Since 1919 we have continuously supplied…
that are tough on stains, yet gentle on your clothes.
Harry Pilling, born in Bolton 1903, and founded his company in 1919.
Harry took his first steps into the world of commerce at the tender age of just 16, however it was an unmitigated disaster! He saw the opportunity to import/export Dyes & Chemicals from his home in Astley Bridge Bolton, but a bad choice of chemical and a French dock strike got in his way, and a future in “Dye’s and “Chemicals” was shelved.
ACDO was to revolutionise washdays. The ACDO tablet which contained the Sodium Perborate was shredded into water with a grater, and added to it was an equal amount of shredded soap. The result was a wash that required no rubbing or scrubbing to remove stubborn stains. The Sodium Perborate helped to lift out the dirt, and, as the bubbles contained oxygen, a mild bleaching effect was obtained and the end result – a wash that could be completed in 20 minutes without the hard work. Little wonder that Harry’s first advertising slogan was “ACDO makes washday a holiday!”
In 1928 and at the age of 25 Harry moved in to custom-built premises in Mallison Street, Bolton and these remain as the company’s head office to this day, albeit in a very changed and greatly extended form.
The war did nothing to further the company’s fortunes, soap was rationed and raw materials were in short supply. As a result ACDO was only sold in limited amounts, but ACDO kept ticking over in the hope that peace and prosperity would return. A second product was also launched, a synthetic detergent called CLEBO which was readily received by a public frustrated by a dearth of conventional soap products.
But with the war over, in 1945 ACDO assumed an upturn in business, but even with the introduction in 1948 of a fully powdered ACDO, the product never returned to be the goldmine that it might have been. Also, with the end of soap rationing, the demand for CLEBO dropped and the brand was lost.
However in 1949, Harry’s son Marshall, (aged 19) joined the company, and having worked his way up through the ranks (starting as a machine operator) by the early 50’s had moved into the sales office and was responsible for promotional and packaging activities., Promoted to Sales Director and then Managing Director, Marshall realised that business would not just come to ACDO and so in 1958, he mustered all the money the company had and ploughed everything into making a TV commercial. And by 1959 the business was back on its feet, and trade was so good that a night shift had to be added.
This also led to the advent of “the Gift Department”, an innovative business idea and loyalty building scheme where customers collected box tops and sent them in to receive gifts in return. The Gift Department became exceptionally busy and in its heyday in the 1970′s, its nine staff were dispatching over 5000 gifts per week.
ACDO continued to advertise on TV and the product was being sold from Yorkshire to Lancashire, and the Midlands up to Scotland and the company had no fewer than 16 agents permanently on the road. However, the heyday was to end as in 1969 came the advent of a new product – that product was called Ariel and it launched using a technique of which even Harry and Marshall had never seen before (but had a grudging admiration for) and over 20 million samples were door dropped over a matter of weeks. The brand became an instant success and this new washing powder gained a phenomenal 33% market share before its competitors, including ACDO, had recovered from the shock.
And so the 1970’s proved to be another difficult decade for Marshall and ACDO. Biological Detergents eroded the trade for conventional Soap Powders, as did consumer attitude shift towards lower temperature washing. Front loading machines came to the market designed to operate at these new, lower temperatures with these new detergents and though original ACDO was still unchallenged as the best powder for the high temperature washes in the old twin tub, it simply was not suitable for front loaders. Also, for many years, ACDO had become the detergent of choice for washing nappies, but the 1970′s also saw the arrival of disposable nappies and as the popularity of these grew, the demand for ACDO...
With the 80’s came a third generation of Pilling’s. In 1989 Brandon, Harry’s Grandson, was appointed as Marketing Director and his first major decision was to move product innovation away from launching new ‘ACDO’ products and to concentrate on creating more “GLO” lines. And with the launch of a new stain remover the company became the clear market leader in additives and afforded the company its first tentative steps into international markets. The future for the company looked good – but what of the future for ACDO?
Appointed a Managing Director in 29th March 1992 and buoyed on by the popularity of a growing Glo brand, the company pushed on to launch several new additive lines and open many new markets.
But what of ACDO? It could easily have become the “lost item”, but the market was to swing back in its favour. Environmentalism would start to ask questions of the so-called “Big Box” detergents and the arrival of super concentrates and powder dispenser balls meant that ACDO had a place in the modern washing world. A demand for “more natural” saw ACDO’s Soap Powder become more in demand and new opportunity was awakened for this oldest of brands.
In 1999, it was decided to resolve a long held dichotomy for the company which had become known as Acdo – so both the company and the brand was the same. A new name for the company was sought and though just a small change, the name chosen was ACDOCO.
So what of the future? The company behind the brand continues to manufacture specialist laundry products that are now sold in over 70 countries world-wide, and the focus is on “new & “innovative”, “niche & special”. It’s a very different place to that started by Harry...or is it? ACDOPRO (as the manufacturing business is now known) continues to move with the times, but still strives to make “washday a holiday”. It remains fiercely proud of its history and its heritage. It’s still proudly family owned and controlled in a multinational world and very much a part of the community it has always chosen to serve and help. Whilst ACDO, quietly approaches its 100th year as a brand and to write itself into a history where few other brands will ever step foot.