Gibbs and Dandy plc

P.O. Box 17, 226 Dallow Road
Luton LU1 1JG
United Kingdom
Telephone: (+44) 1582 798798
Fax: (+44) 1582 798799
Web site:

Public Company
1920 as Gibbs and Dandy Ltd.
Employees: 322
Sales: £57.7 million ($107.10 million) (2004)
Stock Exchanges: London
Ticker Symbol: GDYO
NAIC: 423710 Hardware Merchant Wholesalers; 423390 Other Construction Material Merchant Wholesalers; 423610 Electrical Apparatus and Equipment, Wiring Supplies, and Related Equipment Merchant Wholesalers; 423720 Plumbing and Heating Equipment and Supplies (Hydronics) Merchant Wholesalers; 423830 Industrial Machinery and Equipment Merchant Wholesalers; 423840 Industrial Supplies Merchant Wholesalers; 444120 Paint and Wallpaper Stores; 444130 Hardware Stores; 444190 Other Building Material Dealers

Gibbs and Dandy plc operates a network of builders' merchants in the United Kingdom, with a focus on the Northern Home Counties, South Midlands, and Thames Valley regions. The company operates nine branches featuring a complete range of building and plumbing materials, timber and joinery, as well as paint, glass, and electrical fittings and equipment. Customers range from major property developers and housing authorities to smaller builders and the home improvement and do-it-yourself markets. In addition to its Luton headquarters, the company operates branches in Bedford, Northampton, St. Ives, St. Neots, Slough, Maidenhead, Henley, and, Brackley. The acquisition of the Brackley branch was part of Gibbs & Dandy's plan to expand deeper into the South Midlands region in the second half of the 2000s. Gibbs & Dandy has been in operation since 1840 and has been listed on the London Stock Exchange since 1953. The company is led by chairman Christopher Roshier and managing directory R. Michael Dandy. In 2004, the company posted revenues of £57.7 million ($107.10 million).

Origins in the 19th Century

Luton was just a small town in the English countryside in the first half of the 19th century when Frederick Brown and Joseph Green established a shop on George Street. Opened in 1840, Brown and Green described their business as that of "Iron-mongers, Iron and Steel Merchants and Hardwarement."

The Gibbs name became associated with the Luton builders' merchant market in 1867. In that year, GF Gibbs bought Brown and Green's company. Gibbs remained active in the business until nearly the end of the 19th century. During this time, the railroad came to Luton, sparking the town's growth into a major regional center. The ironmongers business evolved to meet the needs of the growing market, emerging as a major general builders' merchant for the fast-developing Luton area.

Gibbs retired in 1894, selling the business to brothers William and Percy Dandy. The Dandys decided to keep the Gibbs name, and the business became known as Gibbs and Dandy. The company grew strongly into the 20th century and continued to adapt to the changing building environment, adding new materials and departments, including electrical supplies. In 1920, Gibbs and Dandy formally incorporated as a limited liability company. At this time, the company described itself as "Builders' Merchants, Wholesale and Retail Ironmongers, Iron and Steel Stockholders, Paint and Colour Merchants and Electrical Wholesalers." By then, Gibbs and Dandy counted more than 8,000 customers.

Going Public in the 1950s

Over the next decades, Gibbs and Dandy maintained its prominence as a supplier to the local building market. During this period, the company opened its first branch, in Dunstable. The company also boosted its presence in Luton with a new site.

The post-World War II period represented a return to growth for the U.K. building sector, and Gibbs and Dandy stood in a good position to profit from the expanding market. By then, the company had emerged as one of the leading suppliers of building materials not only in Luton but throughout the South Bedfordshire region. The company prepared for its continued growth, and in 1953 decided to go public, listing on the Birmingham Stock Exchange. The Dandy family remained active in the company and remained among its shareholders into the beginning of the 21st century.

The economic boom in the 1960s and the accelerated growth of the U.K. building market in general led Gibbs and Dandy to seek still greater expansion. In 1968, the company launched an offer to merge with another Bedfordshire builders' merchant, Frederic Gale, based in Bedford. Gale accepted the bid, worth some £340,000, and the two companies merged under the Gibbs and Dandy name. The combination of the two businesses created a regional leader with sales of £1.6 million at the beginning of the 1970s.

Over the next decade, Gibbs and Dandy grew again, adding a third site in Luton, in part to enable the company to expand its product offering to including heating, sanitaryware, and "heavyside" materials and equipment. In 1984, the company moved into Northampton, opening a branch office there. Three years later, Gibbs and Dandy consolidated its three Luton branches into a single location. The new Luton branch, built on a seven-acre site, also became the company's headquarters. At this time, the company began developing its 'one-stop' concept, offering a complete range of building materials and supplies for the professional and do-it-yourself markets.

