Another Fire

By this time, the management of Nicks & Co had passed to Chris Drury and his cousin Tony Drury. Their world was dramatically disrupted in June 1987 when history repeated itself and their saw mill was gutted by a spectacular fire. The blaze started at about 8.20 pm, and it took more than 60 firemen using nine pumps and an hydraulic platform to bring it under control. Although the mill was completely destroyed, the cousins were determined to remain in business. Most of their stock survived, and initially they got the machining done by other local firms. At the same time, they cleared out the timber shed to the north of the mill and within ten days had installed two new shaping machines and two second-hand saws. They already had plans for a new retail store to the south of their site, and these were modified to include a new mill, both being completed in 1989 (Fig. 6) This development allowed Nicks & Co not only to supply timber to businesses but also to develop retail sales of timber and related products to the general public (53).

After much hard work, the business was beginning to prosper again until trading conditions became difficult due to the recession in the 1990s. To reduce their borrowings, the Drury cousins decided to sell off the northern half of Canada Wharf as by that time they did not need so much storage area because the atomic-powered ice breakers kept the Baltic open throughout the winter and most of the timber was kiln dried in the country of origin. Recognizing also the need to introduce new ideas


In 1991 Phil McCormick formally Sales Director at Gloucester’s largest Timber Importer Williams and Farmer Ltd (W&F) had set up his own company Gloucester Timber Company Ltd (GTC) within the offices at Nicks Timber . By 1994 GTC was a major supplier to all the local private Builders Merchant groups along with two national chains and had become a large account to Nicks Timber and Phil was working closely with the Nicks Management in jointly servicing his GTC accounts, It was an obvious and predictable progression therefore when in 1995 Nicks found themselves under some trading pressure and the family agreed to approach Phil with a partnering package resulting in him receiving a 30% share of the company  and becoming the new managing director for the company with the existing joint MD’s Chris and Tony Drury stepping down to take up new roles as Retail Director and Finance Director respectively . 54).


The reinvention of Nicks now as a company began with the opening of its 10,000 SQFT  DIY and Trade Centre “ TIMBERLAND” and the strengthening of the management team with the appointment of Mr Peter Cartwright as Works Director (ex W&F) Tony Simpson as Works Manager (ex W&F) and Andrew Baker (ex W&F / Cox Long) As Sales Director , with partnering agreements on stock from a number of GTC suppliers and this strong new management team the company doubled its turnover within three years and returned to profitable trading.


From 1998 to 2008 the company enjoyed a decade of growth and solid trading enlarging its turnover to around £4.5m and its workforce to 50 , this position was to change rapidly as the financial crash of 2008 decimated the UK and in particularly the construction industry dropping demand almost immediately over night and creating a deep recession that would last for the next five years . Once more Nicks found itself having to reshape and reinvent to continue to survive .

Peter Cartwright , Andrew Baker and Chris Dury were now of retirement age and so steph away with Chis having been at the company since he was 15 staying on to cover the weekend trade centre managment , Tony Drury also took early retirement . The Drury family agreed an equity exchange to make the continued trading of Nicks possible and ownership moved to a 75/25 split between Philip McCormick and Rob Drury as the representative for the family , new leases were agreed to give security for the next twenty years and the number of employees reduced to match the level of activity the uk was now producing . This all happens over a two year period taking us up to 2010 . It was at this point that the initial approaches were made to Mike and Clive Britton of Brittons Holdings who had F.W.Morgan Ltd Cardiff in their group a main line timber importer and merchant on the docks offering a direct supply rout that Nicks felt would greatly inhabited its position and with the new equity ownership a merger should now be possible which would enhance both companies.

This would be the first of three approaches made over the next three years before a deal was finally completed in February 2013 . In the interim years further changes at Nicks reduced staffing levels down to 25 and with Phil McCormick becoming CEO then appointed  in 2012 for a year Mr Nigel Buckley-Ryan ( ex Timbmet) as MD . In the year that Nigel  was with us he reshaped the finance and cash flow of the business and undertook the difficult job of changing the company from the “family Buisness ” it had been for the past 155 years and into a fully operational commercial entity fit for the continuing difficult trading environment and fit to grow for the future and more importantly as it proved to be able to now complete on the equity exchange to finally bring Brittons Holdings and through them FWMorgan to an agreement .

On completion of this In early 2013 the ownership of the company changed again  with Brittons taking. 50% share Phil McCormick a 33% holding leaving the Drury family through Rob Drury a 17 % holding . This Drury ownership secures the continued relationship and the companies position as the oldest continually privately  owned company in Gloucestershire .

Strengthened by this new arrangement and the trading benefits it opens up to direct import and enlarged buying power Nicks quickly started to grow as the UK finally clawed its way out of the last five years of recession.

The company returned to profit in 2014 with a very positive eye on the future.

IMG_4559In 2016 Nicks finally acquired the land that it had been renting from British Waterways / The Cannel Trust for decades . Now owned a major investment was made to put in concrete roads to give better access and cleaner working conditions . Sheds one and six were also concreted giving an overall increase in storage capacity of some 1500m3 . And so after 160 years of trading Nicks Timber Co Ltd are once more reinventing its self and preparing for the next 160 years of servicing the people of Gloucester and the wider UK .