Fergal Costelloe, Managing Director at Trade Electric Group.
Over 50 Years of Excellence – Today Trade Electric Group is a leading distributor of electrical supplies with 10 established branches and a new one in Dublin on the way, a very different operation from its humble beginnings in Limerick in 1971.
Trade electric was established by Fergal’s father, Paul Costelloe, and can trace its roots back to a vision he had in the late 1960s. Now employing over 75 people, it is these people that are the key to our success. Our business is based on strong customer and supplier relationships. We cherish each and every relationship and never take any of them for granted.
Over several years, Paul began to make a name for himself in the industry and was eventually lured to McMahons on Bedford Row in Limerick to run their electrical department.
During this stint, Paul began to realise that he could do this on his own. In 1971, he made the leap from employee to employer and set up Trade Electric at 9 Lower Gerald Griffin Street in Limerick. 1986 saw Paul purchase the old Newsom’s premises on Lower Gerald Griffin Street in Limerick. To this day, the business still operates from this premises, and it is now the head office of the whole operation.
“I am proud of what my father started and the opportunity I have been given,” Fergal concluded. And as for what the next 50 years might look like for TEG, the MD is coy about any further expansion plans but says that he will carefully consider it when and if an opportunity arises.
Beginnings in the Treaty County
Established in 1971 by Paul Costelloe, TEG can trace its roots back to a vision that its founder had in the late 1960s. Starting out in the electrical business at Stokes & McKiernan’s, where he learned the business, the owner of this once-thriving firm spotted the potential that a young Paul Costelloe had and quickly brought him into the office to work on pricing and many administrative duties. Over several years, Paul began to make a name for himself in the industry and was eventually lured to McMahons on Bedford Row in Limerick to run their electrical department.
During this stint, while managing McMahon’s electrical department, Paul began to realise that he could do this on his own. He sounded out a few of his customers, and many of them told him that they would support him if he went out independently. So, in 1971, Paul made the leap from employee to employer and set up Trade Electric at 9 Lower Gerald Griffin Street in Limerick. A colleague of his in McMahon’s, called Dick Meade, came to work with him, and together they built up a thriving electrical business in Limerick City.
In those days, drives to Dublin to collect stock were regular occurrences and stops along the way and back to loyal customers formed part of the routine. While Paul was in Dublin, Dick was back holding fort in the shop looking after all their local customers. After a couple of years, as things began to get busier, they were joined by Paul’s nephew, Pat O’Callaghan. Pat would eventually go on to manage the business in Limerick and after nearly 48 years, is still employed by TEG where he holds the position of Operations Director.
1986 saw Paul purchase the old Newsom’s premises on Lower Gerald Griffin Street in Limerick. He had many sleepless nights worrying about this purchase, but eventually, he was convinced by his wife, Gabrielle, to go for it. To this day, the business still operates from this premises, and it is now head office of the whole operation.
The Model County
In 1993 Paul ventured down to the sunny southeast and opened in Wexford, with Larry Whitty running the business down there for him. Declan O’Toole eventually replaced Larry until his untimely death in 2012. John Corkish then became branch manager in Wexford and is still in that role today.
The Millennium seemed to give Paul an injection of further expansion, and he opened up in both Newcastle West and Waterford in the year 2000. Jim O’Connor, who hailed from Kilcolman in Co. Limerick had been working for Paul in the Limerick branch for 13 years before he convinced Paul that there was an opening for a wholesaler out in West Limerick. They opened in a small unit in the Enterprise Centre with Jim as the sole employee. After a move to bigger premises after a few years, they eventually moved into their present 8,000 sq foot premises at the Desmond Business Park in 2016. Jim still runs this business for TEG and is now in his 34th year with the group.
The Crystal County
The Westgate Business Park was the original location for Trade Electric in Waterford until they moved out to Six-Cross Roads Industrial Estate in Kilbarry. Unit 19 at the back of the industrial estate was a small 3,500 sq foot premises, but it was here that the foundations were laid for further expansion. Tony Doyle was recruited as branch manager, and his arrival signalled the beginning of a continuous period of growth for TEG in Waterford. In 2012, the business moved to the front of the Six-Cross Roads Industrial Estate, and this 11,000 sq foot premises is now their hub in the South East of Ireland.
