MD Keith Wardrope and marketing manager Dan Mounsey explain how HPP continues to expand
Family-run distributor HPP could easily match the skills of an accomplished juggling act, with its plate-spinning ability. It not only manufactures doors, but also providing cut and edged and MFC board, plus a variety of fittings for the kbb industry. Its diverse range of products is matched only by its equally wide spread of customers which spans from recognisable manufacturer names through to a ‘man in a van’ sole trader. But it is this spread of business, which has seen the company continue to grow despite the tough economy. In fact, for the first time, HPP has reached a turnover of over £20million.
Managing director of HPP, Keith Wardrope explains why this was so important to the company: “It was a massive milestone because the year before, we had lost around £3million in two customers. So not only did we replace the £3million, we added to it. So it’s a phenomenal result really. Altough the figure will show a growth of around 4-5%, in reality to us it’s a lot more than that.”
And the company has replaced the business that depended on a merchant and large company that went bust with smaller accounts. “ We’ve probably replaced it with 50 customers”, says Keith Wardrope adding it offers the company more security: “I can’t think of many more businesses in the industry that are as safe as ourselves. Our biggest turnover customer is around about the £100,000, then after that you are down to anywhere down to £50,000 to £20,000 to your £10,000 a month. Then there are those who are a couple of thousand a month which is where we are really strong.”
Adding to armoury
The business is a far cry from its origins in one building in the early Nineties. HPP now spans across a 150,000sq ft site and serves around 2,000 customers who place 9,000 orders a month. Marketing manager Dan Mounsey explains: “It is just been a progression over 20 years of gradual growth. Over time we’ve just organically added [to the offer]. Now we do worktops and flatpack carcasses, sinks and taps.” And much of the growth has been over the last few years, as managing director Keith Wardrope adds: “You could buy your carcasses off us, your hinges off us and your handles off us but you couldn’t buy any wirework to go inside it or a sink or a worktop up until four or five years ago.” In fact, only very recently, the company recently added the entire range from Sensio offering over 280 lighting products to its portfolio.
Now HPP pretty much supplies everything for the kitchen, except appliances. Although Wardrope suggests never say never and moots HPP have done some research into the market, he points out “that would probably be the most resistant route to go down. I think on appliances you really have got to have the offering right because you’ve got competition with some really big guys out there in the marketplace – your Waterline, your PJH – and they’ve really got it sewn up.”
Stock in demand
It shows how the flexible the company can be to demand, such as during the recession when the product mix of its sales changed. The biggest proportion of its sales is in board, and during the recession to keep costs tight, its customers swapped from cut and edged MFC to sheets. It saw the company bring more colours into board to meet demand. And Wardrope adds it also brought: “We brought in flat pack units because of lot of companies were shutting down the manufacturing side but still wanted to sell kitchens, so we had growth in the flat pack section. Because of the spread of the customers we have, we got through because they reacted. The customers that just sat, waiting for the phones to ring, they went bust.”
Then coming out of recession, HPP saw another need – stock doors. They introduced the Avanti range of 10 doors, measuring 22mm thick in Shaker and J-pull designs, and all available on next-day delivery. Although the company already manufactured bespoke vinyl doors on a seven day delivery, Wardope explains the company wanted an even quicker solution: “Things were looking up but because our customers hadn’t been inundated with work, when they got a job, they wanted to do it there and then. So we thought if we bring in a range of doors that somebody can buy off the shelf, they get a job over the weekend and could be fitting it Tuesday or Wednesday.” And according to the company, the success is reflected in the sale of sample sets to its customers. “Up until today, we have sold over 1,000 sample sets”, adds Wardrope. In fact, such has been the success of sales of both the Avanti doors and its flatpack units, HPP invested in a £1million extension, last year, for the additional stockholding.
Spreading further south
But it’s not only the offer that HPP has continually sought to improve, the company has improved its geographical spread and has plans to further boost its UK coverage. Dan Mousey explains: “We are based in Oldham and are very much M62 Corridor-centric, as you would expect. But obviously we’ve saturated that, well we like to think we’ve saturated it, anyway. But as you go further south it’s less the case. That’s something that’s changed over the last few years.” The company has been working with carriers to improve its service and to cast its sales net wider. “If we can get our product on carrier, we can ship it the next day anywhere in the UK and that’s a big target for the next two years”, explains Mousey.
The company has even considered investing in a depot in the South of England. But Wardrope points out: “It’s finding the right people to run a branch in the South. We have looked at it. We’ve looked around the Oxford area before and that would make a very good base for us. We like to make sure everything here is perfect and when that’s perfect we can move on to something else”.
He is alluding to the investment in automated picking machines, which will be installed shortly, adding: “Once that’s done, we’ll be better – stronger – and we can look at rolling out further geographically. I think to take on the increase in turnover, you have to be better internally. You can’t rush to get that turnover and if you put a branch in the south I’m pretty sure you would get that turnover but if it’s not handled right it won’t necessarily be a profitable turnover.”
The company has a focus on service which runs throughout the business. However, Wardrope points out his background in kitchen retailing has helped, adding: “One of the benefits is that I used to buy off Hills. Therefore I know service is cruicial and what can go wrong when doors are missing.”
Driving online sales
And this focus on service has also been the driver behind the development of its website, with personalised customer pricing and now online ordering for both stock and manufactured doors . “All the products we sell we have images, videos and PDFS of technical data. We can provide customers of a complete breakdown of everything that they buy, their prices, and make it available to customers in real time”, says Mounsey. But are HPP customers really embracing the use of the internet? Mounsey believes so, stating: “Customers are using it much more as a first port of information. If you say something is available online-only, that is acceptable now.” And despite not promoting the latest developments of the website, according to Mounsey traffic to the site has grown exponentially over the last few years and accounts for 20% of the company’s turnover on a monthly basis.
Now the company is offering priority lead time, as the order goes straight to a machine for manufacture, as well as financial incentives, it expects even more growth of online sales. At the time of going to press, it was offering 2% discount on doors and free hinge hole drilling. But HPP is keen to point out online ordering is not at the expense of personal customer relations. Mounsey adds: “For our website to be successful as it can be, it needs to be as close to the offering offline. What has been a really popular thing is placing the order online but if they tick a box the office will call then back and talk them through the order.” He adds: “it gives human interaction and reduces that gap between offline and online.”
Although HPP is ambitious, driving growth, evolving product and expanding its geographical coverage, it is also cautious about taking its time to deliver using in-house experience to maintain the quality of service. As Wardrope concludes: “It takes a little bit longer but the end result is better. We’ve never gone to try to take over the world in two years’ time. We can wait.”