Mark Two Distribution sold to Ultra Finishing

Bolton-based Mark Two Distribution has been sold to bathroom product supplier Ultra Finishing, for an undisclosed sum,according to reports on kitchen, bathroom and bedroom trade body

The deal will see Ultra Finishing, the Burnley-based company behind brands including Hudson Reed, Ultra and Premier, become one of the largest kitchen and bathroom suppliers in the UK.

Joint founder of Mark Two Distribution, Nick Hopkinson (pictured), confirmed that the sale of the business to Ultra would safeguard hundreds of jobs at the Bolton sites.

“If we’d gone bust I would have loads of regret but because the business will be stronger and better than ever and run by an amazing team of people who we’ve nurtured over the years, I couldn’t be happier,” he said. “I’ve no twinges of sadness at all because I’m delighted that it’s gone to Ultra finishing and that everyone involved can continue on as before.”

Paul Jenkinson, who had been a director of Mark Two for eight years and was in charge of distribution to independent retailers, will continue to run Mark Two Distribution under the ownership of Ultra Finishing. Despite the challenging economy and a declining market, Jenkinson had grown the independent distribution side of the business by 20% last year and is on course to grow the company by 20% this year.

Commenting on the acquisition, Paul Jenkinson said: “It’s fantastic news on two levels. One, it’s preserved a lot of jobs and it’s given everyone at Mark Two job security so it’s brilliant in terms of the immediate future. In longer terms the combination of Mark Two’s ability to move complicated and fragile kitchen and bathroom products from A to B coupled with Ultra’s buying power, their strengths in the market and their manufacturing facilities is a great marriage of skills.”

Ultra Finishing acquired Niko Distribution last year, which the company says accelerated new product development and allowed it to offer the complete bathroom under its Hudson Reed and Premier brands. It said that the acquisition of Mark Two and investment in state of the art distribution and transport facilities was an obvious next step to successfully fulfil the company’s growth ambitions.

With the acquisition of Mark Two, Ultra Finishing now adds the Balterley and Lakes brands to its existing portfolio alongside Hudson Reed, Ultra and Premier. All brands will be sold by Ultra Finishing’s existing route to market, through retail and distribution, via a team of area sales managers.  The Ultra Finishing and Mark Two sales teams will join forces to sell all brands.

However, the home selling division of Mark Two will not be part of Ultra Finishing Ltd.  The company remains purely a business-to-business operation. Nick Hopkinson is the majority shareholder of Mark Two Home Sales, the company that supplies Tesco kitchens, and he will continue to run that business. Hopkinson is currently in talks with other high street retailers to expand this business.

Chris Hopkinson will continue to sit on a number of high-profile boards as a non-executive director and will remain a significant investor in Clifton Trade Bathrooms.

Mark Two, which was founded in 1984, came close to collapse after the demise of MFI in 2008 but was saved when the Hopkinsons became significant investors in a new plumbers merchants, Clifton Trade Bathrooms. They also won contracts to supply Wickes, Dolphin and Focus, which together accounted for between 60-70% of its business and turnover.

However, the economic situation worsened for the distributor two years later when, under the new ownership of Travis Perkins, Wickes took its bathroom business, which was worth around £9 million to Mark Two, in-house. Shortly after, both Focus and Dolphin went out of business.

“People have gone bust with a lot less adversity than us,” Hopkinson continued. “A lot of people would have walked away a long time ago. When Wickes handed their notice in to us and we lost the Focus and Dolphin business we were looking down a mineshaft of an abyss but we decided to do something about it.”

In a statement from Ultra Finishing, the company said: “The strategic acquisition of Mark Two will provide the additional infrastructure to support growth and provide the logistics and transport to all of its customers.

“Ultra Finishing will continue to work with the strategic partners who have fully supported the brands over recent years.  We are excited to have the opportunity to improve service levels to the marketplace, supplying the full family of brands to customers old and new.”

Reacting to the news, Glasgow bathroom retailer and kbbreview columnist Derek Miller said: “This seems like a sensible act of consolidation for two big players in the North-West.  Mark Two and Ultra Finishing are both naturally entrepreneurial businesses and the fit seems good.  Mark Hopkinson is a hugely strong character and is highly respected in our industry. Mark Two has taken the blows in recent years but it is a measure of Hoppy’s strength that he keeps coming back for more, with new clients. I’m sure he will remain a major player in the UK bathroom sector.”