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Screwfix: The incredible story of how a tiny Yeovil tool firm grew into a retail giant

It started as a small local Yeovil company in 1979 but is now one of the UK's biggest retailers

From humble beginnings in Yeovil in 1979, a small local screw company has grown into a retail giant. Now employing 14,000 people and working towards opening its 1,000th UK store, Screwfix's 40-year rise to become one of the UK's biggest retailers is one of Somerset's greatest business successes.


Aimed at builders, electricians, plumbers and serious DIY-ers, Screwfix is the trade equivalent of Argos and is still headquartered in Yeovil.


Time is money for busy builders, which is why they have been among the most enthusiastic users of mobile phones. Being able to order equipment on the move is a boon for the white van man and tapping into that demand has turned Screwfix into one of Britain’s fastest-growing businesses.


With approximately £2.33 billion in revenue last year, the retail behemoth is still going from strength-to-strength. But it all started as a tiny local venture in South Somerset.


Humble beginnings


Based in Yeovil, Screwfix started life as the Woodscrew Supply Company in 1979. The company’s first mail order catalogue consisted of a single-page solely dedicated to screws, and in 1987 this was increased to a bumper four-page version called Handimail offering hardware to DIY and trade professionals.


The first catalogue to be produced in the name of Screwfix Direct appeared in 1992 and, with a turnover of £4m, the company moved into a larger premises at Pen Mill, Yeovil, in 1994. This move heralded the start of significant growth.


In 1998, with a turnover that had virtually doubled year-on-year to £28m, the company moved to a purpose-built site at Houndstone Business Park in Yeovil, where it remains to this day. Eager to get in on the online action as the internet began to take off, the first Screwfix website was launched in 1999.


Just five months later the company was acquired by Kingfisher Plc, which still owns Screwfix today. The large conglomerate now also owns B&Q, and is listed on the London Stock Exchange.


Rapid expansion


Later in 1999, Screwfix expanded its Houndstone site with the opening of a new Contact Centre, employing 500 people. In January 2000, Screwfix trading hours were extended to 7-days-a-week, and the 1,000th employee joined the organisation in March 2000.


Amid huge expansion, Screwfix subsequently expanded its contact centre in January 2001, also relaunching its website later that year, winning "E-tailer of the Year" in the process. In September 2004, to continue to meet the increased demand, a fully automated, 325,000sqft distribution centre was opened in Trentham, Stoke-on-Trent, fulfilling next-day orders.


n August 2005, the first physical Screwfix store was opened in Yeovil. By 2008 - just three years later - Screwfix had already opened more than 100 stores across the UK.


By 2013, Screwfix launched its 300th store and with this success it moved into new markets in 2014, opening seven stores in Northern Ireland and four stores in Germany. In the same year, the web and mobile site extended its range to include 23,000 products available online and the contact centre extended its opening hours to deliver a 24/7 service.


Still innovating today


In 2021, Screwfix Sprint was introduced, allowing customers to place an order on the new Screwfix app and get it delivered straight to their location – either at home or on site – in less than an hour. Screwfix Sprint is currently available in more than 300 eligible stores, reaching 40 per cent of the UK population.


Earlier this year, Screwfix opened its 800th store in Bourton-on-the-water, Gloucestershire. The July opening brought the firm closer to its overall target of 1,000 stores across the UK and Republic of Ireland.


Still a local, Somerset company


According to trade magazine The Retail Appointment, although Screwfix now has a physical and online presence in Europe, as well as all across the UK, it "remains very much a Yeovil-based firm". The magazine reports: "Staff and customers alike seem to value the friendliness and down-to-earth approach that comes from living and working in Somerset".


https://www.somersetlive.co.uk/news/somerset-news/screwfix-incredible-story-how-tiny-7801713

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