.
The business remains in the family, nearly 50 years after it was established. Son Jeremy, who began in the company while working in the factory on school holidays, is chairman and managing director.
The manufacturing facility and head offices, near Heathrow Airport, are adjacent to Gerald’s original site for manufacturing his bicycle components.