ANDREW PAGE: END OF AN ERA

As you’ll know by now, all Euro Car Parts and Andrew Page branches are to be rebranded as LKQ Euro Car Parts, putting an end to the 103-year-old Andrew Page name, but the company was always more than just a name – Andrew Page was a real person, as are the thousands that have worked with him and his successors over the years. 

READ: IN PICTURES: ANDREW PAGE MARKHAM VALE SIGN COMES DOWN

Andrew Page Snr. opened a wholesale motor parts distributor in Yorkshire in 1917, but it was his son James who started to expand the company after World War Two. Andrew Page and Co was incorporated in 1946, and the following year became a Bosch distributor. Expansion became possible when a Mr K Purcheon bought into the company in 1949. Expansion was steady, and by the early 1970s the firm comprised a handful of well-respected branches around North Yorkshire.

READ: ANDREW PAGE BRANCH CLOSURES: STATEMENT FROM LKQ EURO CAR PARTS

However in 1974, James Page’s son, named Andrew after his grandfather, joined the company and bought Mr Purcheon out. The firm, now named Andrew Page Ltd, went through a period of measured growth with the 15th branch opening in 1996 in Keighly.

More recent history

Later in the nineties, Andrew Page set up the Parts Alliance buying group, with members including CAF, Allparts and CAS. At this time, suppliers were being bought up by groups such as Finelist, so it made sense that some of the independent factors should come together in order to buy at scale. The Parts Alliance was by no means the first buying group around, but as it counted some of the largest independent chains among its members, it enjoyed a formidable presence and the group’s antics filled many pages of CAT at the time. Andrew Page had a complex history with the group it founded, leaving in 2010, only to rejoin in 2014 and then leave again six months later. By the time of the second resignation, The Parts Alliance itself had turned from a simple buying pool into an organisation that owned many of its members, and was a main business rival of Andrew Page.

READ: ANDREW PAGE TO DROP CAF BRAND

Andrew Page expanded into selling garage and diagnostic equipment through its AP Tech division, and network expansion continued apace with 41 branches open by 2008.

Private finance

However, expansion plans require liquidity, and a number of private finance groups were showing interest in various aftermarket companies. Unipart Group sold the controlling share of its factor business to H2 Equity Partners in 2011, The Parts Alliance buying group was taken over by Hg Capital in 2013 and Andrew Page was bought into by Phoenix Equity Partners along with Endless in 2010. Euro Car Parts, the chain’s great rival, did not take private equity, instead selling to Chicago-based LKQ Corporation in 2011.

READ: ECP PARENT ACQUIRES ANDREW PAGE NETWORK

Following the deal with Phoenix, a new management board, initially headed by Mark Roberts and later by Jim Sumner joined rival chains in the race for ‘scale’ (opening as many branches as possible in as wide a geographic area as possible). This was achieved partly by organic growth, but mainly by acquiring existing chains such as Camberley Auto Factors (adding 37 branches to the network) and a sizeable part of the Unipart Automotive branch network following the latter’s collapse. A large, modern national distribution centre was built on Derbyshire’s Markham Vale industrial estate in 2012, with signage easily visible from the M1. However, soon after the opening of the new facility, questions began to be asked about whether the chain could sustain this level of expansion.

Liquidity pressure

Following a £40m ‘refinance package’ from PNC Capital in late 2015, rumours that the chain was too highly geared to survive began to circulate (although these were adamantly denied by the Directors in interviews with CAT). Indeed, just weeks before administrators were called in, the company opened a new branch with a large retail shop in North London and another in Wales, and had acquired Japanese parts specialist Solid Auto, taking the branch count to three figures.

READ: CMA: CERTAIN ANDREW PAGE BRANCHES ‘DAMAGE COMPETITION’

However, time ran out in April 2016 and the company filed a notice of intent to appoint administrators. PriceWaterhouseCoopers spoke to various parties to arrange a ‘pre-pack’ deal, and on April 6 it was announced that Euro Car Parts would take the entire chain and run it as a business separate from ECP.

The saga didn’t end there, as a lengthy and complex investigation from the CMA followed, leaving Andrew Page staff in limbo. This uncertainty overshadowed the centenary with celebrations muted.

Eighteen months later, the decision was made that the takeover could go ahead if nine Andrew Page branches were sold. This happened, but rumours were soon abound that the board of ECP was split over the direction of the acquisition. While it was never clear what the internal politics were surrounding the decision, there was obviously disquiet at ECP, and nine directors left in the second half of 2018, culminating in CEO Martin Gray, CFO Steve Horne and Company Founder Sukhpal Ahluwalia walking out of a board meeting in the last week of the year.

READ: BREAKING: WALKOUT AT EURO CAR PARTS

With new management at Euro Car Parts came a new strategy. Across Europe, Parent company LKQ Corp had amassed a large number of chains and brands, along with the different computer systems and corporate cultures that went with them. Incoming CEO Andy Hamilton had previously been CCO for LKQ Europe and set about integrating processes and systems across the group. Andrew Page’s flagship distribution centre was closed and the branch network began to be reduced.

READ: LKQ BOSS: INVESTMENTS UNDER REVIEW ‘TO SECURE LIQUIDITY

As we know, the coronavirus crisis advanced some plans and knocked back others. As demand for parts fell dramatically, it must have seemed to management that there was little point in re-opening branches on sites that were near Euro Car Parts branches. Many of those remaining had been switched on to a new system common across LKQ’s businesses, so it must have come as little surprise that the 103-year-old name above the door was finally to be phased out for good.

