UK: Following Holland & Barrett's Fortunes

Last Updated: 26 January 2018
Article by John Dormer

Holland & Barrett has firmly established its place as the UK's leading retailer of vitamins, minerals and herbal supplements.

Its green branded stores are a familiar site in most major towns and cities across the UK and Ireland – and are popping up more and more across the globe.

Based in Nuneaton, the company is a real success story for Warwickshire and the Midlands and is deep in the middle of a major expansion that will secure its long-term future in the region.

Roger Craddock, Holland & Barrett's group legal director and company secretary, has been with the company since 1991, and has been instrumental in the journey the firm has made.

We sat down with Roger to find out more about the company's HQ expansion, move into new continents, and its links with The Queen.

Roger's office is perfectly positioned to see work progressing outside on a major 48,000 sq ft extension to the company's Eliot Park base – an expansion which he says will secure Holland & Barrett's future in Nuneaton.

"We've been under pressure here in terms of the space we have, so we took the decision last year to develop the remainder of the site and secure our foreseeable future at this location," Roger said.

"The extension is actually bigger than the existing building and should be completed by around the end of January, and then fitted out and operational in March 2017."

When Roger joined the company, Holland & Barrett was making a loss and based just off the M25. A relocation to a warehouse in Hinckley followed, and the business was remodelled and subsequently doubled in size in the space of six years.

Then part of Lloyds Pharmacy, a move to unbolt the company away from its parent in order to be sold separately brought about a relocation to Attleborough, before a sale in the summer of 1997.

In 2010, Holland & Barrett moved across Nuneaton to its existing home, and today it has firmly positioned itself as the leader in its market.

Roger said: "Our core business area is the UK and we've now got more than 750 stores across the UK.

"We also trade in the Republic of Ireland, Holland, where we have 180 stores, Belgium and last year we opened up in Sweden for the first time.

"In 2010 we also started a franchise operation, for Holland & Barrett franchise stores outside of the UK and Ireland. We now have over 100 franchise stores worldwide, from Malta, Gibraltar and Spain, through to Cyprus, UAE, Singapore and China, and we're just about to open in places like Georgia, India and South Korea.

"When we started the franchise operation we didn't know what interest there would be, so we were testing the water for a few years.

"Kyle Rowe was appointed as dedicated international development director last March, and he's now going out canvassing interest elsewhere in the world.

"A special part of my work life is dedicated to drafting and negotiating the documentation to support franchising in the various different territories. It is a big role, as everywhere is different and has a different culture."

Holland & Barrett's international success has been formally recognised with the company being presented with the Queen's Award for International Trade this year. The prestigious award celebrates UK businesses leading the way in international trade, innovation and sustainable development and will be held by the company for the next five years.

"The Queen's Award is very important to us and we were honoured to be presented with it," Roger added.

"We have enjoyed strong growth overseas in the last few years, and the award gives us a fair degree of kudos."

On the back of the international success, the company is also strengthening its links closer to home - with a concept store trial underway in partnership with SPAR in Northern Ireland.

Roger said: "It's a toe in the water both for us and for SPAR, to see how much interest there is.

"So rather than opening standalone stores there is a dedicated area with Holland & Barrett products in store. SPAR is a trusted brand and we see this as a great opportunity to expand our business and serve our customers, and potential customers."

The exciting developments have seen the company grow substantially over the last ten years. The Nuneaton HQ is now home to 350 staff and worldwide Holland & Barrett employs 7,000 people.

So it's clear to see Holland & Barrett is in a very healthy place. Roger added: "We've grown every year significantly since 1991, with the exception of two years within the last recession when we built our HQ instead.

"Many years we've had double digit growth and the business has near enough doubled in size since 2010. In our last financial year we made a bottom line profit of more than £140 million."

Wright Hassall partner John Dormer has followed Holland & Barrett's fortunes more than most and has worked closely with Roger in recent times.

Roger explains: "We refer legal work outside the company when a specialism is required and where possible use firms in our locality, as they understand our business and genuinely take an active interest in developments within the business.

"John is very helpful for us, as he is an absolute specialist in the field he works in, which is a very particular area of law - setting up share schemes.

"There are only a handful of people in the country that handle this type of law in the volume that John does, especially based out of the city of London and not far from us."

Holland & Barrett has been bucking the downward trend on the high street for some time and given the success of its growth to date the chances are you will be seeing more and more of its synonymous green branding far and wide for some time.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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