a white man of approximate middle age faces the camera in a casual suit with timber pallets behind him.

Donaldson Group is built to endure after Scottish Family Business win

Founded 160 years ago, The Donaldson Group has continued to thrive despite countless changes to the construction industry in Scotland.

What began as a humble timber merchant in Tayport, Fife in 1860 has now grown into the UK’s leading independent timber group, boasting 11 trading subsidiaries and 16 distinct brands. Today, the business is a Scottish powerhouse capable of constructing and outfitting entire houses and the recent winner of Scottish Family Business of the Year (Large) at the 2023 Herald Scottish Family Business Awards in association with Business Gateway.

And in an era where sustainability takes centre stage, The Donaldson Group is poised to lead the charge with Group Chief Executive Andrew Donaldson emphasising the business’s commitment to becoming a leading independent Net Zero Carbon Business. With timber at its core, the group aims to promote sustainable construction, offering solutions that help customers achieve carbon neutrality.

The Donaldson Group operates across three divisions, each fostering innovation, sharing best practices, and conducting market analysis to provide customers with unparalleled expertise in the sector. The divisions – namely Donaldson Offsite, Interiors, and Retail & Distribution – house market-leading brands that independently excel in their fields.

Donaldson Offsite, the group’s offsite timber systems manufacturing arm – which is at the forefront of the industry’s Modern Methods of Construction – includes Donaldson Timber Systems and Donaldson Timber Engineering, both leading their sectors in timber frame housing and trusses and flooring systems. Also in the manufacturing division, Donaldson Direct provides an online platform for roof truss orders. Completing the circle, Donaldson Door Systems specializes in crafting door sets.

In the realm of interiors, the group boasts a formidable lineup. Kitchens International Ltd, a prominent independent kitchen retailer, operates across six showrooms in Scotland. MGM Kitchens, with 12 branches in Scotland, stands as the UK’s largest partner of Bauformat and Burger kitchens, and recently launched an exciting partnership with Magnet kitchens in its Clydebank showroom. Smith & Frater Ltd contributes to the design and manufacture of kitchens and home office furniture. Stonecare supplies solid worktops to the UK kitchen industry, and Optima Kitchens has been designing and manufacturing quality kitchens for over three decades.

The Retail & Distribution division comprises MGM Timber (Scotland) Ltd, a leading independent timber merchant with 15 branches. Nu-Style Products Ltd manufactures laminate panels, including the Perform Panel brand. James Donaldson Insulation Ltd acts as a distributor of insulation products to the trade. Plane & Simple, a pioneering online DIY marketplace, and Perform Panel, specializing in high-quality laminate wet wall panels, add to the diverse portfolio. TimberCut4U, an e-commerce site, supplies cut timber for DIY projects.

Alongside these three divisions, James Donaldson Timber Ltd, the original founding business, remains as a separate entity, specialising in the importing, processing and national distribution of forest products.

While these businesses and brands operate independently, they all operate under the Donaldson Group umbrella, enabling the sharing of expertise, innovation, and market insights for an enriched customer experience.

The company’s journey is deeply intertwined with Scotland’s history. Over the years, strategic growth and entrepreneurial spirit have been underlined by the family’s commitment to core values of integrity and, in the modern era, sustainability.

In the decades following WW2, George Donaldson, recognising the importance of technology, modernised the firm. In 1985, under Neil Donaldson’s leadership, Donaldson Timber Engineering (DTE) was established, marking the group’s foray into roof truss manufacturing. Subsequent strategic initiatives, including the acquisition of MGM Timber, further propelled the group into new heights.

The sixth generation took the helm in 2020, with Andrew Donaldson as Group Chief Executive and Michael Donaldson as Executive Chairman. This era witnessed significant growth, acquisitions, and the launch of Donaldson Timber Systems in 2021, marking the group’s entry into the timber frame market. In 2022, aligning with a more progressive era, the group rebranded as The Donaldson Group.

Andrew Donaldson said: “We’re proud to have over 100 colleagues with family members working for us and The Donaldson Group has a fortunate position in that the core material we import, manufacture and supply is timber; one of the most sustainable and carbon neutral products on the market.

“There has never been a more crucial time for utilising timber in construction and we’re in a strong position to promote the benefits to existing and new customers, to help them meet their own environmental targets.

“According to the Committee on Climate Change, ‘Using wood in construction to displace high-carbon materials such as cement and steel is one of the most effective ways to use limited biomass resources to mitigate climate change’.

“With timber at the heart of everything we do, we’re helping to build positive futures for everyone, by supporting the creation of better homes that are better for the planet.”

The rebranded The Donaldson Group ended 2023 beating stiff competition from across the nation to take home the Scottish Family Business of the Year (Large) Award at the Herald Scottish Family Business Awards in association with Business Gateway on Thursday, December 7th in Glasgow.

On winning the award, Michael Donaldson, Executive Chairman said “It’s humbling to have won and has given us an enormous sense of pride. Being a family business is something we’re really proud of, so it’s a particular honour to have won this award. There are so many long-standing family businesses in Scotland across a wide range of sectors, all with inspirational legacies – it’s great to be recognised as a part of this.

“We wouldn’t be where we are today without all of our colleagues who work with us across the UK. This award is undoubtedly for them; for the incredible work they do and dedication they show to all the 16 business and brands that make up the Group.”

The Herald Scottish Family Business events series will be launching soon for 2024. For more information contact alana.massie@newsquest.co.uk.