Beacon Electrical proudly serves the local area with a huge range of home appliances and fantastic customer service to match. We speak with Mark Higgins, one of the company Directors, about how the business has developed and evolved over the years to become the go-to electrical company that it is today.
The most important thing is that customers realise that the lowest prices aren’t necessarily reserved for the biggest retailers. People usually expect the best customer service to be from the smaller stores, but they expect big price tags to come with it, however, at Beacon Electrical they can expect great service and low prices.
Mark tells us about how it’s, “a proper family business,” which was started 40 years ago by his father, Chris Higgins. He was working in the dockyard at the time, and with a young family at home he decided to earn an extra income by working in the evenings.
He started Beacon Electrical, focusing on house wiring, lighting and heating for trade, and in 1976 he opened a shop near their home in Beacon Park. A few years later the shop moved to premises on Beacon Park Road, where it still stands today serving as both a store and head office, and Chris left the dockyard to focus solely on his business.
At the time a lot of wholesalers weren’t particularly customer-friendly, which Chris saw as a problem. Mark explains, “What he did was set up a shop with lots of displays of the products, and customers could come in and speak to someone and get a sensible answer, and speak to someone who could give friendly and professional advice.”
From here, the business continued to grow. In 1984 the Plymstock branch was opened, and in 1988 Chris ventured into the high street, opening a store on Fore Street in Totnes. It was around this time that Mark took his first steps into the family business, working in the Totnes store during his school holidays.
Following a difficult recession, the next branch was opened in Pennycomequick in 2004, and it became the first Rangemaster centre in the country.
“It is now the first ever Hotpoint sponsored shop in the country, offering a much wider range of Hotpoint Indesit and Whirlpool products on display than we could ever fit into our other stores.”
Then the final store was opened only three years ago in Kingsbridge, and it’s proven itself to be a very popular location.
Mark came into the business full time when he finished university, and he helps to run it alongside his brother, Nick. Their father, Chris, had taken a step back from the business recently as he looked after his wife while she was ill, and sadly, she passed away last year.
Mark tells us, “Dad will always be involved because it’s his business and he set it up from nothing. The last couple of years have been tough, but he’s starting to move back into the business now, mostly to oversee the running of it from behind the scenes.”
A lot has changed at Beacon Electrical since it first started, mainly due to market trends and changing consumer habits. “We have five branches now, and this year we doubled the size of our warehouse. That’s been really important to us, because we need to make sure that we buy the right products, at the right prices, at the right time. The business has changed quite rapidly, particularly over the last 5-7 years, with the internet and people’s buying habits changing,” Mark explains.
And despite being much smaller than their national competitors, Beacon Electrical can absolutely go head-to-head with them as far as deals and prices are concerned. “With the main online retailers the focus is on the lowest price and then you pay a lot for the services, however we know that it’s the price the customer pays for everything that really counts”.
Because we’re cheaper on the extra services such as installation, we often end up being cheaper overall.
“We’re trying to develop it all the time, but we like to think that we can offer a full service for anything. Whether it’s fitting a cooker, or built-in washing machine, we can offer those services alongside the product. It means that customers don’t have to go anywhere else, we can do it all here.”
It also doesn’t bother Mark if a customer finds a product cheaper elsewhere, because the relationship they have with their manufacturers, and specifically with the Whirlpool Corporation, which covers Hotpoint, Whirlpool and Indesit, means that they can have a no-quibble guarantee that they will match the price. “The secret is to have strong relationships with the manufacturers, it’s essential,” Mark tells us.
The staff at Beacon Electrical are also more than happy to offer discounts for customers who would like to buy more than one product. Bespoke packages can be put together and deals can be made. Mark is proud of the knowledge his staff hold – “Every member of the team can put together a package with competitive prices and that’s usually difficult to find. All of our staff are trained up to a high level and we see their role as a career, and quite often they go all the way through to retirement with us.”
This is why Mark would like to invite customers into their stores rather than relying on the internet. He tells us, “There aren’t many shops that have such a big range on show anymore. Most of the time customers just have to look at the product online and rely on reviews, but people should just talk to us. Rather than spending three hours trawling through the internet, they could have a quick conversation with us and we can easily pin-point the right product for them.”
Looking ahead, Mark is keen to continue working on the fantastic relationships Beacon Electrical has with manufacturers and customers alike. If any area of the business is to be developed next, it would be their online presence – “We’re not interested in taking over the world, we’re quite happy looking after our local customers. But if we can reach out to more people online, then it’s probably our next plan. You never know when an opportunity will come up.”
263 Beacon Park Road, PL2 3JP 01752 787600
15 Stuart Road, Pennycomequick 01752 222003
28 Pomphlett Road, Plymstock 01752 492122
15 Fore Street, Totnes
15 Fore Street, Kingsbridge