Heyland & Whittle: a great British soap [and fragrance] story

Soap Group Shot 1

Visitors to this year’s Chelsea Flower were guaranteed to come out smelling of roses and for more than one reason.

The quintessentially British soap and fragrance brand, Heyland & Whittle, donated the hand washes and lotions used in all of the public lavatories at the show, and has done so since 2010.

It was an astute marketing move from the firm, led by husband and wife team, Paddy and Ursula Heyland, who confess “we know how to sell”.

“Thirty five thousand people are using our products in the loos at least twice a day,” smiles Paddy.

Paddy and Ursula Heyland: we know how to sell

Paddy and Ursula Heyland: we know how to sell

The public appreciation for handwashing is clearly not lost on the pair, who marked their fifth year at Chelsea, the only trade show the couple both continue to work, “because it’s such an ego boost with everybody saying, “I love your stuff”.”

When Retail Times paid a visit, the company had already welcomed armfuls of overseas visitors to its 5 Star award-winning stand, lulled by the patriotism of the company’s Hope & Glory range.

Its appeal signals a growth direction for the company, established in rural Surrey in 2003.

Just prior to Chelsea, the brand opened in Espace Beauté, a flagship beauty spa store in Shanghai.

While Heyland & Whittle is particularly strong in the Far East, where brand awareness has been built through continued attendance at the Hong Kong Gifts & Premium Fair and a strong partnership with its Taiwanese distributor, it now boasts 25 export markets.

“We feel export will be our growth market,” says Ursula, “along with own label.”

The brand already counts Fortnum & Mason, Liberty and Ocado as own label customers and is poised to launch a co-branded fragrance range for a clothing company.

The 10 soap recipes , which founded the business

The 10 soap recipes , which founded the business

The business was born when the couple bought the recipes for 10 cold-pressed soaps to provide a counterpoint to selling a range of imported garden furniture.

“It’s a good Christmas gifting product to sell when furniture is not very popular,” Paddy explains.

Whittle was Ursula’s maiden name and the brand, complete with the Heyland family crest, came into being.

The brand’s heritage has also been recognised this year in the launch of a limited edition soap book designed to commemorate the death of Paddy’s great great grandfather, Major Arthur Rowley Heyland, in the Battle of Waterloo 200 years ago.

The book includes a poignant extract from a letter Arthur wrote to his wife, Mary, on the eve of the battle.

Fittingly, proceeds from the sale of the soap book are being donated to the charity Coming Home, which supports British service men and women.

Commemorative Waterloo soap book

Commemorative Waterloo soap book

It’s this sort of sentimentality, combined with product quality,  which ticked the boxes for John Lewis, now a major Heyland & Whittle stockist.

“John Lewis was a big scoop for us three to four years ago and we are in all stores in the fragrance department and bath shop,” says Ursula.

“John Lewis is a very good fit for us because of the ethos of our natural product range.”

That ethos is neatly summed up in the brand’s mission statement: Heyland & Whittle is a quality soap and fragrance manufacturer based in England. We create what we believe are outstanding natural products with tradition, style and authenticity for a discerning market.

Natural products ethos

Natural products ethos

Contemporary Home range

Contemporary Home range

Today there are 12 Classic Fragrances and six in the more contemporary, Home collection, all handmade and packed at the company’s factory in West Sussex, which employs 26 staff.

The products are not, stress Ursula and Paddy, run of the mill.

Judging from the delight in handwashing at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show, at least 175,000 people agree.