Lowestoft DIY website invests in the future

A national website which grew out of a chain of shops has seen such dramatic growth it is investing �750,000 to cope with demand.

A national website which grew out of a bricks-and-mortar DIY store has seen such dramatic growth it is investing �750,000 to cope with demand.

BuyAParcel is an offshoot of Godfrey, the Lowestoft plumbing and heating warehouse.

Godfrey was founded in the 1970s as a plumbing and heating outlet In 2002 the firm made its first steps towards selling online and by 2007 the new venture had proved so popular that it chose to expand.

At this point the online part of the business was split off into a separate company, BuyAParcel.

Both firms remain based in the same office, but the online arm has seen very strong growth in sales.

In the year ending in January 2009 the firm saw turnover of �2m, and the following year this rose to �3m.

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But last year the company brought in more than both of the previous years combined, just over �5m.

During the current year it hopes to increase this to around �8m, and claims to be on course to hit a target of �10m by 2013.

This growth has demanded that the four staff who began the firm were supplemented quickly, and the firm now employs 10 and intends to take on two more in coming months.

Much administration work is shared with Godfreys, so around 15 people regularly work for the website.

From its online store and a presence on eBay the firm sells around 32,000 products, 10,000 of which are kept in stock, while the rest are ordered using a just-in-time system.

Technical director Mike Parker said that 95pc of sales come from the UK.

'But it's literally everywhere, right up to the islands of Scotland.

'When the downturn started, the big economic crisis, that was when our growth kicked in.

'We think people just started being really prudent with their money.

'We're better on price on stuff we stock, we buy in bulk. That's where we get our competitive edge,' he added.

Occasionally the firm will buy in bulk alongside Godfreys in order to drive purchasing costs down.

But increasing sales have put pressure on the systems used by the firm to handle orders.

'We're now putting in all new computer systems, just to help because we've outgrown our current system and we're struggling to cope with growth,' he said.

Eventually the firm hopes to automate its stock control systems and streamline large parts of the ordering and despatch system and will spend �750,000 this year on IT and infrastructure upgrades.