A Yorkshire agricultural engineering business that specialises in supplying sophisticated materials handling machinery is expanding by selling tractors for the first time.
Phil and Rhonda Robinson of Yorkshire Handlers are investing in parts stock, service tools, specialist training and extra staff to support the McCormick tractors they now supply. They are also planning a retail shop for accessories, clothing, tools and service consumables at their premises opposite the auction centre at Murton just outside York.
"The opportunity to add McCormick tractors to our long-established Merlo telescopic handler franchise couldn't have come at a better time," says Mr Robinson. "After 17 years in business, we felt it was time to expand and diversify the operation.
A line-up of new McCormick tractors at the Murton premises of new sales and service support dealer Yorkshire Handlers.
“We’ve discovered that a lot of our handler customers already run McCormick products,” he adds. “But I hope we'll be welcoming new customers to our business."
Phil Robinson has a long track record as a no-nonsense operator in the farm machinery sector. He comes from a farming family and worked for various Yorkshire dealers over the years, ending up as a branch manager at Beverley.
Phil and Rhonda Robinson have added the McCormick franchise to their long-established business supplying and supporting Merlo telescopic handlers.
"Rhonda and I then set up our own business when we were asked to represent Merlo handlers in the area, providing sales, service support and parts for construction and agricultural users," he recalls. "It’s been very successful and now we'll put the same emphasis on after-sales support for the McCormick products."
The parts store that Rhonda Robinson manages has a large value of Merlo stock built up over 17 years and space is being made to add McCormick parts and service consumables for the significant population of tractors already working in the area. Another large parts stock is held by McCormick distributor AgriArgo UK at its Harworth base near Doncaster and emergency spares can be sourced within 24hrs from the European parts centre of manufacturer ARGO Tractors in northern France.
"In discussions with AgriArgo, we came away very impressed with the products, the people and the resources behind the McCormick tractor range and were encouraged by what we heard from existing users and other dealers," says Phil Robinson. "It was enough to convince us we were doing the right thing."
That impression was reinforced when a local farmer ordered a 92hp McCormick C-Max within 48 hours of the first tractors being delivered to the dealership. Shortly after, a second tractor – a 126hp McCormick MC130 – was purchased from stock by an existing customer.
"We've been delighted by the response from farmers interested in the tractors and the parts and service back-up we can provide," says Rhonda Robinson.
Yorkshire Handlers represents the McCormick marque in an area stretching from Scarborough to the Humber and westwards beyond York in an area bounded by existing dealers Agriplus at Stokesley to the north and Moore Farm Services at Harworth to the south.
Ray Spinks, general manager and sales director of AgriArgo UK says of Yorkshire Handlers’ appointment: "I'm very conscious that we've had a period of instability in our McCormick representation in this area over recent years. That's why we’re delighted to team up with a business that has an established track record for service support and a long-term commitment to making a success of this move into tractor sales."
Having only supplied telescopic handlers before, Mr Robinson acknowledges that he and his team are on a steep learning curve: "At the moment, I daresay existing McCormick users could tell me more about the tractors than I could tell them," he jokes. "But we're determined to get up to speed as soon as possible."
It will help that service manager Lee Richardson and service technician Mark Jibson, who will soon join the workshop team to help support the McCormick franchise, have past experience of the tractors. Fellow technicians Mick Tite and Richard Kirby, who are most often found on farm with their fully-equipped service vans, will build on their knowledge through service training.
"The current McCormick range, with its straight-forward products, is ideal for stock farmers and medium-size growers in our area," says Phil Robinson. "But I'm really excited by the new, more sophisticated tractors that are being developed for larger arable and grassland operations, and show the direction the McCormick range is heading."
AgriArgo area sales manager Phil Maw says: "There is a still an affinity for McCormick tractors in the area; we just needed a dealer that offers long-term stability and a reputation for sales and good service to give farmers confidence in the range once more. I believe we now have that dealer in Yorkshire Handlers."