Meet Andrew Tucknott, managing director at Tomsetts Distribution

Family-run transport company Tomsetts Distribution will mark its 50th anniversary next year. We caught up with the company’s managing director Andrew Tucknott about launching a new Truckstop, plans for the business and what he would like Newhaven’s future to look like.

We know your family business Tomsetts has been around for almost 50 years – can you tell us how the company was founded and what the business was like when it first started?

Chandler Tomsett, initially a timber merchant in Seaford, changed when Chandler and Tomsett separated in 1975. Ernie Tomsett then asked my father to manage a new transport venture, quickly relocating to East Quay, Newhaven. In the early 1980s, the company thrived with Spanish fruit shipments due to Fyffes’ presence in Newhaven.

By 1987, Tomsetts Transport moved to a custom-built facility on North Quay Road. In 1997, Ray and Steve Tucknott bought out the Tomsetts family, rebranding as Tomsetts Distribution Limited, serving key clients such as Artex, Concord Lighting, Parker Pen, and Christian Dior.

Mrs Constance Tomsett (Ernie’s wife), Andrew Tucknott, Andrew’s father Raymond Tucknott and his brother Martin Tucknott.

Fast forward to 2024 – please tell us how business at Tomsetts is going now?

Tomsetts has evolved with the market, shifting from relying on Artex for 90% of its business to thriving in a network-driven industry. We now specialise in consolidating small pallet consignments for overnight delivery to the Palletforce SuperHub, with full loads and larger groupage making up only 25% of operations.

The abundance of incoming goods and limited manufacturing has created minimal outbound freight, leading to intense competition and a ‘race to the bottom’ in pricing. To counter this, we focus on strategies to differentiate ourselves and stay competitive.

We’re now at 40 staff and growing!

What plans have you got to develop the business in the future?

Tomsetts is expanding its services by launching a Truckstop, a depot parking facility. This venture is in collaboration with DFDS, operators of the Newhaven-Dieppe ferry service.

The Truckstop will provide drivers with secure parking, rest areas, showers, food and drink services, a weighbridge, vehicle wash, and Wi-Fi. Additionally, leveraging our existing infrastructure, we will open the workshop for third-party services such as running repairs, inspections, tyre services, and curtain repairs, building on our experience in maintaining our own fleet.

Can you tell us more about your low carbon efforts at the business?

Initially, we made small changes: using energy-efficient light bulbs, buying an electric forklift, and switching to a green energy provider. However, a Clean Growth UK webinar expanded our ambitions.

Over the past nine months, Tomsetts has partnered on ambitious sustainability projects, including renewable energy (solar panels and wind generators), energy storage, efficient heating and cooling, water conservation, electric vehicles, and waste-to-energy solutions.

Through Palletforce, Tomsetts measures Scope 3 upstream delivery emissions for each consignment, providing detailed reports to clients. We are applying for a Knowledge Transfer Partnership with the University of Brighton to obtain more granular emissions data, enhancing CO2 savings and potential tax reliefs.

Our goal is to differ from other transport companies by aligning with businesses prioritising sustainability. We have a three-step plan: calculating our carbon footprint, creating a carbon reduction plan (aiming for net zero by 2038), and achieving B-Corp certification, demonstrating our commitment to high social and environmental standards.

By adopting this strategy, Tomsetts aims to not only stand out but also set a benchmark in the sustainable transport revolution.

Who are some of your clients?

Some who you may be aware of include Brightwell, Alexander Rose, Wild Nutrition, Ancient + Brave, Lanoguard and many more fantastic partners – some of whom have been customers for more than 30 years! It’s important to keep on top of things and not get complacent or take things for granted – I think this has been crucial to our longevity and success.

What makes Tomsetts a great place to work?

Tomsetts is a great place to work due to its adaptability and innovation, as evidenced by its evolution from a traditional transport business to a modern logistics provider. The company’s expansion into new services like the Truckstop means we are forward-thinking and a growth-oriented environment. Combined with a collaborative approach with partners like DFDS, these factors contribute to a positive and engaging workplace.

What do you love most about your job?

What stands out most in my role is the journey towards sustainability and uniting all essential partners to achieve our collective goals. The quick learning and collaboration with a community dedicated to drive change and motivate other businesses to lower their emissions has been incredibly rewarding.

What’s your favourite place in Newhaven?

My favourite spot is Newhaven Fort. I’m excited for its reopening next year, when I can share its transformation with my family. It has so much untapped potential.

How has Newhaven Enterprise Zone supported you?

Newhaven Enterprise Zone has been instrumental in providing valuable advice, facilitating connections with potential partners, and guiding me to appropriate grant funds. Notably, we secured a £10,000 grant designated for Newhaven businesses, which contributed to the acquisition of a new electric fork-lift truck.

What do you think makes Newhaven a great place to base a business?

I would point to efficient public transport links benefitting both staff members and business operations – I use the train frequently for trade shows and workshops. The town’s proximity to the ferry port makes cross-channel trading more accessible too.

There are a couple of nice spots to enjoy your lunchbreak or stretch your legs, including the Marina and the Ouse Estuary Nature Reserve.

Newhaven Chamber of Commerce (recently recognised as the best in the country!) facilitates close collaboration among local businesses.

There are some fantastic new units available. Additionally, grants are available to bring an empty site or building back to life or for capital investments that promote green employment.

Andrew Tucknott with director Adrian Tolley

What would you like Newhaven’s future to look like in 10 years’ time?

I’m glad you asked because I have a vision!

I envision a bustling port with zero-emission ferries transporting green-fuelled vehicles, contributing to cleaner air and sustainable transport. Sailing vessels carrying cargo, powered by wind and renewables, would highlight our maritime heritage and environmental responsibility.

Newhaven aims for self-sufficiency through energy from waste and renewables, reducing its carbon footprint and enhancing resilience to fuel market fluctuations and climate change.

Businesses could quadruple turnover and profit margins, aligning with Tomsetts’ goal of £10 million turnover and 10% profit by reducing emissions and securing contracts with sustainable companies—a win-win for the economy and environment.

As Newhaven thrives, it will attract more residents and employees, leading to the emergence of restaurants and cafés, creating vibrant social spaces.

Overall, Newhaven’s future looks promising – a blend of environmental consciousness, economic prosperity, and community wellbeing.

What would you like Newhaven Enterprise Zone to spend its funding on in the town? Creating more commercial space in the town, more cultural events which make Newhaven a better place to live and work in, support for businesses to help them grow or something else entirely?

Investing Newhaven Enterprise Zone’s funding wisely is crucial for the town’s growth and prosperity.

Continuing to create additional commercial spaces would attract businesses, boost employment, and enhance economic activity.

Organising cultural events fosters community spirit, making Newhaven an even better place to live and work. These events can celebrate local talent, history, and diversity.

In addition to grants, directing funding toward business support initiatives—such as mentoring and training—can help local businesses thrive. This, in turn, benefits the entire community.

Investing in infrastructure (like improving traffic flow, utilities, and public spaces) contributes to Newhaven’s overall appeal and quality of life.

Ultimately, a balanced approach which considers all aspects would benefit Newhaven.

To find out more about Tomsetts, visit: 

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