Marshalls bucks the downturn

Paving specialist Marshalls '‹reported a strong start to 2018 as sales leapt 18 per cent since the start of the year, bucking the downturn in the rest of the sector.

Marshalls supplied the paving outside York Minster

The group is seeing strong demand from older people who have retired and want to upgrade their homes.​

The Elland-based firm said​ ​that well over half of its customers are over 55, they own their own homes and they want to upgrade their house rather than move.

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The group's chief executive Martyn Coffey said: ​"​Two thirds of homeowners are over 55 and they have access to good pension plans.

"They own their houses and they are spending money on their homes, which they intend to stay in.

"People have the confidence to spend money and they are spending it on their gardens, driveways and patios. You wouldn't buy our product unless you own your house."

He said that 2018 has started well although the group is aware that the market can change.

"People have some funds and they are not getting great returns if they invest their money. S​pending is being funded by savings," he said.

Marshalls said revenue rose 8 per cent to £430m in the year to December 31 with like-for-like sales rising a credible 6 per cent. ​Pre-tax profits rose 13 per cent to £52m last year.​ ​T​rading was boosted by the £38m acquisition of precast concrete manufacturer CPM​ last October​, which added £9m to revenue.​

Mr Coffey​ said CPM, which has a factory in Pollington near Goole, is bedding down well and the group is looking at more acquisitions.

Analyst Clyde Lewis at Peel Hunt said: "Marshalls continues to deliver strong results despite a tricky market backdrop.

​"​Domestic sales were the star performer in 2017 as pension equity withdrawal boosted activity while ​c​ommercial markets were more subdued.

​"​The start to the new year has been good with sales up 18​ per cent​ in the first two months ​,​ ​14​ per cent​ from CPM and 4​ per cent​ underlying despite the snow.​"

Analyst Graeme Kyle at Shore Capital added: "The secret of any good relationship is love and understanding.

​"​Marshalls’ ​2017​ preliminary results show continued affection for its driveway and patio products amongst middle income homeowners.

​"​Domestic sales increased 12​ per cent​ year-on-year and with the current order book at 10.8 weeks​ this love affair shows no signs of abating.​"​

Mr Coffey said the group is seeing strong demand for its anti-terrorist street furniture.

"Demand is coming from many different sectors," he said.

"We make planters, bins and benches that can stop vehicles. People don't just want bollards, they want subtlety. We've had enquiries from all over the world."

Marshalls' street furniture can help prevent the terrorist atrocities that​ have​ hit ​cities such as ​Nice and Berlin. In both cities, truck drivers were able to mow down tourists in highly populated areas as they crashed through flimsy street furniture such as planters.

"If you go back to Nice, that van just pushed aside the bins," said Mr Coffey.

"Our product is exactly like a bollard with steel rods enforced with concrete. If a vehicle hits it, it's like hitting a brick wall."

Marshalls has received street furniture enquiries from all over the world and has fulfilled orders in Dubai and America.

The group has raised its final dividend by 17 per cent to 6.8p per share and is paying a supplementary dividend of 4.00​p per share​.

"This another good result," said Mr Coffey​.

"We've increased the dividend and invested in the business."