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Arrowpak International: a family business with worldwide connections

Feb 17, 2015
In a little over three decades Arrowpak International has grown from a small family business into a global organisation with worldwide connections. Deputy Editor David Jordan interviewed director Terry Cobbin at their HQ in Suffolk.

I visited Arrowpak International in Brandon, on a gloomy day in December, just a few days before Christmas.  As I turned the corner into Norwood Road a sign on Sherwood House - the company’s HQ - proudly celebrated 36 years in the moving business.  Across the road, Arrowpak’s military warehouse, Loxley House, bore another sign showing a handshake featuring American and British flags proclaiming the company’s close relationship with the USA and the huge military bases in the area.  Arrowpak, Sherwood House, Loxley House, you may have noticed a theme.  As many of you will know, Arrowpak was founded by its current Managing Director Robin Hood and his wife Carole back in 1978 and with such an iconic name who wouldn’t want to make the most of it!  

The Hood family, including son Robyn, are still very much involved with the running of the business but it was Director Terry Cobbin who welcomed me at reception and showed me through to his impressively tidy office.  Terry initially joined the company as a sub-contractor after leaving the Royal Marines at the tender age of 21. I asked him how he became involved in the moving business. 

“My dad was a removals man and I used to help him when I was a schoolboy during the holidays and at weekends,” said Terry. “I worked for him for a while when I left school but I was mad keen to get into the military and joined the marines when I was 17. When I left four years later I decided to start my own moving business and my dad helped me get an HGV licence and buy a 7.5 tonne van.  I approached Arrowpak in the hope of getting some work and Robin gave me a contract for six months to help out during the summer – 24 years later I’m still here!” 

Arrowpak International now has 80 staff as well as a number of sub-contractors and has premises in Suffolk, Peterborough and Alicante in Spain.  Robin and Carole started the business operating from a small office in Brandon acting as agents organising moves for US military personnel from the nearby base. They soon had enough business to buy their own vehicles and carry out the work themselves and the business grew from there. Today the company has an impressive portfolio of clients including the American and Canadian military, the American Embassy, the Canadian Embassy, news channel CNN, and fashion retailer Next PLC.   

“Only about 30% of our business is domestic removals,” said Terry. “The military side is very important to us and it’s allowed us to establish excellent partnerships with moving, relocation and freight forwarding companies in the US. We’ve been handling their shipments to the UK for many years, we are now in the process of expanding our groupage service to cover Europe through our hub here in Brandon.  Developing the European service will be the next major step in the company’s expansion.” 

As well as household goods and container traffic – the company handles around 1000 containers a year - Arrowpak ships around 2000 motor vehicles worldwide, mainly for US military personnel but also for private individuals.  “The American government only pays for one vehicle per family, so any additional cars have to be shipped at the owner’s expense,” said Terry. “The vehicles arrive in UK ports, either individually or on RoRo ferries, and we collect them using our own transporters and bring them to Brandon.  After cleaning and checking we deliver them by trailer to the customer anywhere in the UK.” 

Arrowpak International is a member of a number of trade associations including BAR, NGRS, IAM, AMSA and PAIMA, and is also ISO 9001 accredited.  “I think it’s important to demonstrate to our customers our commitment to quality and to give them the reassurance that we meet the standards of the key industry bodies,” said Terry.  “Being a member of so many organisations means we are continually being inspected so we know and can prove our operations meet or exceed all international standards.” 

I asked Terry what he thought was the key to Arrowpak’s success. “We’ve always tried to diversify and look for new markets and we’ll continue to do so.  I know it’s a cliché but we always try to be the best in everything we do and to give excellent service to our customers, whether it’s a private individual or a major government contract.  If something does go wrong, as inevitably happens sometimes, we always put things right without any arguments – nobody will ever be out of pocket dealing with Arrowpak.”

Photos: Top to bottom: Sherwood House; Signage on the military warehouse: Director Terry Cobbin; crate making; export wrapping and crating.

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