The UK’s fastest growing private companies: Hot 100 2015 – (75) Williams Trade Supplies

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Name: Williams Trade Supplies 
Industry/sector: Retail and related services
Date founded: 1972
The boss: Ray Stafford
Location: South West
Latest turnover: £36.9m
Three-year compound growth rate (%): 32.83
Latest EBITDA: £2.6m

Over the subsequent years since its creation, the company has grown and opened several branches – all self-funded. By 1993, this growth had stopped, and led to the management team transforming the company’s core business model. 

Traditionally, plumbers’ merchants operate on a “high-list-price-less-discount model”, where customers and sales teams haggle to agree on the selling price. At Williams and Co there is a single price policy, removing the need for costly sales administration. The management team also decided to only stock and sell brands and products that suited its trading model.

Back in the 1980s the company wanted to promote itself as a “trade only company”, but managing director Ray Stafford explained that they “didn’t have the courage to really enforce it”. After finally introducing the policy, the company lost 18 per cent in turnover. This gamble paid off as just ten weeks later, Williams and Co gained more trade customers and made up for any lost business.

Williams and Co has funded its expansion from within the business, ploughing around 50 per cent of the profits back into the business. 

The firm, which has 27 outlets, will be creating a new distribution centre and head office, including a trade counter, at Fareham Industrial Park. 

According to Stafford, the leasing of extra space in Fareham is a turn-key aspect of Williams’s growth plans. He said: “We’re very much on the expansion trail and required a sizeable warehouse to store an impending shipment of bulky products – that we got one in a whirlwind 24 hours, and conveniently next to our head office, reflects well on everyone involved.”

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