Business as usual at Banbury’s Norbar after takeover

Neill and Phllip Brodey of Norbar NNL-170515-150513001
Neill and Phllip Brodey of Norbar NNL-170515-150513001

After 74 years in the Brodey family, Norbar Torque Tools has been sold to American tool giant Snap-on, but Neill and Phillip Brodey remain at the helm of the company their grandfather Bill began on Banbury’s North Bar Street.

The take over by Snap-on Tools was announced last week so the Banbury Guardian sat down with Neill Brodey, managing director and Phillip Brodey, sales and marketing manager to find out the motivations for the sale and what the future holds for Norbar.

Norbar’s Wildmere Road site employs about 300 people, housing research and development and manufacture of precision tools and the takeover could see this number swell.

Neill Brodey said: “Jobs are safe. In fact we are already looking for growth. There are some specific products that Snap-on want us to make that they have been buying from third parties. That means there will be opportunities to grow.”

Phillip said: “Technology is getting more complicated as well.

“Everybody’s talking about this connected world where everything is connected to everything else and we did feel, as a medium-sized company, that was going to be quite challenging to develop on our own and as part of a much larger group there will be much greater resources to make the investment to bring products into the world we envisage within tools in the next few years.”

In business terms the sale to Snap-on makes perfect sense. They are themselves tool innovators with thousands of patents to their name, have a strong brand identity and, importantly, could open the door to the American market which Norbar have so far only scratched the surface of.

Phillip explained: “The other thing that was on our mind a bit at the time was Brexit. I wouldn’t want it to come across that we’re going to blame Brexit, because we’re not but we were firmly in the camp that thought we should stay in the EU. But it was clear to us that we had to look harder for business in the US, not that we weren’t already looking hard for business in the US, but we needed to accelerate that.

“We are going to gain access to Snap-on’s sales resource in the US. Access to that sort of resource is something we never could have dreamed of on our own.”

To put the disparity of resources into perspective Snap-on currently employs 250 industrial sales people, Norbar has just four.

The sale of Norbar, however, was more than just a business decision as, after almost three-quarters of a century, the company is no longer in the hands of the Brodey family.

Neill said: “As a family we’ve been discussing where do we go in terms of the next generation.

“Although there is a fourth generation and some of them have an interest in the business, we have a bit of an age gap as we were relatively old when we had children. The oldest is 23 so we feel it will be quite some time before they will have the relevant experience to run a business.”

But Norbar will continue as is, with the Brodeys in the same roles and the name, logo and location unchanged.

Phillip added: “It’s business as usual.”