Hungry Cook’s mission to snap up rivals

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A BUSINESS bought out of administration six years ago has its sights set on making acquisitions as part of its plans for expansion.

Carl Pickup, the managing director of Leeds-based upholstery components company Peter Cook International, said the aim is to at least double its turnover over the next two years, by extending its product range, seeking new markets and investing in additional sales and marketing resources, in addition to its plans for acquisition.

The company, based at Cross Green, Leeds, and with an additional site in Nottingham, is in the advanced stages of negotiation with two furniture manufacturing sector-related organisations.

Peter Cook, whose pre-tax profit was £250,000 on a £2.8m turnover for the year to the end of October 2011, is set to acquire one of the firms on March 1, Mr Pickup confirmed, representing another £500,000 turnover pro rata from that date.

He said the company’s products “complement” the range available at Peter Cook, adding: “The potential is huge because once we are able to sell that company’s products to our customers that £500,000 could quite quickly become £1m.”

Mr Pickup said the plan is to move the Birmingham-based business back to Leeds. He added: “If the first acquisition goes as well as I expect it to it should generate an awful lot of cash for the business which will allow us to do a second one in six months.”

Peter Cook’s customers include DFS, The Quality Furniture Co in Grantham and CSL, with the majority of its client base being upholstery and bedding manufacturers. Many of its customers go on to supply big name retailers such as Marks & Spencer, Next and Argos.

Peter Cook, at its peak, employed 80 staff and generated sales revenues of £14m. It had offices, warehouses and manufacturing units at 14 locations across the country. But after seeing its revenues drop dramatically, the firm, formerly Oxford-based, went into administration.

Mr Pickup’s father, Michael, bought the intellectual property rights to the trading name of Peter Cook International, some stock and a couple of motor vehicles, in 2005, handing over the reins of running the business to his son.

Mr Pickup said: “Basically, within two years its turnover had gone from £14m to £7m and it hadn’t cut its costs accordingly and eventually it ran out of cash.” Most of the 40 odd staff who were working for Peter Cook lost their jobs after it went into administration. Four people were kept on when Mr Pickup took on the company, he said.

Mr Pickup said: “We moved back to Leeds and started from scratch basically. It was a steep learning curve.” Taking on the role of managing director, Mr Pickup appointed a friend, Martin Cave, to overhaul the company’s product range and stocking levels, closely followed by Richard Topa and Julie Peel, who both had previous experience in the upholstery industry.

Mr Pickup’s mother, Diane, took control of the finance department.

“Since taking over the business six years ago, we have very steadily turned it around and have seen sustained growth of between 20 per cent and 30 per cent year-on-year for the past three years,” said Mr Pickup. Currently, the firm has 15 staff.

Mr Pickup said: “We have recently taken on a couple of new employees in the sales office and the back office. We are recruiting down in Nottingham for an extra person.” And the firm’s plans for expansion will see it increase the size of its premises at Cross Green too.

Mr Pickup said: “At the moment we are drawing up plans to have another 4,000 sq ft added to our premises at Cross Green. Ultimately, in a couple of years we are going to be too big for that site for sure.

“There’s a site two doors down from where we are which is about 30,000 sq ft. That’s something to keep an eye on for the future.”

The company sells to over 700 upholsterers and furniture manufacturers in the UK, Europe, Africa and Asia.

It currently exports around 15 per cent of what it supplies.

Peter Cook has a team in China who help to source products. It plans to set up a presence there.

Thirty five to forty per cent of its products are sourced from the UK, with the rest coming from overseas, including China and continental Europe.