Longevity in any sector of business demands respect, so we should all salute Kew Electrical, an award-winning wholesaler, who is celebrating their 25th anniversary this year. Started by Geoff Kerly, in his spare bedroom in Brighton, 25 years ago, Kew Electrical has grown to twenty-six branches including Kew Electrical Belfast, formally Edwards & Edwards, which was added to the UK network in 2008.
The takeover of Eds & Eds in Belfast, est. 1906, marked Kew’s first venture far outside its home territory of the south of England. “It was slightly off the patch, yes,” said Geoff, “but it was quite a strong business and didn’t cost a lot of money. It also gave Kew some additional volume.”
Today, Kew Electrical has an annual turnover approaching £100 million and is the largest member of the Fegime buying group where Geoff has been chairman twice. Despite the woes of 2020 and the pandemic, Geoff said Kew is, “probably in the strongest financial shape we have ever been in. These things make you look at every element of your business. We’ve saved an absolute fortune this past year just by looking at everything very closely.”
Kew has been able to survive the Covid storm in part because of its continuing small company ethos, which gives it an agility that others cannot match. “It is a differentiator,” explained MD Nik Mulcahy. “Geoff and I can make quick decisions within the business – and it happens. We might be a £100 million business, but we still have control of the whole thing.”
“There is still a ‘Kerly family firm ethos’ to Kew, he added, “which obviously is harder to keep going as we approach £100 million turnover and 400 staff – that’s a big family to be a part of.” Staff retention and development has been a hallmark of the company since the start, said Geoff. “Lots of them have joined us as 16 or 18-year-olds and 5, 10 or 15 years later, they’re still there. I’m sure it’s that family ethos that they enjoy being a part of.”
Nor has the pandemic been able to disrupt Kew Electrical’s award-winning streak. The company’s bulging trophy cabinet now holds two more Electrical Wholesaler Awards – Branch of the Year for Dover and, for the first time, Best Wholesaler with 26 or more branches. Not only that, but Kew has also just become one of 1,000 Companies to Inspire Britain, as judged by the London Stock Exchange Group, which identifies the most dynamic small and medium-sized enterprises in the UK and Europe.
The Belfast branch has also racked up some of its own trophies within the wholesaler category at the Northern Ireland Electrical Industry Awards each year from its inception in 2013.
Kew Electrical Belfast has survived many uncertain and turbulent years of operation since its foundation. This resilience based on long-term planning has provided them with the strength to weather the worst of economic storms. For example, their £700K stockholding in Belfast pre-empted the distribution delivery crisis facing a lot of companies due to Brexit and the NI protocol. They also proudly supported the NHS by bringing vital electrical equipment to all hospitals and other medical facilities in NI throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
Today, the company is looking forward to future opportunities. “Let’s just get this next two or three months out of the way and let things settle down,” concluded Geoff. “Once we can see exactly where our sector is going, we will start looking at expansion again.
“There are going to be a number of opportunities, and our priority is that we are financially strong enough to take them when they arise.”