Family business with 150-year heritage clocks up £43 million turnover
When ‘covid lockdown’ rules were introduced one of Gloucestershire’s oldest family firms feared the worst, but in a dramatic turnaround it has seen turnover and profits increase
It is not that the worst did not come knocking at the Forest of Dean headquartered operation, which has four companies employing an estimated200-plus staff, with sales in parts of the diverse group dropping like a stone.
But, in what is ultimately a story of adaptation, good relationships with suppliers and customers, investment and a staff team prepared to go the extra mile, Watts Group saw turnover rise from £40,159m to £43,578m and profit go from £6,242,000 to £6,985,000.
After tax, profit actually doubled – from £901,000 to £1,809,000 – for the group, which has two manufacturing businesses as well as its famous commercial vehicle dealerships.
“The impact on Covid-19 on the UK and international economies has been severe, with many regulations adversely affecting business sectors, especially hospitality and retail,” said chairman John Thurston, who paid credit to the groups staff, many of whom had worked from home with the business also relying on "some job retention funding".
“I am pleased to be able to report that the group entered this period of uncertainly with substantial cash resources and with strong trading businesses that have continued to trade throughout this period.
“Under public health guidelines Watts Truck & Van were essential provider and continue to successfully supply 24-hour services to the NHS, food chain and other vital industries.
“Vehicle sales, however have collapsed with bodybuilders closed and operators having to take vehicles off the road.
“It will take time for their confidence to be restored and the supply chain restored. meanwhile, operators in some badly affected area sectors are unable to raisefinanceto fulfil their commitments.”
The group’s Watts Urethane Products business, initially hit by the lockdown measures to help deal with the pandemic, had now "resumed full operations" and wasback suppling components to many key industries in the agriculture, food and engineering sectors.
Its Plysolene business was the operation “most affected” by sales into building andretail “falling significantly”.
However, due to “recent unprecedented demand” for plastic sheeting“by adapting their process and quickly responding to new markets the business is now performing strongly”.
Mr Thurston added: “2020 has been a challenging year because of the global pandemic affecting all our lives.
“However, the strength of having a diverse group with a very healthy balance sheet and responsive teams in each operating company means that the result for this year are much better than we feared when the covid lockdown rules were first introduced in March.”