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Cartwright Group: business as usual

  • 17 April 2014
  • By Christopher Walton

New Cartwright Group MD Mark Cartwright is ready to take the trailer and body builder into the next chapter of its 63-year-old story.

Last month the industry was taken by surprise after Altrincham, Cheshire-based trailer and body builder Cartwright Group announced the resignation of joint MDs John and Steven Cartwright.

The family firm, which goes back to 1952 when Stanley and Alan Cartwright opened their first workshop in Wythenshawe, Manchester, however, remains in family hands. Grandson to Stanley and cousin to John and Steven, Mark Cartwright is now group MD, with his father Peter Cartwright chairman and his sister Lisa as a fellow director on the board (pictured main image, Mark on the right).

CM was granted his first interview in his new role just a day after he had briefed the group’s 500 staff to “establish the facts” and quash some of the rumours circulating about the brothers’ departure.

Mark Cartwright will not be drawn on the details surrounding their departure, but he insists that the business is not for sale in any shape or form. For him, the needs of the business, its employees and its customers take priority over such rumour-mongering: for him the brand is bigger than any one individual.

“It was important for me to get from behind the desk and get among the troops,” he says of the events the day before. “And for me the reaction of the staff has been an overwhelming experience, just short of phenomenal. That is testament to the structures of the business and the management team that is in place.”

He has been with the family business his entire 20-year working life after gaining an honours degree in manufacturing, engineering and management at Nottingham university. He has a background in engineering and has worked across a huge proportion of the Cartwright business – including its procurement supply chain (he was formerly procurement director at Cartwright before ascending to the group MD role).

“I am here to head the business up and provide a clear and defined strategy,” he says, equally wishing both John and Steven all the best for the future and thanking them for their contribution. “That is to assure our staff, our financial partners and our customers that it is business as usual. We are building on the good work that the management team has done to date and we are building the management team up to create a business for the future.”

Given the importance of the senior management changes, particularly given that the previous joint MDs had the same name as the family company, the mantra for the past four weeks has been “business as usual”.  “The business has got a fantastic array of products, is a brand in itself, and has some great processes and infrastructure. It takes customer orders and delivers high-quality products and services to customers’ requirements.

“My job is to ensure that continues and we expand that side of the business, and we expand other sides of the business in terms of rental, leasing, finance sales and fleet services so that all the businesses are aligned in terms of strategy and continue to do what we do best.

“The team is excellent and highly experienced. We are seeing an opportunity and they are seeing an opportunity to expand their roles and explore what talents they have for the business. It is an exciting time for individuals and the business. We are focusing on now and on the future and not dwelling on the past: using the management team around us to move this forward,” he says.


Cartwright’s foundation is built on engineering and innovation (double-deck trailers, reefers, box vans, urban trailers, curtainsiders), and Mark Cartwright is keen to stress that the product development plans across a wide product range continue. He is looking at new materials and manufacturing techniques and engaging with ways of evaluating its engineering processes to drive down costs and eliminate inefficiencies.

He urges CM to watch this space on new product developments. “We want to listen to the customer and understand and ascertain their requirements,” he says of the group’s long-term strategy. Since taking on the group MD role, he says he has had numerous conversations along the same lines with Cartwright customers.

Clearly a few weeks has not given Mark Cartwright enough time to go into the minutiae of long-term business plans at Cartwright – it is a process that will need more time. “Financially we are in a solid position, a good place, and the brand speaks for itself,” he says.

“A lot of customers realise that in the modern climate there are management changes, and that people in key roles do come and go. Possibly not as often as you would expect in a family firm, but it does happen in business.

They recognise that they are buying a Cartwright product from a business, as opposed to any individual,” he adds.

Steven and Alan Cartwright resigned on 10 March and, on 17 March registered two new businesses at Companies House: Magnum Trailers and Magnum Fleet Services. Whatever the purpose of these two registered businesses are [the brothers have subsequently launched Tiger Trailers], Mark Cartwright is adamant that the business welcomes competition from all quarters, in a trailer market where Cartwright is in competition on a daily basis with the likes of Don-Bur, Lawrence David, SDC and Montracon.

“They are well-established brands with well-established products and businesses. That competition is healthy and drives us on to continually improve our business,” he says.

If Mark Cartwright has learnt one thing from the events of the past few weeks, he sums it up thus: “It has created a platform to the point whereby the Cartwright Group is not solely reliant on one individual, or a group of individuals. The Cartwright brand is stronger than ever with the best range of products and services and indeed, some of the best people in the industry. Our loyal and hard-working staff are the lifeblood of our business.

“This is an exciting time for the Cartwright Group and the board, senior management team and staff are looking forward to seeing customers and prospective customers at the CV Show and talking about the next chapter in the company’s future.”

Don’t stop moving

Since the announcement was made regarding the senior management changes at Cartwright the group has not allowed such changes to overshadow the continuation of its business.

Last month it opened its new regional office in Scotland, headed by Derek Howie and based at the same site on the Rosehall Industrial Estate in Coatbridge as its maintenance partner CEM Scotland. It’s a region where the manufacturer hasn’t traditionally been that strong, but it believes that the changes made will allow it to establish a stronger footprint in the rental market throughout Scotland.

“Our presence there has been small for some time and with Derek on board we have the right key management in place. Rental is a huge part of our business and continues to prosper,” says Mark Cartwright. Equally, last month it also launched a drive to recruit 40 apprentices aged between 16 and 19.

“If you don’t invest in youth,” he says, “particularly in the engineering sector, there will be a long-term problem. We have invested heavily in apprenticeships and bringing in new blood.”


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