CAT Trailer Tales: Maypole Ltd

Maypole-2Paul Hambleton on why bigger isn’t always better and on the big issue of trailer type approval

One day Paul Hambleton will inherit an empire. He’s married to the daughter of Maypole Ltd founder Stuart Howe, and he’s got big plans for the company. Maypole Ltd is firmly entrenched in its core business of manufacturing and supplying trailer components and towing accessories.

If you haven’t heard of the company itself, you’ll definitely be familiar with its customers: “We supply Halfords, FPS, Wilco, The Range, Go Outdoors and lots of independents. We’ve also just joined the GAU as an official supplier.”

Dealing with a core customer base of some 1500 companies, Maypole is now on a marketing push both to the trade sector and to customers. The launch of its new website should help with that, as will the built-in retailer locator: “We wanted to take the approach that if Joe Public sees our product on our website, they can then find a retailer. If you lock the website down, you restrict that.

“We put a criterion on it, customers had to achieve a certain spend. Once they reach that they’re viable to go onto the store locator.”

Are there big changes in the towing market? As far as Paul is concerned, they don’t come any bigger than the issue of trailer type approval: “It means that trailers have to be built to a certain standard to comply with the law. That’s caused a big shake up to the people making trailers in the UK.

“A lot of our automotive customers store kit trailers as well, and this is affecting them too. I don’t know why this has taken so long, we’ve had type approval on cars for a very long time. It makes sense, it’s only right that the product is fit for purpose. Sellers are going to have to sell approved trailers, and they’re going to need to check they’re approved.”

Paul-HambletonMaypole currently manufactures a quarter of its product portfolio in the UK, a number Paul is keen to grow: “I suppose a 50:50 split would be great, but my goal would be to grow what we’re doing in the UK and bring in new people.

“Twelve months ago we weren’t doing trailer harnesses for example. We used to import them from Italy and we didn’t have any people working on them. Now we do. We want to support UK manufacturing.

“A lot of the product comes from China, unfortunately,” says Paul. “I say unfortunately because I’m patriotic, and I would prefer for us to be selling UK stuff.”

Maypole is keen to push UKPLC to investors and customers. “Anybody can go to China and buy a foot pump and sell it at £1.99. I recognise that for us going forward we have to add value for that. Manufacturing here adds value. It might be Chinese cable that we use but the labour and the manufacturing is done here in the UK.”

A growing UK product portfolio means Maypole is a growing company with ambitions to match. Indeed, Paul wants to see the current nine million pound turnover jump to £50 million in the next five years. “I think with towing you have to be a specialist, so you’re either a towbar manufacturer or you sell the accessories.

“Being a smaller company means we can react to the market. If something goes wrong, we can jump all over it, whereas competitors might not because they have the corporate structure. You can’t get to the person who makes the decision. I sit right outside the sales office, so I know what’s going on.”

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