Schreiber was a relative newcomer to the furniture business. Chaim Schreiber came to Britain in the war years to escape Nazi persecution. He started in business by making radio cabinets and he bought a bankrupt furniture business in 1957. By 1967, he was challenging Lebus and Gomme for domination of the furniture market. In the 70s, Schreiber introduced furniture centres, taking complete control of distribution, as well as manufacture. After economic problems in the mid-seventies and a merger with GEC, the Company continued to be one of the biggest names in furniture in the 70s.
Schreiber started in business making radio cabinets for Dansette and other larger electrical manufacturers. In those days, radios were either polished wood veneered or wooden covered with leather cloth. Schreiber learnt to make good quality and cheap cabinets to exacting specifications. The large electrical manufacturers controlled the market and demanded the cheapest possible prices. Schreiber needed to develop a manufacturing process that could deliver the best quality at the cheapest prices.
This business was doing well, but Schreiber wanted to break away from the control of these large organisations. In 1957, with the profits he made from radio cabinets, he bought the bankrupt furniture maker, Lubetkin. He scrapped the name and made his own furniture.
In the mid-sixties, he made bedroom furniture using a technique he called 'furniture engineering'. His furniture was at the cheaper end of the market. He entered the growing built-in bedroom market in the late 'sixties. His bedroom storage furniture was finished in teak. He was slightly behind the fashion in the late 60s, but nevertheless, the business was so successful that he was able to buy Greaves and Thomas in 1967, adding a quality name to the Schreiber Empire.
Although Schreiber achieved huge success in the late 60s, the Company really came to prominence in the early 70s. By then, Schreiber had an established reputation at the cheaper end of the market.
Chaim Schreiber was a man of strong principles. Always 'Mr Schreiber' to his employees, his management style was directive. However, he treated everyone equally and had a strong sense of what was fair. Schreiber cared deeply for his labour force. In 1970, he abolished clocking in and paid the workers in the same way as he paid the management. He disliked bad manners and admired honesty. If people working for him did well, he rewarded them accordingly.
Schreiber was able to make good furniture cheaper than any other company. Unlike G-Plan, he never employed a designer, but copied and adapted other designs. The one revolutionary aspect of Schreiber furniture was the shape of the drawers. They were curved for easy fitting. The main reason for his outstanding success in the early 'seventies was his manufacturing skills.
By 1970, his turnover was ahead of that of Gomme. Schreiber's main competitor in the early 'seventies would have been Lebus, but their spectacular failure left the market open.
The furniture market of the early 'seventies split neatly into two sections: well-designed, but expensive furniture and furniture sold mainly on price. There was very little in between. Gomme was a master of design, Schreiber a master of price. These two firms exemplified the different marketing philosophies. Both were hugely successful.
Teak dining furniture also remained popular in all sections of the market. As mentioned earlier, Gomme continued to sell teak furniture successfully. Schreiber also made dining room furniture with a teak finish. Their Tivoli sideboard was very popular; it was simple, modern and inexpensive. The finish, however, was synthetic.
Schreiber also introduced new upholstered furniture in 1973. There was a new sofa and two new swivel chairs. The first, the 'Tivoli', was very similar to designs from the late 'sixties. The second, the 'Castello', was mounted on a circular base. It had deep, buttoned upholstery in imitation leather, Dralon or boucl material. Its padded armrests were similar to the G-Plan saddle range of 1969, but the more rounded shape was typical of the 'seventies.
Schreiber also announced new ranges of bedroom furniture in 1973: the 'Nova' in white and the 'Carolina' in rosewood and white. A nice touch, for the time, was a free set of coat hangers with each new wardrobe unit.
By 1973, Chaim Schreiber could claim to have furniture for the whole house. He added fitted kitchens to his already extensive range. An innovative deal with Chaim Schreiber's friend and GEC boss, Sir Arnold Weinstock, meant that GEC Schreiber kitchens could come with Hotpoint refrigerators and Cannon gas hobs built-in. Chaim Schreiber joked at the time that he would have taken over GEC, but Schreiber Furniture was not quite big enough.
Another innovation for 1973 was the 'Schreiber Furniture Centre'. Chaim Schreiber invited applications from the retail trade for shops to become the new furniture centres. They needed to provide 3,500 square feet of floor space and carry around 4,000 of stock chosen by Schreiber. The Schreiber warehouse would carry back up stock and Schreiber vans would keep the centre stocked via 'milk round' deliveries. Schreiber received 800 applications, from which he chose 280 stores.
