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Brandon Hire buoyant after independence

Separation from Wolseley hasn’t affected firm, says CEO

Brandon Hire is continuing to perform well across the country following its split from Wolseley last autumn, according to CEO Tim Smith.

The new Brandon Hire business is a combination of Wolseley’s original Hire Centre and Brandon Hire companies and has a nationwide scope. “Traditionally, Brandon Hire was orientated towards the south and south west but after our acquisition by Wolseley, we went nationwide and we will be continuing that,” he says.

The firm reports that it is ahead of its revenue forecast despite its biggest customer, Rok, going into administration last year. “We’ve 40,000 live customers ranging from small cash hirers to large international firms, but we’re strongest in the SME sector,” he says. “Those sorts of firms have been less affected by the cuts made to large government funded projects.”

According to Mr Smith, the independence from Wolseley has little effect on overall headcount on the business. “There were some functions carried out on Brandon’s behalf by Wolseley but we’ve been able to integrate those into our head office with some changes of roles. Our headcount hasn’t really changed,” he says. Notably though, the firm had already announced 170 redundancies back in 2008 while still a part of Wolseley.

Mr Smith reports that the two recent bad winters have had a mixed impact on the firm. “Clearly during the bad weather in January and December 2010, work was affected and some types of items were hired less. On the other hand, we became very busy hiring out heaters and dehumidifiers,” says Mr Smith. He also explains that while new build might have slowed down during this time, there was still a healthy demand for maintenance works. “Someone who typically installs central heating might be finding work doing things like fixing burst pipes when the weather is bad,” he says.

Flexible market

Mr Smith believes Brandon Hire will ultimately be less affected by ongoing government cuts. “We’ve a low exposure to the public sector and so we’ve been less affected by the comprehensive spending review,” he says. “Ultimately, our customers are trade-specific rather than sector specific. If you’re a plumbing business, you won’t work exclusively on schools, for example.”

He also says the next couple of years could be good for the hire industry in general. “The economic climate means that the argument for hiring and not buying is stronger than ever, particularly for SMEs where the equipment that people hire is relatively expensive to buy,” he says. “The difficulty small businesses face in borrowing money means that hiring is more compelling now that it’s ever been and I’d expect to see that continue for the next couple of years.”

The firm is also seeing growth in the regions outside of its traditional southern home area. Mr Smith says all regions are up on last year, but this has been particularly noticeable where Brandon has established new branches in Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow. “In terms of performance, those new branches are all in the upper quartile of our network. As they’ve developed, that has driven our growth” he says.

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