Many of Britain’s largest agricultural machinery dealers are swelling in size – both in turnover and territory.
This trend is underlined by Agco’s Route66 strategy, John Deere’s “dealer of the future” vision and a willingness of many dealers to buy neighbouring businesses when opportunities arise.
The companies listed here are ranked according to turnover generated broadly over the 2020 trading year, including those with differing financial year-ends.
The figures in brackets give a clue to the size they may have become when complementary businesses have been acquired after the financial year-end – and the impact on their ranking.
TH White’s purchase of Murley Agricultural in July 2021, for example, points to a combined turnover of £118m; Haynes Bros has potential for £105m turnover with its Oakes acquisition; and Hunt Forest Group’s purchase of C Smart Agricultural Services suggests a figure of £102m.
Tuckwells could be on £93m or so with the addition of Burden Bros Agri, and Russell’s acquisition of Platts Harris with 2019 turnover of £12.9m suggests a combined performance of more than £77m.
But Chandlers has leapfrogged them all with a near-£140m combined turnover when Lister Wilder’s Agco business is added in – which would propel the enlarged business to number two in the rankings.
On the other side of that coin, Lister Wilder’s strategic decision to sell its Agco business and go full-line with Kubota drops its turnover from £119m to £54.8m from continuing operations.
The listing contains a mix of machinery companies – from those selling only agricultural equipment to others with professional groundcare, construction machinery and even motor vehicles within their portfolios.
One exception is Carrs Billington, which derives most of its revenues from animal feeds and general farm supplies.
It also has a number of machinery sales, service and parts centres within its branch network covering a newly expanded territory for its Massey Ferguson and other machinery franchises.
1. Claas UK – £155.4m
With 18 branches from Yorkshire to Kent, and in the south-west from Gloucestershire to Somerset, the wholly owned dealer subsidiaries of Claas UK cover two large swathes of England.
Tractors, combines, grass equipment and telehandlers are all Claas, of course, complemented by Horsch and also Lemken at some locations, along with Grimme in the eastern counties.
Individually, Claas Manns, Claas Eastern and Claas Western generated 2020 turnover of £64.7m, £54.7m and £36m, respectively, including £7.8m in exports of mainly used equipment.
Between them they employ 300 people.
As a manufacturer, Claas is unique in owning retail operations in the UK, a legacy from the 1990s defence of its distribution network but, more recently, Claas Southern closed in 2019 after Luton-based Olivers bought two branches, in West Sussex and Hampshire.
Partly as a consequence, 2020 revenues were down 3% on the previous year but still a healthy 12% ahead of the 2018 figure.
2. Scot JCB – £120.6m
The Scot JCB group’s more than 300 employees operate from 17 depots throughout Scotland and northern England. supplying construction, agricultural and industrial equipment.
The company’s involvement in the farming sector increased with the acquisitions of Kelso & Lothian Harvesters in 2014 and AM Phillip Agritech in 2018, which brought in turnover of £34.7m (2017) and franchises including Massey Ferguson and Horsch.
These two businesses were merged into the new Scot Agri division in 2021, operating from six branches in the north-east of Scotland and also two in the Scottish Borders that gained MF exclusivity in 2021 when Valtra was transferred to Ancroft Tractors.
The Scot Agri branches are complemented by a number of Scot JCB depots also supplying JCB agricultural equipment, covering an area from Fraserburgh in Aberdeenshire to Carnforth in Lancashire.
Scot JCB’s 2020 turnover was down by a third from the £170-£180m generated in the previous two years, largely because of the impact of Covid restrictions on construction machinery sales.
3. Ripon Farm Services – £117.2m
The early 2019 acquisition of fellow John Deere dealer RBM Agricultural and its five locations in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire propelled Ripon Farm Services to a new scale.
Revenues jumped more than 50% from £69m in 2018 to more than £106m in 2019 and then beyond £117m in 2020.
The deal followed the acquisition of John Deere dealer EA Clayton, Stockton-on-Tees in 2012 and several earlier moves.
This laid the foundations for today’s 270 employees and 12 branches covering Yorkshire, Humberside, Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire.
