|NVS, originally branded National Veterinary Supplies, was founded by Peter Ashton, his uncle Alan Ashton and Paul Hill with current Chief Executive of the Dechra Group, Ian Page, being their first employee. Peter had already gained a terrific track record in the industry as Sales Manager with The Veterinary Drug Company and Willington Medicals. Willingtons were, at the time, market leaders and operated under a multi-depot system with locations in Manchester, Bristol, Great Dunmow, Shrewsbury, Ayr and Derby. Whilst Willingtons had been very successful in gaining market share, the medical parent company at the time, McCarthys, decided to cut costs and to close all depots with the objective of operating out of one central site. The proposed site was an old health foods distribution centre owned by McCarthy’s in Fenton,Stoke-on-Trent.|
At this time Peter Ashton recognised the opportunity to open NVS; originally it was intended to be located at one site close to the successful Willingtons depot in Derby. Once the scale of the opportunity was understood, it was decided that if funding could be raised, two depots would be opened; the Derby depot being managed by Paul Hill and the second depot, to be located somewhere near Manchester, to be managed by Ian Page. Once funding had been secured from 3i Venture Capital, premises were quickly secured in Middleton, Manchester and Ilkeston, Derbyshire and a number of key staff, made redundant by Willingtons, were persuaded to join the new venture. The team achieved a huge amount in a very short period of time as we built racking, installed cold stores, bought vans, installed IT systems, purchased stock and, most importantly, visited customers. Trading commenced in August 1989; NVS was born.
The next three years proved to be hard work, hugely enjoyable and ultimately successful. We started to provide high levels of personalised service. We had the benefit of experienced qualified staff and recognised, ahead of the competition, the opportunity the pet diet retail market represented to the profession. Thanks to the support of our customers we managed to gain a 14% market share by the end of the three year period.
Whilst we were successfully developing NVS, the parent company of Willingtons was acquired by Lloyds Chemists. Peter Ashton approached Lloyds with a view to buying what was left of Willingtons. In a complete turnaround of events, Lloyds approached 3i Venture Capital, NVS’s investors and major shareholders, and actually ended up acquiring NVS. So three years after starting a multi-depot business, which by this time had opened its third depot in Great Dunmow in Essex, our management team again found themselves part of the Willingtons business they had left behind.
Despite our protestations, Lloyds made it clear that they also preferred a centralised depot structure which would be located at the original Willingtons depot in Fenton,Stoke-on-Trent. What Lloyds did achieve, however, was to introduce innovation which still forms the backbone of the veterinary distribution model in the UK today. They also retained a number of key staff who relocated or commuted to the area. Over a dynamic five years following Lloyds acquisition we had reshaped veterinary wholesaling with the development of electronic ordering facilities, national daily delivery utilising our own fleet, high service levels and new highly competitive settlement terms. We also started to innovate with services such as benchmarking facilities, on-line data, credit card clearance rates and practice management software; services which have become standard in the market today.
This innovation in the market place attracted new accounts and additionally, in 1994, the assets and goodwill of Southern Veterinary Services and West Midland Veterinary Supplies were acquired. Eventually it was evident that we had outgrown the site in Fenton. Lloyds Chemists had recently relocated one of its medical distribution businesses which freed up a 50,000 sq.ft. warehouse in Talke,Stoke-on-Trent which forms the principle warehouse out of which NVS operates today. The warehouse was completely refurbished and investment was made in what was, at the time, state of the art stock handling systems. We completed the move over a long Bank Holiday weekend in May 1995.
To complete the story, we became privately owned for the second time in its history in 1997 when the management team completed a buyout of NVS, Arnolds and Dales Pharmaceuticals from the Lloyds Chemists Group which had themselves by then been bought by a German pharmacy chain. The newly formed Group, which was funded by the venture capitalists Mercury Asset Management (later to be known as Hg Capital) and by the management team re-mortgaging their houses, was named “Dechra”. Since then Dechra consistently invested in new systems, new equipment, new transport, skilled personnel and new services. The most significant investments were made primarily in 2000 when a new semi-automated computerised stock picking circuit was introduced; this was subsequently updated and extended in 2004 and again in 2007. Secondly, our warehouse capacity was significantly increased in 2002 and the extended site refurbished as we signed a lease on the adjacent unit which doubled our warehousing capacity.
Dechra was listed on the London Stock Exchange in September 2000 and entered the FTSE 250 in December 2008. NVS had been the backbone of Dechra since its inception and remained the largest individual company within the Group. Today we stock 12,500 products, distributes daily to 2,300 practices and processes approximately 35,000 invoiced lines daily of which over 85% are received electronically. We also provide the highest service levels, consistently above 99%, in our history.
In August 2013 NVS were acquired by Patterson Companies, Inc whose headquarters are in Devens, Mass. Patterson Companies, Inc is an industry leading speciality distributor serving the dental, veterinary and rehabilitation supply markets.