Changing of the Guard
In 2004, Paul’s son Fergal joined the business after qualifying as a chartered accountant, having trained with Deloitte in Dublin. While he had spent many of his summers as a kid helping in the stores in Limerick, he was now coming into the business to succeed Paul if he could prove himself. He spent the next few years learning the tricks of the trade from his father and picking up valuable pieces of advice from the staff and customers along the way.
Eventually succeeding his father as Managing Director of TEG, Fergal then himself set out on an expansion trail.
In 2008, Fergal was joined in the business by his sister, Eimear, and today she runs the lighting showrooms in Limerick and Kilkenny and undertakes many lighting designs and projects for her clients.
2011 was a challenging year for the industry. The unfortunate collapse of T O’Reilly Electrical in Dublin allowed TEG to open its first Dublin store in its former premises in Santry, Dublin 9. Three experienced, former T O’Reilly Electrical employees were recruited, and, ten years later, Damian Gore, Aidan Murphy, and Paul Blanch are still there and thriving.
The Premier County
In 2014, Fergal spotted an opportunity in Nenagh in Co. Tipperary, and duly opened in August of that year with Trevor Murphy as manager. Trevor had spent the previous few years with TEG in Limerick, and Fergal knew that he was the ideal candidate for the role. Seven years on and the business continues to enjoy year-on-year growth thanks to its loyal customers and hard-working staff.
The Dubs Again
Over the next couple of years, Fergal identified South Dublin as an area in Dublin that could do with another wholesaler. Stillorgan was the location he favoured, and he waited for the ideal premises to come up. This opportunity arrived in 2016, and in September of that year, TEG opened on the Old Dublin Road in Stillorgan, between the shopping centre and Baumann’s Hardware Store. Stephen McGrane was recruited as branch manager. Together with his young team, they have exceeded expectations within the group by quickly establishing themselves as a serious player in the wholesale electrical industry in Dublin.
2018 brought the devastating passing of IEBG colleague Gerry O’Sullivan who ran TradeKit in Killarney. Initially, Fergal was approached by Gerry’s family to help them with the running of the business, but they then subsequently decided to sell the business and Fergal was asked if he would be interested in purchasing it. TEG acquired TradeKit in December 2019. Tony Moloney was Gerry’s key employee in Killarney, and his continued commitment was crucial if the acquisition was going to be a success. With Tony as branch manager, TEG enjoyed a great first year in Killarney and rebranded to Trade Electric in January 2021.
Without a doubt, much of the success of TEG is down to the incredible personnel working in each of the branches. The depth of their product knowledge only equals their dedication and commitment to service.
And as for what the next 50 years might look like for TEG, Managing Director Fergal Costelloe is coy about any further expansion plans but says that he will carefully consider it when and if an opportunity arises. He is very proud of what his father started and the opportunity he has been given.
The Rebel County
March 2023 finally saw Trade Electric arrive on Leeside. Bryan O’Brien was recruited as branch manager and a flagship premises was secured on the Pouladuff Road opposite Cork Builders Providers.
Into the Future..
TEG is planning to standardise its wide product offering across all branches. The distributor already offers EV chargers and will also start diversifying its range of renewables to include photovoltaic panels, installations kits for PV, converters and battery storage systems. “We have received an increasing number of enquiries on renewables and will add this group of products to our stocks soon,” explained Managing Director Fergal Costelloe.
Fergal revealed yet another branch is also on TEG’s plans for 2023. The company already features two branches in Dublin, in Santry and Stillorgan, and a new one will be opened in the next three to four months on Belgard Road, Tallaght, Dublin 24. “We had been looking for the perfect location for a few years and have finally found it,” Fergal commented. “Dublin is a huge market, there is a large demand for electrical supplies. The Tallaght branch will be right between the other two ones and cover the Southwest of the city.”
Trade Electric operates in several branches all over the country.
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