A builders’ merchant is defying the recession by creating five jobs as it expands into South Oxfordshire.

Oxford-based independent business Blanchford, which has been in Windmill Road, Headington, since 1958, says it had record takings last year as customers used spare cash for home improvements.

Purchasing director John Hayden said: “We are in an area where the recession has’not really hit a lot of people. People who have money are spending it on new kitchens and so on."

He said the company's success was partly due to the fact that employees had spent years in the building industry and were able to provide personal advice.

Blanchford's was founded by three brothers — Fred, Cecil, and Ronald Blanchford — who came from London to Oxford in 1938.

They opened at 35 Queen Street, Oxford (now fashion retailer Monsoon), where they sold items such as box-shaped Belfast sinks made in thick lime clay, cast-iron baths, fireplace surrounds and tortoise stoves.

After a change of ownership, the business took over A E Vallis’s timber yard in Windmill Road, as well as a site in Princes Risborough.

The Headington site expanded and in about 1960 Blanchford’s sold its Queen Street premises to grocer Grimbly Hughes.

The current management team is headed by Adrian Smith, supported by Mr Hayden and Peter Cutmore and the firm now employs 74 staff including the new recruits.

Mr Hayden said they chose Wallingford as a base to expand towards Henley and Reading.

While staunchly independent, the company is able to compete with larger DIY chains because it is part of a national buying group with a combined purchasing power of £750m.

“I think that is why we have been able to survive and prosper as an independent. The owners are not interested in selling to a chain. They are interested in running a business to keep people in employment,” he said.

“If it goes well then within the next 18 months to two years we will be looking to have a similar unit somewhere else.”