Sean is currently the Stores Manager at CEF Newry but he worked for most of his career in the company’s Craigavon branch. He had a stint in Lisburn and also out on the road. But if it wasn’t for a recession in 1978, Sean would have trained as an electrician rather than becoming a well-respected member of staff at this leading electrical wholesaler.
“I wanted to be an electrician but because of a recession no-one was taking on apprentices,” explained Sean. “I spent a couple of weeks on the dole and then a guy that I knew mentioned going for a job at CEF in Craigavon. The rest, as they say, is history.”
Starting in the stores, Sean spent a couple of years learning the ropes before he was moved to CEF Lisburn as Stores Manager. He later returned to CEF Craigavon as an Account Manager, but Sean was soon back as Stores Manager for a few years before going out on the road again. A return to the Store Manager role in Craigavon preceded his final move within the last two years to CEF Newry where he is also Store Manager.
“I learned a lot in the early days and moved wherever the company needed me, but I much prefer to be based in a branch rather than being out on the road,” he explained. “I didn’t mind being an Account Manager too much but it was a lot of travelling. This was before mobile phones, so you had to use telephone boxes to report back to the office on what you were up to.”
In 40 years he has clearly noticed a major shift in the industry, not just in terms of the type of products but also in the way the stores operate. “When I started, everything was hand-written and you had to memorise the catalogue numbers. It was very different and a slower method but it meant you took the time to learn more about the products and you almost knew off the top of your head what you had in stock and what you didn’t.
“The systems we have now do it all for you, so everything is so much quicker, but I think that means you don’t learn enough about the products.”
However, Sean says that the computer-based systems also ensure that you can get the customer what they want a lot more easily. “The first computer that we had was like something out of a space invaders game but they definitely make a difference. We keep more stocks now and can re-order through our stock replenish system, which helps our customers. It makes stocktaking a lot easier too!” Looking to the future, Sean isn’t in any rush to retire.
“CEF has been great to me over the years, and I still enjoy the work. I had a very serious illness about 12 years ago and the company really looked after me. I’ll always be grateful for that. We have a lot of people who have been with the company a long time and I think that says it all about how good they are to work for. “I’m in good health so I’ll just keep going. There’s only so much gardening you can do, after all.”
T: CEF Newry on 0044 (0)28 3025 0555