As well as offering cheap furniture, Schreiber understood some of the frustrations of the buying public. He promised a 21-day delivery time on furniture once ordered from the furniture centres. People were used to having to wait much longer for deliveries. He was prepared to upset retailers in a bid to save costs. He refused to replace furniture damaged in transit. The retailer had to claim a discount and sell it at a cheaper price. Schreiber did not want the extra cost of taking it back.
Schreiber success continued in 1973; turnover and profits were more than double the 1971 totals.
1974 was a bad trading year for the British furniture industry and 1975 was even worse. Schreiber struggled in 1974 after years of phenomenal success. Chaim Schreiber put plans for a new factory at Runcorn on hold. A merger with former partner, GEC, saved his business. Chaim Schreiber became Chief Executive of domestic appliance makers Hotpoint and Morphy Richards, as well as Schreiber Furniture. His old friend Arnold Weinstock thought Chaim Schreiber's common touch would help solve GEC's customer complaints problems.
With high inflation and incomes falling behind, many people took to self assembly furniture in the late 70s. Schreiber catered to this new trend and introduced a flat-pack range. Their 'Nova' bedroom range, also in white with gold coloured handles, was available as a 'Take & Save' pack you could load into the boot of a small family car.
The vast majority of young couples setting up home for the first time still went out and bought teak wall units in the late 'seventies and teak dining room furniture. Schreiber was the most well-known brand.
The furniture trade suffered badly in the final years of the 70s. Several firms went out of business, but Schreiber rode out the tough economic conditions and is still a well-known brand in the home improvements sector today.
Latest news: Schreiber is now at Argos
The Schreiber brand is now at Argos. Argos stocks a range of Schreiber bedroom furniture.
Your comments on Schreiber furniture
"I bought some bedroom furniture a couple of years ago it was cherry wood veneer I am looking to try and buy another wardrobe to match existing furniture. I originally bought wardrobes from MFI. Any Ideas" Wayne Short
Hi Wayne, I don't know if anyone is stocking Schreiber. You might get lucky on eBay though. There are quite a number of both modern and vintage Schreiber wardrobes as well as bedside tables changing hands on eBay. You might find some new old stock. Retrowow
"I had a Schreiber Camden range of bedroom furniture fitted recently, bought through MFI but MFI failed to send the curved rail for the corner unit!!! I now have a spacious corner unit I can't use - where can I get a curved rail, not just the curved bit but the whole thing?!" Marianna
Unfortunately I can't really help. Retrowow has no connection with MFI who formerly owned the Schreiber brand. Your best chance is to find something similar on eBay. Retrowow
"Can you help me find a supplier of the small plastic 5mm drawer runners to refurb my 1970s Schreiber chest of drawers Thank you" Les Walker
"We are just renovating our spare room which has housed a Schrieber wardrobe that I brought 2nd hand when my son was born and he is now 27. We need to break the wardrobe up to move it and it is proving to be very stubborn. My son stood on the drawer interior and it still refused to give way. He could not believe how well built it was compared to today's furniture. It is sad to think that with the demise of MFI Schrieber may disappear. " Joan
"I have a Schreiber Hiboard which I think we bought in 1970s. Still in good condition even though has been well used over the years as it had good storage capacity. Glass section for glasses etc. Pull down drawer unit for drinks or whatever a sliding door at the bottom and three drawers. Do you know if anyone would be interested in it." mary brett
"Is anyone stocking Schreiber in the UK as we were about to do our daughers room before MFI went into administration??" T Griffiths
As far as I know, Schreiber is no longer stocked. There is some information about the collapse of MFI on the BBC's Watchdog page. See the collapse of the MFI flatpack empire Retrowow
"I am looking for the plastic end stops on the drawer runners the numbers on the runners are 140.450 01. Hope that you can help as the drawers keep falling out onto my feet." Bobby Sharrocks
"I have schreiber bedroom furniture Boston Range in pearwood. I need more wardrobe space has anyone got items or ideas. Help Please." Jacqui Scott
"My husband and I will soon be celebrating our 33 wedding anniversary and are still using our dinning room furniture that we purchased from you when we first got married in May 1976. We have a dinning table and four chairs, that now need re-covering and three units that we keep glass and china in." B. Hudson
