BM Electricals’ new address in the Duncrue Industrial Estate may well be familiar to many in the trade, having been home to Fairley & Smyth Electrical, and the new occupiers intend to build on the sterling work of their predecessors.
“I’d known Jim (Fairley) and Alan (Smyth) for many years,” said Managing Director at BM Electrical, Ken Robinson. “Jim actually started work in the former Sperrin Textiles factory in Coleraine, now the site of our Head Office. I was also conscious that their company ethos was pretty much the same as ours. It was all about service to the customer, and that made it a good fit for us.”
Continuity will form an integral part of the takeover. “The intention is to grow the business in Belfast, to hopefully retain the Fairley & Smyth loyal customer base and add to it. We’ve taken on two of their staff, one the previous owner’s son who has a wealth of knowledge and has been there since leaving school.”
So why Belfast, and why now? “Sometimes doing things during times of adversity is the best time,” added Ken. “Brexit is there, it’s going to happen, or not, so if we have to adapt, we will. In Northern Ireland we’ve spent many years adapting to change, and as in all business sectors you can’t afford to stand still. Two years ago, we started an e-commerce site which moved us in another direction. Through our eBay site we now sell to a global audience. That’s going well for us, and this is another opportunity to grow the business.”
With BM Electrical branches in Coleraine, Ballymena, and L’Derry, this latest venture feels like a natural progression. “This opportunity presented itself to expand into Belfast and we have a lot of existing customers in L’Derry, Coleraine, and Ballymena, who do work in the Belfast area and we were missing out on that business because we didn’t have a presence there. If they needed something in Belfast, they went to one of our competitors.”
Now the successful BM business model can be brought to bear on the country’s capital city. Since its inception, BM Electrical Wholesale has provided a very real alternative to the multi-nationals. As members of the AWEBB (Association of Electrical Bulk Buyers) and Europe’s second largest buying group IDEE (International Distributors of Electrical Equipment) they have the buying power to match the big boys. In addition to their impressive purchasing clout, BM Electrical can also offer the sort of bespoke customer care that often falls through the cracks with the big conglomerates.
“We’re still an independent business, privately-owned, family-owned, not governed by multi-nationals who say you’ve got to do this, or that. It allows us to place more emphasis on our customers and suppliers, many of them long-standing. Our strength is our customer service, it’s our staff, and the emphasis we place on their recruitment and training.”
With the current economic climate, even the major players are feeling the pinch. Many of the multi-nationals have reduced their stock levels and the inevitable consequence of this more cautious approach is a delay in delivery. By contrast, BM Electrical Wholesale’s stock has actually never been higher.
“Because contractors need to react faster nowadays, we’ve worked hard to develop the most comprehensive stock levels possible to meet that demand. Our stock levels are the highest they’ve ever been. It has always been one of BM’s strengths that we have it on the shelf, available today.
“That’s what makes the site of our new branch in the Duncrue Industrial Estate ideal. Positioned in north Belfast we can support it easily from our other branches. We have a van arriving in Belfast every day, feeding those stock levels. The support network is in place to enable us to make the most of being in the middle of a busy industrial estate.”
With other electrical wholesalers as their near neighbours, BM Electrical is ready and willing to embrace the challenge of being in the hub of this business sector. “Customers have a choice. You want to provide even more choice. We compete everywhere else, so why not here? We’re not afraid of competition, competition’s healthy.”
When BM Electrical Wholesale Ltd celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2018, founder and current Director Ken Magee admitted he could never have anticipated the company’s level of expansion and success. Coleraine to Ballymena, then L’Derry, and now Belfast – the BM Electrical blueprint is as relevant today as it was back in ‘93. Professional yet friendly, flexible enough to adapt to changing market trends and needs, this former Northern Ireland Electrical Wholesaler of the Year continues to be more than a match for the multi- nationals.