Stuart Wright Ltd. could be a case study in how to survive the prevailing economic choke hold of low oil and gas prices on local businesses.
The Lloydminster company named for its founder in 1946 has become known as the “supply house” for industry, supported over the decades by several generations of loyal customers.
“We have created a situation where we have good long-standing customers,” said Ken Currie, general manager.
Stuart Wright has become a one-stop shop for products for the oilfield, agriculture, industrial, automotive and trucking sectors at its downtown location at 5112-48 Street.
“I still believe we have a certain amount of foresight as far as products that our customers need,” said Currie to further explain their longevity.
“We also tend to sell average to above average quality tools and products.”
Their oilfield products include pipe wrenches, thread cutting equipment, hydraulic hoses and adapters, fluid transfer pumps and rigging equipment.
Belts, pulleys, water and sewer pumps, hydraulic cylinders, adapters and hoses and spraying products are some of the most popular agriculture products sold by Stuart Wright.
They also sell a variety of automotive products like booster cables and batteries and tools for industrial uses.
“We have a certain amount of residential traffic that comes in too,, especially the people who aren’t too sure where to get something,” said Currie.
“If we don’t have it, we’ll get it for you.”
Stuart Wright also provides free delivery within city limits.
He explained that’s why their location outside of the industrial parks accessed by highways 16 and 17 has not been an issue for customers.
“We’re not that far away from the highways,” he said.
“We open at 7 a.m. in the morning so if you need something for that day the traffic is literally minimal to get here.”
He also noted there is plenty of parking available on the street or on their lot.
Word of mouth about Stuart Wright’s product base and the knowledge of their counter sales staff helps to bring business to the store.
“We know what we’re talking about,” he said noting the average length of employment for sales staff is about 12 years. Currie has been on the payroll for 25 years and his assistant manager Dirk McNaughton for 19 years.
Stuart Wright is currently owned by Dean Lyckak and Rick Lyon.
Currie said despite the downturn, the shop always has a good selection of products, and if it’s not in stock they can usually get it in within a day.
“We’re here for the long haul just like everyone else here is,” said Currie. “We are not going to give up.”
Stuart Wright’s strategy is to deploy outside sales staff to service customers in outlying areas.
They have three travelling sales persons including one who services the Neilberg, Provost and Chauvin area and the Kitscoty, Marwayne and Dewberry markets for a couple of days each week.
“I’ve got another salesman who’s out of town for five days a week, and I’ve got another salesman that actually goes out into the country and looks after certain service rigs,” said Currie.
For marketing, they also have a website, an online presence on Yellow Pages and a recent Facebook site.
“We do a lot of local advertising,” said Currie.
He is most proud of the Stuart Wright sponsor sign on the rink boards at the Centennial Civic Centre.
“If you go down and watch a hockey game Stuart Wright has got one of the oldest signs at the end of the boards and we’re going to keep that forever,” he said.
They also support a variety of local events and causes such as the upcoming walk for MS at Bud Miller All Seasons Park on April 30.
“As far as local shopping goes, whenever we buy a company vehicle it gets bought in town because those guys buy stuff from us,” said Currie
“To get people to come here, all you can do is put yourself out there and say — if you come here we will help you.”
The downturn has prompted Stuart Wright to opt out of buying a booth at the upcoming 2016 Lloydminster Heavy Oil Show Sept. 14-15 based on a cost benefit analysis.
“The oil show is good for Lloydminster — the economics in town are making people struggle,” said Currie. “You have to look at what you are going to sell to offset the expense of that advertising – that’s what we did.”