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Hillbrush – the world-leading manufacturer of brushes and hygiene equipment


World-leading manufacturer of brushes and hygiene equipment

To celebrate Great British Manufacturing, Charlie Coward, Managing Director at Hillbrush tells us how maintaining a family-run ethos has led to their continued success as they celebrate their centenary year.

Hillbrush is the UK’s largest manufacturer of brushes and hygienic cleaning products. They distribute products worldwide and have set the standard for quality and innovation across the cleaning, food manufacturing and agricultural industries.

Tell us about Hillbrush and how the business has developed since its inception 100 years ago

We were founded in 1922 by my great-grandfather and his brother. I believe we owe a huge amount of our success to the fact we have been family owned and family-run from the beginning. I am a fourth generation Director.

Now in 2022, my cousin Andy and I split the responsibilities of running the business between us. We have very clear areas of responsibility, and focus on the areas we thrive in. This works extremely well.

This family-run ethos is in every area of the business, not just management. We have many employees who are also fourth generation and have worked for the business for most, if not all of their working life.  One employee recently celebrated 58 years with Hillbrush!

What challenges has Hillbrush faced, and how has the business overcome them?

Covid was a real challenge and we felt like we were being thrown a new curve ball every week. However, working through that as a team made us stronger and as business owners, I think we’ve ridden the wave well.

The challenges affected our supply chain, raw materials, and finished goods.
Our category management team had to work hard to obtain new suppliers for materials when previous suppliers were not operating or were having cashflow issues of their own. As a result, we now carry 50% more stock than we did 12 months ago, which has an impact on our cashflow.

However, carrying more stock puts us in a strong position against our competitors. We’re seeing large distribution companies, particularly in the UK, coming to us and saying, “We’re really struggling to obtain your type of product from your competitor. Can you supply us?” So there’s a lot of opportunities coming up.

Having an accountant that also fully understands us as a business and the challenges we face in this sector has really helped. Chloe and the team have been extremely supportive over many years with processing our annual audit and other accounting related support when required.

We’ve also had a longstanding relationship with Martin Aldridge too and really enjoy working with him. Sometimes I will talk to Martin on a personal level on things outside of accounting due to our shared love of boating.

What do you consider to be Hillbrush's biggest achievements?

Celebrating our centenary year is certainly something we are very proud of as a business!

We now focus on diversification and keeping ahead of our competition. We built our new state of the art manufacturing facility in 2016, moved in January 2017, built an injection molding division with the vision that we would produce our own plastic injection molded cleaning tools there.

We manufacture many component parts for Numatic International which go into the Henry vacuum cleaner. It’s a great well-known product and we love how much the successes of these vacuums has grown to become such a household name.

Tell us about what Hillbrush is doing to promote sustainability...

We have a sustainability team within Hillbrush, and that team meets on a regular basis and are consistently looking to reduce our carbon footprint. We are members of Planet Mark who support us in working towards net zero and since 2019 have achieved goals and objectives set year on year.

We are looking to invest more in this area following the construction of our new centenary building. We also use solar energy in our factory and warehouse and, so far this year, have generated more than 20% of our overall consumed energy. We are looking to invest more in this area following the construction of our new centenary building.

Further information:

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FEATURING: Martin Aldridge
Martin is based in the Poole office. He trained with Grant Thornton before joining a predecessor firm of PKF Francis Clark, becoming a partner in… read more
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