Building and Facilities News is proud to announce that The Wetherby Group has been chosen to receive our Building Performance Company of the Year Award.
Wetherby is a successful manufacturer of performance building products & systems for both its own brands and private label. Founded by John Chalmers 45 years ago, Wetherby began as a small business in a factory in Wetherby. Since expanding to Ripon, it currently resides at a 15 acre site in Dalton. Wetherby Group compromises of two companies: Wetherby Stone Products and La Roc Building Solutions, both with the same common goal. “To supply products that customers love to use and never comprise on quality,” said Alex Chalmers, Managing Director.
For over a decade, Wetherby Group has been in the process of building its brands, team, and technology portfolio. It has made multi-million-pound investments in fully automated plant and machinery technology in preparation for upscaling the business for significant growth.
“We develop and manufacture building products and systems that contractors love to use and can trust, with this in mind and a national distribution model in place, our business is focused on our customers and contractors and developing a business that will become a market leader,” stated Alex.
Wetherby’s model is completely customer focused to provide the best of UK innovation and technology in building products and systems. This allows Wetherby to provide the market with a sensible alternative to European technology which is locally sourced and manufactured from a UK business. This in combination with its unique waterproof packing means it is the market leader in innovation on multiple levels.
“Our product technologies are being seen as some of the most innovative and exciting building products and systems in the UK-coloured render and exterior paint and coatings market. Not only are we innovating products and systems, but we are also now inventing systems with European’s patent grants approved for systems that will ensure that we can become a very strong supply and innovation partner to our customers.” Alex continued, “This plan has been working very well with excellent growth being seen over recent years.”
Wetherby were forecast for vast improvements in its growth as a business at the start of 2020, however the inevitable emersion of COVID-19 became transparent by March 2020, leaving Wetherby and other companies alike with the potential challenges of an extreme market change and economic downfall. A frightening position for Wetherby as its growth trajectory and investment into the business and the UK manufacturing markets, were starting to bring in positive returns. What was set to be an exciting period for Wetherby, was starting to look ever so dim.
Establishing and manufacturing such a successful company from scratch for it only to potentially be left needing to start over again was a very hard pill to swallow. However, seeing the situation with potential and a positive vision, the company started to understand where the results of COVID-19 could potentially take the business, as it started to learn how to evolve with the times.
“After assessing potential scenarios to try and understand the impact that COVID-19 could have on the business, I started to interview every member of staff to understand their financial position, if they wanted to continue working or if they would prefer to be at home. We were all frightened of the situation confronting us. My goal was to stabilise their minds and advise on my plans to support and protect everyone, the best I possibly could,” said Alex Chalmers.
As competitors began to close their doors towards the end of March 2020, Wetherby were determined to remain open and because of this, they found a potential growth in the market as customers began panic buying. The order book in March was strong, so by pushing dispatch of all orders and depleting the stocks to convert into cash, made for a positive end of the month.
However, cutbacks were inevitable, therefore, on April the 1st 2020, Wetherby officially scaled back the business to a skeleton staff to produce anything that came in. The first week was quiet and the phones stopped ringing, however, after a week some orders came in allowing for more staff to come back to work. Wetherby also started a marketing campaign to communicate to the market that Wetherby were once again open for business.
Orders progressively increased, however with no stock of finished goods and limited staff, Wetherby was still fighting a battle and stress levels were increasingly rising. The summer months were generous and within 12 weeks, Wetherby’s sales had reached record highs. It invested in more sales managers, a new group technical manager, administrators, production, and warehouse staff off the back of an increased marketing budget.
“2020 sales exceeded budget by over 10% and year on year sales were up over 35%. However, we must still be focused on the change that can happen at any moment. I am very happy with the overall outcome, however, still very nervous at the overall medium and long-term impacts of COVID-19 and its effect on the economy,” stated Alex.
With the recent developments in global problems, the USA market has created a tsunami of supply issues in the UK. A combination of COVID-19 and Brexit, resulted in shortages, surcharges, and price increases in industrial action with some of its main raw material suppliers.
“In the short term our 2021 plans are to push hard for continued growth and building, with further investments required. Cash reserves will help business growth and stabilisation, however, for the timing and type of investment needed due to the economic climate, it will have to be revised continuously,” mentions Alex.
Wetherby will continue its companywide focus on direct selling and building brands for the future. Its sales and brand foundations are beginning to take traction and to cope with the supply and demand of its customers, Wetherby will create a second manufacturing shift operating seven days a week.
“We are ready to make further multi-million-pound investments in a new distribution centre, further manufacturing facilities and new offices builds for our future growth,” Alex said.
In the long term, Wetherby’s model of investing in the future of its customers, employees and business is very clear. It will look to continue to grow and invest, and with a 15 acre site at 40% occupancy, it has significant scope to aid its developmental and growth plans.
“I am very proud that we have been selected for this award, this award represents the hard work from everyone in our business at every level. There is not only one part of the company that makes us successful, it is every part in combination working together that enables us to grow, not only as a business but also as people,” added Alex.
For any further information, please see the details below.