Topps Tiles national transport manager Kevin Smith and Topps Tiles head of supply chain Doug Bingham, centre left and right, receive the award from sponsor John Bratton of SDC, second right. They are joined by host John Bishop far left, and MT editor Steve Hobson far right

Having undergone a complete brand overhaul, Topps Tiles decided that it would make its first entry in the MT Awards, in the Livery of the Year category, and came up trumps.

This year’s Livery of the Year winner had never entered the Motor Transport Awards before. But after three years of rapid growth in sales and store numbers and a fresh newlook, the own-account operator had something to shout about.

Topps Tiles’ new livery was the “final puzzle piece” in a business-wide brand overhaul. Its blue and yellow trucks with the tile character were a familiar sight on UK roads, but head of supply chain Doug Bingham said Topps Tiles wanted to make itself less “blokey”.

“We wanted to take it up a notch because the brand was starting to feel a bit dowdy and out of date. And we wanted to try and make our brand appeal to female customers more. We were trade friendly and a bit blokey.

“The charcoal grey, white and yellow took the brand up a notch. Our 370 stores have that branding and everything inside the business is also coming into line. The trailer fleet was the last part of the jigsaw. We wanted to get away from that old blue and yellow and bring it to life.”

Major overhaul

The livery complements a new fleet for Topps Tiles, which Bingham said has undergone a major overhaul in recent years.

He said: “We’ve done a huge fleet replacement in the last couple of years on my watch. We had a real hotchpotch of equipment, we had some trailers that were old and we had some short-term hire stuff.”

Topps Tiles runs 23 artics, 27 trailers and four rigid HGVs, all mounted with Moffat forklift equipment. To cope with the increasing business demand, and to modernise, the business took new SDC trailers from Ryder.

With this came the opportunity to design a new look for the fleet. The business needed to come up with something that would advertise the brand on the road or when parked outside its stores.

Project team

Topps Tiles selected a core project team to work on the livery. It worked with a host of businesses including creative agency Makalu; SDC Trailers; curtain manufacturer Image Signage; and Cargotec.

Livery of the YearTopps Tilesweb

The livery, which depicts a man tiling inside the trailer’s curtain, was by no means the first design Topps Tiles came up with.

Bingham said: “We could have gone with a bog-standard grey trailer with the logo on it, but we wanted to do something a bit more fun.

“We went through a number of different ideas. We had some initial slogans in the mix such as ‘Grout Britain’ with a union jack on the side, but we decided it was a bit cheesy. Then we had a few permutations of the one we eventually landed on. It brings it to life, and that’s what it’s about.”

One of the things judges praised about Topps Tiles livery was that the design offered a degree of flexibility, in that it could stay the same but with a different photograph.

Tiles are the stars

Bingham confirmed this is something the company would consider doing in the future, though not necessarily by changing the male character, as the judges suggested. The real stars, he told MT, are the tiles the man is placing.

“The tiles in the imagery are among our best-selling. But were they to drop out of fashion next time we come to do curtain change – you probably get four to five years before they get tired – we can update the imagery and keep the scene but change those elements.”

Topps Tiles has no intention of slowing its growth spurt said Bingham: “Our publicly stated goal is to up our sales to £300m. Last year we were at £250m, and we want £300m by 2020. We’ve got a pretty aggressive store opening programme to help us get there; we’re opening about 25 new stores a year and we’ll end up at about 450 by the end of our 2020 financial year.”

He added there would no doubt be more fleet investment to support the stores, but at the moment the business’s main vehicle strategy was replacing older units when necessary.

Bingham said the response to the new vehicle design has been positive at the business and employees were involved in the naming of its new fleet. The names were selected in a variety of ways, including recognising long-serving members of staff, allowing staff to choose names, and giving a nod to its charity partner, Macmillan.


The staff, said Bingham, are proud of their new company look and its livery, and are extremely proud to have won the Motor Transport Livery of the Year Award.

“There’s a huge amount of pride. It’s the first time that we pitched in at the MT Awards and it’s fantastic to be recognised for what we think is a really good design.

“I’m at the head office today and walking round, everyone’s talking about it. Not just the transport people, people in IT and operations,

everyone. We’ve made a big deal of the fact we’ve won the award and there is an over-arching sense of pride.”