"I have Schreiber Pine wardrobe and chest of drawers for sale. Wardrobe has 3 doors - 2 double doors (left and middle) hanging space and 1 hanging and shelving (to the right) 5 drawers underneath (3 upper 2 lower) very solid wardrobe. Chest of drawers 2+4 also very solid pine. Just need the space now as we're moving and have built in furniture - photos available to send via e-mail if wanted - available 10miles South of Norwich. Have a price in mind but make me an offer. Lovely furniture, wardrobe disassembled; would not get rid if not necessary :o)" Bettina email: firstname.lastname@example.org
"I'm desperately looking to add to schreiber bedroom furniture Boston Range in Pearwood. In particular, tall drawer chests. Can anyone help me!!!" Julie Anthoney
"I just bought 2 round trash cans I think Schreiber wood industries 1965. They have beigh round plastic tops. Were they trash cans or laundry hampers or what? Cant imagine how they ended up here in new mexico. I just thought they looked cool...paid $5.00 each for them. can anybody tell me what they are?" jeff martin goacher
"Where can I buy kitchen schriber other than MFI?" ken gresty
"I am looking for Schreiber bedside cabinet and dressing table to add to my existing suite in Pearwood. Can anyone help." Jacky
"Does anybody know where I can get a dressing table mirror in Boston pearwood please. I do have some spare narrow chest drawer fronts if needed." Wendy Watkins
"Hi! I bought a dressing table (Schreiber) today. It has 'princess-like' decorated drawers and a central jewellry drawer, with a red velvet sectioned insert. The table itself is elegantly long, and slim. It just screams glamour! When I tried the drawers, I could feel the quality. They glide on runners like only the most expensive items do today. Nice deep drawers with a teak finish inside.
Just needs some treatment for the outside finish has become cigarette smoke damaged. What an old fashioned habit - in the bedroom too! Price? Wonderful - 18. Found at the back of a second hand charity warehouse. Im definitely a Schreiber fan now!" fiona taylor
"I too am looking for the chest of drawer runners - do you know where I can get them or similar. " Frances Brown
eBay would probably be a good place to look. Try Retrowow
"A friend of mine gave me his Schreiber chest of draws that he kept in the shed for a few years. it has a musty smell. How can I get the draws smelling nice?" Rahima Macdonald
Hi, Getting rid of musty smells is difficult. Removing the draws and keeping it in an open well ventilated place, outside on a dry day will help. Another alternative is to stuff the draws with paper and remove the paper after a few days and throw it away. It will take time and patience. There are some further tips here - www.blisstree.com/keepingthecastle/getting-rid-of-musty-smell-in-a-drawer/ Retrowow
"I have an original Schreiber bedroom suite in teak comprising of one double wardrobe with central mirror one single wardrobe with built in shelves and shoe rack, dressing table with three drawers and two cupboards, continental four foot six headboard with attached bedside drawers, a tall chest of eight drawers all with the rounded drawers. This was purchased in July 1968 and I still have the original bills. It is in imacculate condition and has been well looked after. I am now thinking of selling it and would like to know the best way to do this and what it is worth? or are there collectors of this memorbilia?" Mrs S Heritage
Hi, Far and away the best place to sell Schreiber, or any retro furniture, is eBay. You will get the best price for it. I would split the lot into different pieces, emphasise the condition, date and the original purchase invoice. You will need some good digital photographs of each piece. There are also couriers on eBay who specialise in furniture delivery. Retrowow
"I am trying to erect a Schreiber wide chest 4 + 2 drawers. The narrow drawer divider panel is much thicker than the remaining panels and requires 3 locking nuts but these need to be longer so that the metal dowels will engage them. All the component fittings were supplied as listed but there is no reference to long locking nuts (the instructions show 13 locking nuts for the panels but in fact there should be 10 plus these 3 longer ones). There has been no trouble with the other chests that I have assembled so far - all of the furniture was supplied by Homebase but no-one there can help. Any suggestions on this problem which is obviously a manufacturing fault." Keith Ashby
"HELP! HELP! I have ordered four wardrobe doors and by an error the order stated four Ivory glass doors and not oak how can i get them changed when the store will not change them.so now I have four doors 670878 in ivory white and wanted four oak doors 659419. How can you get a store to change them." wayne lorden
