The world’s longest established supplier of Austin Healey parts is gearing up for further success after securing new orders in the UK and further afield.
AH Spares, which is based on the Kineton Road Industrial Estate in Southam, Warwickshire, saw sales increase in May despite Covid-19 as Austin Healey owners throughout the globe bought parts for their classic cars.
The business was started in 1972 to manufacture and supply spare parts for Austin Healey sports cars by Fred Draper, who had been the parts manager with the Donald Healey Motor Company.
His nephew, Bob Hill, joined the company followed by Bob’s children, managing director Jonathan Hill and director Rebecca Kemsley, who now run the business with sales manager John Lee.
The 30-strong business, which is divided into AH Spares and also AH Panels on the Charter Avenue Industrial Estate in Coventry, has been receiving advice and information from the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub throughout lockdown.
Rebecca said after initially closing down at the start of the Coronavirus pandemic apart from a handful of staff, sales had increased steadily and new business has been secured.
“At the start of 2020, we found the classic cars market had started to peter out and we thought it would be a lean year before Covid-19 affected everything,” she said.
“We have lost trade orders over the last few months but we have made up for it with retail orders.
“We’re lucky in that whenever this country goes into a recession, people have more time for their hobbies and interests.
“We have seen an increase in orders particularly in America so we’re using a courier company which is working well to send parts overseas and we have a couple of new clients in this country including Stuttgart Classics in the Cotswolds.
“Lockdown has also given an opportunity to make improvements to our facilities. At Southam, the stores are being re-organised for the 8,500 number of items we have in stock while in Coventry, our production manager Mark Friel painted the warehouse as well as created a metal finishing booth and meeting rooms.
“The Growth Hub has given us some great advice and they have taken a real interest in the company.
“We were successful in receiving a total of £35,000 grants through the Business Rate Relief scheme from the Government which was a big help.
“The Growth Hub also put us in touch with the Manufacturing Growth Programme so we are looking at our core values to make the business more organised and efficient which was a bit daunting at first but we want to make these changes.
“After a hectic few months, we are feeling quite positive about the future because lockdown has given us the opportunity to lay down solid foundations.”
Jim Clark, account manager at the CWLEP Growth Hub, said AH Spares and AH Panels were running more efficiently.
He said: “The management team has taken a forensic look at the capabilities of AH Spares and AH Panels.
“AH Spares has picked up new business because some of their competitors have closed in recent months which is why orders from America have grown rapidly and their new website which promotes their manufacturing expertise is bringing in new orders as well.
“Improving the lay-out of the warehouse will make a significant difference to the efficiency of both businesses as they continue to trade nationally and internationally.”