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Howard Basford move signals strategic return

Howard Basford has expanded its bodyshop network into north Wales with the acquisition of Roberts & Ellis in Mold. Peter Roberts, founder of Roberts & Ellis, is to retire.

The purchase brings the number of bodyshops owned by the £18m turnover business to eight. It also marks a return to the strategy of moving the operation out from its traditional north-west territory where it has bodyshops in Aintree, Birkenhead, Ellesmere Port, Stockport, Crewe and two in Warrington.

Howard Basford previously owned bodyshops in Warwick and Bromsgrove, which it sold three years ago to Impact Repair Centres claiming they were too small, and sites in Nottingham and Daventry, which have also since been sold. Now it hopes to expand the business further “as new opportunities arise”.

Tracy Howard, chairman of Howard Basford (last year’s AM50 No 3 on £16m turnover), says: “The business, which fits comfortably into our network, has long been recognized as a market leader.

With the dramatic changes being seen in all prestige and mass market vehicles, accident repair is becoming very specialized.”

Last month, Howard Basford sent a statement of reassurance to its customers after John Dwyer, former assistant chief constable of Cheshire, called on tighter regulation in the industry, especially in the repair of boron and ultra high strength steels (UHSS).

Neil Kirk, managing director of Howard Basford, said that all of its bodyshop sites are equipped with the technology to handle all repairs, including UHSS, and that all its staff are qualified to carry out repair work. In the last five years the business has invested more than £2m, with £200,000 of this on the latest welding equipment.

Howard Basford is reporting an increase in retail business in recent months, and says that many dealers in the region have started to outsource their bodyshop services to its outlets.

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