Tiler Peter Trainor paves his way to success with prestigious contracts such as Ralph Lauren and Harvey Nichols
From South Down to London's West End, Peter Trainor talks to Yvette Shapiro about how he has managed to build his successful business from the ground up
I've just landed from Italy and I'm now walking up Regent Street in London, says Peter Trainor, and that sums up his hectic lifestyle. If the 37-year-old from Annalong isn't in Verona sourcing beautiful and expensive stone, he's to be found overseeing multi-million pound refurbishment contracts in some of the world's most famous retail stores.
He's just returned from a four-day trip to Italy with a team of design consultants, for Ralph Lauren.
"We took the team out to Verona to pick stone and tile for the flagship Regent Street store," said Peter. "It'll be used for our work on the VIP bathrooms, staff kitchens and the lift areas which will feature some fancy mosaic. Even the bits the public don't see will be very high-end.
"The stone will be cut in Italy, to our specification, then shipped to London for us to start fitting it in early March."
Ralph Lauren joins an increasingly long, glamorous and lucrative list of clients for Trainor Stone and Tile. Harvey Nichols, Estee Lauder, Oscar de la Renta, Victoria's Secret and the Olympic Stadium are believed to be among the demanding blue chip customers who value the quality workmanship offered by the small South Down firm.
"Our workload in London is nearly off the scale," said Peter. "The phone just goes all day. We don't really do marketing as such, it tends to be repeat business from a select group of five or six very important, high value clients. We do a lot of our work with the Belfast-based fit-out company, Portview. It's a great relationship."
Trainor Stone and Tile has seen strong sales growth in the past three years with turnover rising from £300,000 to £2.2m. This figure is predicted to rise to £4m by mid-2018. Direct and indirect employment currently stands at around 40 people, with further growth anticipated in 2016.
Like many South Down tradesmen, Peter comes from a long line of stonemasons. He started his own tiling business in his early 20s, working solely in Northern Ireland. When the recession hit and work dried up locally, Peter went to London in search of contracts and struck a rich seam of business.
"Clients like our work and our approach," said Peter. "We like to do things right. We're very particular and we're up-to-date, taking courses and learning about new methods and materials all the time. If you're working at the higher end of the market, you have to be excellent and consistent."
Initially, Peter brought in Northern Irish tradesmen to work on the London contracts, but most have now returned home and most of his sub-contracted workers are Portuguese and Brazilian.
Trainor Stone and Tile recently notched up its first £1m job, on Estee Lauder's European headquarters at Fitzroy Place, London. "We did all 10 floors and the central staircase," said Peter. "That was a real landmark project for us. It's a 188,000 sq ft building and the standard of material and design is outstanding."
The company's relationship with the luxury department store chain, Harvey Nichols, was cemented during a major contract at the Mailbox store in Birmingham. Trainor Stone is now working on the iconic Knightsbridge branch.
Selfridges is another famous client, with Trainor completing fit-out work on the Leicester store as well as the London headquarters.
Commercial confidentiality prevents contractors from publicising some of their most prestigious jobs, but it's believed that Trainor was one of the companies involved in the fit-out of Harrods' 'Shoe Heaven', the 42,000 sq ft footwear department of the world famous store in Knightsbridge, London. Its rotundas, walkways, colonnades and tiling have created what the Daily Telegraph called "a truly stunning, art deco-inspired space".
Another famous and formidable client is Baroness Karren Brady, Lord Sugar's advisor on The Apprentice. The West Ham vice-chairman is taking a close interest in the refurbishment of the VIP and hospitality areas of the soccer club's new base at the Olympic Stadium in East London.
"I haven't had the chance to meet her yet but she's frequently on site, checking progress," said Peter. "Everything has to be first class for a client like that. It's a great job for us and we're very proud to be working on the Olympic Stadium."