With a legacy that spans back to the 1840s, Arbor Forest Products (Arbor) and New Holland Dock is a family business that’s been delivering high-quality timber products for decades.
Home to a 90-acre site that holds more than 80,000m3 of timber and can handle in excess of over 450,000m3 of timber products annually, Arbor employs over 160 people, 69% of which are from a 10 mile radius of the local area and for 70 years, the independently owned company has continually reinvested in the business and the community, adapting and evolving to overcome challenges and become the thriving enterprise it is today.
From Humble Beginnings
After studying at university and pursuing a career in teaching, Peter Stanley Howarth joined his father’s timber merchants business in the 1950s. Soon after, the company experienced a boardroom coup and Peter was appointed Chairman at the tender age of 26. The business grew into the Howarth Timber Group and headed into a period of rapid growth.
The site at New Holland came to prominence after the acquisition of J.B. Stringer – a Hull-based timber importer in 1960. At a time when importers were buying out merchants, the purchase was quite the powerplay and paved the way for company growth.
Soon after the purchase, the original J.B Stringer’s site in Hull came to full capacity and there was no space left for expansion. New Holland offered a unique opportunity, with even more opportunity to develop the timber terminal – so after negotiations with the landowners, cranes were brought in, people were trained, and the future was looking bright.
Seizing New Opportunities
In 1964 Peter Howarth began to lease the New Holland dock from British Rail to import timber through.
A milestone was reached in 1965 when timber was directly imported from Sweden, providing a consistent supply chain and the highest quality product for their customers. With continued investment, the site at New Holland was expanded, the dock was dredged to facilitate larger ships, timber sheds were added, and business boomed.
New Holland withstood the National Dock Strike of 1971, and in the early 1970s, the group began processing softwood. With the expertise and knowledge of working with raw materials, the Howarth Timber Group saw a rise in demand for manufactured materials – meaning further expansion including bigger sheds and a sawmill.
Built on a passion for service, people and relationships, the business adapted to ensure their customers were happy, and bottom lines were boosted.
Over the years, Peter Howarth had built a legacy. With an entrepreneurial reputation, he was a high standing member of the local community, but the time soon came to impart his knowledge to his sons; Andrew and Nicholas.
Both sons had grown up around the company and with a business acumen inherited from their father, who sadly died in 1988. The brothers took advantage of new opportunities and in the 1990s the dock underwent a £3.5 million refurbishment, enabling them to increase the dock’s tonnage – making the New Holland site what it is today – the UK’s largest independent timber importing business.
The Game Changer
The business had developed significantly since the 1990s and in 2008, Howarth became Arbor Forest Products, and with a fresh new identity came further innovation and investment.
By extending product lines and manufacturing MDF, the site at New Holland could produce a full range of timber products, meaning that customers no longer had to order from various suppliers – Arbor was now a one-stop shop for all their timber needs.
This revolutionised the service offering, reduced transport costs and created an economy of scale – launching the ‘Warehouse on Wheels’ concept – a bespoke offering, that’s completely unique to Arbor.
Looking to the Future
As Arbor celebrates its 70th year, the business continues to exceed its customers’ expectations and still retains the culture of a small company, operating on a large scale. Putting people at the heart of the organisation, Arbor attributes its success to the team behind the organisation, and its thanks to them the business has continued to flourish.
The impressive timber terminal at New Holland includes:
- One of the most sophisticated MDF production facilities in Europe
- A Transport Office which processes over 50 vehicles per day
- The largest privately owned dedicated Timber Terminal in the UK
- The dock can handle in excess of over 450,000m3 of timber products annually
- A Treatment Facility – which treats over 250,000m3 of timber per year
- A 200,000m3 capacity Sawmill (annual)
- A 100,000m3 capacity Timber Stock hold (annual)