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So not so successfully specialist then

One of Britain’s biggest delivery companies has crashed into administration, putting most of its 2,300 employees out of work and threatening major disruption to thousands of businesses that depend on it.

This is a liquidation too, not a prepack admin.

Tuffnells was until recently owned by Connect Group, which was originally WHSmith News, but the business was sold to turnaround investment specialist Broad Oak Support Services in 2020 in a deal worth £15m.


8 thoughts on “So not so successfully specialist then”

  1. Great work from Broad Oak. They bought the business at a time when delivery services saw unprecedented demand and this has largely continued since the end of the pandemic.

    Having said that, something must have gone wrong with the business while Connect owned it, as they paid £113.4m for it in 2014 and by 2020 it was worth nearly £100m less.

  2. The Meissen Bison

    Tuffnells, founded in 1914 after Harold Tuffnell bought a horse and cart for £100 and began delivering goods

    Seems like a hefty price to have paid so he was probably advised by external consultants.

  3. Tuffnells had two men in a 7.5 tonne lorry to make deliveries. Car driving licenses issued before Jan 1997 got 7.5t “free” but those since don’t, so 7.5t drivers either have to be 40+ or have specialist additional training, either of which would make these drivers more expensive. Meanwhile everyone else is using 3.5t vans with a single crew driving on a car license.

    The amount of market that needs 2-man deliveries and doesn’t do them in-house (e.g. Currys) probably doesn’t justify a 2,300 person organisation…

  4. Being from Sheffield Tuffnell’s (and Caudles’) were local institutions. They had a depot round the corner from my Nanan&Grandad which I would walk past every time I visited them. And yes, the regulatory ground moved under their feet and took their busines model away from them. I think they had too much infrastucture investment (7.5tn vans, tailgate loading depots, etc.) to be able to adapt quickly enough. The modern delivery business is car-body vehicles stuffed full of hand-sized parcels. I did a summer doing so.

  5. Currys being an example of an org that does do in-house deliveries of larger items.

    My experience of Currys is that the chance of getting the items you have bought from them is pretty fucking slim. I don’t imagine you need much of a fleet to deliver imaginary goods.

  6. A turnaround specialist owning a delivery firm. There’s got to be a gag or two in there somewhere.

  7. Broad Oak don’t seem to be a specialist distressed investor, more a couple of consultants.

    Quite why they bought the thing, apart from hubris, is a mystery.

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