Staff own the business and now the building

One of the UK’s leading suppliers of decorated school uniform, which is employee-owned, has bought back the freehold of its headquarters for less than it sold it for nine years ago. Co-operative & Community Finance made one of its largest-ever loans to help Sheffield-based School Trends to raise the funds to complete the purchase.

School Trends supplies over 5,000 schools throughout the UK with personalised school uniforms. The business started in 1988 and grew rapidly. The founders believed in a participative work culture and in 2004 the company became employee owned.

There are now 125 employees mainly based at the company’s office in Westfield near Sheffield which was purpose built in 2003. The building has a 48,500 sq ft warehouse, industrial and office space on a site of 2.22 acres. School Trends sold the building to a commercial landlord in 2004 and then leased it back. Proceeds from the sale helped to finance the employee ownership process.

School Trends has just bought back the building and acquired the freehold and, due to the substantial drop in property values, it has been a positive move. The mortgage and loan repayments are slightly less than it was paying in rent and the business has gained a valuable asset.

Co-operative and Community Finance drew on the ICO Fund plc and the Co-operative Loan Fund, which it manages, to provide finance towards the deposit.

Ian Taylor, C&CF’s Investment Manager, said:“We were pleased to help School Trends complete a purchase which will help the company to benefit from future investment opportunities. The moderate savings made by the purchase are an unexpected but welcome benefit.”

Daran Brown, Managing Director of School Trends, commented: “It’s been great working with a like-minded organisation on this opportunity and we couldn’t have brought the building back without ICOF’s invaluable support.”