• Luke Mitchell

5. One to watch - Davies Turner

Davies Turner – Davies Turner is one of the largest, and leading family-owned Freight and Logistics operations in the UK. The decision to postpone but not to cancel celebrations of its 150th anniversary last year, and to concentrate on resolving supply chain management issues caused by the pandemic and Brexit, highlights the values and dedication this business has at its core.


Boasting a largely freehold warehousing portfolio of 1.6m sq.ft (15,000 sqm), Davies Turner generated £191m turnover/gross revenues in 2020 with a 10% increase in the year ending 31/3/21. Although it does not seek recognition for the sake of it, it has won many accolades over the years, most recently climbing 42 places in the Sunday Times Top Track 250 table for independent companies.


Davies Turner has been a pioneer and yard stick against which other companies in the sector can benchmark, whilst maintaining a family succession that has ensured continuity of ownership and management, under the guidance of the same family throughout. Importantly this doesn’t preclude unrelated members of the management team from also reaching the top!


Meanwhile Davies Turner is maintaining its tradition of helping to drive innovation in the freight and logistics sector whilst staying ahead of the competition.


Pioneers from humble beginnings


Established in 1870 by Alfred Davies and William Turner, backboned by a groupage service concept, the company’s founders developed a system for consolidating shipments from various customers onto one bill of lading. This allowed the company to overcome the minimum charges being raised by shipping lines at the time. The success of the groupage offering allowed Davies to buy Turner’s shares through the profits he was generating. The original capital of that partnership was £3,500, a fraction of the £63m currently held in shareholders’ funds today.


Following the groupage success, at the start of the 20th century, Davies Turner was one of the first to invest in motorised goods vehicles, migrating away from horse drawn carts. It even played a hand in contributing to the First and Second World War efforts, latterly working with the Red Cross to ensure supplies got to Switzerland from where they were distributed to British Prisoners of War.


The company grew rapidly during the 1960s while Davies Turner continued to innovate, launching its own TIR trailer service to Europe using ISO maritime containers and operating one of the first transatlantic LCL and FCL services to the port of New York in 1968.


In 1980 Michael and Philip Stephenson were named joint MDs (currently acting as Managing Director & Chairman respectively) and just prior to the millennium, Davies Turner was already providing one million square feet of purpose-built warehousing space in hubs across the UK.

In 2008, Davies Turner led by example becoming one of the first freight forwarders in the UK to achieve the AEO accreditation from HMRC – recognising its trade facilitation strengths, combined with the required security across the supply chain that it manages on behalf of clients.


Pandemic, Brexit & the 150th Anniversary


In the latest IATA/CASS league table for 2020, Davies Turner Air Cargo (DTAC) became the UK’s highest placed independent freight forwarder, measured by CASS airline tonnage.

In a year when overall activity in the air-freight industry was significantly reduced for obvious reasons, DTAC was pleased that it managed to improve its position to become the number one British operator behind the multinationals.


Key to that improvement has been the subsidiary’s ongoing strengthening of its global agency network working with carefully selected partners committed to providing optimum local coverage, supported by facilities, quality systems, knowledge, and experience worldwide. Enhancements to its national and regional branch network are equally important, the most recent being a doubling in the size of its branch in Glasgow and Central Scotland. Equally important in this digital age is the company’s ongoing commitment to IT development and service improvements at all levels in the supply chain.


During the Pandemic, DT handled many shipments of PPE and helped household names like Hunter Boot Ltd to equip the London Ambulance Service for the fight against Covid-19. Hunter became a customer to DT at the start of 2020 and was the first in line to support the shipment of Hunter’s iconic wellingtons to help ambulance service staff and paramedics on the front line over the past 18 months.


At the start of 2021, Davies Turner opened a state-of-the-art Customs services floor, at its regional hub in Dartford working with the channel ports. This, along with similar, departments across its UK and Irish distribution centres including Avonmouth/Bristol, Southampton, Coleshill, Dublin and Manchester, house the newly created national Customs handling teams backed up by the company’s Customs-controlled transit warehouses. The new centres not only house Customs clearance teams but also include on-site training suites to bolster the number of staff with customs processing experience and requisite qualifications benefiting the whole group and its loyal client base who may need skilled assistance to navigate post Brexit complexities. Pivotal to its operation and growth, Davies Turner continues to operate apprenticeship and graduate trainee schemes, with recruits spending time across all company departments, earning them a variety of skills and experiences so that in addition to customs clearance expertise they can help tackle other challenges now facing the freight sector including environmental and sustainability issues … Davies Turner already has ISO 14001 accreditation, and there are related green initiatives underway, majoring on energy saving.


Future growth


Still very much a family business, with the management of change a priority as the baton is passed from the 4th to the 5th generation, the Davies Turner Group’s focus remains on sustainable, self-financing and profitable growth. This is central to Davies Turner's 150-year success with the ambition to reinvest profits into staff training, IT, equipment and building its portfolio of logistics hubs in the UK.


Asked how is Davies Turner attempting to stay ahead of the extremely saturated UK freight market? Chairman, Philip Stephenson said:


"Staff and management commitment to customer service is key in all aspects of international freight and logistics. One outstanding example of supply chain innovation has been Davies Turner’s Express China rail service, our two way full load and LCL groupage service overland linking China and the UK.

The Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit have given forwarders plenty to think and continue to do so. The Davies Turner Group remains convinced that our ongoing investment in people, infrastructure, service development, customer service and IT initiatives will help us to weather the storm and we aim to maintain our position as one of the UK’s leading independent freight forwarders, providing a viable alternative to the multinational forwarders.”
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