Westminster Electrical is our ‘Wholesaler of the Month’.
We caught up with Richard Jolley, General Manager at Westminster Electrical, an electrical wholesaler with branches in Kilburn (London) and Welwyn Garden City. We talked about his history in wholesaling, the values that resonate with Westminster’s clients, and how a consistent commitment to service has earned them a global customer base.
Name: Richard Jolley
Company: Westminster Electrical
Job Title: General Manager
Richard, can you tell me about your role at Westminster Electrical?
I’m the General Manager working from the Welwyn Garden City branch of Westminster Electrical. In my day-to-day, I oversee everything here and in London, including our growing export business, and I report to the Director.
Why is the exporting side of the business doing well recently?
It essentially came about because of Brexit. A lot of manufacturers were intimidated by the paperwork, and we had long-established customers abroad.
We’ve grown year-on-year because people trust us. We have export managers who target specific areas and clients, and we’ve received a lot of B2B business through word-of-mouth recommendations.
What parts of the world do you export to – do you have any interesting observations to share?
We’re very strong in Gibraltar, Malta, Cyprus, Turkey, and the Middle East, as well as Mexico and Central Europe.
We find central Europe is quite simple to work in, but the Middle East can be difficult due to certain restrictions. It’s longer winded because we have to go through consulates, and an order can take 3 to 4 months to come to fruition due to paperwork.
What else can you tell me about Westminster Electrical?
Westminster was established in 1984 by Micky Droy, and his son Steve is the Sales Director now. Micky used to play for Chelsea and Crystal Palace, but he wanted to set up a business after his playing days, when he eventually hung up his boots.
In wholesaling, he found out quickly that people trust wholesalers who sell brands and who kept a lot of stock.
Good brands and good stock at good prices is what wholesaling is all about, really.
You mentioned Micky was a footballer: did he have an electrical or wholesaler background, too?
He didn’t, but he was always interested in wholesaling.
He had a vision of bigger stocks, serving supply-end contractors and better distribution. In the mornings, he would regularly fulfil orders for contractors and trade stock as well.
He just recognised that a lot of businesses don’t keep branded stock, and the business grew with exports because it was even harder to get that stock abroad – so he could help them.
And, what about yourself?
I’m a wholesaler as well. I’ve been in the industry since 1992. I’ve worked with all the national wholesalers, as well as independents.
Steve and I get along because we have the same vision and we’ve stuck to the same values. He treats people really well.
You opened the Welwyn Garden City branch in 2010 – how has that experience been?
It’s been steadily growing – we decided that the London branch wasn’t big enough, and it was expensive! We needed more space, so we bought a unit out here. We keep about £1.4m worth of stock on the shelves here, which lets us play in the markets we need to play in.
That said, the ethos between the branches hasn’t changed at all.
Touching on your history, what have you seen change in your time in wholesaling?
Over time, wholesalers have become more dependent on manufacturers, rather than holding stock. The big issue is that they don’t see the value of brands.
For them, it’s all about price: people go for the cheap option rather than the quality one, and the internet’s not helped in that respect.
How has Westminster adapted to this market situation?
We offer a competitive price for good brands, and it gives us something to work towards if buyers can buy a product made here locally, rather than an import.
Fundamentally, we haven’t panicked – we’ve stuck to what we’re good at.
On to LED Dimming – how have you seen things evolve?
They’re the way forward – they’re cleaner and better than fluorescent tech. Though when selling them, you tend to find that everyone’s an LED expert all of a sudden.
There are millions of different brands, and as a wholesaler, consumers rely on your experience, especially if they’ve been burned by bad guys in the past. The cheaper you go with LEDs, the less they’ll last you. That’s why I like Zano.
Is there a situation where a customer has come to you, and you’ve been able to recommend Zano as the ‘perfect fit’?
I can’t think of a specific example, but I like it because it just works. You don’t need anything else if you get Zano, and if you’re spending good money on lighting, why put in a £2 dimmer?
You wouldn’t buy a Rolls Royce and put budget tires on it.
Last of all, you mentioned Micky’s career with Chelsea and Palace – does he share any thoughts on the current state of the clubs?
No, actually – he’s a very humble man, very family-oriented. He’s a rare find in this industry.
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