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Sussex Plumbing Supplies – 15 years and counting…

Having celebrated its 15th anniversary this year, Eastbourne-based Sussex Plumbing Supplies (SPS) recently signalled its intention to keep improving its offering for customers with the opening of its brand new Bexhill-on-Sea showroom.

“We’re always looking at ways to enhance our service and the relocation of our Bexhill branch to incorporate a bathroom and design radiator showroom is typical of our forward-thinking approach,” explains Glenn Vinall, Managing Director, who has been working in the merchanting industry for the national operators since he was 16. “I created Sussex Plumbing Supplies in August 2000 and as the name suggests, we are almost exclusively focused on Sussex, which is where 99.9 per cent of our business comes from.

“Last year we opened our fifth branch in Uckfield and it’s now firmly integrated into our wider operation. It’s been performing really well as we were able to hit the ground running, mainly because we’d serviced the surrounding area previously from one of our other branches, so we knew there was business there. One particularly important aspect has been the calibre of staff we were able to attract to run it for us. We had two methods when it came to recruitment. Firstly we asked our existing customers who they would recommend, and secondly we have an in-house training facility that has produced a number of quality members of staff. By having comprehensive training programmes in place we’re able to ensure that our staff reach their potential. This has given us an excellent mix of youth and experience.”

SPS’ depot portfolio now includes sites in Eastbourne, Hastings and Hailsham, in addition to Uckfield and Bexhill-on-Sea operations, which enables the company to service a wide range of small to medium plumbing and heating companies, builders and property developers across Sussex. The branches are open Monday to Friday from 7.30am until 5pm and Saturday mornings from 8.00am until noon. Customers can opt for a collection and delivery service that includes same day delivery.

“As we’ve grown we’ve been careful to ensure that there’s been no compromise on the service we provide and we’ve put the infrastructure in place in order to maintain the progress we’ve been making as a business. It’s a major part of what we do because unless we have the right calibre of staff to open a branch, we won’t even entertain it. It’s that important to ourselves.”

Glenn Vinall, Managing Director

With the decline of the national operators there have been growing opportunities for independents like SPS that are able to offer a more personalised level of service. “We’re very much picking up the shortfall in service that the nationals can’t provide,” adds Mr Vinall. “With the nationals being more focused on chasing the large project sites, the big contractors, the major house builders and the more expensive contracts, they lose sight of what the small to medium operators are looking for. This is where we come in, particularly with our emphasis on service supported by our high quality workforce, which currently consists of 38 employees. Providing a strong level of service is 100 per cent what we’re all about.

“As the largest independent plumbing merchant in East Sussex, our success is very much down to the quality and dedication of our staff. They really have been the foundation of the business since our formation, coupled with the strength of the service that we’re able to offer to the trade. As a consequence we’re able to offer our customers an unrivalled combination of personal service and competitive prices with a wide stock profile including boilers, radiators, towel rails, pumps, controls, cylinders, copper tube, fittings, plastic plumbing, bathrooms and showers.”

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In addition to ensuring its own house has been in order with its emphasis on the development of its staff and service offering, SPS has also built strong working relationships with its suppliers over the years to help support its expansion as a business, even in the face of some fierce competition within the marketplace. “There’s been some suicidal pricing around as companies try to buy business, but rather than being sucked into that situation we’re preferring to stay focused on our own operation and ensuring our service remains strong,” says Mr Vinall. “As we’ve grown we’ve been careful to ensure that there’s been no compromise on the service we provide and we’ve put the infrastructure in place in order to maintain the progress we’ve been making as a business. It’s a major part of what we do because unless we have the right calibre of staff to open a branch, we won’t even entertain it. It’s that important to ourselves.”

With its unrelenting focus on service delivery and staff development being so central to its ethos as a business, SPS is now looking to further utilise its robust infrastructure to write the next chapter in its history.

“Within the next year we would have liked to have broken the £10m-turnover barrier – we currently sit around the £9m-mark – and we would have liked to have opened our sixth branch,” concludes Mr Vinall. “We’re looking at potential sites at the moment but I wouldn’t want to elaborate too much at this point. In the meantime we’re continually trying to innovate and look for new ways of enhancing our already excellent service. Rather than sitting back on our laurels we’re instead striving to improve further.”

This approach has certainly set Sussex Plumbing Supplies in good stead for the past decade and a half and is sure to continue to do so in the months and years ahead, particularly with the proposed new branch opening in the pipeline.