New opportunities are seized in buy-out

Wood work: Doug Pountley, planning manager at Timberline in Chesterfield.                      PICTURE: SARAH WASHBOURN
Wood work: Doug Pountley, planning manager at Timberline in Chesterfield. PICTURE: SARAH WASHBOURN
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When Chesterfield-based outdoor play equipment and shelter manufacturer Timberline hit financial problems last year, it didn’t take long for Metalliform to seize the opportunity and buy the 45-employee company out of administration.

“It seemed to be a good fit for us, says Metalliform managing director Will Hinks.

“We are very focused on selling to schools and their core business is selling to schools, so we understand the needs of those kinds of organisations in general terms. The techniques Timberline uses to create products are common to our own and our understanding of the process was good.

“Although Timberline had been in great difficulty in 2011, it had got great products, loyal customers and a skilled workforce.”

The differences between the business were attractive, too.

While Metalliform sells mainly through specialist distributors and procurement agencies, like its biggest customer YPO, which is the largest public sector buying organisation in the UK, Timberline sells direct to schools.

Timberline’s products are also made without metal, unlike Metalliform’s products

“It provides a balance within the business. They can make things we find testing and vice versa and there are development opportunities. Maybe we will look to sell some Timberline product to the trade and maybe Timberline can sell some things that Metalliform makes,” says Mr Hinks.

About half of Timberline’s business involves designing, manufacturing and installing play equipment, including adventure ships, swings and climbing equipment, and developing play areas ranging from small adventure trails to adventure play grounds.

The other half comes from sales of outdoor buildings and shelters.

Customers include holiday camps and stately homes, who use them for everything from ticket offices to ice cream parlours.

Timberline also makes outdoor class rooms for schools.

Given that a quarter of the primary school curriculum is supposed to be taught outdoors and there is strong encouragement for schools to do more out doors, Metalliform can see further opportunities opening up.

“We are committed to continuing to run the business in and from Chesterfield, would like nothing better for the dedicated, passionate, focused group of people at Timberline to outperform Metalliform,” Will Hinks adds.