Thousands of families seek to emigrate from the UK each year and most wish to take some of their household and personal effects with them. Such shipments are rarely large enough to fill a standard shipping container so it is far more economical for small or medium shipments to “share” a container – this process we call consolidated or groupage services and Britannia was originally formed to cater for this specific demand. Britannia is a cooperative and is now the largest business of its kind in the UK. This is the brief story of how it began and developed into a successful international business.
A Brief History of Britannia Movers International Plc
Britannia was formed in 1981 aiming to provide comprehensive and competitive shipping services for the small to medium sized ‘family’ removal businesses in the UK and to enable them to compete on equal terms with the larger established specialist businesses mainly centred in London and its environs. Until this point those smaller provincial movers wishing to offer shipping services to their customers were usually obliged to subcontract their shipments to the London based services of their ‘competitors’ for onward bulk consolidation at generally dictated rates.
The founders of Britannia, Roy Fox & John Court evolved the principal of a cooperative service which could operate at minimal overhead costs and they were soon joined by four other reputable businesses. As one of the founders was centrally based in Stourbridge in the West Midlands and space was comparatively cheap with modern facilities in place it was decided to base the new enterprise there. This became the main receiving centre for the new group and where operations would develop over the next 12 years.
The founders were aware that other similar groups had struggled and failed. They studied the reasons behind these failures and determined from the start that theirs would be a true cooperative avoiding the previous pitfalls and vested interests of others. The Britannia concept was to provide selected local family moving businesses with the ability to offer all the services that the larger international companies offered, at highly competitive rates with a more personal service. It was also decided that it would not be a franchise but that each member would hold an equal shareholding in the Group. The philosophy being that what benefited them benefited Britannia and vice versa.
Each member would put up the same portion of capital and the cooperative commenced with an unpaid Board and a nucleus of seven dedicated family businesses owned by individuals of integrity whose high standards were tested and proven.
Britannia Movers International was duly registered and coordination of their member’s worldwide shipments commenced. The first container was consigned to South Africa and gave rise to such complimentary comments on the standards of packing used that the Board realised they were creating a business with great potential. Rules were soon evolved covering vehicle livery, packing standards, training and services.
Over the next 12 years the business steadily grew and with the appointment of a full time Sales Manager Britannia expanded into the corporate moving market becoming a key supplier to the Ministry of Defence and all the main relocation companies. Membership of the group by then comprised 50 businesses including one in Australia & two in South Africa with a large number of carefully selected agents operating throughout the world.
In 1994 expansion dictated that the group transfer its receiving depot to London where the recruitment of a specialist Shipping Manager David Tracey led to considerable expansion and development of those services. During the later half of that decade Britannia was becoming highly successful, profits being returned to the membership by way of dividends on their shareholding and advantageous loans to expand their own services and training facilities.
A press review of the moving industry’s future published in 1986 drew an interesting comment from Pickfords who openly stated that “Britannia was the business to watch” and during the late 1990’s the trade grew to acknowledge that, in the UK, Britannia was the market leader and with visibly more vehicles in BMI livery on the road than any of its competitors.
With ever increasing demand for its services from private, corporate and international clients the Board decided, in 1997, to upgrade its registration from a Limited company to a PLC involving stricter financial disciplines through higher audit requirements.
During this period of rapid expansion Britannia opened discussions with like groups in Europe who were developing along similar lines and linked up with the major groups in Germany, Holland, France and Italy to form the European Moving Group (E.M.G.).
In 2001 Britannia relocated its head offices, for corporate, commercial and international services to larger new purpose built premises at Croydon.
Today, Britannia is an internationally recognised brand and still has the largest network of depots within the UK compared to its competitors.
The Britannia Group now travel weekly to all major European destinations, undertaking removals to and from the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe. They have dedicated specialist for the exportation and importation of domestic household belongings going to and from every corner of the globe.
Mark Tresler was appointed MD in 2011, moving up from his previous position as Finance Director, a role he held for 7 years previously. Mark's commercial background and strategic thinking has allowed Britannia to move from strength to strength during his tenure. Key achievements have been further advances in the Shipping market, greater investment in Britannia Marketing and promotions and a highly successful Membership benefit program.
There is now a dedicated team who manage Britannia’s Corporate relocation clients from the Britannia head office in Croydon. The team coordinate removals and storage for a diverse range of different clients from the banking, retail, telecoms, insurance and local government markets both within the UK and around their global network.
BMI is always looking for new members to join the group and are now providing trade services and support to other companies within the International and European removals industry.
BMI has maintained its excellent reputation over the years based on a twin strategy of growth and customer satisfaction and continues to strive to meet customers’ needs and expectations in the dynamic and ever changing world of domestic and international moving.