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Heal's was established in 1810 as a family business by John Harris Heal. Since its foundation, the business has had a distinctive character and reputation for innovation.
The company was taken over by John Harris Heal junior in 1840 after the death of his father in 1833. During this time he improved the bed designs developing the Heal’s bed as a household name. He also pioneered the use of advertising, placing adverts in seven of Charles Dickens novels. The business during this time took a step from manufacturing just beds to a whole range of bedroom furniture including wardrobes, chests of drawers and wash stands.
Ambrose Heal joined the business in 1893 and soon started designing and making simple furniture. The first catalogue of his furniture was published in 1898, founding the Heal Style. He contributed greatly to both the business and to British furniture making in general.
Heal's has been operating on Tottenham Court Road since 1840. Its first purpose-built store was completed in 1854 and was then one of the largest in London. The central part of the present building was commissioned by Ambrose Heal and designed by his cousin and best friend Cecil Brewer. It was completed in 1917 and was immediately hailed as a landmark in shop architecture.
1960 marked Heal's 150th Anniversary. To celebrate, the company decided to create a 'Designers of The Future Exhibition' with young designers from different European countries selected and commissioned to design a room in the Mansard Gallery. Although the designs came from seven different countries, all the furniture was made by Heal's craftsmen. A similar tradition still remains today through the renowned 'Heals Discovers' Awards.
A second store opened in Guildford in 1972 and in 1984 Heal's was bought by Terence Conran under the Storehouse group umbrella. While part of Storehouse, Heal's benefited from the professional retail skills and disciplines that a large retail group can bring. However, Storehouse had a chain store mentality that did not sit comfortably with the Heal's brand. As a result of the recession in the late 1980s the Company was the subject of a management buyout in 1990.
During this time, the business underwent radical change to revitalise the brand and its personality. The merchandise range was considerably expanded with most of the product lines changed to new exclusive ranges largely designed especially for Heal's. In the second half of the 1990s Heal's started to expand and develop, opening a new store on King's Road Chelsea in December 1995. On 23 October 1999 a fourth store was opened at Kingston-upon-Thames. The beginning of the 21st Century saw Heal's launch its e-commerce website www.heals.co.uk in November 2000, just in time for Christmas trading, bringing Heal's to customers further afield in regions throughout the United Kingdom.
Wittington Investments Limited acquired Heal's plc in August 2001 as a private company. In the last five years Heal's has seen the opening of new stores, expanding outside the South East of England, with a Heal's opening in the centre of Manchester on the 24 July 2003 and a Heal's arriving at Redbrick Mill in Batley, near Leeds on 5 November 2005.
Over the past five years, Heal's has been revitalising the business with new branding, including a new logo and graphics, introducing new products and services and producing a new brand campaign to convey the changes to the public. September 2006 saw the refurbishment of Heal's flagship at 196 Tottenham Court Road, London with new departments and the unveiling of the brand new Peyton & Byrne Cafe and bakery run by Oliver Peyton. New services include Wedding and Gift List Service available online and various in-store services such as bespoke furniture, interior design, bespoke rugs and an updated curtain and blind making service.
In June 2007, Heal's opened by the seaside in Brighton. Nestled in the stylish Lanes area, it brings the total number of Heal's stores up to six. Future plans include the continuing expansion of stores across the United Kingdom, along with a more extensive range of furniture and non furniture products to buy online - together with constantly updated stores and merchandise, making Heal's an inspirational and enjoyable place to shop for different home ideas and solutions.
2010 was Heal's Bicentenary and to celebrate we launched Heal's ReDiscovers, a range of pieces created by the best British furniture designers, as well as an array of our most popular products featuring promotional imagery from our archives. We have also taken the opportunity to publish Heal's - 200 Years of Design and Inspiration a collectable, limited edition book providing a lavishly illustrated and informative account of our 200 year history.