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Pulling out the stops

Alan Guthrie visits Lancashire-based One Stop Hire, which this month opens its eighth depot and sees exciting growth opportunities.

It was almost exactly a year ago when One Stop Hire put itself squarely on the map in the north west of England, with its acquisition of Wigan-based SJS Hire Tools Ltd and the purchase of the assets of PSL, which had its headquarters in Bolton. However, One Stop Hire, or at least its name, dates back considerably further.

SJS, established in 1982, was acquired the following September, from former owners, Steve Etchells and family. The SJS depot in Bolton was closed, and those in Chorley and Wrightington, north of Wigan, have been merged, with the Wrightington facility being expanded to become One Stop’s new headquarters, due to open in October. “A week after completing the deal, we heard PSL had been put into administration,” said Steve. “It was a great opportunity to establish a strong branch network.We decided to buy the assets and merge the operation with SJS under the One Stop Hire name, giving the brand a physical, rather than a virtual, presence.”

PSL locations were retained or relocated in Blackpool, Bolton (which has acted as One Stop’s initial headquarters), Liverpool, Manchester, Preston, and Wigan, giving a total network of seven depots. A brand new branch is being opened this month in Widnes. In all, One Stop currently employs 48 staff.

Re-branding operation

Steve Hitchen takes delivery of the new Ford Transits from Gordons Ford’s Senior Corporate Sales Executive Nichola Hobson, and Business Manager Paul Turner.

MD Steve Hitchen has a diverse hire industry background, having previously been a Director of Ainscough Crane Hire Ltd, working there for 16 years. His previous experience also includes seven years with PSL from 1986-93. Steve’s wife, Danielle, is a Director of One Stop Hire and also previously worked for Ainscough. She is the daughter of Martin Ainscough, formerly Chairman of the crane hire company, which was the subject of an MBO in 2007.

“The One Stop Hire name dates back to 2003 and was the idea of Martin Ainscough,” says Steve Hitchen. “It was conceived as an Internet-based virtual hire site. People wanting to hire equipment would enter their requirements and then member suppliers would effectively bid for the order. However, in the run-up to the MBO, which eventually completed in October 2007, it was put on hold indefinitely.”

Acquisition opportunities

Steve was part of the MBO team, but soon after the deal he began to consider other opportunities in hire. “Basically I was in my early forties and wanted to see if I could establish my own operation and run it successfully. Given the impact of the credit crunch on businesses, I believed there also might be acquisition opportunities. So I left Ainscough in May 2009 and looked at different options in various hire markets.”


Obviously, a key challenge in any re-branding operation is to avoid alienating existing customers. “With SJS, any loss was negligible. In fact, we gained business because existing customers were able to use us in more locations, including the important cities of Manchester and Liverpool, with our expanded regional coverage. However, the administrators had decided to close PSL as a going concern with immediate effect, leaving five staff just to handle off-hires. Even though we bought the assets quickly, nine trading days were lost in October, and we estimate that in that short time, 60% of

“We aim to offer everything customers need.”

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