Fast-growing children’s nursery group Family First has extended its geographical footprint into the West Midlands with the acquisition of 10 Footsteps’ day nurseries.
At the same time, it has confirmed its strategic direction to grow Family First within commuter belts, metropolitan cities and areas of housing growth, recognising a shift in housing requirements as a result of the Covid pandemic.
This brings its total number of nurseries to 40 in just two years and follows its acquisition earlier this month of the Rosewood Montessori in Ruislip, five Just Imagine nurseries in Essex and the Fount day nursery in Hackney.
Family First Chairman Andy Morris said: “Footsteps is a nursery group that’s special and is an amazing business with great potential to grow. We’re excited to be working with the Footsteps’ team and look forward to welcoming them, the parents and children on board.
“To date, we’ve concentrated on acquiring nurseries around London and the M25, dipping into the neighbouring counties of Kent, Surrey and Essex, but there are so many opportunities across the country for outstanding nurseries, particularly focusing in areas where there are shifting growth patterns caused by the Covid pandemic.”
Explaining his decision to sell, Footsteps’ owner Gavin Harvey said: “We’d taken the business as far as we could and knew that to grow it further required substantial investment. So we were delighted to choose Family First to take our organisation to the next level in our company’s evolution.
“Family First ticked all the boxes for us as we wanted to find a buyer that shared our own ethos of providing high quality childcare, one where the team already have a long track record in our industry and one which is willing to invest in our team and our business.”
Mr Harvey set up the nursery group in a former residential property in Tamworth in 2002 and has since expanded it to Canwell, Cannock, Fradley, Lichfield, two other Tamworth locations, Stafford, Stratford-upon-Avon and Walmley, offering 866 nursery places in total. Five of the nurseries are Ofsted Outstanding. This now brings the total number of places within the whole Family First group to 2,652.
Family First CEO Ollie Humphries added: “We’re extremely delighted to welcome Footsteps to the Family First fold and will be retaining its excellent branding and profile in its local areas.
“We have developed an incredibly strong culture at Family First, one where we empower the managers to make important decisions about the future of their nurseries, with plenty of back-up and support, along with training and development, and we’re looking forward to learning about all the excellent things they do, which can be shared with other nurseries across the Family First group.”
Nick Brown, Director and Head of Brokerage at Christie & Co, commented: “I am delighted to have helped Gavin sell the Footsteps group to Family First Nurseries and I wish him all the best with his future plans. Having known Gavin for over 20 years now and helped him grow his portfolio with a number of high-quality acquisitions, he has also been a great sounding board for me over the years, sharing his knowledge around the industry and Ofsted from an operator perspective at the rock face. Thanks, also, to Julie Hughes and her team from Cripps Pemberton Greenish for their help in completing this transaction.
“Due to the demand for high-quality childcare settings across the Midlands, there has recently been a number of landmark deals achieved, from impressive single settings through to multi-site groups. As buyers are looking for better value options to London and the SE, the Midlands is an ideal location to achieve this.”