Morelli Group are approaching our 65th anniversary - something that our founder Challoner (aka ‘Slim’) Moring could not have foreseen in 1957, when he first opened for business on a hunch. The company is still 100% independent and family owned. The Directors now include Graham Parker MD and Rob Cohen FD who have added their skill set to the second and third generation family members who remain dedicated to supplying the best service to the refinish painter in the UK.
Take a look back at our history starting in 1957…
Morelli & Co are founded.
‘Slim’ Moring and his wife Win started selling paint and consumables to local body repairers based on a hunch that he could provide a better service than he could get for his own repair shop Moring & Co. His early partner Bert Ellis provided the second part of the name forming the Italian sounding Morelli.
24th January, High Street, Southgate.
The first shop was below the flat where Slim and Win lived with their three children. The first paint product was Valentine who supported the business with a £1,000 loan and six months credit. From the start, a large stock order was placed to make back orders a rarity. Slim’s early motto was, “your stock is at the end of your telephone,” and daily deliveries were started; making him the first supplier to offer this service.
Morelli & Co. open their doors for business, the first customer was the Landlord of the local pub who spent 7s. 2d. on a 2lb tin of paint. The ten shilling note that was used to buy the paint still hangs on the wall at Morelli head office.
Morelli & Co. secured the rights to sell Valentine Paints for North London and Essex and, as a van round became too busy to operate, new branches were opened in that area, providing a service that was second to none. Uxbridge, Ilford, Camden and Chelmsford were all opened in this period of expansion for the company and Slim’s children David, Joan and John all started working in the business and a fourth child, Ruth, was born in 1962.
Now well established in the South East, Morelli continue to expand moving the original premises 100 yards up Southgate, High Street to a larger site and adding branches in other busy areas. Delivering quickly and fulfilling orders first time is still a cornerstone of the business. The custom car scene takes off and a Renault 4 van is commissioned and airbrushed; with murals and pinstripes and topped off with a fur trimmed interior lining!
Morelli Group Ltd is formed and there are now branches across the whole of the South East; from Norwich to High Wycombe and several in London including our first move south of the Thames. Most of the early branches still exist although, like Southgate; some have moved to bigger, more modern premises. The company is now being run by the second generation David, John, Joan’s husband Colin Laybourn, Allan Toms, Allan Clark and Steve Laybourn. Paint brands have also been added and, significantly, Glasurit becomes the leading brand with approvals on all German manufactured cars aiding growth during this period as German brands dominate the market.
Ault & Wiborg paints start to replace Valentine products for the one man bodyshops. Slim is pursuing a lifelong dream and restoring Rolls Royce cars as a hobby; showing them on Rallies and Concourse Events up to his death in 1984.
Even more paint brands are now stocked to ensure Morelli Group remain market leaders in the South East. The UK market is all about manufacturer approvals and, as a manufacturer drops one brand, Morelli takes on another to ensure that our customer is not let down. Spies Hecker and PPG are the latest brands to hit the shelves and Valentine is all but gone now. 1998 sees the company leave Southgate for a new head office in Enfield – 15,000 sq. ft. purpose-built warehouse; servicing the outlying branches as a central warehouse facility, with daily drops to all branches ensuring the best stock holding for our customers.
Morelli tops the world as we sponsor the successful expedition to Everest with Neil Laughton who unfurled our flag on the summit 7:30am 26th May 1998. Also on this expedition, was Bear Grylls who was to find wider acclaim with his survival programmes.
A New Millennium
In 2000, Morelli Group undertook significant expansion with the purchase of Bancrofts, the successful Midlands and North based distributor that was owned by Finelist but went into administration. This projected Morelli onto the national stage and turnover went past £20m for the first time and the number of branches increased to 20 plus. After a decade of prosperity and consolidation that saw the purchase of Car Paints in Waltham Abbey, Morelli now had an impressive list of paint brands: Glasurit, DuPont, Spies Hecker, Standox, PPG, DeBeer and Masons. Some of the consumable suppliers had been with Slim from the beginning including 3M, Upol and DeVilbiss and they helped celebrate the 50th anniversary with a riverboat cruise on the Thames with all the staff in 2007. The 3rd generation Stuart, Andrew & Mark Moring and Michele Laybourn join the remaining 2nd generation of John, Ruth and Allan Toms as Directors.
Buy Smart Express a company specialising in SMART (Small to Medium Accident Repair Techniques) to minimise the cost and speed up the repair process. At the time this was something being mainly done by a man in a van turning up at a site and repairing the car from the back of his van. The Morelli vision was to train and supply the products to our bodyshop customers to offer an upsell solution and increase profitability for them. The company has excellent knowledge and offer training courses which are key aspects of the business.
WorldSkills London 2011 – The biggest ever skills event held in the UK and the start of Morelli Groups involvement with skills events supporting the drive to get youngsters into our industry. This event is classed as the Skills Olympics and competitors came from all over the world to take part in the event held at London ExCel. Morelli supplied panel stands, trestles and van loads of product during the event and have continued to support WorldSkills after this first experience.
