What is Magnet?
Magnet is one of the most prosperous joiner and kitchen manufacturers in the country. Starting out in Yorkshire, Magnet now have over two hundred shops across the UK.
The Duxbury family had lived in Bingley since the 1700’s. Thomas Duxbury opened a greengrocer shop close to the town’s parish Church in the 1850’s.
Thomas’ son, Robert, later opened his own shop in Ferncliffe, Bingley. Robert’s son, Tom, inherited the shop in 1907 who then sold it to his father-in-law for £7,000.
Tom Duxbury was very religious and used the money for a trip to the Holy Land. When he returned to Bingley, he traded his horse for a firelight company and named it after his horse, Magnet.
He set up his headquarters in one of the six houses that Robert had built in Bingley. This was a few streets away from the greengrocers.
Becoming what it is today
During the First World War, Tom earned his living by breaking up old barges. He chopped them up and made them into firewood and firelighters.
After the war, Tom purchased surplus stock from the Government. He converted old ammunition boxes into hen houses and furniture.
Magnet pioneered the mass production of joinery in the 1920’s. They began to sell doors and windows.
In the following decade, they delivered joinery and components to large construction companies.
Soon, Magnet began to develop from Bingley. Their new sites were established in Keighley and Knaresborough. This was to meet demands. Their new business provided building materials for the local governments.
While the Duxbury’s worked for Walsall Council, they realised they sold windows in standard sizes. Magnet soon created a catalogue of their own bespoke products.
Magnet was floated on the stock exchange in 1936. The Duxbury family continued as the majority shareholders.
Around this time, Magnet opened a site in Birmingham including a new door factory at Grays in Essex. This enabled them to transfer their products across the country.
In the 1960’s, the business opened twelve depots situated across the country. They sold their ready made products to both trade and the public which cut out the middle men – the builder’s merchants.
Magnet’s depots became successful. This led them to build another manufacturing plant in Darlington throughout the early 1970’s.
Soon, they extended their product range. It now included cupboards and patio doors.
By 1975, Magnet had 115 branches across the UK. In the same year, they joined with Southern-Evans to create Magnet-Southern. This brought their total number of depots to 250 nationwide.
In the 1980’s the company became successful, including being a founder member of the FTSE-100 Share Index in 1984. Magnet-Southern expanded the business with new manufacturing sites in Rotherham, Thornton, Penrith, Burnley and Deeside.
After they had gained Thomas Easthams kitchen business in 1985, they opened their first culinary showroom. Although they were the country’s largest joinery suppliers, their success was short lived.
In the late 1980’s, the economy declined. Tom Duxbury failed to lead a management buyout of the company in 1989. The banks took over.
Several of the company’s manufacturing plants closed in the early 1990’s. This was before they agreed a takeover deal for a reported £629 million with Berisford – a catering equipment maker.
In corporate history at the time, this was the largest management buyout. Berisford, later Enodis, failed to revive the company.
In 2001, Magnet’s fortune changed. Swedish kitchen manufacturer Nobis purchased Magnet for £134 million.
The Scandinavian company have built the business back up to the trade and retail giant which it remains to this day. There are 170 showrooms nationwide selling kitchens to the middle market.
Magnet also sell accessories. These include taps, worktops and electrical appliances. Their trade arm supplies local builders, joiners and kitchen fitters.