 

Timeline: A history of Andrew Page

1917-1949

Andrew Page opens a motor accessory store in Leeds in 1917. JR Page forms Andrew Page and Son in 1942 but World War Two forces its closure. A joint venture is started in 1949 between Page and Mr K. Purcheon and they re-open as Andrew Page & Co.

1957-1978

A second branch is opened in Wakefield, Yorkshire in 1957 and a third in Harrogate in 1963. In 1978 JR Page and his son Andrew raise the funds needed to buy Purcheon out of the business and rename it as Andrew Page Limited.

1983-1989

Andrew Page Limited’s long period of expansion kicks off in West Yorkshire with a new Bradford branch and then one in York, to reach five before Bury joins and then, marking the end of the eighties, Stockport, Newcastle and Thirsk.

1990-1999

The 1990s sees Andrew Page celebrate 15 years since it was restarted by father and son, and open its 15th branch. The UK Parts Alliance buying group is formed by Andrew Page with Camberley Auto Factors and Central Auto Supplies.

2010

Private equity firm Phoenix Equity Partners invests more than £100 million into Andrew Page, and the founder member of the UKPA, now renamed The Parts Alliance, leaves the fold. Five new branches are also opened.

2012

Andrew Page opens another five branches to reach 56, but also buys 40-year-old Camberley Auto Factors and its 37 branches to extend its reach in the south of the country, bringing the network to 93 sites. Work starts on the vast new Markham Vale NDC. 

2015-2016

Rumours circulate that the company is running out of money as management tries to negotiate supplier contracts. A £40m refinance package with PNC Capital is agreed and the firm conduct a bullish interview with CAT, followed by the acquisition of Halesowen-based Asian parts specialist Solid Auto. However, there simply wasn’t enough liquidity, and the administrators are called in April 2016.

2016-2020

Euro Car Parts buy the firm with the intent of running it as a separate business, but a lengthy CMA investigation followed. Page holds open days for it’s centenary in 2017, but celebrations were muted (or so we hear, CAT wasn’t allowed to attend…) By 2020 a change of management at ECP and a change of business strategy at LKQ, meant there was little appetite for running separate brands. In June it was announced that the Andrew Page brand will be retired after 103 years of continuous trading. 

 

 

Published by GregWhitaker

Editor of CAT Magazine and an experienced motoring journalist

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  1. “This happened, but rumours were soon abound that the board of ECP was split over the direction of the acquisition. While it was never clear what the internal politics were surrounding the decision, there was obviously disquiet at ECP, and nine directors left in the second half of 2018, culminating in CEO Martin Gray, CFO Steve Horne and Company Founder Sukhpal Ahluwalia walking out of a board meeting in the last week of the year.”

    This is a fascinating insight if true – I wonder what Sukhpal’s plans were for AP, or if he had any desire to take it with him when he went…

    1. They were on their arse well before ECP got involved. I assume they got it for next to nothing? Has the office just off the A1 near Leeds gone?
      If so what happened to the team there?

  2. Having been around long enough (too long?) you can see these things are cyclical. Remember when both Partco and Finelist were listed and we looked for their share price? Prior to that the aftermarket was best left to regional independents – a few nationals had come & gone: Godfrey Holmes, Affiliated Factors. The city caught a cold with both Finelist and Partco so kept well away from the grubby aftermarket. Again, independents thrived, the buying groups really gathered pace after the Finelist collapse.
    ECP grew easily through a period where a large aftermarket had no effective national. For quite a while, nobody was investing / buying until the financial collapse back in 2008. There was a report from Lookers I think stating that the aftermarket was counter cyclical. With other industries on their arse the city wanted to know how they could get involved (memories of Finelist long gone) so around it went again.
    Memo to city financiers: The aftermarket is a tough industry full of pirates. It sells parts to people that have old cars, they have old cars because they dont have much money.
    Name one aftermarket company that has thrived on the back of venture capital? Actually, name any retail company that has thrived with venture capital? The mantra is, strip them, make the numbers look attractive enough for a ‘sucker’ to buy.

  3. Not a bad summary, Although like the article some of the finer detail appears marginally inaccurate.

  4. A sad story but not a surprising one. The UK has a long history of the so called ‘big boys’ the nationals, screwing it up.

    They have all gone – think about it, as far back as you can go. All have the same business model of a few hundred depots, a big warehouse and head office. Hopeless regional staff (ex Unipart?) that just go around winding up the branches to the point that the good managers leave.

    They can’t run a warehouse, certainly not to the point where they have any cost advantage. Any marginal buying gains by volume is wiped out by additional costs. They all stock the same brands – mainly German now sadly, already over distributed and on every internet platform going, so all fighting on price and not making the margin they need. In recent years they have started import own brands from China but quickly screw that up as well.

    For a long time Andrew Page was a terrific business. Once out and away from Yorkshire though, it was just another motor factor, in a market that is overloaded with motor factors.

    The current ‘big three’ all wannabe nationals, all in a mess. Upsetting garages by selling cheaper to the public online. All rationalising (reducing) suppliers. Cutting staff and service. All owned by an overseas parent with huge borrowings. They cannot generate the sales growth or bottom line to keep their masters happy.

    More carnage to come.