99 Years of T.N. Robinson!
As we approach our centenary year we thought we’d take a little look back at the first 99 years of Stockport’s oldest established wholesale electrical distributor.
Where it Began
Mr Thomas Needham Robinson was an enterprising gentleman with an eye to the needs of his time, he worked in all the departments of the Mill Gate Generating Station and the Corporation Tramways Department.
Just after the First World War he went into partnership with two local businessmen manufacturing DC motor starters. The Penny Lane premises off Lancashire Hill in Stockport were small, but big enough to manufacture the starters from a Ferranti Ltd. patent.
In 1923 the sale of starters declined so the group expanded into factoring electrical accessories. Potential was obvious to the discerning Mr Robinson and in September of that year, he opened his own factoring business in a lean-to wooden shed under No. 4 Arch of the Railway Viaduct, Daw Bank, Stockport.
In those early days the passing traffic in Stockport’s Daw Bank was horse-drawn, and the founder, his wife and a delivery lad advanced the business. (The lad, Alfred Bennet, who began by delivering by bike and handcart eventually became General Manager and completed over 60 years of service!)
T.N. Robinson’s soon became the wholesalers to contact for trade and industrial supplies, and in 1928 T.N. Robinson became a founder member of the Stockport Chamber of Commerce.
On 1 January 1937 T.N. Robinson joined the Electrical Distributors’ Association – EDA (only two companies have a longer EDA heritage). By 1939 Robinson’s was one of the main suppliers of electrical components and appliances to the trade. Letters of thanks relating to their quick adaption in catering for Ministry contracts are still on file, lasting proof of their worthwhile war effort.
In 1951 the Company opened new premises on Daw Bank with a total area of 20,000 square feet, being about 20 times bigger than the original lean-to, and compromising a fine showroom, offices and stockrooms.
Demand has continued and the building has been extended again and again for the increasing business.
Founded on a Family
Mr Robinson (below, 1955) died in 1959. His daughter, Mary Drake (nee Robinson) became Chairman of the Board of Directors, and her husband, Wilfrid Drake, who had joined the firm in 1945, became Managing Director. Their sons Michael and Anthony became actively engaged in the day to day running of the firm, with Michael eventually taking over as Managing Director. Pictured in 1981 (L to R) are Michael Drake, Wilfrid Drake & Alfred Bennet.
Fifty years ago, in 1972, a small, well established company of Electrical Distributors in Crewe were acquired, expanding the area covered by the company. This was followed in June 1980 with another branch added in Ashton-Under-Lyne.
New branches followed in Macclesfield (1983), Chester (1993), Rochdale (2003) and Warrington (2003), continuing T.N. Robinson’s expansion across the North West of England.
In January 2016 Michael Drake became Chairman of the Company, with his son, Chris Drake (T.N’s great grandson) taking over the Managing Director duties.
Chris didn’t waste any time in further expanding the Company, and in 2017 T.N. Robinson opened 3 new branches in Anglesey, Mochdre, and Rhyl. This was closely followed by our newest branch, Pwllheli, in January of 2018. With the addition of our North Wales stores T.N. Robinson now has a network of 11 branches.
2022 and beyond
The future looks bright for the company as we plan to celebrate our centenary year in 2023. Many things have changed over the last 99 years, but our commitment to customer service hasn’t. We are proud of the reputation we have gained within our industry for providing exceptional customer service. Whether it’s over the counter, on the phone, or online we continue to strive to give our customers the very best advice, and prices, every single day.
We’re looking forward to celebrating our 100th year with you, our customers. Please keep an eye out in-store, and on our website and social media channels for some very exciting plans in 2023!