We’re launching with a hat-trick – three businesses for the price of one!

This family-run independent business has been an integral part of Bognor Regis’s High Street and supporting its community from ‘cradle to the grave’ for over 150 years.

Reynolds has stood the test of time, with a story steeped in the highs and lows of British history and tradition including coronations, world wars, periods of economic growth and periods of recession, and they still stand for the best of family values. Their secret? The Reynolds make it personal.

We spoke with Stephen and Matthew Reynolds (5th Generation), and Freya Reynolds (6th Generation) to find out what makes them one of the most loved ‘BRINDIES’ in West Sussex.

Stephen Reynolds explains how, without their past, there would be no business here today.

‘The gentleman who started the business was called Samuel Reynolds, and he was only 19 years old. Looking through our family history, he came to Bognor Regis from Haxted, Surrey, where we think he was apprenticed as a cabinet maker about age 13. We’ve got a lot to be grateful to him for, because he built the business up under many different guises. He was very much an entrepreneur. At one time we had an auction room, and they used to sell prams and things like that. So, the motto of the business at the time was that “the Reynolds family look after you from the cradle to the grave.’

As the town expanded throughout the mid-19th Century due to the arrival of the railway line, Samuel’s cabinet making skills were in high demand. Stephen talks about his Great Great Grandfather’s experience and drive to grow the Reynolds family business from being skilled cabinet makers to a furniture shop, to a funeral director! Other areas of the family business included an auction room, appraisers, house agents, upholsters and undertakers.

Stephen Reynolds

Flexibility and adaptability have served Reynolds well and they have had to consolidate the business over the years. Today, there are three main areas to the business: The Furniture Store, managed by Dominic and Freya Reynolds, the Funeral Directors managed by Stephen and James Reynolds, and the Self-Storage business, managed by Matthew Reynolds, who is also the Financial Director; and still at the helm as Chairman is their father, Norman Reynolds.

‘I have got the utmost respect for my father, Stephen says. Because I don't know how he could have managed it - he really had a lot of pressure on him to run all aspects of the business on his own.’

Reynold’s Furniture Store has undergone several changes over the years, culminating today with over 30,000 square footage spread over four floors. And with changes to the High Street over the years, Matthew Reynolds explains how they have remained flexible to serve their customers with their signature personal service.

Matthew Reynolds

‘Originally, the furniture shop was down West Street from 1867 to 1870 and then it moved to the High Street. Over the years, we've made various improvements and extensions to the building we are in today. It's gone through many changes, but our core values haven't changed over the years. It’s the personal service we offer; we've had to adapt to do lots of different things, like competition from out-of-town stores and more recently, internet shopping, so we had to be a bit more flexible and adapt much quicker than multinationals, which is the strength of being an independent business.’

As much as Reynolds have adapted to Internet shopping, Freya Reynolds also talks about how their clientele still appreciate walking into the store and browsing their products in person, and how their four floors cater for all tastes and budgets.

Freya Reynolds

‘Our customers want to try our products, they want to sit on them, touch them and interact with them, which they cannot do online. We have traditional and contemporary products to suit many styles and types of homes. We have mid-entry products, middle-market products as well as an upmarket price range, and across the board, quality is always at the forefront of our range and is something we are known for.’

Stephen Reynolds reiterates this point with the funeral services that Reynolds provide, ‘We're not going to be the cheapest funeral directors, but we offer that quality service which makes the difference.’

How have Reynolds been affected by the pandemic?

Matthew shares that, for the self-storage part of the business, the pandemic has directly affected its current provision.

‘Lockdown has probably made people use the self-storage service a lot more because it is very closely tied to the housing market and the housing market has had a big impetus by the stamp duty relief. Currently we’re at full capacity, which we haven't been for a long time. But again, it is all about the personal service we offer - we're able to help people with finding someone to move them and all the challenges that come with that.’

Reynolds Self Storage Depository

If you haven’t seen the Reynolds Self-Storage building, you’re missing out! It’s a magnificent building built in 1911, which used to home the auction rooms below where the Bognor Regis Railway Club currently sits. Matthew adds, smiling, that his Father, Norman Reynolds will always mention how the additional floor to this building - added just before the end of the first world war in 1917 - cost as much as the entire property!

Reynolds Self Storage Depository, Canada Grove ~ built in 1911

Dan Prill, Self Storage Depository

Stephen discusses how the pandemic has also affected the day-to-day running of the Funeral Service in some unprecedented ways.

‘The funeral service has been under a lot of pressure. We've worked completely the way through, but obviously, we have a lot of health and safety precautions in place now to protect ourselves and others. Luckily, we all managed to get through. The first wave wasn't too bad, it was busy, but from January to April we were under a lot of pressure, because of the number of deaths. But we try and just do things as best we can for everyone and provide the family with as good as service as possible. We’ve been restricted with a lot of the things that people can do, for instance, they can't have a wake which is a very important part of a funeral - getting together afterwards talking to friends and family, simply isn’t there anymore. So, we’re finding that the idea is that those people will get together afterwards and celebrate their loved one’s life later on. But, will that happen? After a year or so, people probably won't want to revisit that moment. So I think people have found that quite difficult.’

Reynolds have been able to accommodate smaller services in their Chapel

Stephen explains how some of the older funeral traditions have come back during social distancing restrictions, ‘Due to people not being able to attend the funerals, the funeral procession will sometimes start from that family’s house, which has been traditional, but more people are doing it again now. This means that neighbours who can’t go to the crematorium or cemetery can see the procession, and it gives them a chance to say goodbye. I’ve got one tomorrow going past a pub where I know people might be waiting outside just to wave them off.’

