In a very different Belfast, 60 years ago, Beggs and Partners first opened the doors of its Great Patrick Street store in the Sailortown district of the troubled city. William Beggs and his fellow founding partners believed that they could source, stock and supply world class quality plumbing and heating products to the local trade, filling an obvious gap in the market.
In the intervening 60 years, the business has gone from strength-to-strength and now boasts 11 branches and 4 divisions; trade, retail, commercial heating and contract sanitary ware. A key driver to this success has been the dedication of their expert teams, quality products and an unwavering commitment to customer service; virtues that have been tried, tested and reinforced during recent months. In a year that should have been filled with celebrations, Beggs and Partners have instead focused on weathering the storm of Covid-19 and readying the business structure for future growth.
Coping with Covid
As an Essential Service Provider, Beggs and Partners kept two branches (Belfast and Ballymena) open during the initial wave of the lockdown. “We were a key supplier of sanitary ware for the Nightingale hospitals; also providing hot water/hand wash stations to allow other essential services to operate safely throughout that period. We instinctively knew that we could help provide much needed plumbing and heating supplies quickly and easily through our network,” says Nicola Flynn, Group Retail Sales and Marketing Manager. This service set us apart and “throughout the pandemic we actually gained new customers because we were there and willing to help while many others were not” says Richard Robinson, Sales Director. Nicola explained how the company looked for new ways to improve their services during the pandemic, offering “an additional order and collect service, where customer’s placed their order by email or phone and our team, picked, packed and processed; ready for streamlined collection the next morning.”
Gradually the company extended its opening hours, adding branches as restrictions where eased and have been back to full strength since early September. “We have emerged strongly from a difficult time,” says Richard “and this is largely thanks to our staff, who stood up to the task and brought us through with admirable resilience and strength. This display of commitment and character is one of the reasons we are still here after 60 years.”
Beggs and Partners have been following all government guidelines throughout the pandemic. Showrooms are now open and have been operating a successful appointment system which has helped facilitate safe distancing requirements. Another positive outcome from the appointments system has been the ability to tailor a consultation to the customer’s needs, creating an efficient and pleasant process. “We have created a safe space,” says Nicola, with hand sanitising stations, protective screens in place, as well as the use of facemasks.
“During lockdown we carried out a ‘Pause and Reflect’ campaign on our social media channels, focusing on; projects that we have been involved with over the last few years, how the company has evolved and reflecting on some of the individuals who have helped make us the company we are. Some of our longest serving members of staff have been with us for 40 plus years and will retire, never having worked anywhere else. We know how rare that is now and are truly grateful for the strength and depth their service has given us. We are an independent family-owned and operated business and that sense of family can be felt throughout the company” explains Nicola.
Growing the brand
Continuing the great tradition of optimism displayed by William Beggs back in 1960, the bathroom, plumbing and heating firm hasn’t let a pandemic get in the way of their expansion plans. They opened a brand new branch in Cambridge and amalgamated four previously acquired stores located in the greater Essex area into the Beggs and Partners brand stable this year.
“Our new branch in Cambridge had been planned for some time,” says Richard, “and it opened right at the start of March, which was a bit of a difficult time to start. But once we got back after the lockdown the branch has forged ahead and is doing really well. We’re delighted with that.”
“We acquired four Essex Plumbing and Heating branches two years ago, and this summer we successfully rebranded them as Beggs and Partners, these greater London branches give us a foothold in a great location’’ adds Nicola.
Beggs and Partners are well known for the quality of their showrooms and refurbishments are a constant feature of operations. The Maghera showroom is being extended to add six new bays, the Grays branch showroom has just been renovated and Basildon is next in-line for refurbishment. “There is a constant cycle of refurbishment and updates throughout our branches,” says Nicola. “Pintrest and other social media platforms have heightened customers’ design expectations. We know how important it is to provide products that will match their expectations so we are constantly refreshing our showroom displays in-line with the latest trends.”
Providing customers with those trending products is a unique strength of Beggs and Partners. Almost 10-years as a founding member of the plumbing and heating merchant buying group PHG has helped Beggs and Partners access the widest range of suppliers, providing a stock profile second to none.
“PHG are a collective of independent plumbing and heating merchants, who have joined forces to innovate, source and design a select range of market leading products, branded as Instinct. Buying directly from manufacturers and working seamlessly with group members to provide a top quality, wrap-around supply chain. “As an independent business, this membership gives us a lot of strength, it aligns us with other similar businesses with whom we share knowledge and expertise, increasing our market intelligence and growing together.”
A year of celebrations had been planned including customer offers and deals, but management took the decision to postpone the planned celebratory event marking 60 years trading until 2021. “We didn’t feel it was the right year to celebrate such a milestone anniversary,” says Richard. “But we are aiming for an even bigger celebration in 2021 of 60 + 1 years in business and also celebrating coming through the other side of covid-19 together with our customers, staff and suppliers’’.
Looking to the future
Nicola shares the belief that “even in uncertain times there are opportunities when you are strategic, strong and surefooted. During this time there has been a widely reported a return to home-grown brands and local supply, people are looking for a little bit of familiarity and with our long track record for quality and value, that has worked in our favour’’. “We’re always looking for opportunities to grow, to do things better and the future will be bright for Beggs and Partners” Richard concludes.
Beggs & Partners,
Great Patrick Street,
Belfast, BT1 2NX
T: +44 (0) 28 9023 5791