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Wolseley UK (formerly Wolseley Centers) is the holding company for several well known United Kingdom builders merchants, including Plumb Center. Wolseley UK is the country's largest supplier of building materials, with trade customers (plumbers and builders) accounting for the largest proportion of its sales. It does, however, have retail showrooms around the United Kingdom which are open to the general public.
The company's headquarters used to be in Ripon, Yorkshire and was the city's largest employer. Relations with the city were not always cordial, the company initially blocked plans for a road bypass which threatened to limit its plans for expansion, and every so often letters appeared in the local paper, the Ripon Gazette bemoaning the 'American' spelling of the word Center. However, the spelling is an affectation conceived to be distinctive, rather than because it has any specific meaning.
In July 2004, the company announced that its head office was to be relocated to Leamington Spa, Warwickshire. This was a blow to the city of Ripon which had just lost its higher education college. A regional office including the central human resources and information technology functions remains in the city.
The trading name of Plumb Center was acquired in the 1980s, and extended to include Build Center, Drain Center, and Hire Center. The company later acquired several other companies, such as Broughton Crangrove, and significant operations in France, Austria and Italy.
In 2004, the company undertook a rebranding exercise, and its main outlets are now known as Plumb Center, Build Center (acquired by Jewsons in July 2011), Pipe Center, Parts Center, Drain Center, Climate Center and Integrated Supply Chain (formerly Maintenance Center). Since 2004, Wolseley UK has continued to expand through the acquisition of companies including ENCON and the highly successful Bathstore business, which was acquired by Wolseley Plc in June 2003.
As of 2010, Wolseley no longer participates in the hire industry, having sold their ownership of Brandon Hire for a £42m Loss. On July 13, 2011, it was announced that Wolseley was to sell off the Electric Center arm of their company to rivals Edmundson Electrical.
With parent company Wolseley Plc's ownership of similar operations in North America, Wolseley UK is a major part of one of the largest network of builders merchants in the world. This gives it advantages over competitors in terms of pricing and stock. Wolseley UK is no longer involved in manufacturing, instead it focuses on distributing and selling bought in products.