Top 100 Companies: Low-key SIG has highest turnover in Sheffield City Region

SIG Chief Executive Stuart Mitchell in conversation with David Walsh Picture Dean Atkins
SIG Chief Executive Stuart Mitchell in conversation with David Walsh Picture Dean Atkins

It’s the biggest company you’ve never heard of.

SIG is huge - it turned over £2.7billion last year, employs 10,000 people and operates in 17 countries.

Yet even the boss was unaware of it before being offered the job.

The average man or woman in the street has never heard of Sheffield Insulations Group - yet its growth, its success and its ambition are legendary.

It is the biggest company in Sheffield City Region by turnover for the 12th year running in the annual Top 100 table published by The Star and Sheffield accountants Barber Harrison & Platt.

Check out the top 100 companies by turnover in South Yorkshire - click to view or right click and save as to download

Total turnover across all Top 100 companies has grown by four per cent in the last year. Pre-tax profits have fallen 39 per cent, but total employee numbers have grown by four per cent, to more than 81,000.

SIG dominates. It has occupied the top spot for 12 years, flying the flag for the region’s business brilliance on an international stage

SIG is known to some as the former sponsor of the Sheffield half marathon - including the ill-fated one where the water didn’t turn up.

But what does it do?

This is where it gets less glamorous. SIG is a distributor of products to the building trade including insulation, roofing and interiors.

Starting out in a single depot and an ice cream van in Sheffield in 1957, it has grown into one of the biggest players in Europe and has a reputation for snapping up rivals - it has bought seven companies this year alone.

Chief executive Stuart Mitchell is the ex-boss of Wilko Retail - formerly Wilkinsons - who joined three years ago after being headhunted.

He said: “Honestly, I had never hear of SIG until I got a call to come and have a chat - and I don’t think that’s unusual.

“The man in the street doesn’t know us and that’s something about branding and being a relatively low key business.

“Perhaps we should do more in the local community.”

A top priority, though, is buying more companies in the UK and abroad - some £200million has been set aside over the next three years - as well as building a multi-million pound website and developing its manufacturing arm.

Building house roofs, entire classrooms or single room apartments in a factory is a “hot subject” right now.

And while he says return on capital employed - the profitability of a company taking into account the amount of capital used - is the figure he keeps the closest eye on, the old fashioned share price is not forgotten.

He added: “It’s doubled since the day I walked in.”