100 years and five generations of the Gibbon family have resulted in the Gibbon Group of today – a Wholesale Distributor of best-in-category commercial carpets, along with superior flooring installation accessories for the flooring trade. Gibbon Group is proud to be Australian-owned, managed by Ainsley Gibbon, 4th generation, with her two daughters Georgia and Celia actively involved in the business.
For the Gibbon family, business has always been about relationships, being ethical and about finding synergies. Gibbon Group today is a different business from its start in 1920. The one constant has been the importance placed on client and supplier relationships and how to become that trusted partner – a factor they believe has contributed to their longevity.
Originally C&HW Gibbon, it was founded by Charles Gibbon and his son Harold as Wholesale Leather Merchants in 1920. The company survived the Great Depression, WWI and WWII, only to find in the 1960s that the removal of tariff protection meant the death-knell for Australian-made leather goods, so C&WH Gibbon needed to look elsewhere fast or not survive. It was the entrepreneurial thinking of grandson, Gwynn Gibbon, who had come into the business after WWII, that took the company into new territory – flooring.
Introducing sheet vinyl flooring, nylon tufted carpets, wallpapers and rugs to Queensland carpet retailers, Gwynn also established a flooring installation trade depot with Roberts as the key brand – and C&HW Gibbon was on a new journey. The company grew rapidly, servicing carpet retailers in Queensland and Northern NSW.
Gwynn and his team established strong client relationships (often friendships) which continued long after his early death in 1975 through his great friend and 2IC, Nigel Cutmore, who ran the business until the late 1980s. It was then rebranded to Gibbon Group, representing brands such as Domco, Peerless and Sommer – each for many years. The Trade Depot Accessories products would become household names (Roberts Smoothedge) built with the assistance of the Gibbon company.
Gibbon Group – a new era
When Gwynn’s youngest daughter, Ainsley Gibbon, eventually took over the helm in the mid-90’s, another evolution would begin. The company expanded from Queensland to a national presence. The key was securing national distribution rights in 1995 for the uniquely-constructed Irish goat hair carpet, Tretford Cord Carpet. Tretford’s principal at the time, Hugh Kelly, spoke warmly of Gibbon Group and of Ainsley Gibbon. “When we approached Gibbon Group, we were looking for national distribution,” Kelly says. “Ainsley inspired and convinced me that she was right for us nationwide and she set it up. Ainsley is a natural leader and has an astute business mind which she combines with an incredible passion for design.”
If business was about relationships and synergies, the relationship forged with Tretford’s Irish principals would provide a springboard for a new approach to business dealings. Ainsley had found that, “carpet retailers didn’t see a market for Tretford,” she says, “but I knew that its unique look and amazing colour palette was right for Australia.” These appealed to an architect’s sensibility, so she re-focused Gibbon Group toward specification sales through the design community. With this decision, a new era was born.
Ainsley’s passion for design resulted in other successful products – from Ambro ‘Luminate’, Metropol Wool Collection, Huestone Concrete to the launch of Desso Carpet Tile into Australia. Also developed over many years is the Tretford Custom Rug Division run by Ainsley’s daughter, Celia. These made-to-order custom rugs are constructed by their highly skilled rug assemblers, creating often spectacular custom work for large public and commercial, as well as residential spaces. In fact, Tretford’s Roll Tile and Custom Rugs have all featured in many high-profile projects.
The Accessories Trade Division has grown to become an important force for the business, thanks to the focus it was given under the general management of Gavin Smith, who took it from a ‘hole in the wall’ trade depot in the 90’s, upgrading the depot and establishing a mobile showroom – initially out of a delivery van. This was to provide flexibility in their service which grew to two Mobile Showroom trucks covering central and south-east Queensland, and for many years Gibbon Group offered various quality brands as part of the Intafloors Buying Group.
Environmental sustainability – a core philosophy
Ainsley’s passion didn’t stop with design – for over 20 years her support for environmental sustainability meant Gibbon Group became one of the first flooring companies to be a member of the GBCA, and one of the first to have flooring products listed on Ecospecifier’s website (before third party certifications) with sustainability being the core philosophy that drives the business.
The impact a company can make…
Ainsley Gibbon saw Gibbon Group as a catalyst for positive change through the products it represents and the influence it can exert with suppliers. Ainsley has long advocated that change is urgent to address global environmental problems and that we all must do our part. With the tragic Australian bushfires, Gibbon Group believes, as a company who has promoted environmentally sustainable products for over 20 years, that it is time to step up and support action on climate change.
Where to from here….
With the commemoration of 100 years and under the direction of General Manager, Damien Fuller, Gibbon Group have created two Divisions and rebranded to better reflect the different client-base and business approaches, while continuing the tradition of putting the client’s needs at the forefront of their strategy.
Today Gibbon Architectural is the national A&D division of Gibbon Group that represents two flagship brands – Tretford Carpet – Roll, Tile, Custom Rugs and Plank and Modulyss Carpet Tile and Plank.
Modulyss is an exciting designer brand out of Belgium, with both companies demonstrating excellent environmental credentials. The Gibbon Group strategy is to assist the client in finding the right solution for their project, be it corporate, retail, institutional, multi-res or hospitality sectors.
Gibbon Trade is the newly-branded Trade Division of Gibbon Group with their north Brisbane Trade Depot and now three Mobile Showrooms catering to the flooring installation tradies – where on-site service and flexibility for the client is top priority. Accessories Division Manager, Sean Young, played a pivotal role in further building the Division over the past 10 years, expanding the Mobile Showrooms to three trucks. In 2020, Gibbon Trade has also launched its new Spartan Supplies brand – Gripper, Tape, Edge Cap and Ply. With superior brands such as Husqvarna, Mapei, Diplomat, Nexus, Janser, and many others, Gibbon Trade offers a broad range of installation tools, floor stripping machines, moisture testing and environmentally safe trade consumables.
Gibbon Trade’s priority is to offer exceptional customer service and it drives everything they do – a philosophy reflected across the whole of Gibbon Group.