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Investment ignites continued growth for Yorkshire e-commerce giant

The Ward Hadaway Fastest 50 celebrates the fastest growing, most innovative privately-owned businesses in Yorkshire.

This year, Ripon-based Hemingways, a family-owned e-commerce gifting, sales and distribution specialist, ranked number 21 in the list, moving up five places since 2022. Alongside Ward Hadaway’s Jonathan Pollard, managing director Andrew Johnson explains why the longstanding business continues to succeed and achieve growth.

We’ve been in business for over 100 years,” says Andrew Johnson, who has been the managing director at Hemingways for 25 years. “We know what it’s like to operate within highly challenging and competitive markets, where the boundaries are constantly changing and the requirement to adapt to remain relevant and, ultimately, profitable, is mandatory.

“We continuously invest in the business whether that’s in terms of our clients, their customers, our employees or our infrastructure, systems and processes. This has enabled us to innovate to ensure we meet our customer’s expectations, delivering on our brand promise.”

And when it comes to investment the company does not do things by half. As well as developing innovative personalised services to meet a genuine need in both the corporate world and everyday life – such as the VEX Supermarket Gift Card that can be exchanged for e-Gifts and physical gift cards covering every major supermarket brand – Hemingways has also invested in developing a raft of software platforms to help its retail clients better meet customer needs.

A pivotal investment has been the purchase of its software house, Bliss Systems, which it acquired in 2021. This means the business now has a team of consultants and developers to deliver technical solutions for its e-commerce offerings – providing an end-to-end tech-driven global e-commerce solution to a wide range of retailers and brands. Current headcount stands at 134 employees and turnover is expected to hit £240 million this year.

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Andrew explains: “We work in an ‘always-on’ environment with a constant requirement to meet dispatch times, delivery slots and fulfilment obligations. Whilst the infrastructure we have in place provides a solid foundation to do this, our main differentiator is our people. People sit at the heart of our business. We rely on their expertise, engagement and energy so their development and wellbeing are a perpetual consideration. As a family-owned business, we recognise the daily stresses that impact on people’s lives so we’ve always been flexible in accommodating those things that just crop up – the trip to the vet for example or the school sports day. Whatever we give, we get back two-fold in loyalty – our people are always there when we need them. We’re proud of being an employer of choice in the region and we’re rewarded with long service and many instances of family and friend referrals.”

The company marked a return to its birthplace in Leeds following the purchase of Bliss Systems on East Street and its state-of-the-art operations centre at Barker Business Park near Melmerby in Ripon now stands at 60,000 square feet following an expansion in 2019.

Jonathan Pollard, a partner in Ward Hadaway’s corporate team in Leeds, said: “Hemingways is a shining example of how to steadily and solidly grow a heritage business through innovation, dedication and investment. And, crucially, executing it at exactly the right time to reap rewards. Hemingways also understands the value of its people and recognises the fundamental role they play in the growth of the business. We work with many e-commerce providers across the region, delivering a diverse range of legal support, and it’s an exciting and evolving sector that brings a lot of jobs, investment and prosperity to Yorkshire. Congratulations to the entire team at Hemingways and your Fastest 50 ranking – it’s very well deserved.”

Today, Hemingways provides e-commerce solutions across 18 countries and handles over 12 million individual transactions per year.

Andrew adds: “At our heart we’re a Yorkshire company and extremely proud of it. We recognise the world-beating potential not only of Yorkshire but of the wider northern region and we’re committed to playing our part in its future success. It’s wonderful to secure a prominent position in this year’s Fastest 50 which is a testament to our entire team – we appreciate the recognition.”

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

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