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HOWARTH TIMBER & BUILDING SUPPLIES 100 BMJ • 1920-2020


HOWARTH TIMBER & BUILDING SUPPLIES: MEETING CHALLENGES HEAD-ON


Now the UK’s biggest privately owned timber company, Howarth Timber & Building Supplies was already 80 years old when BMJ launched. Over the years, the firm has prospered through interesting and challenging times.


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ot long after Queen Victoria took the throne, a small one-man company set up in Leeds. Hudson & Co, a small but successful timber


business, was run by John Howarth’s uncle William Hudson. Since then, Howarth Timber & Building Supplies (HTBS) has expanded to an employer of more than 1,000 specialists who know the industry inside out. Today the 180-year-old family business is the UK’s biggest privately owned timber company, with 33 branches.


World War One


When WW1 began in 1914, it had an immediate impact on the timber industry. A huge increase in demand came from the military services for various building projects. At the same time there was as a decrease in available imports, causing timber shortages throughout the UK. Prices rose dramatically with the cost of raw materials and wages following shortly after. Conscription caused


a shortage of labour leaving few men in the Hudson & Co timber yard. The company did very well for work during the war and came out of it in a strong position. When peace returned, the workforce increased to around 30 men, all working 49-hour weeks.


Post War Economy


Hudson & Co made the most of the post- war financial boom and invested heavily in equipment and timber stocks to increase their turnover. Sales were on the rise and the company was in a very good place. By 1921 the economic climate had begun to deteriorate, and timber prices had halved. A lot of the timber supplied by the company was used in the engineering industry. The slump in export trade and an engineering strike had a serious negative impact on turnover. However, the company continued to invest in itself, to ensure that they were in a strong position should there be an increase in trade.


Wall Street Crash


In the latter part of 1929, the British economy was rocked by the Wall Street Crash. The value of British exports halved, timber prices quickly dropped, industrial areas were thrown into poverty, and by the end of 1930 unemployment had doubled. This came at a time when Hudson & Co were balancing on a fine line between financial success and failure. Jack Howarth and George Walker spent all their efforts on keeping the company afloat.


World War Two


The company steadily continued through the 1930’s and The Great Depression. In the mid 1930’s, the business benefitted from the building boom, further encouraged by the re-armament programme. During WW2 the importance of the timber trade meant that Hudson & Co were able to keep most of their workforce, and luckily for them, Leeds fared well during the bombings in comparison to other cities. By the end of


www.buildersmerchantsjournal.net August 2020


YEARS


Illustrations: vecteezy


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