Professional Builder discovers how iconic tool brand Draper has been helping tradespeople work more efficiently for exactly one hundred years.
The horrors of World War I were thankfully behind them, but, a century ago, it was going to take a new breed of visionary entrepreneur to get the nation properly back on its feet. Like Bert Draper, who seized an opportunity to set up his own company selling Government army surplus tools and equipment. He acquired a warehouse in Kingston upon Thames from where he established the brand which is so familiar today. At that time Draper was making its own tools as well as operating as a quality engineers and tool wholesaler, selling brands such as Britool, King Dick and Elliot Lucas, which are still prominent today.
Surviving another World War, and numerous economic crises, the business outgrew its Kingston premises, and when Bert passed away in 1963, son Norman moved the business to its current home in Chandlers Ford, Hampshire. Under Norman’s guidance, the business looked to the rest of the developing world for inspiration, and began to import quality tools from across the continent. Family values were key and a number of special relationships with similar businesses like Knipex and Elora were established, and which remain strong even today. Wife, Joan was, in fact, instrumental in producing the company’s first ever type written catalogue in 1953.
When his father passed away in 1994, John took up the reins and 25 years later he presides over a distribution site which has now reached 535,000 sq ft, making it almost certainly the largest stock of tools in one place in the UK with in excess of 11,000 power and hand tool product lines.
Underpinning the company’s century old philosophy is “Guaranteed Quality” as John Draper explains: “We are proud to have reached this important milestone in our history and would like to thank everyone who has been on this journey with us. Although we have come a long way, particularly in the past 25 years, we still like to think of ourselves as a no-nonsense, customer focused family tool supplier with quality and reliability still very much at the heart of the business. This will certainly continue as we progress and grow beyond 2019.”
To mark the special occasion, and in a fitting tribute to the work of Joan Draper, the company has produced a centenary edition catalogue with over 900 pages of tools and equipment, featuring more than 900 new products for 2019. The coming months will see a number of special tool promotions, competitions and charity fundraising events, as well as a challenge to find any vintage Draper tools still going strong. And for the next generation of budding tradespeople, the company continues to work closely with colleges, recently helping to kit out South Essex College’s new construction centre with a wide range of tools for the apprentices.
A century ago, Prime Minister Lloyd George pledged to make it a country fit for returning heroes. Companies like Draper can certainly be proud to have played a significant part in providing the tools to achieve those ideals.