Construction of a new depot for the Malton branch is under way, with completion scheduled for August this year, for sales of products from John Deere, Kuhn, Ifor Williams, Sumo, Bailey, Dal-Bo, Kramer and a number of other equipment suppliers.
4. Ernest Doe & Sons – £116.8m
Essex-based Ernest Doe supplies agricultural equipment and also light to heavy construction machinery that in 2020 accounted for £16.8m or 14% of turnover, and groundcare equipment worth £22m (19%).
Sales of Case IH and New Holland, plus Lemken, Dal-Bo, Maschio, Bednar and other products generated £44.8m (38%), parts and hardware £25.2m (21%).
However, agriculture and construction sales were down 8% and 25%, respectively, largely because of Covid impacts, bringing turnover down from £127.4m in 2019.
Growth over the past 20 years has been spurred by setting up separate locations for the Ernest Doe Power Case IH franchise, initiated by purchasing Framlingham Tractors in Suffolk and Harper & Eede in Sussex in 2004.
Ernest Doe’s more than 500 employees operate across 19 branches (10 New Holland, nine Case IH) to cover a territory extending from Norfolk through east Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire, Suffolk, Essex, west Kent and down to east Surrey and the East Sussex coast.
5. Ben Burgess – £108.8m
While Ben Burgess supplies groundcare and compact construction equipment, and has crop storage installation and sheet metalworking operations, the company’s main activity by far is the supply of John Deere tractors and harvesting equipment.
It was one of two original dealers when Deere entered the UK in 1965.
The company’s other franchises include Grimme, Kuhn, Vaderstad, Kramer, Avant, Bailey and Yanmar construction products, handled by 270 employees across seven branches throughout East Anglia and into the East Midlands.
A new-build branch at Oakham is the latest addition, due to be completed early this year to serve the area gained when John Deere reallocated the former Sharmans territory
The company also wants approval for larger premises to replace its Norwich headquarters.
Despite franchise swaps from Manitou to Kramer and Hitachi to Yanmar, revenues were up 8% in 2020, partly as a result of starting to trade from temporary premises in Rutland.
6. Farol – £105.5m
Since switching to John Deere in 2004, Farol has grown to cover a progressively larger territory taking in a swathe of the Midlands and southern England.
After expanding south from its Oxfordshire headquarters by taking on the territory vacated by John Seale, the company supplied farmers from Warwickshire to the south coast.
Further territory allocations expanded its coverage eastwards and northwards.
Now, Farol’s 250 staff operate from six branches covering an area stretching from Midhurst in West Sussex to Newark in Nottinghamshire where a new-build branch was first operational in November 2021.
Kuhn equipment features alongside John Deere and Kramer products, generating 2020 revenues slightly up on the previous year’s figure at £105.5m but more than 9% ahead of 2018, with export sales generating almost £10m.
7. TH White – £100.2m (£118.3m*)
Trading from nine main branches covering an area from Hereford through Worcestershire, Warwickshire and Gloucestershire into Somerset and Hampshire, TH White carries New Holland and Case IH products supported by an additional agricultural parts store at headquarters in Devizes, Wiltshire.
Kuhn, Kverneland, Pottinger, Vaderstad and Manitou are also among the main agricultural franchises.
In addition, TH White imports Palfinger truck cranes and several professional groundcare equipment brands, and installs grain storage, feed milling and farm dairy facilities.
In 2020, the group employing 460 people saw revenues drop from £114.4m in 2019, largely as a result of Covid-related impacts on professional groundcare and Palfinger crane sales.
The agricultural division added New Holland dealer JG Plant’s Hereford operation in 2018, and in July 2021, neighbouring New Holland dealership Murley Agricultural was acquired.
This added the Warwick and Stourport branches to the network; Murley recorded turnover of £18.1m in 2020.
8. Lloyd – £98.1m
Lloyd’s operations encompass seven branches covering Cumbria and south-west Scotland across to the Scottish Borders, Northumberland and County Durham.
It employs 260 people and is centred on agriculture, plus light to medium construction equipment, domestic lawncare and professional groundcare machinery and industrial forklifts.
