Belfast Telegraph

Premier Electrics says auf wiedersehen to the downturn

By Margaret Canning

A decision to look for work far and wide has led to an electrics firm creating jobs as it deals with a flood of retail contracts in the UK and elsewhere in Europe.

Premier Electrics, which is based in Bellaghy, has opened two offices in Germany to service deals installing Primark stores in the country.

It will soon be advertising for five new technical staff to work on these and other contracts.

So far Premier has installed electrics in six Primark stores - including stores in Hanover, Dortmund and Saarbrucken in the last year - in work worth €16m. Overall, sales in Europe grew in 2011 from £18m to £27m.

Company manager Tony Shivers praised the work of Invest NI staff in Germany and said they had been "a big help" in introducing it to partners in Germany.

But seeking work abroad had become a must because of the downturn. "We just travel," he said.

It has now opened offices in Munich and Duisberg and set up a Germany sister company, Premier Electrics GMBH.

On home soil, it will soon start work on its first John Lewis project in Newbury, England.

The company has around 200 direct and indirect workers but vows that it aims to use workers from Northern Ireland even on overseas contracts. Networking and building on past connections has widened its customer base, but money is the bottom line.

"Obviously the way things are, especially in the Republic, we are down to pounds, shilling and pence," Mr Shivers said.

Premier has just started work on a new Audi showroom in Kensington with Simpsons of York, a company they met through Primark. That 16-week contract is worth around £600,000.

Then it will work on a new Primark in German capital Berlin, before shifting its focus to Paris to work on UK retailer Marks & Spencers' second store there.

There's no doubt that Mr Shivers' 'can-do' attitude is helping them get places - literally. "This is the worst downturn I've ever seen but we have gotten up and gone out for new work.

"Everybody's so negative. There's a difference between that and blowing your own trumpet. But we are working very hard at it with a dedicated team.

"Northern Ireland tradespeople are the best."

Other upcoming jobs on home soil include Marks & Spencer in Fosse Park, Leicester, a flagship Primark in London's Oxford Street and a refurb in Piccadilly in Manchester.

A new Primark in May Street, Dublin, will be its first job in the Republic in two years.

Managing director Mark Scullion set up the business in 1993. He said: "Our teams have worked tirelessly throughout the year the length and breadth of the UK and Ireland as well as increasingly in countries including Germany, Spain and Belgium.

"We are delighted to have developed strong relationships with our clients over the years and, in 2010-11, partnered several of them into new territories.

"We had to radically change our business strategy with the onset of the economic downturn in the Republic of Ireland which, traditionally, had accounted for almost a quarter of our turnover. This meant looking to new markets and expanding through the establishment of a dedicated maintenance division."