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19 February, 2018 - 08:43 By Kate Sweeney

Hughes cleans up in laundry market with Armstrong acquisition

Hughes Electrical, which is influential in Norwich, is set to become a leading player in the UK’s commercial laundry market after completing its biggest ever acquisition.

It has acquired Newbury based Armstrong Commercial Laundry Systems for an undisclosed sum. The company also operates in Scotland, has an annual turnover of £6.5 million and 45 employees.

Armstrong is a UK distributor for American company Alliance Laundry Systems – the largest worldwide producer of commercial laundry equipment. Armstrong has a significant ‘route operation’ with coin operated laundry machines in well over 100 locations, while its industrial arm supplies commercial laundries and there is also a thriving spare parts business.

Hughes’ own commercial arm, launched in 2012, serves the care, hospitality, tourism and educational sectors by supplying, installing, servicing and repairing a range of highly specialist washing machines and dryers from the Miele Professional range. It has branches in Norwich, Leicester and Rochester with 26 members of staff.

“We are delighted with the deal which we see as a merger of two likeminded, well established family businesses who share the same values,” said Hughes managing director, Robert Hughes.

“Armstrong was founded in 1878 and has remained in the hands of the Lowes family, while we were founded by Frank Hughes in 1921.”

Following the merger, Armstrong will not only remain in Newbury and Glasgow but also increase in size. It will continue responsibility for distribution to dealers and route operations while absorbing Hughes’ commercial arm and staff members. Part of the business will be rebranded as Hughes Pro and look after the repair, servicing and product supply to customers.

Tom Lowes stays on the Armstrong board to be joined by Simon Quinlan from Hughes Commercial and Paul Chisnall from Hughes Trade. 

Jeremy Lowes said: “We could not have wished for a better partner than Hughes to help take Armstrong to the next stage of its development. We share the unique values that come with a successfully run family business and can now look forward to the future with great confidence.”

Robert Hughes adds: “It is all a perfect fit for us as we look after the South East, Midlands and East Anglia while Armstrong services West London, along the M4 corridor to Wales, the South Coast and the area up to the Midlands and has a Glasgow based operation.

“Merging the two businesses will make us a very significant player in the commercial laundry market and operating in the majority of England and Scotland. We are all delighted that Tom Lowes has joined the new board and his experience will be invaluable as we take the combined businesses into a new, and very exciting, era.”

There are plans to open Hughes trade counters in the existing properties in Newbury and Glasgow to provide domestic equipment to local businesses and existing Armstrong customers.

Hughes Electrical sells, rents and services both domestic and commercial products to the public and businesses through 42 shops, six service centres and 14 trade counters as well as on-line and through its Smart Home operation.

This business model means it is not reliant on any one type of customer meaning it has always remained profitable. It has around 1,000 employees and annual sales of £122m. 

• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: (L-r): Paul Chisnall; Robert Hughes; Jeremy Lowes, previous managing director; Thomas Lowes and Simon Quinlan. 

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