"Being a family business sets us apart. We move quickly, grow constantly and care deeply."Mr Depper, Founder
In 1969, our business was founded by Michael Depper, a Birmingham-based appliance engineer. Mr Depper saw the chance to make some extra cash by selling spare parts to fellow engineers. This was the first of many seized opportunities.
Over the decades, we've evolved and expanded more and more as we've taken on new challenges. We're now very proud to have over 50 years' experience in business under our belts.
Entrepreneurial spirit and a desire to do right by our customers has allowed us to grow into a thriving international business with decades of experience and passion to spare.
With online repairs advice and spare parts delivered to their doorsteps
Using our UK network of over 500 experienced engineers
To appliance engineers and independent trade businesses
By managing websites, orders and repairs for retailers and manufacturers
We believe it’s our duty to make a difference.
Our focus is clear when choosing which charities and communities to support. The causes that are important to our people are important to us too.
That’s because one person’s genuine passion can inspire every person to do their part.
First, there was one man, Michael Depper, who began selling home appliance spare parts out of his garden shed. He started our business with ten bob (about 50p) in his pocket, never dreaming we’d grow as big as we are today.
Now we have a warehouse stocking over 2 million different products as well as a head office close by. Between the two Birmingham-based sites, we’re over 600 people strong.
Every part mattered at the beginning and every part matters now. We’re still all about putting our foot in the door when opportunity knocks.
We’ve grown a lot over the years and we’ve always had passion to spare.
How we got here
Our story started with Michael Depper (an appliance engineer) who decided to sell some spare parts to his mates (also engineers).
Demand grew and pretty soon his garden shed was overflowing with tea chests full of washing machine doors and vacuum cleaner belts. It was high time to open a shop in Kings Heath, Birmingham and form a business.
Sure enough, in April, Electrue was born.
We had a little celebratory dance when we opened our second shop in Shirley, Solihull. It wasn’t a tango though. We were entrepreneurs, not dancers.
It was ’73 and our sales soared like the popularity of “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. We spread our wings and moved to a larger shop in Kings Heath.
Road trip! We crammed our van full of parts and started selling them to other shops and engineers further afield.
Our van fleet grew and Mark’s younger brother Martin helped with deliveries. The happy customers often gave him a pat on the head or a couple of quid for his efforts. He preferred the money.
We badly needed space to store our fast-growing collection of parts. A warehouse in Castle Vale, Birmingham was our knight in shining armour. It was bigger than 93 decent sized garden sheds (10,000 sq ft to be exact).
We sold our shops to focus on more important matters like expanding our van empire and how to achieve the perfect 80s perm.
Orders had a habit of being placed last minute. We weren't fazed. We introduced Next Day Delivery.
We created a business to sell pattern parts (the ones that do the job but aren’t made by the original appliance manufacturers). It was named Medco after Michael Edward Depper.
We moved again to a warehouse double the size on Great Barr Street. To use our highly technical measurement system, it was roughly 196 garden sheds (aka 21,000 sq ft).
We celebrated our 21st year in business. Hoover baked us a cake that looked like our building. Luckily the cake version didn’t have any spare parts inside.
A couple of record years meant we had money to invest. We could have stockpiled Tamagotchis, cassette tapes or other 90s memorabilia. We bought better computers for £250,000 instead.
We started asking large manufacturers if we could be the exclusive sellers of their parts across the UK. Tefal and Rowenta took us up on our offer. You might have heard of them. They sell small appliances and rather good frying pans.
Our success with manufacturers wasn’t a flash in the pan. British business Haden followed Tefal’s lead in giving us an official UK contract to sell their parts.
We were assessed by the British Standards Institution and our very high standards meant we were awarded a certification for our quality: BS EN ISO 9002. We've held BSI certifications ever since.
We bought a company called HRS Electronics. Now that we had a few different names we needed to connect all our brands. Our new name was as easy as that: Connect Distribution Services Ltd (CDSL for short).
Holding stock for a company called Supercare Solutions meant we started officially stocking parts for more big names like Toshiba, Stoves and Hitachi.
Our CD, Connections, was a big hit. Our customers could now get instant access to our entire catalogue of parts and place their orders electronically.
We released the very first colour version of our retail catalogue. We also added exploded diagrams of appliances to Connections using some game-changing software we created called Mediator. Customers rejoiced as they could find the parts they needed more easily than ever before.
Vax liked our spacious warehouse so they gave us a contract to store all their parts and sell them across the UK.
We outgrew our old warehouse yet again. Our new one in Bordesley Green, Birmingham was 1542 garden sheds/165,000 sq ft in size. Highlights included a newly fitted automated track and a quirky metal floor. (It used to be a biscuit factory.)
Kenwood liked what we were doing too. In fact, they liked it so much they selected us as the only company allowed to sell parts for their appliances worldwide.
We celebrated the turn of the millennium by buying Willow Vale Electronics and pulling an all-nighter to get their computers talking to ours.
We also started officially selling Bissell parts across our fine island and took on the running of Sharp and JVC’s call centre.
Never ones to pass up an opportunity, we bought two new appliance brands, Wellco and Avix, which were best known for selling electrical accessories.
We embraced the digital age, moved Connections online and set up a website for Currys where people could book repairs for their appliances via the World Wide Web.
Hang on, we thought. If we’re offering repairs for Curry’s, we can offer them to anyone who'd like their appliance fixed.
