Aspray Transport hits the brakes, while Screwfix & Toolstation go into overdrive

One of the fastener sector’s best-known transport companies folded in August while two significant retailer chains continued their relentless expansion.

Aspray Transport grinds to a halt

The Aspray Transport business is winding down after the owners were unsuccessful in turning the business around. 16 August was the last day of trading for the firm, which has been a significant logistics partner in the UK fastener business for a number of years.

Aspray Transport was acquired by Bushell Investment Group earlier this year. Weeks after the buy-out, Bushell initiated a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) as the firm faced trading difficulties. Increasing fuel costs and “adverse trading conditions” as a result of the uncertainty linked to Brexit led to an unsustainable decline in business, the Joint Administrator, Benjamin Wiles, said in a statement.

Lee Bushell, Group CEO of Aspray Group, added: “It is with great regret that we have served notice to appoint administrators to Aspray Transport. This decision has not been taken lightly, but we do not consider there to be any other option in the current circumstances.

“Over the past few months we have been working tirelessly to find a solution to addressing the company’s poor trading performance. This has included initiating a CVA process, seeking additional investment and speaking to potential purchasers. Unfortunately, these have been unsuccessful given the broader economic challenges in the market.

“On this basis, and with a heavy heart, we have taken the difficult decision to wind-down Aspray Transport. Regrettably, this will have a direct impact on the company’s workforce and members of staff will be made redundant as a result.”

Screwfix and Toolstation expansion race continues

Despite the tribulations faced by the UK High Street as consumer spending migrates online, two significant players in the fastener and tool sectors are continuing to open stores at an incredible rate.

While consumer high street names like Waitrose (closing seven stores) Debenhams (closing 22 stores) and many others culling shops, both Screwfix and Toolstation continue to snap up UK retail real estate at a considerable pace.

Despite already owning a network of 620-plus UK stores, Screwfix opened a further six branches in August 2019 alone (Ascot; Northallerton; High Wycombe; Cuper; Ormskirk and Doncaster).

The brand continues to deliver “good sales growth” (up to 9.6% or 4.5% like-for-like in Q1 2019) for owner Kingfisher, which claims that 97% of the UK population is within a 30-minute drive of a Screwfix store.

Meanwhile, Toolstation now has over 350 branches, having opened 21 stores in the first six months of 2019. Toolstation owner Travis Perkins says 60 branches are planned for 2019 in total.

The growth plan has been paying off. Toolstation has continued its steep upwards trajectory through the expansion of the branch network, which has driven growth of 23.1% (17.3% like-for-like) in H1. Adjusted operating profit grew £3 million in the period.

Expansion has not been limited to the UK – Toolstation now has 53 branches in Europe, with ongoing trials in France and Belgium.