When Clement Brewer opened the first Brewers Decorator Centre in 1904, his ambition was to supply the professional decorator with everything they needed for the perfect finish.
Fast forward over a century and Brewers are open to all at over 220 locations and online, supplying decorators from professionals through to DIY customers, with the right products for decorating across the UK.
Simon Brewer is the fourth-generation family member to lead the business which remains true to the mission of his forefathers when they set up the business – to be the destination of choice for decorators and to play their part in making the world a brighter place. Paul Andrews went to meet Simon to find out more.
This is a family business that continues to grow, building on their heritage but clearly mindful of the future. Brewers are serving more of the UK’s decorating community than ever before.
Their teams are experienced with many long serving colleagues, they are commonly handing out 40 year service awards and even the odd 50 years award! This is something that is not uncommon amongst many family businesses across the UK and testament to the way that they are treated by their family employers.
Simon is well aware of the responsibility that he holds as the leader of a business that will celebrate 120 years in business in 2024. “It is an honour to be the current custodian of our family business and focus on the next stages of our journey."
"Since 2020 we’ve accelerated our growth adding new stores every year and we have no plans to slow down!"
"Our mission is to go out of our way to help our customers succeed by doing what we do and doing it well. We marry the benefits of being a large business; great prices, nationwide service, market leading digital experiences, with the qualities of a small business; where individuals and their actions matter and everyone is appreciated.”
Family values permeate Brewers and whilst they embrace the past and their heritage they are aware of their responsibilities for the future. Sustainability is a key area of focus for Brewers and it is their intention to be carbon neutral by 2040. “We want to do business the right way and be recognised for making the right impact,” continues Simon.
“We will do the right thing and not achieve our goals by offsetting but by real difference in the way that we operate. We recognise the need for all colleagues to have an appropriate work-life balance and to be responsible business owners.”
Values matter to Brewers. This is a family business with a strong moral compass, seeking to be upstanding and aspiring to be a model business, and not just a model family business.
“Good governance is essential for any business and we need to have structures in place to enable good challenge. We are entrepreneurial in our approach to what we do and keep pushing forward."
"Over the years, Brewers has evolved and like most other businesses are fully engaged in the digital arena which enables us to find new routes to market, showcase the products we have in different ways, and improve our customer experience. Digital is an exciting development and it has enabled us to be bold, be curious and for our people to be empowered to try new things.”
Simon is not alone in the business and works closely with his brother, Charles, they provide each other a good sounding boards for discussion. “We bounce ideas off each other and provide a good challenge when it comes to making decisions."
"We are acutely aware of the past and the heritage that being a long standing family business brings but also have a focus on what needs to be done to create an agile, dynamic, sustainable business that will remain in good shape for generations to come too.”
With stores across the country, the brand continues to grow and like other growing family firms with multiple sites, Simon is aware of the importance of being available. “I want to be present, to be seen by colleagues, and make sure as many people as possible have a chance to tell me what they are thinking, and for them to know that we appreciate the work that they do. It helps to reinforce our values and the very essence of who we are as a family business,” continues Simon.
This is all part of the Brewers community and embracing its people, empowering them to make decisions and make things happen. But community goes much further than colleagues. Their head office, Albany House, is In Eastbourne and has close ties with the local community, something that is mirrored by stores across the country where they get involved with plenty of local charity initiatives. Community is what they are all about and it shows.
As Simon adds, “Ever since our doors opened in 1904, we have spent over a century providing expert knowledge, friendly advice and the finest products. But of course, people are at the heart of everything we do as we serve local communities across the UK as well as further afield.”
“We have been involved in lots of great projects over the years; one in particular comes to mind when we celebrated 100 years trading on 2004 we partnered with Challengers which is a charity that runs play centres, respite and support for disabled children. They make a massive difference to the lives of the people who are engaged with their services and it is a great organisation for us to be involved with.”
Each year Brewers commits significant funding (plus many thousands of litres of paint!) to support applications from charity projects that come from within the communities that they operate.
In addition they choose to partner key charities over the longer term. Challengers, a charity working with disabled children across the south of England was their chosen charity when they celebrated 100 years of trading in 2004. They donated £1 million to enable Challengers to build a whole new centre in Farnham; the relationship of support is as strong as ever some 20 years later with regular colleague visits and an ongoing programme of support.
Each year Brewers commits significant funding (plus many thousands of litres of paint!) to support applications from charity projects that come from within the communities that they operate. In addition they choose to partner key charities over the longer term. Challengers, a charity working with disabled children across the south of England was their chosen charity when they celebrated 100 years of trading in 2004.
They donated £1 million to enable Challengers to build a whole new centre in Farnham; the relationship of support is as strong as ever some 20 years later with regular colleague visits and an ongoing programme of support.
As well as projects in the UK they have a focus on the most disadvantaged overseas with a long term commitment linking their own brand ‘Albany Durable Rhino paint’ to support Save The Rhino International. A significant relationship for them is their connection with a mission hospital in western Kenya. Teams of Brewers colleagues have visited the hospital over the last decade to help and during that time funds donated have significantly improved the hospital’s facilities including a new eye clinic, maternity ward, critical unit and staff accommodation.
This is a family business that continues to make a difference supplying paints, wallpapers and all manner of DIY tools and decorating materials that transform homes, buildings and public spaces daily. This is a business that cares, has a unified purpose and family values at its core. They continue to evolve, creating a business that is fit for the future, with a strategy that is aligned to their destination and set the standard for doing business the right way.
Family remains at the helm, building on the impact of previous generations with each generation making their mark and shaping a business that continues to grow.
Their heritage is incredible and it is great to see historical artefacts and reference to the past proudly on display throughout their stores, celebrating where they have come from.
This is not just a nod to the past but a celebration of their roots, their history as a business founded way back in 1904 and recognition that they have come such a long way since opening their first decorator store all those years ago.
A nod to the past yet an eye firmly fixed on the future.
As Simon concludes, “We are extremely grateful for those who have gone before building the firm foundations of the business today. The joy today is seeing brilliant people empowered to continue to develop and build the business is ways that are relevant today and for the next generation to come."
“It’s important to enjoy what you do, to have fun and make a difference and it is a privilege to continue to play our part, as a distinctive family business, in making the world a brighter place.”