Belfast Telegraph

Moving on to new pastures... tractor salesman Robbie decides to call it a day after 40 years in the business

By Chris McCullough

A Lisburn man who spent over 40 years working on and selling John Deere tractors and machinery has called it a day.

Robbie Hewitt has retired as sales director with Johnston Gilpin & Co Ltd.

The 63-year-old has seen many changes over his four decades in the business, with technology being the major player.

“I started off with Johnston Gilpin & Co way back on January 1, 1976, as a mechanic under the watchful eye of Donn McConnell, who was the managing director at that time,” said Robbie.

“I had previously spent seven years working with Stevenson Brothers as a mechanic, straight after leaving school.

“Stevensons sold Nuffield and Leyland tractors and there were not too many green John Deere tractors around at that time.

“I worked as a mechanic, and subsequently foreman mechanic, in Gilpins until 1985 when I moved into sales and I stayed in that department until Christmas just past when I retired.

“Around eight years ago I was made sales director and worked closely with Donn’s son Randal, the current managing director.” When Robbie started selling tractors, John Deere units were much more popular with the 40 Series high in demand, closely followed by the 50 Series.

In the last five years Robbie has witnessed a massive change in technology used in tractors as well as self-propelled forage harvesters.

Robbie was responsible for selling the majority of John Deere self-propelled foragers in Northern Ireland for many years.

“Having a mechanical background helped me sell tractors as I could explain everything about the machine to the customer,” he added. “I travelled all over Co Armagh and parts of counties Down and Tyrone selling John Deere.

“During my 40 years I gained many loyal customers who continued to purchase machinery off me right down through their family generations. When customers are investing a great deal of money into a tractor or machine, they like to buy off someone they know and that is what I found over my time selling. I started selling in 1985 which was a rather wet year and farmers were spending money buying tractors with four wheel drive. It was a good year for sales.

“The next two were difficult as most of the purchasing had been completed in 1985. Sales experience is gained and based on good relationships with customers and that’s what helped me over the four decades.

“During the past five years I have noticed the most changes in tractors and machinery with technology coming on leaps and bounds, with GPS, telematics and emission controls.”

Robbie admits it is strange to now have so much free time: “People keep asking me what I am going to do now in my retirement. My simple response to them is that I have never retired before so I am not too sure.”

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