Family hoists for-sale sign as fire leaves Robert Dyas heading into the red

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The Independent Online
ROBERT DYAS, the high street ironmonger with roots going back more than 120 years, is to be sold following the disruption of a fire in its warehouse in December.

The founding Dyas family, which still controls the business, took the decision following a strategic review by Coopers & Lybrand. The business recorded profits of pounds 1.2m last year on sales of pounds 40m. However, this year the disruption of the fire is expected to push the company into the red.Coopers said they were hopeful of finding a buyer and had received "an astonishing level of interest". A sale price of around pounds 20m is expected.

The business was founded by Robert Dyas who, it is claimed, came over from Ireland in 1872 with pounds 5 in his pocket and set up an ironmonger's shop in the City of London. The business fared well until the Second World War when its shops where badly damaged in the Blitz. Two brothers, Pat and Gerald Dyas, then built the business up again and it now has 67 stores across the South-east of England.

In a market increasingly dominated by out-of-town superstores such as B&Q and Homebase, Robert Dyas has stuck to its niche with functional high street stores crammed with DIY equipment, light electrical goods and kitchenware.

Although the family owns most of the company, it only plays a minor role in its operations since new management was brought in 1994. Pat Dyas, a non-executive director, is the last family member on the board.

The fire in the head office and warehouse in Croydon, south London, in December caused significant disruption to the business which had had to arrange supplies direct from manufacturers. The company said it had received an interim payment from the insurers of pounds 2.5m and said the finances of the company "remain sound".

Roger Pedder, the chairman of Clark's Shoes, has been appointed a non- executive director to help in the sale process.