On the agricultural side, in addition to New Holland, the dealer group’s portfolio includes Amazone and Vaderstad, Pottinger, Keenan and Manitou, and Mercedes-Benz Unimog trucks.
In recent years, Lloyd has invested in new premises at Bishop Auckland and Penrith and refurbishments at the Throckley branch near Newcastle and Kelso in the Borders.
Although turnover slipped 5% from £103.5m in 2019 to £98.1m in 2020 due to Covid impacts, the New Holland dealer with headquarters in Carlisle traded more profitably.
9. Cornthwaite Group – £82.7m
The Cornthwaite Group has grown from a single outlet in 2007 to a much larger five-branch operation today.
It covers a John Deere territory that stretches from Dumfries & Galloway in south-west Scotland through Cumbria to Lancashire and down to the Cheshire-Shropshire border,
The business employs 122 people and comprises Cornthwaite Agricultural, covering the majority of the territory, and Agricultural Machinery (Nantwich), acquired in 2009, which covers Cheshire.
Significant growth came in 2018 with a move into south Cumbria and a new branch near Kendal.
More recently they moved into Johnston Tractors’ former territory in north Cumbria and Dumfries & Galloway, with a purpose-built outlet in Dumfries, opened in January 2020, and a new branch in Carlisle in late 2021.
Turnover in 2020 was 22% up on the 2018 figure, with John Deere farm and groundcare products complemented by Maschio, Dal-Bo, Redrock, Kramer and other franchises.
10. Rea Valley Tractors – £81.7m
With 130 people working across four branches, Rea Valley Tractors supplies John Deere and JCB products throughout mid-Wales, Shropshire, Derbyshire and Staffordshire.
Complemented by products from Grimme, Kuhn, Bailey and a number of other manufacturers, along with Isuzu pick-up sales in Shropshire, RVT is the largest dealer operating in the grassland/livestock dominated west of England.
In January 2011, RVT was acquired by Dunstall Holdings, which merged its Derbyshire-based John Deere dealership Agricultural Industrial Services (AIS) to form today’s operation.
It was affected by Covid-related closures and delayed product supply, such that 2020 revenues were down from a more representative £94m in 2019.
11. Haynes Brothers – £80.5m (£105m*)
New Holland and JCB products are the mainstay of the Haynes Brothers business operating across south-east England, along with Ford cars and commercial vehicles, Fiat Professional vans and Iveco trucks.
Haynes bought the Uckfield and Lingfield branches of Sussex Tractors in 2004, and with the acquisition of neighbouring New Holland and JCB dealer Oakes Bros towards the end of 2021.
The company has broken out of its Kent and East Sussex heartland to double the size of its agriculture division.
If done within the 2020 financial year, the Oakes Bros deal would have added £24.5m to the £27.6m agriculture turnover – up by 13.6% from 2019.
This is partly as a result of gaining JCB territory in east Kent – and the group’s £80.5m total, so there is potential for a £105m business.
There are a total of six branches covering Berkshire, Hampshire and West Sussex, comprising the New Holland and JCB franchises.
There is a seventh in north Kent partnering JCB with Case IH, with Kuhn and McConnel among the group’s other franchises.
12. Chandlers (Farm Equipment) – £75.1m (£139.7m*)
The owner of Chandlers grasped an unexpected opportunity to become the UK’s biggest independent dealer group by acquiring selected branches of Lister Wilder and its Fendt, Valtra and Massey Ferguson franchises.
Chandlers bought two Lincolnshire branches from Boston Tractors in 2001 and Lodgeway Tractors in Bedfordshire in 2014.
The deal completed in January 2021 has potential to add more than £60m turnover – Lister Wilder achieved £64.6m from its Agco operations in 2020.
This created a business with up to £140m revenues.
As Agco’s biggest dealer, Chandlers now employs more than 350 staff at 12 locations across the east and central Midlands.
It extends from Horncastle and Spilsby in Lincolnshire, through Northamptonshire and Buckinghamshire, and on to Bristol through Oxfordshire, south Gloucestershire and north Wiltshire.
