Executive Hire News › Archives › September 2010 › Executive Report: Lively Lucas
Executive Report : Lively Lucas
Having a diverse equipment fleet and an enthusiastic business approach is a successful formula for Peter Lucas Tool Hire. Alan Guthrie reports from north Wales.
From its location at Llandudno Junction in Gwynedd, Peter Lucas Tool Hire supplies equipment to customers over a surprisingly large area. “Most independent hirers would probably say that around 80% of their business comes from customers within a five-mile radius. For us, however, that proportion is probably found within 15 miles,” says founder Peter Lucas. “The other more heavily populated towns beyond Llandudno Junction, such as Llandudno, Bangor, Rhyl and Colwyn Bay, are separated by open countryside, but as we are situated on the A55 trunk road linking Holyhead and the M56, customers can visit us, or we can reach them, very quickly.
“We can also serve existing contractor customers who may win business as far afield as, say, Cardiff and Manchester, who use us because they trust our service. We aim to get whatever the customer needs, and the answer always has to be yes. I believe in the old adage that it takes a second to lose a customer, and a month to replace them.”
Peter’s knowledge of tools and equipment, as well as local tradesmen, dates back to when he started working for a builders’ merchant in Llandudno Junction in the 1970s. In 1979, he became a rep for the original Speedy Fixings Power Tools Ltd business based in Prescot, which distributed Makita power tools and other equipment, and which also operated three hire branches in the north west. (In 1982 the business was acquired by Allen plc, which was eventually to become Speedy Hire.)
“The early 1980s was obviously a time when many independent hire businesses were being established, and I was supplying many of them in the north west region. I found the hire industry exciting and in 1987 an opportunity arose when a haulage business based in the neighbouring county of Denbighshire wanted to diversify and needed a manager to set up and run a tool hire business for them. I seized the opportunity but, unfortunately, after only a few months, sudden financial difficulties faced by the parent organisation forced it to close the fledgling business and I was made redundant. Undaunted, I decided to start up my own business, with my wife Caryl and I as Partners.”
Peter named the operation after himself because so many local tradesmen and contractors knew him. It established itself quickly, offering hire, sales and repair. “Our original premises were an old semi-detached house, converted into a showroom with offices upstairs, and a pre-fabricated structure at the rear for storage. The location was on a light industrial estate and we had no passing trade, so we relied on word-of-mouth referrals based on the quality of our service. Over the years, as the business grew, we found ourselves having to use lockup facilities in many different places for storage, but it was hard to find premises with space for a showroom, workshop, and parts storage, as well as a yard. However, in 2003 we moved to our current location which was formerly a car showroom.”
The business, which has seven staff, offers a diverse fleet reflecting the varied nature of a customer base that includes tradesmen like small builders and plumbers, farmers, local authorities and the general public. Day-to-day administration is handled by an inspHire software system. Popular items include Makita power tools, Belle mixers, Fairport compaction plates, Numatic vacuums and Karcher cleaning equipment. “We supply a lot of gardening equipment, including Tracmaster’s Camon machinery. We still have Camon rotavators that we bought when we started the business - they rarely go wrong. We also get machinery and spares from Midland Power Machinery, and Seddons supplies us with Stihl and Honda equipment. There is strong demand for grounds care products from the many holiday parks and caravan sites in our region, as well as from people with large gardens to maintain.
“Seddons also supplied us with the two Volvo 1.5 tonne mini excavators that we operate; we also have a Kubota sub 1-tonne machine. I used to be dubious about investing in minis, but I now realise that the cost is justified by the additional business it brings, with customers hiring many other items at the same time for a complete project.
Passionate Hirer Award 2010 runner-up
“Euro Towers aluminium towers are very popular, both for hire and re-sale. The quality of the products is excellent and we get superb service from the company, with the same sort of personal approach we aim to maintain. We bought more Euro Towers kit at the Executive Hire Show in February, and we were delighted to be named as a runner-up in the Executive Hire Show Passionate Hirer Award 2010 during the event. As someone commented, it’s like the Oscars: it’s an achievement even to be nominated.”
The Llandudno Junction premises also accommodate a separate business that Peter Lucas has established, called Aberconwy Towbars and Trailers. “We supply and fit products from manufacturers like Witter, Ifor Williams and Bateson Trailers. There is obvious demand from tradesmen, and many local car dealerships bring us business. And with more people holidaying in the UK and going camping, we are fitting towbars to more and more private vehicles.
“The current business climate is challenging, but we have always succeeded by working hard and enthusiastically. As well as having a diverse customer base, our comprehensive offering of hire, sales and repair gives us more revenue opportunities. We continue to invest in the fleet, and we plan to buy more minis, as well as powered access equipment, which is in demand for maintaining the many multi-storey Victorian buildings in and around our area. And looking further ahead, if the right opportunities come along, we’ll add more depots.” •