Harvey Softeners Ltd. is the largest manufacturer of domestic water softeners in the UK and the European Union. For over 20 years, Patmore Softeners of Ipswich (in the east of England) has been Harvey’s top UK dealer. Owner Tony Patmore helps Harvey Softeners manage its entire UK TwinTec dealer network.
Patmore Water Softeners
120-126 Spring Road Ipswich IP4 5NR England
Telephone: 0044 1473 713600
Fax: 0044 1473 71944
Number of employees: 8
Number of vehicles: 10
Showroom: 547 sq.ft.
Total size of facility 2,655 sq.ft.
The family firm was launched in 1979 when Tony and his father Doug merged their plumbing and electrical businesses. The company changed direction dramatically in 1981 when they realized the huge potential for water softener sales around Ipswich, where the hardness of the water supply is in excess of 350 ppm. The men spoke to Harvey Bowden who handled UK sales for Kinetico at that time and Patmore Softeners was in business, with Harvey providing full sales and marketing support—plus advice, brochures and advertising fliers.
In the early days, Doug handled all the selling while Tony took care of installations, salt deliveries and generally ran the business. Patmore Softeners quickly built a strong local reputation. When Doug retired in 1993, Tony decided to take the opportunity to completely revamp the company a second time. So successful was his new approach that when the end-of-year accounts were being prepared, his accountant actually rang to congratulate him on the spectacular increase in business!
A key element in Patmore’s changes was to replace his low-key industrial premises with a new, high-profile showroom, to attract people to drop in and find out just how much a water softener could do for them. But he had to wait for the right real estate to become available.
Six long years later, he successfully fought off the competition to secure the ideal site, previously a gas station, in a busy location. The big move came in January 2001, followed swiftly in April by a difficult problem for Patmore when his Kinetico contact, Harvey Bowden left the firm to produce his own UK-specific softener.
Patmore Softeners had built its strong local reputation on the Kinetico product—but only with Bowden’s personal and professional support. All Patmore’s existing customers had Kinetico softeners and he was getting calls every day from people who’d been recommended to him, all asking for Kinetico. Patmore decided that the best course of action at that time, to protect the company’s interests, was to sit on the fence—he opted for selling Kinetico softeners alongside Harvey Bowden’s new, UK-specific, TwinTec machine.
“It took no time at all for the pendulum to swing TwinTec’s way,” says Patmore. “It was simply a better product. People were asking for Kinetico because it was a familiar name and I was happy to sell them a Kinetico softener if that’s what they actually wanted. But once I had to chance to show them TwinTec’s superior quality and explain to them the benefits of the UK-specific design, everyone went with TwinTec. So it was a simple decision for me to go with Harvey Bowden and TwinTec and cut my Kinetico ties.”
A third generation of Patmores—Doug’s granddaughter, Tony’s daughter Victoria—joined the company in 2001. She works closely with her dad on the company’s extensive sales and marketing activities. And it’s not her first involvement in the company’s success—she and her sisters Charlotte and Rebecca were the models for Patmore brochures when they were kids. Most in the UK remember them as the little tykes who demonstrated that even a child can load block salt into a water softener.
Tony Patmore started assisting Harvey Softeners with the management of TwinTec in 2004, recruiting and supporting the UK network of dealers. He and Bowden work closely together and provide a high level of marketing and technical support to every dealer, with regular training sessions in Patmore’s Ipswich location and at Harvey Softeners’ new headquarters in Woking.
“People in the UK have become much more aware, in recent years, of the benefits of water softening,” says Patmore, “and of the fact that any outlay in putting in a softener will be offset by savings in energy and in soap and cleaning materials useage within a few short years. Also, many of our customers with skin conditions have been recommended by their doctors to take advantage of the benefits of softeners.
“Patmore Softeners has a rapidly growing marketplace, an excellent product in TwinTec, a strong, active dealer network, a fantastic new showroom and the full support of Harvey Softeners—so the future is looking very good indeed,” sums up Tony Patmore.