When THJ met Paddy Mulvihill, Managing Director of Irish Wire Products (IWP) for our May/June issue’s Supplier Profile, COVID-19 had yet to hit Ireland. So this profile presents a snapshot of the business before the outbreak, as IWP looked ahead to what the hardware sector expected to be a promising 2020.
Today, as IWP, together with the entire industry, tackles unprecedented challenges, Paddy Mulvihill offers this message:
“The hardware industry in Ireland has vastly changed over my years in the sector. But now, more than ever, we must work together to serve our customers and the general public. This is an uncertain and worrying time for the people of Ireland, but by supporting each other, we will overcome this challenge and can look forward to a bright future for the industry.” Paddy and IWP speak from long experience. In its 85 years of operations, the company has weathered storms and emerged stronger and more resilient.
Tradition and Progress
IWP is a long-established family-run business in Limerick City dating back to 1935. Originally a manufacturer of wire and nails, IWP became one of the city’s foremost employers at its historic site on the Dock Road, from where it continues to operate.
Paddy Mulvihill joined as manager in 1996, going on to purchase the buisness in 2001. Since then, IWP has grown into a major supplier for builders’ providers across Ireland.
“In recent decades, business shifted away from manufacture and towards import from multiple producers around the world. IWP is now a leading importer of building and DIY products, distributing to hardware stores and builders’ merchants nationwide,” explains Paddy.
“And we’ve started producing a range for the agricultural sector at Dock Road, keeping our manufacturing heritage alive.”
Survival and Success
IWP are no strangers to challenges. The post-2008 collapse of the construction industry hit the entire sector hard, but IWP learned and adapted and came out of that period as a more robust, diversified business ready for future tests. This success further contributed to the trust their suppliers and customers have in them.
Joining the company in 2000, Business Development Manager Shane O’Riordan has experienced sweeping changes in the industry and seen how IWP has transformed to stay at the forefront.
”Massive focus is now on store layout ensuring every space is maximised. Our priority is to ensure our product ranges are the correct fit for our customers, and for their customers. Market research and end user feedback are a daily activity these days, something unheard of when I first started.”
IWP have introduced new products, enabling expansion of the customer base and improved choice for existing customers. Many of these products are sourced as a result of customer feedback according to Shane.
“Because our customer service representatives spend a lot of time travelling across Ireland and interacting with potential and existing customers, we constantly engage with them.”
New Products and Plans
When THJ spoke to Shane, he was anticipating a dynamic year for the wholesalers, as IWP look at adding new ranges and building on their current offering. This product portfolio will continue to be enhanced in line with the company aim of developing quality brands.
Additions in the last year include Stiff Knot fencing products from J Silva Moreria, flexible rail fencing from Centaur, Armorgard secure tool storage solutions and a full line-up of builders’ metal-work, all complementing IWP’s current ranges and customer base.
“We see an ongoing demand for quality products that save time, deliver value for money and offer solutions to daily issues.”
Traditional brands such as Spax screws are constantly introducing new ranges and offerings, such as their array of construction screws.
And, as sole importers of Ramboard into Ireland, IWP have redefined the floor protection category.
IWP will be educating staff and customers to the benefits of these new products through demo days, advertising and marketing.
Manufacturing has also returned to Dock Road, when IWP added Agri-Master to their product offering in 2015.
Agri-Master is the brand name under which IWP produce a line of animal mineral buckets for the agriculture sector, all approved by the Department of Agriculture and currently in the process of achieving UFAs accreditation.
Agri-Master products are a good fit with IWP’s existing agriculture offerings – fencing and sprayers – for agri-merchants and agri-focused hardware stores.
“You have to evolve”
Innovation has been a key part of IWP’s development. The company is continually monitoring industry changes and striving to adopt anything that enhances efficiency and performance across all areas of the business.
Marketing Manager Louise Mulvihill sums up the company vision. “Innovation is something we work on with our suppliers and customers, as innovation across the industry benefits everyone. You have to evolve.”
In-house operations have been transformed, using technology that streamlines every process, from tracking stock levels to final delivery. These investments in IT and smarter working enable better customer care.
From any location in Ireland, IWP customer representatives can access these systems and get up to date information at a touch. In a constantly changing market environment, the need for immediate data is critical.
Aided by these innovations, the team in Limerick can ensure that all customers, large and small, get the personal touch and expert care they require. Because it all comes down to people and building relationships.
Paddy has always regarded his staff as his greatest asset. The business has thrived due to the passion and commitment of a team made up of 40 employees in Limerick and customer representatives across Ireland.
“Our staff have been and will always be integral to the success of our business. We have been extremely lucky over the years to retain quality people and this allows us to consistently provide the best service for our customers across Ireland.”
As the business has evolved, so too has its workforce. Many specialists have been recruited for their specific product knowledge, to provide the highest levels of expertise and advice.
This knowledge base, in combination with a tight-knit management team made up of Noel Stapleton, Joseph Teefy, Shane O’Riordan, Louise Mulvihill and James Kennelly, are what sets IWP apart and enables it to flourish. Maintaining family involvement is also hugely important to Paddy. While all of the Mulvihill clan have worked in the business at some point, Paddy’s daughter Louise has been an integral part of IWP since she joined full time in 2008. As she explains, IWP’s marketing efforts rely on creating relationships with every one of their customers, made possible through constant interaction.
“Our greatest marketing tools are our staff and our product. Many of our team have years of experience and personal relationships with their customers. This allows us to recognise the needs of each customer and ensure those needs are always met. The personal touch is key.”
IWP makes the most of opportunities to meet new and existing customers year-round through stands at major trade shows such as The Hardware Show, buying group supplier events, and end-user events such as The Fit Out Show and in-store demos. Shows also facilitate market research to gauge reaction from potential users and sellers.
On the move
Combining their own delivery service and third-party couriers, IWP delivery operations ensure that all orders are dispatched as promptly as possible and provide excellent standards of service.
Because the company looks after a wide-ranging customer base throughout Ireland, the IWP fleet of cars and trucks are constantly upgraded, to maximise cost savings and minimise energy consumption.
Thanks to easy access to all major routes from Dock Road, delivery operations are never delayed. Just 2km from the M7/N18 Interchange, the location is also ideal for customers in Limerick City and beyond visiting both the warehouse and showrooms.
A community landmark
With an enduring presence as an important local employer, based in a well-known site at the heart of the city’s manufacturing heritage, IWP has deep roots in Limerick City.
The company is a regular presence on the sports pages, as the main sponsor of the Limerick Senior Football Championship for the last seven years.
Football is close to Mulvihill’s heart; Paddy is former manager of the Limerick Senior Team. “Limerick GAA has been extremely important to our family’s life. To be in a position to give back and be associated with Limerick GAA through our sponsorship is a privilege and something we are very proud of.”
A loyal Kerryman, Paddy also continues to support Kerry GAA through fundraising events.
A positive focus
IWP started 2020 with a confident outlook and is staying the course. As a flexible business with a loyal and committed staff, IWP has continually overcome challenges in the industry and has shifted to suit its market.
Always innovating and expanding, IWP has laid good foundations to thrive in coming years under its tight-knit and experienced management. Today, the team can draw on a wealth of know-how, commitment and resources – good qualities to sustain this family business through current challenges and beyond.