Almost 50 years have passed since Albert Wiltshire started his engineering company, Wiltshires, on a site in Dunsfold, Surrey. While technology and the farming landscape may have changed drastically over the years, the family-run firm remains focused on providing customers with quality machines and personal service.
“Albert successfully built the business on good service,” said Laura Brown, who joined Wiltshires in 1999 to take over the day to day management from her parents Albert and Hazel. “We are not just fitters. A reputation for mechanical knowhow has allowed other parts of the business to develop and grow.” As well as attracting loyal customers, Wiltshires’ ability to reliably maintain and repair machines appealed to many manufacturers, who were soon keen to see the business added to their list of approved dealerships. Today the agricultural and grounds care specialist sells a range of McCormick tractors, Pottinger cultivators and grassland equipment, Kidd toppers, Yamaha quad bikes, Kioti compact tractors and Merlo telehandlers.
“With the service arm of the business well-established it was easy to back up a sales offering and most of our manufacturers have sought us out because of that,” said Laura. “Merlo, who we started working with in 1996, is a prime example. John Isles, who brought the brand over to the UK, was looking for dealers and came to have a chat with Albert because of our reputation. We became their sixth dealer.”
Now one of the country’s longest standing Merlo dealers, Wiltshires initially took a punt on the Italian telehandler manufacturer, who was unheard-of in the UK at the time.
“Our longstanding customers bought a Merlo because they trusted Albert’s opinion and knew he wouldn’t take something on unless it was a good product,” said Laura. “From there we developed a good Merlo customer base and many customers have been buying Merlo telehandlers from us for decades now.”
Performance on demand
For more than 20 years the Merlo UK brand has obviously been doing something right as it has successfully evolved from the new manufacturer on the market to a major household name in the farming world.
“The whole Merlo team is very passionate about the product range and will do whatever they can to make sure the customer is happy,” said Laura. “They have invested a lot into safety and that has brought about some key technological improvements. Since we started working with them, Merlo has focused on driver comfort and the new cab featured on the Turbo Farmers II has been well received by our customers. The Merlo concept has always focused on visibility too, which helps immensely when you are working in confined spaces.”
One of the most popular models for Wiltshires has been the TF35.7. With a lift capacity of 3.5 tonnes and a reach of seven metres, the TF35.7 has a Deutz 115hp engine, hydrostatic drive and 40 km/h Eco Power Drive, which offers automatic speed control to increase hydraulic performance on demand. “The TF35.7 has proved to be particularly popular with our dairy and livestock farmers,” said Laura. “They tend to tell us how well-built they think the machines are, how easy the model is to use. Farmers like the load sensing hydraulics offered, with a good lift capacity and stability while remaining fairly compact.”
Having conquered the Surrey, South London and West Sussex areas, Merlo UK recently presented Wiltshires with an exciting opportunity to expand its reach into Hampshire.
“We have always dipped into Hampshire with other products and servicing so when the opportunity arose to cover the area for Merlo it made perfect sense,” said Laura. “Last year my brother-in-law Adrian Brown joined the team as our sales manager. As he is from that part of the world and knows a lot of people, it is a very familiar area for him and that has made the expansion very easy for us. It is something which we have wanted to do for a long time because we are dedicated to the product and to be able to do more of it somewhere else is excellent.”
As well as offering the range to new customers in Hampshire, Wiltshires will be taking on the county’s existing Merlo customers, ensuring they are well looked after, serviced, and maintained.
“Merlo UK is delighted to announce that Wiltshires will be expanding its territory,” said Owen Buttle, national sales manager at Merlo UK. “Wiltshires has been a Merlo dealer since 1996. Over this time they have provided fantastic backup and service to their customers so expanding their area into Hampshire is a natural progression.”
Although the business has developed greatly from Albert’s early days as an on the road engineer, a focus on service still runs through the heart of Wiltshires and the decision to focus on a small selection of brands ensures that the workshop team are well versed in dealing with everything from routine maintenance to break downs and repairs.
“Our workshop manager Jason Reeve has considerable Merlo experience and the whole engineering team has done a lot of training on the products,” said Laura. “It is vital to make sure that they know what they are doing and have the best possible product knowledge and experience. It can be challenging for dealerships, especially if they are working with a lot of manufacturers, but our policy is to focus on a few and to do them well. Most of the time, when a customer phones up our engineers know what the issue is instantly and we will have the parts available to be able to deal with it quickly.”
Last year the dealership received a Merlo Gold Dealer award in recognition of this training, as well as the high number of sales, consistently good levels of customer service and the team’s overall high performance.
Unique delivery service
Fortunately located within close proximity to the Merlo UK head office, any spare parts which may not be in stock with Wiltshires can be obtained quickly and in extreme cases the team always has a hire or demonstration unit available to keep customers’ downtime to a minimum.
“Merlo has invested a lot of money into the parts distribution warehouse in Italy and the team at UK head office are usually able to come up with an alternative solution if something is urgent,” said Laura. “Our parts team benefits from Ian Simpkin and Darren Brown who both have over 30 years’ experience, and there is new energy in the form of Jess Parks, our parts manager, who joined us three years ago with no industry experience and has gained great knowledge and brought new ideas to the business.”
Alongside Merlo spare parts, Wiltshires also stock a number of generic spare machinery parts, tools, consumables, oils and lubricants, and work wear. Local customers can pop into the store at Dunsfold and those further afield can take advantage of the dealership’s unique delivery service.
“Our delivery vans cover from London down to the coast,” said Laura. “We also now offer an online parts ordering service which allows our customers to order up to 6pm for next day delivery.”