Best foot forward

A.T. Best Handlers Ltd new depot Macmerry Industrial Estate
The new depot in Macmerry Industrial Estate

A.T. Best Handlers Ltd. has opened a new depot in Tranent, East Lothian after telehandler manufacturer Manitou extended the company’s area at the start of this year.

The Airdrie-based business said it has grasped the opportunity with “passion and determination”, purchasing a one-and-a-half-acre site in Macmerry Industrial Estate, from where it will sell the latest Manitou and Takeuchi machines as well as provide a full service and parts back-up.

Following an extensive refurb, the premises also boasts a training room and a shop selling agricultural and construction supplies including PPE, workwear, tools, consumables and much more.

A.T. Best was founded in 1997 by Stuart Rose and his late wife Evelyn. Stuart is still a director alongside son Richard.

The business has been supplying Manitou products in the west of Scotland for more than two decades, growing year on year. Last year over 220 new Manitou machines and over 90 Takeuchi excavators were sold.  

Richard Rose told Project Plant the business was approached by Manitou last year to ask if it would be interested in extending its current west of Scotland areas to also include the east of Scotland, covering Edinburgh, Lothians, Falkirk and Peeblesshire.

A.T Best Handlers Ltd depot shop
The site contains a shop, which sells a range of products

“This now gives us full coverage from east to west of Scotland,” Richard said. “We knew that a strong presence was pivotal to serve our new and existing customers in this new area. We wanted to provide a first class service and be as accessible as possible.

“It was challenging to find suitable premises to facilitate us with a workshop and secure yard. The market in this area was sparse but we struck lucky through word of mouth with a long-standing customer. The original premises were in disrepair, but we had a vision to develop it to serve our needs.  It has turned out to be a fantastic site; we have a generous workshop and yard. The location is centrally based in the area and has prime site within the industrial estate, being the first business you see as you enter.”

The new Macmerry depot marks a huge investment for the business, but Richard believes the long-term impact will be wholly positive, with plenty potential to increase market share. In particular, he sees scope to introduce more industrial forklifts and access equipment into the area as well as growing the numbers of all Manitou and Takeuchi products.

“Our turnover is going up year on year anyway; I can see it taking another jump,” Richard added. “This was our area for Takeuchi already, but Takeuchi alone didn’t justify a new depot. It’s complemented that dealership as well by having a presence here.”

John Shute and Richard Rose of A.T Best Handlers Ltd
John Shute and Richard Rose

A.T. Best’s general manager John Shute led the extensive refurbishment programme at the new site. Describing the work that has taken place, he said, “We had to remove asbestos, and then re-cladded the building. We put in new glass for the entrance to the shop, and screed flooring. We’ve also installed two mezzanine levels – one for storage and one for PPE/clothing. We refurbished a couple of offices and the workshop, and also put in new benches and stairwells. The site has also been totally rewired and replumbed.” 

John thinks the addition of the shop will provide an extra revenue stream and help build up new business relationships. “The shop brings many different types of people in,” he added. “A lot of people come in for one-off purchases – a shirt or dog food. Everybody that comes in to a dealership at the moment misses out on that. We want them coming in to have a look at a Manitou and (also) leave with some boots. They complement each other. The shop brings people through the door from industries who possibly wouldn’t necessarily approach us.”

Richard added that the advantages of the refurbishment include the fact they’ve been able to build on existing relationships and also start potentially fruitful new ones.

“We’ve utilised our customers in different trades to give them something back,” he explained. “We have a customer who buys access platforms from us but the other side of their business is modular buildings. We have purchased a fully equipped modular office block to which they have delivered and installed to a very high standard. The company who re-cladded the building buys Manitou telehandlers for his farm and construction side of his business, and Takeuchi excavators. Another customer did the screed floor. We also utilised our customers for the skips. Over and above that, we’ve also had to bring in different people, which has created relationships leading on to business. Some of it has already and some has the potential to in the future.”

Although the depot has only just opened, A.T. Best has been covering the region since the beginning of the year, with Richard taking plenty of encouragement from the number of deals already concluded.

The new depot has provided several employment opportunities for the local community and attracted positive feedback from both customers and nearby businesses alike.

“One of the things we did was knocked down a seven-foot wall, which was unstable,” Richard said. “Before, you drove into the industrial estate and all you saw was the wall; now there’s a nice red fence and an impressive looking line-up of machines. It’s really opened the site up and we’ve had positive comments about how we’ve improved the overall outlook of the industrial estate, which is nice to hear.”