Hall-Fast Industrial Supplies on current trading, growth, backing the local community & Brexit

Established 12 years ago, Hall-Fast Industrial Supplies has come a long way in a short while, handling over 45 million stocked items and seeing business grow. Malcolm Hall, Founder and Owner of the community-minded company, speaks with Torque…

It sounds like Hall-Fast has had a strong period of sales recently. How big has the growth been and what do you put that strong performance down to?
Sales grew by 14% on the previous year. The success is down to our huge investment in a new website and software system which is now starting to pay dividends.

You’ve got a new website – can you fill us in on the background to that as you had some issues with the last one?
On 2 December 2016 our previous website basically broke following some development work which was undertaken. Our old website was a custom made system that had the one back end, with international ‘satellite’ websites all linking into it. Changes were made to the back end and these changes along with other things fundamentally broke  the website. Our new website is Magneto based and is fully integrated into our Datafile software system.

How long have you had a trade shop? And is business through the shop growing?
We opened our Mansfield-based trade shop in 2017 following the closure of local multinational and independent DIY stores. I saw an opportunity to service the local tradesman, general public and businesses by stocking a standard range of PPE, workwear, fasteners, tools and general DIY and trade essentials, we have seen an increase in both football and sales in-store.

Hall-Fast seems to have a strong community focus, sponsoring local team Mansfield Town FC, backing the Mansfield Courage awards, etc. Why is it important to the firm to be so involved in the community?
Hall-Fast is a family business and myself and my wife have a strong desire to ‘put something back’ and that is why you will see our name connected with a wide variety of initiatives and sponsorship in which we invest time, resources and finance. Over the last 12 years we have raised, donated or sponsored community-based initiatives in and around Mansfield and further afield in excess of £500,000, and we are very proud of what we give back to others.

How big a proportion of your business is exports? What’s your view on the potential impact Brexit could have on overseas trading?
Export sales accounts for circa 30% of our overall sales. I was and still am in favour of leaving the EU, we have seen an increase in enquiries and also sales from all over the world since the British
people voted to leave and I personally believe that despite all of the scaremongering nothing much will change come March 2019. There are a world of opportunities for British businesses overseas.

How do you view the market generally at the moment? Strong? Is it tough for your customers at the moment?
The majority of suppliers, customers or business owners that I speak to are also seeing opportunities for growth in the markets that they operate in, but there is some uncertainty out there which has been caused by Brexit. However to me uncertainty gives businesses an opportunity to diversify and think differently about things and the businesses that are doing this are doing well. Our sales of specialist fasteners both within the UK and overseas markets is growing, however sales of tools for us continue to be stable but with low margins being realised.

What’s your ambition for Hall-Fast in the short term?
My aim is to continue to grow Hall-Fast over the next few years and either get the business to a position where we can sell it or bring in a manager to run it for us.