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HWL Group diversification sees Leeds windows business expand into retail


Yorkshire-based windows and doors company HWL Group is continuing to grow its business following an ambitious programme of diversification which has culminated in a move into the retail sector following two acquisitions.

Founded in 2003 by current owner Mark Haley, HWL Leeds has evolved from its original business of manufacturing and selling PVC window frames to the construction trade.  Five years ago, Mark, working with his advisers, devised a plan to adapt the existing business model resulting in 76% growth for the group.  As well as expanding from a single 9,000 sq ft unit 15 years ago to today’s 28,000sq ft of manufacturing space, HWL Group has seen its original staff of four increase to a workforce of almost 100 people. 

“During the recession, while the market in general struggled, we found that consumers were actually choosing to buy from the type of reputable, well-established windows retailers which make up much of our customer base,” explains Mark.  “As a result, our core business remained profitable, however, given the vagaries of the sector, we felt exposed and looked for ways to diversify.  

“We began by adding aluminium bi-folding doors and window frames to our manufacturing portfolio in 2012, which led to us forming a new company within the group called Nordic Aluminium.  With the move into premium aluminium products, we benefited from becoming an indispensable supplier to many window retailers.

 “However, given the inherently precarious nature of the windows industry with the absence of contracts with trade customers, we felt the ideal would be for us to gain more control by having direct access to the end-user,” continues Mark.  “We, therefore, sought to acquire established retailers with ‘high street’ showrooms which we believed would flourish as part of a larger group.”

Retail acquisitions

In 2013, HWL Group bought Ilkley Windows, followed the next year by the acquisition of National Windows Systems in Darlington.  HWL group is currently in the process of acquiring two new retail businesses.

“The move from purely B2B has been a very positive decision enabling us to offer a one-stop-shop to customers.  We are now on the look out to acquire further complementary windows businesses with retail outlets,” said Mark.  “The turnover of our manufacturing business is currently around £8m and we expect the retail side to add another £6m this year.  We’ve been able to finance our expansion from cash flow and will continue to invest in the development of the business – we’ve ploughed back £500,000 in new digital CNC equipment over the last year and Nordic Aluminium has recently moved into its own 8,000sq ft facility.”

For the last ten years, HWL Leeds has been supported by Jonathan Simms of Yorkshire law firm Clarion and by Justin Smith of accountants Kirk Newsholme.

“Throughout our development, Jonathan Simms and the Clarion team have been an invaluable support.  During the decade we’ve worked with the firm, as well as benefitting from Jonathan’s advisory role, we’ve used most of Clarion’s other services from litigation and employment to commercial, debt recovery and property.

“Jonathan in particular has become a trusted adviser and a sounding board for our business ideas.  Being a Yorkshireman, I like dealing with someone who is straightforward and tells it how it is.  There’s always an element of risk as you expand which makes it vital to have a reputable, trusted firm like Clarion working with you.”

Jonathan Simms of Clarion’s corporate team adds, “It’s inspiring to see a well-established company like HWL not just resting on its laurels, but seeking new opportunities and re-designing its business.  Its diversification tactics over the last five years are now starting to pay off with the move into retail in particularly proving successful and further acquisitions now being sought.  The group has flourished in a tough market place largely because it is a well-run, forward-thinking business and one which is prepared to explore new markets.”

HWL also launched another new venture in 2012, the Door and Window Fixer – a stand-alone business offering a call out repair service locally for broken and damaged doors and windows.  Last year, HWL Self Build was added to the group, a new company offering bespoke door and window fixings and new lines aimed at customers building their own homes. 

Can we help you? Call Jonathan Simms on 0113 336 3387 or email jonathan.simms@clarionsolicitors.com. Please visit www.clarionsolicitors.com for more information.


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