The History of Magnet Kitchens & Where it is Now

What is Magnet Kitchens?

Magnet Kitchens is a well known joiner and kitchen manufacturer that started here in God’s own county. Currently, Magnet and Southern has over 200 shops across the UK and over 2,000 employees.

The Beginning of Magnet Kitchens

Since the 1700’s, the Duxbury family had lived in Bingley, West Yorkshire. In the 1850’s, Thomas Duxbury opened a greengrocer shop close to the town’s parish Church.

Thomas’ son, Robert Duxbury, decided to follow in his father’s footsteps. He later opened his own shop in Ferncliffe, Bingley. 

Then, in 1907, Robert’s son Tom inherited the shop. Tom then sold it to his father-in-law for £7,000.

Tom Duxbury was a very religious man. He used the money from the shop to fund a trip to the Holy Land.

When he returned to Bingley from his trip, Tom traded his horse for a firelight company. He decided to name his new business after his horse – Magnet.

Tom’s father, Robert, had previously built six houses in Bingley a few streets away from the greengrocers. One of these houses became Tom’s headquarters. 

How Magnet Kitchens became what it is today

When the First World War broke out, Tom needed to find a way to earn his living. He broke up old barges, chopped them up and made them into firewood and firelighters.

Once the war was finally over, Tom bought surplus stock from the Government. He converted old ammunition boxes into hen houses and furniture. 

Tom’s business pioneered the mass production of joinery in the 1920’s. Magnet expanded their products and began to sell doors and timber windows.

In the following decade, they began to deliver joinery and components to large construction companies.

Soon, Magnet joinery began to develop and expand outside of Bingley to meet demands. They were now providing Magnet Kitchens to Keighley and Knaresborough. Magnet was now also providing building materials for the local governments.

While the Duxbury’s worked for Walsall Council, they realised that they were excluding a group of potential customers by only selling standard sized windows. Magnet kitchen soon created a catalogue of their own bespoke products for these customers.

In 1936, Magnet production company was listed on the stock exchange. The Duxbury family continued running the business as the majority shareholders.

Around the same time, Magnet opened a new site in Birmingham and a door factory at Grays in Essex. By opening these sites, Magnets kitchens could transfer their products across the country with ease.

In the 1960’s the company expanded. Magnet opened 12 depots that are situated across the country.

Magnet sold their ready made products to both trade and the public. This allows the business to cut out the middleman – the builder’s merchants.

Their depots across the UK became very successful. This success created enough profit for the Yorkshire kitchen manufacturer to build another manufacturing plant based in Darlington throughout the early 1970’s.

Soon, the business extended their product range. They now sold 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 was doing extremely well. They became a founding member of the FTSE-100 Share Index in 1984.

Magnet Southern kitchens expanded the business again. Their new manufacturing sites were based in Rotherham, Thornton, Penrith, Burnley and Deeside.

Then, in 1985, Magnet Southern bought Thomas Easthams kitchen business and opened their first culinary showroom.

Magnet Southern was now the country’s largest joinery supplier. However, 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 which resulted in the banks taking over.

By the early 1990’s, several of the company’s manufacturing plants closed. A takeover deal with Berisford – a catering equipment maker – was then agreed for a reported £629 million.

At the time, this was the largest management buyout in corporate history. Berisford, later Enodis, failed to revive the company.

In 2001, Magnet’s fortune changed for the better. Swedish kitchen manufacturer Nobia purchased Magnet Kitchens for £134 million.

Nobia has built the business back up to the trade and retail giant which it remains to this day. In total, there are over 170 showrooms nationwide which sell kitchens to the middle market.

Magnet Kitchens also sells accessories such as kitchen taps, worktops and electrical appliances. Their trade arm supplies local builders, joiners and kitchen fitters.

Currently, the business is headquartered in Darlington with over 2,000 employees and owned by Nobia. That’s not bad going for a business that was bought with a horse!