Chandlers handles Massey Ferguson and Fendt/Valtra products through separate subsidiary companies with brand-dedicated staff.
The company also supplies products from Manitou, Merlo, Kverneland, Vaderstad and Maschio, plus, from this summer, the new Ineos Grenadier 4×4.
13. Thurlow Nunn Standen – £73m
TNS is the agricultural division of the Thurlow Nunn Group, which employs 575 people and generates more than £220m turnover from buildings installation, car sales and farm equipment.
The 175 employees at TNS operate from five branches in Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Norfolk.
I has dedicated sales teams for Massey Ferguson and Fendt (plus Valtra) tractors, and grain and forage harvest equipment.
Manitou telehandlers joined the portfolio in 2021, alongside Kverneland grass and tillage equipment, numerous other manufacturers’ products, and Kubota groundcare machinery.
Having consolidated some of its depots in the 1990s, expansion opportunities brought Randell Norfolk Farm Machinery into the fold in 2012, with branches at Attleborough and Sculthorpe.
A new workshop and showroom premises at Fakenham replaced the Sculthorpe operation in 2021.
14. Tuckwells – £71.1m (£93.2m*)
The acquisition of Burdens Bros Agri, completed at the end of May 2021, has lifted Tuckwells, the Suffolk-based dealership, up the dealership table.
Although Burdens Bros’ turnover tumbled more than 20% from £28.5m to £22.1m in 2020, when combined with Tuckwells’ £71.1m (up almost 6%) it is a significantly larger business.
It has 270 staff across 10 branches from Suffolk to Kent and East Sussex, all now trading as Tuckwells.
Acquiring fellow dealers is nothing new for the business.
It bought fellow John Deere dealers Blyth & Pawsey in Essex in 2001 and JE Buckle Engineering in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire in 2012, to expand a long-held relationship with Deere as one of its first two dealers appointed in 1965.
In addition to groundcare and golf course machinery, equipment from complementary agricultural franchises include Kramer, Kverneland, Vaderstad and Pottinger – and JCB at its branches in Essex and Suffolk until the end of 2022, when they will switch to Kramer.
15. Peacock & Binnington – £68.8m
With the October 2021 purchase of Massey Ferguson dealership Franks Curtis, Peacock & Binnington has expanded its territory further north and grown to six branches.
The deal builds on the September 2018 acquisition of another MF dealer, Northfield Agricultural Services, at Halsham, East Yorkshire to cover a territory stretching from the new Kirby Misperton depot in the Ryedale district of North Yorkshire down to Louth in Lincolnshire.
This network, managed from the Brigg headquarters, now has 165 employees, including a grain store and dryer installation team, and generated £2m of its £68.8m 2020 turnover from EU countries.
P&B has retained Massey Ferguson and the Fendt/Valtra pairing, complemented by JCB, Vaderstad, Lemken and a selection of other manufacturers’ products.
Note: * Figures in brackets show combined turnover following an acquisition completed after the buying company’s 2020 results were filed. All figures refer broadly to 2020 but not necessarily the company’s financial year-end.
Biggest of the rest… machinery dealers with more than £30m turnover
|Hunt Forest Group*
|Tallis Amos Group
|Thomas Sherriff & Co
|New Holland, Case IH, JCB
|Hamilton Ross Group****
|Massey Ferguson, Fendt, Valtra, JCB
|John W Doubleday
|Case IH, JCB
|Fendt, Massey Ferguson, Valtra
|Ross Farm Machinery
|Fendt, Massey Ferguson, Valtra, JCB
|Fendt, Valtra, JCB
|Notes: * Acquisitions made after financial year-end; figures in brackets show combined turnover. Russells Group – Platts Harris with 2019 turnover of £12.9m. Hunt Forest Group – C Smart Agricultural Services with 2020 turnover of £44.6m. ** Lister Wilder – turnover related to continuing operations following the sale of Agco-related business and selected branches to Chandlers Farm Equipment. *** Carrs Billington – turnover for machinery sales; total turnover £280.7m. **** Hamilton Ross Group comprises Hamilton Brothers, Ross of Lanark and Reekie.