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Cwmbran-based Tiles Ahead Secures £500,000 Investment Supported by Barclays


Tiles Ahead based at Ty Coch Way, Cwmbran has acquired its existing premises after a £500,000 investment supported by Barclays. The wall and floor tile specialist currently employs 10 staff and expect revenues to reach £2 million this year.

Established in 1993 originally as Cwmbran Tile Centre, the business has experienced continual growth, traded through two recessions and has been able to establish itself as one of the leading independent tile distributors in the UK.

Nick McDonald, founder of Tiles Ahead said:

“I left school at 16 with two “O” levels and went to work at Handiland in Pill and absolutely loved it ! Within a year or so, I was running most of the store and gained a great understanding of the DIY sector but especially the ceramic tiles market.

At that time we were one of the first British companies that were bringing in containers of ceramics from Spain. The designs were great ,the quality decent and the margins we were working to were staggering – I thought at that point, one day I needed to do this for myself.

By 1993 I had managed to pull together £12,000 to start the business and remember opening the store and on day one, taking six grand, patting myself on the back and thinking “I`ll open dozens of these places – how easy was that ”. Our turnover increased rapidly over the ensuing years and we did have four stores at one point,but a combination of a downturn in demand,a new concept called the world wide web and, I suppose, unrealistic expectations on my part led to us to contracting back to one site. We undertook improvements to the showroom,developed several web platforms and had a more focused approach to our merchant and trade customers.Our corporate client list is growing and there are some very well known nationals that we are regularly supplying.

I`d be fibbing to say its` been easy and running a SME is not for the faint-hearted – anybody in a similar position will tell you that at times, in South Wales particularly, owners have needed to be unbreakable! However,I have fantastic support from my wife Lisa and really wonderful,wonderful people here at Tiles Ahead.


Debra Reader, Barclays Business Manager, said,

“As champions of local business, it is essential that we support local businesses such as Tiles Ahead. By really understanding the business and issues they have faced, Barclays has been able to support Nick throughout the transfer of ownership. The investment has secured the future of the business and removed the annual rental costs from the business.”

Nick McDonald continues:

“When we started in Cwmbran in `93,there were only 4 tile specialists within a 25-mile radius, today,customers grab there ipad,type “tiles” into the search engines and the likes of google gives them 40 pages of places to go.

We have embraced that fully and our web platforms are doing very well, but there is no substitute for the experience of touching and seeing products like ours and this fantastic showroom we have developed here at Cwmbran gives our customers the chance to see these imaginitive products in there true light and get the best advice from knowledgeable staff – not always available with online operators

We are grateful to Debra at Barclays for assisting in the funding of the purchase of the building and land attached to it and with this now secured we aim to develop the showroom further.Products such as kitchens,bedrooms and other types of flooring are on the shopping list and already for this summer we have a fabulous range of garden furniture which is now available.

Our core business will still be tiles of course and I am very,very optimistic for the future.Things go in cycles, and tiles are most definitely on an upward curve.