New division aiming for £100m turnover by 2003 in bid to take on market leaders Interior, Overbury and Churchfield.

Privately owned contractor Wates Group is aiming to take on the major players in the rapidly expanding fit-out market with newly separated subsidiary Wates Interiors.

The group has set a target of £100m turnover for the firm by 2003, which will pit it against market leaders Interior, Overbury and Churchfield. Wates did £43m of interiors work in 1999, so its subsidiary will have to more than double its size in three years.

Wates Interiors chairman James Wates said it was high time the business, which has been part of Wates Construction since 1995, was separated from the group’s construction, housebuilding and estate agency divisions.

Wates said: “We thought it was advantageous to build the business under the wing of Wates Construction. But to grow it more, we need to separate it. The bird is now flying the nest.“We are now in a strong position to step up another gear. The launch of Wates Interiors is a statement of our confidence in the pursuit of aggressive growth targets for interiors.”

The launch is a statement of our confidence in the pursuit of aggressive growth targets

James Wates

He added that the subsidiary’s new identity would heighten market awareness of Wates’ interior output. “A couple of years ago we were struggling to get contracts worth more than £2m. The average is now £5-10m and this launch creates the opportunity to do bigger stuff,” he said. The business, which specialises in office, retail and leisure fit-outs, will concentrate on the London market but will follow customers to the rest of the UK and Europe.

Wates stressed that the firm would maintain its level of margins in fit-outs. He said: “We are not setting it up just to grow it. There will be no compromise on margins.”

The subsidiary’s workforce is expected to grow from 160 to 200 by the start of 2001. It includes shopfitting and joinery firm Charles Barrett Interiors, which Wates bought in 1998.

Wates Interiors managing director Ian Cannings said the launch was also in response to customer demand. He said: “Customers across all market sectors have reported an increasing pressure to outsource property functions. This is likely to lead to greater levels of single-sourcing and more opportunities for interiors companies.”