How National Timber Group is using Yorkshire firms to create a giant UK business

Rob Barclay, National Timber Group chief executive photographed on the Arnold Laver, Oxclose Park Road North siite in Sheffield.'' Picture: Paul David Drabble
Rob Barclay, National Timber Group chief executive photographed on the Arnold Laver, Oxclose Park Road North siite in Sheffield.'' Picture: Paul David Drabble
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National Timber Group, the UK-wide timber importer, processor and distributor, is targeting major expansion in the next 12 months, with its Yorkshire-based brands driving significant UK-wide growth.

The group was formed last year following the investment in a number of timber companies by private equity firm Cairngorm Capital.

It has a combined annual turnover of £250m, employs more than 1,300 staff and operates from 52 processing and distribution sites from the north of Scotland to the south west of England.

Yorkshire is home to two of the four portfolio companies: Sheffield-headquartered Arnold Laver, which also has UK-wide branches, including Bradford, Hull and Leeds, and Northallerton-based North Yorkshire (NY) Timber, which has branches in Richmond and Brompton-on-Swale as well as the North East.

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, the group’s chief executive Rob Barclay said the company’s aim is to double its turnover to £500m in the next five or six years through acquisition and organic growth.

“We believe there is opportunity for consolidation in the timber market, to leverage strength, skills and capabilities because it’s been a fragmented area,” he said.

Arnold Laver’s Sheffield site is one of the group’s principal processing, distribution and warehousing locations for UK-wide customers.

The company joined the group in November 2018 and serves a wide range of public and private sector construction markets including blue-chip companies and major infrastructure projects such as Crossrail and Hinkely Point. The company sources timber and timber products from all over the world, including North America, Far East Asia and Europe.

Mr Barclay said there were plans to invest in a number of new Arnold Laver fleet trucks, predominantly in Yorkshire.

Meanwhile, NY Timber will see investment in new machinery and increased capacity within its joinery division, including its two large door processing plants in Bradford and Leeds.

Cairngorm Capital’s investment in NY Timber was made in February 2018. NY Timber added specialist engineered wood products to the group through it’s large processing site in Brompton on Swale, North Yorkshire.

“With key processing and distribution hubs across Yorkshire, including Sheffield, Leeds and Bradford, we’re seeing growth and expansion as we’re able to draw on the full group product line and expertise to meet customer demand,” Mr Barclay said.

There are plans to open four more sites outside of Yorkshire this year.

He added: “As the largest independent timber, sheet and joinery supplier in the UK, we are able to serve a wide range of customers from the home-DIYers, to major infrastructure projects.

“In Yorkshire alone we stock and supply around 1,500 different products, made from around 400 different types of timber. As we continue to work closely with our customers and suppliers, our product range will increase.”

The main challenge for the business, Mr Barclay said, is the political uncertainty. A strong start to 2019 gave way to a softer second quarter and further confusion surrounding Brexit.

Like other businesses, the group, which imports some products from Europe, has been talking to suppliers and stockpiling to prepare for the initial post-Brexit period. “But there’s only so much you can do. You can only prepare for what you know about,” he said.

Looking ahead, he added that joinery and engineered wood products were areas of particular strength for the business as the market moved towards off-site construction.

“There is a growing off-site mentality, which is seen in a number of different ways. The momentum is strong but it will be a slow burn,” he said.

FACT BOX

Cairngorm Capital’s investment strategy is to create the UK’s largest independent timber distribution company by investing in complementary businesses with a UK-wide footprint. The group is also made up of Scottish-based companies Thornbridge and Rembrand.

Cairngorm Capital is a specialist private investment firm which looks to support established successful businesses to achieve the next stage of growth. The creation of the National Timber Group started in November 2017 with the acquisition of leading Scottish timber merchant Thornbridge.

National Timber Group chief executive Rob Barclay joined in June 2018 from SIG, one of the largest distributors of specialist building products in Europe. Mr Barclay is based in Sheffield but spends time across the group’s 52 sites up and down the country.

He said: “Since joining the Cairngorm Capital portfolio and forming the National Timber Group, we’ve been able to learn from some of the best companies and experts in this division, investing in new equipment, technology and processes.