The Hobbs Parker Group has been doing business in Ashford since 1850. It’s a perfect example of a local business that has positioned itself in the right environment to grow and that has taken opportunities to adapt and grow.
Innovation is at the heart of the company, tracing right back to 1850 when brothers William and Bedo Hobbs went against the more established practice of livestock trading by selling cattle via auction and introduced sales by auction.
The enterprise was successful and grew quickly. Various services linked to rural and agricultural business including farmland and rural property auctions were established. The business was closely associated with the Ashford Cattle Market which was formed by local farmers in 1856. Hobbs Parker added further services over the years around auctioning, general property sales and agricultural equipment and vehicles.
“We’ll see a more prosperous, vibrant place created, with increased opportunities for retail and social.”Roger Lightfoot, Group Chief Executive
The company continued much in this way until post WW2, when a shortage of cars was the catalyst for a new car auction business. The company now sells over 5,000 cars every year on behalf of many of Ashford’s main dealerships including Barretts, The JCB Group, Lipscomp and Ashford Orbital.
The company continued to grow and seize opportunities. It now consists of seven companies - each has its own MD, allowing a unique identity for all the companies in the Hobbs Parker Group and a strong focus on customer relationships and service.
A key company milestone was a £10m project in 1998 to relocate Ashford Cattle Market, in readiness for the high-speed train services which had a transformative effect on the Ashford district. A £10m investment enabled both the Cattle Market and Hobbs Parker to relocate the auction centre and offices to a site on Orbital Park on the outskirts of the town.
Elwick Place, a 100,000 new leisure complex incorporating a cinema, hotel and eight new cafes and restaurants is springing up on the market’s former site. It is due to open in December 2018.
The company’s livestock auction business, which is where it all started 168 years’ ago, now sells £35m worth of livestock each year.
Group chief executive Roger Lightfoot grew up in nearby Mersham and has spent most of his life in the area.
“There has been lots of talk of big change in Ashford for the past 30 years or so but I’d say it really took off five years ago, with lots of development happening. I think change can only be good news and we’ll see a more prosperous, vibrant place created, with increased opportunities for retail and social.”
Roger is the sixth generation of his family involved in Hobbs Parker today (Bedo Hobbs was his great great great great grandfather), and he is one of 12 directors who collectively run Hobbs Parker’s seven companies which fall under the Hobbs Parker brand.
These include Hobbs Parker Estate Agents, the largest agent in the Ashford area, and a car auction business which has enjoyed explosive growth in the past 10 years. The company’s livestock auction business, which is where it all started 168 years’ ago, now sells £35m worth of livestock (250,000 animals) each year.
A property consultancy offers professional expert advice using very local knowledge and experience and looks after hundreds of clients that own commercial and agricultural property in and around Ashford. Specialist areas include planning consultancy and development land agreements.
A digital office web app called Fabmin, used throughout the UK, helps businesses record and manage staff holidays and is another example of how Hobbs Parker has embraced technology ahead of the game.
The company has seen substantial increases in business revenues in recent years. However, it remains true to the values it started with nearly 170 years ago. An emphasis on integrity and enthusiasm runs throughout the company – there’s a can-do and friendly culture. The workforce is 160 strong and employee retention is good.
With one foot in the past, a head in the present, and an eye on the future, Hobbs Parker’s Ashford story will continue to run and run.