Mind your step! 3/4

Published:  07 July, 2010

The Smooth Operators

MKM Building Supplies

  • Name of CEO – David Kilburn
  • Turnover last financial year – 12 months to September 2009 (audited) – £120.5m
  • Turnover this financial year – 12 months to September 2010 (estimate) – £130m
  • No. of branches in 2009 – 36
  • No. of branches in 2010 – 36
  • No. of staff in 2009 – 630
  • No. of staff in 2010– 630

“The business has performed extremely well in the very challenging trading conditions experienced by everyone in the past 18 months,” said chief executive officer, David Kilburn.

“We expect cautious, unspectacular recovery in 2010, although the impact of the forthcoming General Election and how each party will deal with the level of government borrowing introduces further uncertainty. Overall, we are optimistic about the future and look forward to growing our branch network,” said Mr Kilburn.


Ridgeons Timber and Building Merchants

  • Name of Group MD – Angela Rushforth
  • Turnover last financial year – £123m
  • Turnover this financial year – forecast £104m
  • No. of branches in 2009 – 23
  • No. of branches in 2010 – 23
  • No. of staff in 2009 – 810
  • No. of staff in 2010 – 810

Ridgeons Timber and Builders’ Merchants operates from 23 branches across the East of England. Its aims for 2010 are focused on the continued progression of the company’s plumbing and heating business, and development of the its sustainable range to support customers in their understanding and compliance with the Government’s Code for Sustainable Homes. Ridgeons also places strong emphasis on continued delivery of the highest levels of customer service, through developing and training for all of its staff.


EH Smith (Builders’ Merchants)

  • Name of CEO – John Parker
  • Turnover last financial year – £95m (20008-09)
  • Turnover this financial year – £82m (2009-10) estimated
  • No. of branches in 2009 – 10
  • No. of branches in 2010 – 8
  • No. of staff in 2009 – 500
  • No. of staff in 2010 – 400



  • Name of MD – Richard R Errington
  • Turnover last financial year – £71m
  • Turnover this financial year – £70m
  • No. of branches in 2009 – 14
  • No. of branches in 2010 – not disclosed
  • No. of staff in 2009 – 380
  • No. of staff in 2010 – 379

In 2009, Crossling’s sales were £61m down on 2008. This was a continuation of the major declines seen in November and December 2008.

“2009 trading was difficult, with a particularly poor second quarter, although daily sales declined generally for the whole of the year,” said managing director Richard R Errington. “There is little good to say about 2009 apart from being glad it’s over!”

The company suffered its worst year ever for bad debts, and has reduced staff numbers by 60, although this was mainly natural wastage and retirements, as well as looking at all other costs.

“On a positive note, our newer branches continue to perform well, our staff have faced up to the challenging trading environment well, being proactive and concentrating on maintaining an excellent service while looking to protect our margins.

“For the future, it has been important to maintain our resources in our staff and our stockholding to give the company a good platform for the future. Having spent the past 18 months being careful and riding out the recession, we look forward to whatever future opportunities may arise.

“Our expectations are that some sectors will start to improve, like house- building, domestic and RMI, while there could be a softening of more commercial markets, but a lot depends on government decisions following the General Election.

“Our general expectation is that there will be a slow recovery, which could mean trading conditions remain challenging. I hope there isn’t a double dip recession. It would be disappointing if 2010 is the eye of a hurricane.”


Nicholls & Clarke

  • Name of CEO – David Forbes
  • Turnover 2009 – £60m
  • Turnover 2008 – £70m
  • No. of branches in 2009 – 20
  • No. of branches in 2010 – 19
  • No. of staff in 2009 – 600

Nicholls and Clarke’s business consists of N&C Building Materials – a builders’ merchant based in London; N&C Glass – distributor, fabricator, processor and manufacturer; N&C Nicobond – ceramic tiles, adhesives and natural stone; N&C Phlexicare – healthcare and disabled products and N&C Tilestyle – bathroom and tile retail outlets.

“In normal circumstances the group’s diversity shields it from market fluctuations. Where the economic downturn particularly affected all aspects of building material supply, 2009 did see a decrease in turnover,” said David Forbes, the merchant’s chief executive officer. “Cost reductions have been implemented and unfortunately, the Bristol site had to be closed.”

The group saw its products specifically designed for housebuilders, for example sanitaryware, suffer in 2009. “We believe that with the introduction of a new aggressively priced portfolio N&C’s market share will pick up in this sector,” Mr Forbes stated.


Elliott Brothers

  • Name of MD – Stuart Mason-Elliott
  • Turnover last financial year (2008) –  £43.519m
  • Turnover this  financial year (2009) – £37.123m
  • No. of branches in 2009 – 8 merchant branches and 2 specialist branches
  • No. of branches in 2010 – 8 merchant branches and 2 specialist branches
  • No. of staff in 2009 – 215
  • No. of staff in 2010 – 215

“The recession has put enormous pressure on all aspects of  our business and the staff have worked well together to maintain good customer service levels,” said managing director Stuart Mason-Elliott. “We have continued to invest in our branch network, notably with the expansion of our Romsey branch, and the transport fleet to gain efficiency improvements.

“As there begin to be more opportunities in the market, Elliotts is well placed to take advantage with a strong staff and good stockholding.”


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