One of the premier agri supplies businesses on the island, Joseph Walls Ltd. hit the headlines recently when selected as the Farm Supplier of the Year 2013. We caught up with Christopher Walls to get an insight into this long-running family operation.
When you are chosen as Farm Supplier of the Year, then you know you are doing something, perhaps everything, right. Joseph Walls Ltd. was selected for this coveted honour in 2013 and Christopher Walls – son of the eponymous company founder – had the honour of collected the award from Robert McCullough of Danske Bank and Marcus Scott of Norbrook.
Reflecting on the award-winning feat, he reflects: “It’s something different anyway and it’s nice to be chosen. It’s good recognition for the services you are providing and it helps to get your name out there. It was a good achievement for the business and it’s nice to be able to say we were named as the Supplier of the Year.”
Based at Hilltown, just outside Newry in County Down, the business was established by Joseph Wall in 1971. Explaining the genesis of the successful agricultural supplies store, Christopher notes:
“My dad would have started out spreading lime and then he progressed into selling fertiliser and seeds before moving on to supplying animal feed and agro chemicals.” Today, Joseph Walls Ltd. serves the farming community in counties Down, Armagh and parts of Tyrone with a full range of chemicals, seeds, feeds and fertilisers and spreads lime as well as supplying other products such as silo covers and bale wrapping.
Commitment to customer care permeates every facet of the family business and this has ensured that Walls’ reputation for quality products and service has spread far and wide. These exceptionally high standards of service are maintained at all times.
As well as supplying, servicing and advising in the key areas of fertiliser, grass seed, forage crops, lime, chemicals, soil sampling, animal feed and feed buckets, Joseph Wall Ltd. also offers a full contracting service including the spreading of fertilisers, lime and grass seed.
The popularity of the service means they are kept busy from one season to the next. To this end, gainful employment is provided all year around to a team of twelve – a figure that can rise to 20 during peak times.
Joseph and Christopher oversee a fleet of eight lorries and seven tractors, mostly delivering bulk feeds, lime and fertilisers. As for the make-up of the fleet, they generally opt for whatever model suits a particular job or requirement at any given time. “With the trucks, we run a mix of Volvo, DAF and Scania,” Christopher says. “Tractor-wise, we use New Holland to supply and spread the lime, grass seed and fertiliser.”
Regarding the general upkeep and maintenance of the fleet, which is preserved in tip-top shape at all times, he explains: “We try to do a little bit of the maintenance ourselves but, to be honest, it’s mostly done outside. We would buy most of the parts ourselves and we then have a fitter who comes to the yard and carries out the work for us, while we focus on our own jobs.”
When you provide a first-class service, there’s no need to advertise. People will hear about you! “It’s mostly grown through word of mouth,” Christopher confirms. “The business has grown progressively over a number of years and we have taken on new customers at any opportunity.
“There are always a lot of opportunities and, looking forward, there are things I’d like to do more of. So we would hope to move forward and to continue to expand the business. We’re hoping to sell more products in the future. One area we’re looking at is introducing animal health products to the product range.”
Aged 28, Christopher had been a full-time member of staff for eleven years and now jointly runs the business alongside his father. “I work on sales a lot of the time but I also try to get out and meet and greet,” he states. “In this line of work, it’s very important to know your customers on a one-to-one basis and to be available to them if they need to discuss anything with you.”
He adds that the success enjoyed over the last 43 years – and counting! – would not have been possible but for the loyalty of Joseph Walls Ltd’s customer base: “We are very lucky and we have a lot of people who are very good to us. There are a lot of loyal customers, some of whom my father has been dealing with since he first opened the doors.”
In concluding, Christopher says the popular Hilltown-based agricultural supplier and contractor has remained untouched by the recession: “In general, there had never really been any recession in agriculture. This sector seems to just keep motoring on, thankfully. In farming, guys would average their earnings out over three or four years, so they tend to keep their heads down and keep the show on the road.”
Since 1971, Joseph Walls had been doing exactly the same!
Joseph Walls Ltd.
26 Sandbank Road
Tel: 028 4063 0489 / 4063 8613
Mobile: 07747 733992
Taken from Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 2 No 3, August 2014