So that’s exactly what we did. We set up our network of engineers, our fixed price repairs website "Repaircare" was born and we won repairs contracts for LG, Delonghi, Elba and Kenwood too.
A new computer system meant we could go into menus without having to wait five minutes for options to load. With the time we would have spent cursing the old system we started officially selling parts across the UK for Delonghi and Samsung instead.
Things got crowded and everyone kept tripping over parts on their way out of work. We could have sold fewer parts. Instead, all of our office staff moved to a new building, "Connect House".
Engineers who needed parts could come to us. But what about average Joes who weren’t professionals but still wanted to have a go at repairing their appliances?
We bought London based business eSpares to sell parts online to just these types of people (only some of whom were called Joe).
We’ve come over all international because this is the year we launched websites to sell parts online in France and Germany.
To help our warehouse pickers send out orders accurately and quickly we gave them headsets that play handy picking instructions.
Our French and German sites for consumers to buy parts were ticking along nicely so we launched similar websites for the Spanish and Italian markets. Bene!
We introduced a clever machine into our warehouse that builds boxes to perfectly fit the contents. It works using lasers. We’re in the future.
eSpares was named Online Retailer of the Year at the Retail Systems Awards. Connect Distribution was awarded Retail Business of the Year at the Birmingham Post Awards. We decided to invest in a trophy cabinet.
We reached our golden half-century anniversary and celebrated being 50 along with J-Lo, Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Aniston.
Disclaimer: J-Lo, Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Aniston were not actually present at our anniversary celebrations. However Hoover were and they baked us another cake.
We added French distribution company EPS to our group of brands and bought a new French warehouse too. The result? Our customers in France and all over Europe could benefit from 'livraison rapide'. (That's fast delivery for us Brits.)
Some of our board members have had decades of experience in our business. Others bring in a fresher perspective.
What they all share is pride in the achievements of our past and a real passion for making the most of every opportunity in our future.
I started out as an appliance engineer. I saw opportunities and when the door opened I put my foot in. Our company grew from there. We always focussed on giving customers solutions, rather than just supplying the parts. That mindset is absolutely still true today.
Now I'm involved in making decisions, but it’s not me that’s running the show. Still, the only thing I ever dream of is what we're doing. I don't play golf. I don't go to the gym. I just wake up dreaming about our company. I'm so proud that we've been able to carry on all these years, but we've got to keep moving forward and embracing change. In today's fast-moving world especially, we can't stop.
I started working here as a kid. I used to do Saturdays as far back as I can remember when I was well underage. I was always familiar with spare parts. My first washing machine I cobbled together myself out of two completely different Hoover machines. I've always had the mindset of getting stuck in.
Thanks to years of blood, sweat and tears, our company has grown bigger than I ever imagined. We always push ourselves to do something new rather than sitting back. Keeping the family business way of thinking is very important to us. We trust the people around us and do what we can to support them. We've got to where we've got to because of our people.
The best lesson I've learnt over the years is to treat any problem as a personal one. How would you solve it if it happened to you? Trust your instincts.
At school people always used to say, what are you going to do? I’d say, sell spares. There was no pocket money when we were kids. If we wanted any money we'd always have to do something for it. So during the school holidays and weekends, Mark and I started pre-packaging boxes and items in bags. We’ve been here ever since doing everything from delivering parts to delivering business strategy.
We’ve always thought about how to make our industry better and make the most of the opportunities that are around. We go back to basics and say, how can we make this better for our customers? When we’re chasing a particular solution we're always open-minded. Then we will be bloody-minded, stubborn and focussed on reaching the result.
I believe if we can dream something we should be able to find a way to do it.
Before joining our business, I spent two years on the other side of the globe working in Indonesia. Then I joined in 1994 as an accountant. Three years in, I was invited onto the board as the Finance Director and twenty years later I progressed to the role of Managing Director.
I'm proud of us because we remain agile. Everyone has access to decision makers. We don't stop developing; we're always looking for the next step. As a door’s pushed open we’ve firmly put our foot in there and marched through.
Passion runs deep and as a family business, I think that gives us the edge. Very special people work here who are passionate about what we do. What makes us stand out is the quality of our people.
I’ve been involved with our business from an external audit perspective since 1999 when I worked for Grant Thornton. I’ve seen our development, growth and acquisitions. What attracted me to join the board is the flexibility and adaptability of our business as well as the culture.
Our ethos is primarily that of a family business. You can really add value and are allowed to make decisions quickly. I think success comes when people feel there’s value in what our teams do. It’s important to have a balance of different people communicating together. I’ve always said to people, take an interest in what you do. We spend a lot of time at work so we need to have a bit of fun!
Having brought in experience of other companies I’ve worked with, I’ve seen firsthand what keeps a family business agile. As our business has grown, it's changed and will continue to change. We have a good mixture of updating what we do whilst at the same time staying true to our roots. The sum of all of our parts together works really well.
In the beginning, spare parts were at our core. Now, we have evolved but our ethos remains the same. Every single part of our business is vitally important.
Without every one of our products, processes and people playing their part, we wouldn’t have grown into the business we are today.
By continuing to work together to seize opportunities we’ll all be part of an exciting future.
Our founder Michael Depper (or Mr D as he is affectionately known) had a simple approach to business. When the door of opportunity opened he put his foot in.
Our refusal to let opportunities pass us by has seen our business grow dramatically and our plans for the future are even bigger. To get there we have to keep taking chances and be different.
As Mr D would say, two companies doing the same thing are too many already.