with glass window type tops to take curtains
also sold be MFI, Cherry wood veneer with fancy carved pillars joing the three pieces.These were all by Schrieber. Doe4s anyone know where I might buy some more. Surely there mnust be some MFI stock somewhere." Lorraine 02/05/2010
The problem is that the recessed circular plastic hinges on the dropdown door are broken and need replacing. I am trying to find replacements but unsuccessful,can you help me find some." Norman Everett 05/10/2010
Homebase have given us a delivery date of April 2nd, original date was round about Feb 8th 2012!!!!!." Teresa 06/03/2012
Today is 2nd April, our furniture we are told will be delivered today, we asked could this be before 1.45pm and were told that should not be a problem as there are only 3 deliveries before us, got a phone call on the day to say between 1-3pm. They should not be allowed to get away with this appalling service, good luck with your delivery." Teresa 02/04/2012
Many thanks for your reply. Did it all work out in the end? I have visions of it being broken or half missing when it finally does arrive. Was it ok? Incidentally, I made a complaint to Homebase and receieved a very apologetic e-mail in return stating 'I can confirm that we will be happy to discuss a gesture of goodwill once your order is complete, in light of these delays.' Whatever that will mean! If you haven't done so already I suggest you do the same.
Our next 'should hear' date is 22nd April.
Janice" Janice 14/04/2012
I am trying to dismantle a schreiber 3 door wardrobe.
Do the shelves lift out - after first turned the fixing piece - or do the sides of the unit need to be separated in order to release the shelf?
Thanks in anticipation.
Ken." ken FRANCIS 20/04/2012
Our bedroom furniture was delivered when we were told it would be and yes it was all there, the drivers have to scan everything when they have got the furniture in your house.
When I complained to homebase and to schreiber on the homebase phone there was not any mention of compensation,
I will be intereted to hear if you do get anywhere, have you had your order delivered yet.
Teresa" Teresa 06/05/2012
If Schreiber living room furniture is described as 'vintage retro' and 'teak' would this mean it is original design and not contemporary, and made of solid wood and not veneers?" Brandon 27/07/2012
The original Schreiber range made in the 60s and 70s was teak finish. However, it was not solid wood. In fact someone took Schreiber to court in the 70s claiming that there was no real teak in a dressing room table. Schreiber won.
The Schreiber brand has been attached to modern style furniture recently. There is no attempt to recreate retro styles as in G-Plan Fresco.
Best regards" Steven 29/07/2012
Thanks" Brenda Garrard 11/11/2012
I have a Schreiber bureau unit, and one of the plastic runner bits have broke, any idea where I can get another one??" laura 14/12/2012
Be great of they could go to a good home rather than the local tip.
June 1st 2013" andysap 01/06/2013
The bin is made in bent plywood and has a plastic lid.There are some numbers etc printed on the base (schreiber wood industries Ltd.June 1963.7105-99-120-3785.
01-64-060).I would be very grateful if you can tell me ANYTHING about my bin!.I have been unable to find out anything about it!!.
Kind regards,Chris" chris green 23/06/2013
Before Schreiber became more well known he made furniture for other people, most notably radio cabinets. He could very well have made pieces for the military." steven 24/06/2013
Sorry we don't sell parts from this website. eBay is probably your best bet. Alternatively try Homebase or other DIY stores to find something similar. Best regards" steven 27/07/2013
I own a three piece Schreiber suite from the 1960/70s era and am try to find out what the model is called. It looks exactly like the red one in the image above but I can't make out the writing underneath as it is too blurry. It is the Penthouse group?
Thanks!" Lisa Gibson 26/06/2014
It comes in three parts witj wheels and top boxes ubfortunaty i have to downsizenand have no room for it could you tell me if it has any value thank you" linda brooks 01/04/2015
I have completely fallen in love with them, label on bottom of hair reads,
cover range 'P'
98% minimum Viscose
Elizabeth" Elizabeth Dutton 20/07/2017
I have been been given a chest of drawers exactly like in your main photo (at the front of pic)
do you know what year it was made/designed?
kind regards, & thanks for great article" Tina 28/03/2018
The picture at the top of the page is from 1965. It is very early Schreiber. Best regards" Steven 28/03/2018
Your guide to vintage and retro