Son of Phillips: Northamber is not exiting Chessington HQ

'Just testing plot's valuation if we were to build 28... 1-, 2- and 3-bed flats'


The heir apparent to tech distie Northamber has insisted to El Chan the company is not going to exit the Chessington industrial estate that it calls home after all.

As revealed by us yesterday, the Surrey-based distie submitted an application with Kingston Council's Planning Database on 23 March that would have permitted 28 flats to be built on the plot in the middle of an industrial estate.

The consultation with locals was set to close a week on Friday but Alex Phillips, son of chairman David Philips and director of strategy, claimed the exercise was merely to ascertain valuation.

"Northamber, as with any public company, is constantly reviewing its facilities to ensure it has the right facilities to maximise value for staff, customer and shareholders.

"An important part of this calculation is ensuring we have an accurate understanding of the potential market value of these assets," he said in a written statement sent to us.

Northamber owns the freehold on both its Chessington sales and marketing hub and the warehouse in Weybridge, acquired for £6.5m in 2011, and carries no debt.

Alex Phillips said the firm had been reviewing the office value for "many years" but wanted to get a "firmer understanding of the the potential value if we converted it to flats, hence the planning application".

It would have been quicker and cheaper to call up estate agents than to bring in companies that tested transport links (PDF) and the suitability of the industrial plot (PDF) for residential flats.

Phillips said Northamber - which has seen sales decline compared to a decade ago - has made "significant investment" this year.

"This included significant additions to our headcount as well as updating our Chessington office with new carpets, paint etc," said Phillips.

He said it has hired "roughly a dozen new staff" that were experienced hands and "mostly" came from other wholesalers and had "heard the changes we're making".

A shag pile carpet is a, er, well-known tactic to bring in the big hitting sales man, not to mention a lick of paint on the walls. Quantity surveyor Carlton & Co noted in its marketing report on the real estate that Northamber employees filled only half the building.

Phillips added:

"Northamber is looking for aggressive growth this calendar year and we're doing this by investing in people."

One of the oldest tech disties in the UK, AIM-listed Northamber (chairman Phillips is the majority stakeholder) was once a training ground for the great and good of Britain's tech channel - much like a Computacenter and SCC are these days.

But over the years as the margins eroded in box shifting, the company seemed to lose some direction, and sales slid from a peak of £299m in 2001 to a run rate of £60m for this fiscal ending June.

Son of Phillips, a Harvard graduate, may bring the much-needed fillip and re-energise the company.


In fiscal '13, Northamber paid wholly owned subsidiary Anitass Limited, £601k in rent. Anitass counts a Mr D Phillips as director. ®

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