June 29, 2022

Park Electrical Distributors – On an upward trajectory

With over 30 years of operation behind it, Park Electrical Distributors has amassed considerable experience and expertise that has paved the way for strong continual progression within the marketplace. This has not only seen it being named as one of the Top 100 Owner-Managed Companies in the North-East, but also recently saw it securing its largest ever contract for work on the forthcoming Co-op Live Arena in Manchester. We caught up with Ian Aitchison, Managing Director, to find out the secret behind this enduring success.

“Without a doubt the biggest factor in our longevity is due to the continuity of people that we have within the business, many of which have been with Park for in excess of 25 years,” explains Mr Aitchison. “We enjoy an extremely low rate of staff turnover and this has enabled us to develop the skills of our employees to a very high standard, whilst at the same time helping us to create a really strong culture within the organisation.”

Having such a loyal and committed workforce hasn’t come about by accident, as Park has been careful to invest fully in its staff to get the best out of them, as Mr Aitchison outlines: “It’s fair to say that we’re a slightly old fashioned company it that we’ve always adopted a friendly approach that prioritises its people rather than going down a corporate route that is mired in red tape. As a result, we work with various outside bodies, such as ANEW, the largest independent electrical wholesale association in the UK with a branch network of 300 branches; IMELCO, the world’s largest cooperation of independent electrical wholesalers; and the EDA (Electrical Distributors Association). These allow us to cooperate closely with manufacturers and governing bodies to ensure we are in compliance with all standards and guidelines. As a result, we are both ISO 9001 Quality approved and ISO 14001 Environmental approved.

“These associations also help us to provide our employees with all the necessary training they require to gain the skills and professional qualifications they need to progress their careers. We fully support this process financially, as the stronger our staff are, the more of an asset they are to the business. We’re also very strong on apprenticeships to ensure we have young people coming through that will support our longer term aspirations.”

With such a staff-focused ethos, it is easy to see why Park was named as one of the Top 100 Owner-Managed Companies in the North-East. “Obviously you don’t get this type of recognition without doing something right and we have been able to build excellent working relationships with both our customers and our suppliers, which is particularly important in the current climate with rising product prices. The strength of our offering wouldn’t be possible without our staff so this recognition really is a massive pat on the back for them.”

The high calibre of workforce that Park has developed over the years has allowed it to take on increasingly large projects and to broaden its horizons away from its North-Eastern base, such as the Co-op Live Arena, which is being built next to Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium. The arena is set to be the largest of its type, with a capacity for 23,500 people, and will entail a three-year construction programme. “We are involved in the design and supply of the lighting for the project, which at £2.5m is the largest single order we have ever taken. We’ve had previous contracts around the £1m-mark so this is a significant leap forward for us.”

Its involvement in the development of such a major project as the Co-op Live Arena, as well as the growing geographical spread of the contracts it is taking on, really help to underline Park’s upward trajectory. This again stems from the quality of service it can provide and the reputation it has developed. For instance, having carried out projects in the north-east for local firms, when these clients have branched out into other parts of the country they have trusted Park enough to take them along with them and give them further business. This has seen the company carrying out work the length and breadth of the UK, from Glasgow, where it has been carrying out a £1m project covering the internal and external mains lighting, emergency lighting and controls at the Adam Smith Building for the University of Glasgow, down to work at the Houses of Parliament.

Founded 31 years ago by Chairman, Mr Barry Wilkinson, Park has grown year-on-year to become the North-East’s largest independent electrical wholesaler, boasting a sales turnover forecast for 2022 of £36m. It operates out of six locations spread with branches at Gateshead, Teesside, Newcastle, Durham, Sunderland and Cramlington, across which it has 70,000 sq ft of purpose racked storage space. Currently 90 staff support its activities.

In terms of current opportunities within the marketplace, commercial remains Park’s bread and butter, representing more than 60% of its turnover, followed by domestic construction and local authority work. One specific sector that is proving particularly fruitful is the growing demand for EV charging points, which is being driven by the Government’s desire to see all vehicles being fully electric by 2030.

“New legislation is coming through that will require every new build home to have an EV charger point and as we’ve already carried out a significant number of these, we’re well placed to tap into this market,” says Mr Aitchison. “We have also engaged with our suppliers to ensure that we have the resources to make the most of this opportunity.”

From its own point of view, Park has also been looking to play its part by proactively pushing a net zero strategy, including a well established cycle to work scheme that has been in place for eight years and a drive to improve in areas such as waste removal and renewable materials. This approach not only means that the company is doing its bit from a sustainable perspective, but also makes sense commercially as many local authorities are increasingly demanding that such measures are taken on their contracts. Once again Park has been fully committed in terms of training and investment to help make the necessary improvements.

Another example of Park’s forward-thinking approach has been the development of a new modular service. This provides a number of advantages for clients regarding safety, efficiency and sustainability and has already been successfully implemented on a number of reasonably-sized projects, with more to come in the pipeline. This is in addition to the company’s ‘jewel in the crown’, Park Lighting Design, which was established 30 years ago as a specialist service within Park’s core business. The division is made up of eight full-time LIA qualified lighting engineers working from its head office and is able to offer customised designs and a high quality service.

“We look to differentiate ourselves from our competitors whenever we can so are always prepared to think outside the box. Ultimately it’s all about adding value for the client wherever we can to make our offering a more attractive proposition. This approach has served us well down the years as it has enabled us to build ever stronger relationships with our existing customers, as well as helping us to secure business with new clients.”

As it looks to keep this momentum going, Park is continuing to innovate and improve its processes, such as by strengthening its IT and communication systems across the company. It is also aiming to keep broadening its horizons by exploring further opportunities in other parts of the country, all of which will ensure that it will keep progressing in the months and years ahead.