Acquisitions into the 21st Century

Gibbs and Dandy eyed new expansion into the 1990s. At the beginning of the decade, the company acquired two new branches, in St. Neots and St. Ives, from David Smith Ltd. It also developed its Bedford branch into a second "one-stop" site.

The success of that concept led the company to expand its Northampton branch as well in the mid-1990s. Gibbs and Dandy purchased a larger site in that city's Heathfield Way and inaugurated its latest one-stop site in 1996. The boost in revenues and profitability enabled Gibbs and Dandy to prepare for further acquisitions into the second half of the decade. In 1997, the company bought up Miller Morris and Brooker Ltd., adding two new branches, in Slough and Maidenhead. That purchase cost the company more than £3.6 million.

The consolidation of the U.K. builders' merchants market slowed somewhat into the beginning of the 2000s. By that time, Gibbs and Dandy had grown into a regional leader and one of the United Kingdom's top fifteen overall. By the end of 2000, the company's sales neared £45 million.

The company continued to seek out new acquisition opportunities. In 2002, Gibbs and Dandy expanded into Henly-on-Thames when it bought up Elliott & Co. Ltd. The company paid £2.1 million for the family-owned business.

The addition of Elliott & Co. helped boost the company's revenues past £51 million by the end of 2002. Gibbs and Dandy then took a break from its acquisitions as the building market softened, a result of the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Company Perspectives:

Our aims are to be the first choice supplier of building materials for professional tradesmen in our region; generate increasing real shareholder value; provide our customers with the right goods at the right time at the right price; encourage our employees to exceed our customers expectations and to act with integrity, and to provide them with good career opportunities.

Key Dates:

Frederick Brown and Joseph Green launch Ironmongers, Iron and Steel Merchants and Hardwarement in Luton, England.
GF Gibbs buys Brown and Green's business.
Gibbs retires and sells the business to brothers William and Percy Dandy, who rename business Gibbs and Dandy.
The company incorporates as Gibbs and Dandy Ltd.
Gibbs and Dandy goes public, listing on the Birmingham Stock Exchange.
Gibbs and Dandy and Frederic Gale Ltd. based in Bedford, merge under Gibbs and Dandy name.
The company opens a branch in Northampton
Three Luton branches are merged into a single site, which also becomes the company's headquarters, inaugurates a "one-stop" concept.
Branches in St. Ives and St. Neots are acquired from David Smith Ltd; the Bedford branch converts to one-stop concept.
The Northampton branch is moved to a larger location, which becomes a one-stop branch.
Miller Morris and Brooker Ltd., with two branches in Slough and Maidenhead, is acquired.
Elliott & Co is acquired, adding a new branch in Henley-on-Thames.
Brackley Timber & Joinery Ltd. is acquired, adding new branch in Brackley.

By 2004, however, Gibbs and Dandy had located a fresh acquisition opportunity, buying up Brackley Timber & Joinery Ltd for £850,000. The purchase gave the company its ninth branch and established Gibbs and Dandy in Brackley, in North-amptonshire. The acquisition also fit in with the company's strategy of further expansion into the South Midlands region. The purchase also helped push total turnover past £57 million for the year. After 165 years in business, Gibbs and Dandy remained a prominent player in the U.K. builders' merchants market.

Principal Subsidiaries

Dandy Ltd.; Elliott & Co. (Henley) Limited; Gibbs and Dandy (Gales) Ltd.; Miller, Morris & Brooker (Holdings) Ltd.; Miller, Morris & Brooker (Holdings) Ltd.; One Stop Trade Building Centre Ltd..

Principal Competitors

Wolseley plc; Saint-Gobain plc; SIG plc; Jewson Ltd; FCX International plc; WM Owlett and Sons Ltd; C Brewer and Sons Ltd.; Solus Garden and Leisure Ltd.; Dormole Ltd.; Stax Trade Centres plc; Parker Merchanting; Eliza Tinsley Group plc; Hilti GB Ltd.

Further Reading

"Acquisition," Daily Post , December 3, 2004, p. 19.

"Builders Merchants Just Dandy," Birmingham Post , August 24, 2001,p. 26.

"Gibbs & Dandy," Investors Chronicle , March 12, 2004.

"Gibbs & Dandy," Investors Chronicle , September 3, 2004.

—M.L. Cohen

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