Merchant Focus: Huws Gray

Merchant Focus: Huws Gray

Huws Gray has recently celebrated its 30th anniversary and, whilst it reflects on the trials of recent months, indicates its plans to resume its policy of further growth. This month, a number of other merchant businesses have continued their own expansion plans as trading patterns begin to return a little closer to normal. PBM reports.

August 6th officially marked Huws Gray’s 30th year in business. Founded from a single branch, the Angelsey-based company has seen exponential growth over its three decades including, in October 2018, the acquisition of Ridgeons. Employing over 1,600 staff and now trading from almost 100 locations (26 in Wales and 70 throughout England), the firm is now one of the largest (independent) builders’ merchants in the UK — a demonstrated by placing seventh on PBM’s most recent league table.

Terry Owen, co-founder and Managing Director, said: “We owe a huge thank you to our people, customers and suppliers for our success. Many of them have been loyal and stayed with us right from the start and there is no way we would be where we are today without their support. 30 years ago, we set out with four staff in Gaerwen on Anglesey and a very clear vision which was ‘to put the customer at the heart of everything we do’. That vision and ethos hasn’t changed.”

John Llewelyn Jones, co-founder and Chairman of the Huws Gray Group, added: “Without a doubt, this year, as for most businesses, has been our most challenging yet. Despite the Covid-19 threat leading to the difficult decision to close for several weeks in March and April, we have been humbled by the fantastic commitment from our branch and head office teams. We are also extremely grateful to all our customers for their continued support during these challenging and uncertain times.”

With its most recent acquisition of Welshpool-based AC Roof Trusses completing just before lockdown, the Group notes its intention to continue to “push forward with ambitious plans for growth.”

Other merchants have already resumed the expansion trail in recent weeks, with MKM opening its 73rd branch in July following a delay of “several months” due to the national lockdown. Located in Birkenhead, the depot is a spacious, new build facility situated on a 2-acre site and has created 13 jobs in the area, led by experienced Branch Directors, Chris Winskill and Phil Morris.

City Plumbing Supplies, meanwhile, has opened a major new trade counter at Ribston Trade Park on Roundhay Road, Leeds. The site is said to have recently benefitted from “an extensive refurbishment programme” and the plumbing and heating merchant has expanded into 5,515sq ft of space that spans two units.

Selco Builders Warehouse has also confirmed that, despite the Covid-19 impact, it will be adding to its branch network before the end of 2020. Plans are on track for the business to open its 69th branch in the UK in Salford in October, with CEO Howard Luft commenting: “The coronavirus crisis has been an extremely challenging period for the entire country, and it’s been no different for us at Selco. However, opening up in Salford has been a long-term target and we are determined to achieve that over the coming months.”

In common with many merchants, Selco closed all its branches and delivery services when lockdown began in late March before gradually reopening its offering from early May. It has recently returned to seven day trading, with its branches all now opening again on Sundays, and is gradually re-opening its on-site cafes, initially as a takeaway-only service.

Of the plans for Salford, Howard added: “The operating conditions we have in Salford will be dictated to by government guidance, which we are following extremely closely. At present, we have social distancing measures inside branches including a 2m gap being maintained between all individuals, no more than two customers being allowed to enter the branch together, a limit to the total number of customers allowed in a branch at any one time and protective safety screens around the trade counter and tills.

“I think it’s a reasonable assumption that most — if not all those measures — will still be in place when Salford opens, but we will take stock of where we are then and ensure the health and safety of our customers and colleagues will be our No 1 priority.”

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