Weir Enterprises keeps on ticking with forward thinking
Most mornings there is a line of people outside Weir Enterprises on Victoria Street, all waiting to buy less expensive car parts.
The parking lot is often so busy when they open at 8am that general manager Jeff Cook has to park around the corner until things settle down.
“We don’t take appointments,” Mr Cook said. “That is one of the reasons for the congregation of people.”
They used to take bookings but found that they were losing business when people did not show up as scheduled.
When we spoke to Mr Cook, he had already provided parts for 18 different cars and it was not even lunchtime yet.
To some of the customers some of what Weir does feel like magic.
“They always seem to be able to go in the back and come out with the part you need,” one customer said.
But it is not magic, just forward thinking.
Since the pandemic began there have been worldwide supply-chain issues, with container ships bottlenecked in California ports and shortages on containers themselves. As a result there have been shipping delays on a wide range of goods, including car parts.
But a few months ago when Mr Cook heard about the bottleneck of ships on the American West Coast, he took note.
“I thought there might be a problem down the road,” Mr Cook said. “I did not double up on the parts I was buying but I bought more than I normally would. Fortunately we have a good stock right now. But now we are down on one or two items but have stock on the way, so we will get them eventually.”
And the delays and shortages have caused the price of car parts to rise. Antifreeze and brake fluid, for example, have gone up by at least 10 per cent.
One of Weir’s British suppliers recently announced a 10.5 per cent increase in car part prices. Mr Cook was able to negotiate with them to keep the costs down for Bermuda customers for the next six months.
Affordable pricing is an important leg of Weir’s business model.
“I would rather sell ten people an item for $10 than sell the item to one person for $100,” Mr Cook said.
“That way you have ten people who could possibly come back. We try and interact with the customers. If they come in for a service and we find out something else is needed we will say, ‘The mechanic was working on your car and noticed something else is wrong. Would you like us to fix that?’ We try to keep in touch with people, not just do it and send them a bill.”
Mr Cook is always looking for new revenue streams. Seeing how difficult it was to replace electronic keys and key microchips, they started bringing those in, offering key programming services. More recently they noticed that many cars develop a problem with a clock spring needed for airbag operation, so they are looking at bringing in those parts also.
He also considered bringing in parts for electric vehicles but has put that plan on hold for the moment.
He thinks there will not be a market for cheap electric vehicle parts for at least another five years.
“And there are not that many moving parts on an electric vehicle,” he said.
The company was first started by former police officer George Hammond.
“He left the police force and went to work for the bank in the early days of computers,” Mr Cook said.
When Mr Hammond had a problem with his car radiator, he started calling overseas suppliers, but they would not sell him just one radiator. So he brought in several and sold them all. When the exhaust went in his car, he brought in a whole container and sold them.
Soon he was in business. Mr Hammond is Irish and his wife, Carol, Welsh, so they took the letters WE and IR to make the business name Weir Enterprises.
Mr Cook started at the company 30 years ago, then became general manager several years ago when Mr Hammond retired.
“George was a good boss,” Mr Cook said. “And most of the staff have been here for years. I just enjoy the work.”
BAS now owns Weir Enterprises.