It’s clear Stephen takes huge amount of pride in offering the best service he can, and his enthusiasm shines through for offering bespoke funerals catering to a more modern requirement, as well as traditional.

Reynolds's fleet of funeral cars
Malcolm Vernone has been employed 35 years with Reynolds

‘We still do horse drawn funerals, and have our fleet of funeral cars, yet we have other modern options now, such as a Land Rover, which can even be made dirty, as if it has come through muddy fields! And we also once arranged for an Only Fools and Horses van for one occasion. People have got such a wide choice now, and that's the difference. When I first came into the business 30 years ago, the choices weren't there, but with so much choice, comes careful planning. We've got to double-check everything we do so the family’s wishes are met. The thing that does make us different from a lot of bigger companies is they may not make all these last-minute checks. When we make the arrangements, our funeral director will follow it all the way through, so we'll be there on the day at the funeral, and we are like a friend that takes care of them.'

For the Furniture Store, the pandemic affected it in more ways than one as Freya Reynolds explains:

‘The first lockdown was pretty bad. It had a huge knock-on effect with various areas of the business, from the supply-chain issues and the factories and ports being clogged up, and then Brexit! Everything all came at once, so it really was a lot to deal with. Being shut to the public was a huge blow for us especially during our Winter Sale period, which is usually our busiest time of year. Many of our customers, understandably have been nervous about coming into the store. Since we opened, footfall has been much better than when we opened up in June last year. Customers seem more confident, and our staff try to make everyone feel as safe as possible when they come to visit us. Since the pandemic we are also seeing an increase in people wanting to support their independent and local retailers, which is great.'

You can't ignore the history of such a long-standing independent family business such a Reynolds, but what is the secret to this success? After speaking with them and taking a tour of some of their sites around Bognor Regis town centre it became very clear that their family ethos is the strong foundation on which everything has been built upon and has remained unchanged for over 150 years: the personal service. Whatever service Reynold’s offer, they make it personal.

‘I think it's part of us.’ Says Stephen ‘And that has been the ethos of our family business, and still is today.’

Freya adds that this personal service does not stop with their customers, ‘It's not just how we treat our customers, it’s also our staff. We have employees that have been with us for years and years because we like to treat everybody well.’

Matthew adds that even though they have had their challenges throughout the pandemic, the Government schemes and grants have been very helpful for them.

‘The government schemes have been very useful. I think if we can, as independents, push for anything, it is to lobby our Government to revise the Business Rates, or to further extend the exemption to larger properties. They are a huge cost which affect a lot of independent businesses and have not been revised for a very long time, and despite there being a call for it, no one seems to be listening.’

What’s coming next for Reynolds?

As Reynolds's Financial Director, Matthew shares that while a period of consolidation is expected following the pandemic, they will keep an eye on expanding the business if the right opportunity arises. This has been a strategy that has served Reynolds well throughout their history: to be flexible in their approach and adapt to changing environments.

Freya is thinking ahead with the Furniture Store ‘With me coming into the business, and my cousins coming in, there's always that forward thinking, people-orientated aspect that could bring something new in. History is a very rich part of us and as well as being seen as traditional, we do need to emphasise more that we are progressive and that we are trying to do new things'.

Stephen adds how the perception and reputation of Reynolds’s quality and service can sometimes be a double-edged sword. ‘Because we've got a big shop, or we've got better quality funeral cars, people are often afraid to come to you for a quote, because they assume you're going to be much more expensive, which isn't the case. Word-of-mouth is one of our best methods of advertising – it’s really important for us to seek feedback at our funerals as most of the time it’s down to your reputation that decides whether people will have the confidence to come back to you and recommend you.’

‘We are a family-run business, we all live in Bognor and are locally based. We have always got involved in the community and do a lot for our local football and boxing clubs. We do a quiz night a couple of times a year to raise money for different charities, however this has also been affected by the pandemic.’

Will there be a seventh generation Reynolds?

‘One of my children, Alfie has started getting involved in the businesses helping out in the warehouse side, so yes, hopefully he'll come into it if he wants to, but he's still quite young at 18,’ says Matthew. Stephen has two children, and his daughter, Rebecca works part time in the funeral department and studies as well. His son, Sam is finishing a degree and is currently contemplating a career in the family business. They’re all at the age where they're debating whether it's something for them or not really.’

Twins - Stephen and Matthew laugh together as they joke that Freya’s son would be the eighth generation of Reynolds to run the family business, but she reminds them that her son is only nine years old! Freya and her uncles recognise that times have changed, and there are more career choices for young adults now than there used to be.

‘Things have changed a lot. With my dad, it would have just been expected of him, and there are more opportunities now.’ Said Stephen.

What would Reynolds like to see in Bognor Regis, and what advice would they give anyone thinking of setting up a business here?

‘A vibrant town centre, says Matthew, and more independent shops with a good quality offering. There is the demographic in Bognor that could support a mixture of independent businesses. Good independent businesses are willing to come into Bognor and I’d like to see more of that, and we’d support them.'

It was a real pleasure to speak with one of the oldest family-run independent businesses in the UK and hear their secret formula to success – good quality products, and a personal service. Their warmth and fantastic humour ripples throughout every area of their business, and a genuine care for their customers and staff is visibly at the forefront of their priorities as a business. It’s clear why their reputation precedes them across West Sussex, and we’d encourage anyone to pop into Reynolds, to have a chat or even just to admire their photo wall which tells the history of their business! You’re guaranteed a warm welcome!

Reynolds Furniture:

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Reynolds Storage:

Reynolds Funerals:


To read more about Reynold's history, click and download their 150 Year Anniversary Booklet here

All photography by Peter Flude