This powerhouse collection of top independent businesses employs some 81,000 people and contributes a combined £10.9b sales towards the economy of the south east.
The Solent 250 represents a wealth of home-grown and locally-headquartered businesses, from household names such as Fitness First, Sunseeker, Lush and Fat Face, to lower-profile companies across diverse business sectors.
Sponsored by Santander, law firm Paris Smith, business adviser Grant Thornton, Business Solent, and Business Growth Connections, the Solent 250 is a campaign run by The Business Magazine.
Now in its second year, the Solent 250 excludes some companies featured in 2010 as further research has revealed foreign ownership, public placement of shares, or that the company is a subsidiary of a group headquartered elsewhere.
“This year‘s list has been fine-tuned and there are a number of companies that have made it onto the list for the first time. This is an exciting grouping of businesses and it‘s good to see that, despite some tough economic conditions, a good number of companies in the list have increased their sales over the year,“ said publisher David Murray.
For the 2011 list universities are included, with University of Southampton, not unexpectedly, coming in second with £418.8m turnover, and Portsmouth and Bournemouth universities also featuring in the top 20.
Top of the list this year is Fitness First, the Poole-headquartered health and fitness provider, which employs 10,000 people nationwide. The company, which is private equity backed, has been weighing up whether to raise about $500 million through a Singapore listing, but has delayed flotation due to the current global financial conditions.
Fitness First has more than 490 clubs and 1.3m in 18 countries – a far cry from the very first club opened in Bournemouth in 1993.
Another well-known Solent name, McCarthy & Stone, is at number three. Britain‘s leading builder of retirement homes and flats, over the past 30 years, the McCarthy & Stone Group has constructed more than 40,000 homes for over 45,000 customers.
The company was originally listed on the London Stock Exchange, but reverted to private ownership in 2006. Headquartered in Bournemouth, the company