BCQ Group buys Hunts with eyes on expansion

Rhys Handley
Monday, March 19, 2018

BCQ Group has bought Kidlington-based printer Hunts, taking on all of its staff and clients in a bid to expand the reach of both brands.

The deal was confirmed on Friday (16 March) for an undisclosed sum. According to BCQ managing director Chris Knowles, the Buckingham-based group had been planning an acquisition for some time, with Hunts being “the primary choice” for more than a year.

BCQ's 120 staff will be joined by the 50-strong Hunts team, who will move into BCQ's Buckingham base in the coming months. Hunts chief executive Timon Colegrove will remain with the business, at least through the handover period.

“Though Hunts has possibly fallen behind on its investment cycle lately, at BCQ we have been investing heavily in order to facilitate a deal like this,” said Knowles. “We are in a position where we do not need to compromise on staff or work, absorbing the entirety of Hunts’ business.

“Hunts has an excellent, largely localised pool of customers and a skilled, committed team of staff. We are at an advantage by being only 20 miles away and having zero overlap in clients which is unheard of – so we will not have to compete with ourselves.

“As well as its local clients, Hunts has a number of national and international customers that are the envy of the industry and we look forward to completing integration. We plan not just to absorb Hunts’ turnover but grow it across the group.”

Knowles said BCQ had been "frugal on recruitment" in the run-up to the acquisition, in anticipation of a new raft of staff joining from Hunts. The group ran double-day shifts which Knowles described as "not the most efficient use of our equipment" but will now move to 24 hours with its newly boosted headcount.

BCQ's pre-acquisition investment period included the group becoming the first UK firm to take on a Duplo DC-746 multi-finisher last year, as well as taking on its first LE-UV press and bringing perfect binding in-house in 2016.

Hunts will continue to trade under its own name for the foreseeable future, even following a move to BCQ’s base. The merged entity turns over a total of £16m with an output comprising litho, digital and large-format.

Knowles expressed an interest in the “clever things” staff at Hunts had developed, such as innovations in its creative side and its work on augmented reality as a digital addition to its print output. Both companies run the same MIS and online storefront, as well as both using Fujifilm’s XMF workflow, which will help smooth the transition.

Staff will be moving over from Hunts’ Kidlington home in the coming months and Knowles said BCQ would be “as accommodating as possible” with shift patterns for staff commuting across to Buckingham. He said Hunts’ team was “excited at the prospect” of the move.

BCQ also owns wide-format firm Jollybig, based in Milton Keynes. Knowles alluded to plans for the subsidiary to move to larger premises in 2018 to accommodate increased demand.

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