Smart Express gains IMI Awards Approved Assessment Centre status. The Smart Express training facility was one of the first SMART repair training facilities in the UK and at this point had trained in excess of 500 delegates from all sectors of the industry, including bodyshops, independent mobile SMART repairers and dealer SMART sites. Attaining IMI Awards Accreditation was something that Morelli Group aspired to after buying Smart Express in 2011. As the industry’s leading Awarding body, IMI Accreditation means delegates leave with an industry recognised standard at the end of courses attended across all disciplines.
Morelli were presented with a top 100 award from the Financial Times for our expanded export services in 2013. A strong year of supplying product to Europe saw us achieve a high ranking amongst top UK business for increased sales abroad.
2014 saw the start of a new e-commerce business, Slim’s Detailing, named in honour of our founder ‘Slim’ Moring. This business started as detailing enjoys a period of growth as a hobby and pastime and continues to grow as a business today. Slim’s has built a dedicated following of people who take car cleaning to the highest level and enjoy the lifestyle brand that Slims has become. One of Slim’s own cars is used in the early videos a MKII Jaguar that he bought from new and restored by his eldest son David to its current condition. To see more product and video content visit www.slimsdetailing.co.uk
Move the Smart Express training to a new purpose, built training facility in Coventry, Eyebox UK which is a shared facility with customer XL Motors. Being central in the country is key for our motor manufacturer, dealership and independent customers offering them a much better facility in an easier to reach location offering IMI Accredited Training courses.
The ABP Night of Knights award is presented to the supplier voted for their best service to the bodyshop customer. This is voted for by the customer and we have won the Repairer’s choice Award in 2013, 2015 and 2017 a strong showing and testament to our branches for their hard work supporting our customers.
Move Birmingham branch to a new distribution hub just off the M6 in Castle Bromwich. The 25,000 sq. ft. building is laid out to ensure that the space is maximised and stock is managed in the most efficient manner for storing and picking orders.
Morelli declared themselves as Platinum Partners to Autoraise as soon as they became a registered charity in 2016. This is an industry charity encouraging apprentices into the trade. We were one of the first Platinum Sponsors and continue to support this and other initiatives to get young people into our trade going forward.
Staff, Customers, Suppliers and Friends gathered at Celtic Manor to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of Morelli Group. Founded in May 1957, the party was held at this stunning venue with 400 guests. The table raffle on the evening raised £3,500 for Auto Raise with CEO, Bob Linwood there to accept the donation. The meal was pie and mash and the entertainment was provided by Chas and Dave, with a good old-fashioned knees-up, celebrating the heritage of Morelli’s original roots in Southgate, North London. To celebrate an historic 1957 Ford Thames van is purchased and the Morelli Technical Team put it into the original livery of our first delivery vans.
The IMI awarded Andrew Moring a Recognition Award for Contribution to the Work of the IMI and helping to promote skills events which Morelli have supported since 2010 including WorldSkills London in 2011 – the biggest ever skills event held in the UK. Morelli continue to support these skills events and are at the forefront of encouraging youth into the trade that we have supplied for 60 years.
Morelli Group are appointed Koch Chemie distributors for the UK, their products hold many OEM approvals and offer superb and safe car cleaning products for detailers and trade users doing a quality volume wash.
Morelli join Automotive 30% Club inspiring gender balance in our industry. The Automotive 30% Club, powered by the social enterprise company Gaia Innovation Ltd, is a voluntary network of MDs and CEOs from UK based automotive manufacturing, retailing and supplier companies. The network was founded by Julia Muir, CEO of Gaia Innovation Ltd, with the purpose of achieving a better gender balance within the automotive industry, and with the aim of filling at least 30% of key leadership positions in the member organisations with diverse women by 2030 through a “30 by 30” strategy.
A new training academy in Coventry is opened – to teach professionals and enthusiasts the perfect way to clean and detail their car! The Coventry branch, is perfectly located to be its training hub and run a series of courses on ‘detailing’ through its sister brand, Slim’s. The site becomes the home of the second Slim’s Detailing shop, the other being in Enfield. The site also takes over the despatch for the online business of our products to customers nationally. The firm has made a significant investment in the training academy, which was officially opened by Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, during a visit to the branch.
The COVID pandemic strikes and shuts down large parts of the business. Of 14 branches 5 remain open during the first lockdown. Morelli branches in Manchester, Birmingham, Enfield and High Wycombe stay open for our customers that repair key worker vehicles such as ambulances, police cars, recovery vehicles, NHS staff cars and commercial vehicles. As suppliers of PPE we help with donations to care homes who are getting very little in the way of masks and gloves during the worst of the crisis.
The Slim’s despatch remain open in Coventry and provide much needed retail therapy for the millions of workers sitting at home on furlough and giving them something to do once they receive their products. Slim’s takes on the UK distribution for the CARPRO brand during this difficult time. The staff at all branches act responsibly and with great commitment as the other branches reopen the staff get back to some kind of normality as the year goes on and all branches remain open after the first lockdown.
Morelli appoint three new non-executive Directors, long standing employees Paul Glover, National Programme Director, Mike Rowley, Corporate Accounts Director and Steve O’Brien, Sales Director Midlands. Our branch supervisor in Manchester Matt Johnson was nominated and successfully chosen as one of the Bodyshop awards 30 under 30 rising stars. He will pick up his award at the ceremony later this year.
Morelli Group are working with long time partner ECA Energy towards PAS 2060 with the aim to be Carbon Neutral by the end of the year.