Fri | Aug 17, 2018

Comfort Systems expands to Negril, to grow Caribbean footprint

Published:Wednesday | February 14, 2018 | 12:00 AM
A seaside scene in sunny Negril. Air-conditioning company ComfortSystems has set up a branch of its operations in the resort town, which will open for business on March 1, 2018.

Air-conditioning company ComfortSystems Limited will open a new branch in Negril on March 1, becoming the only operator in the market to establish a physical presence in the resort town, according to CEO Patrick Walker.

The company is also eyeing further expansion of its network, but this time its sights is set offshore. Walker has not named the country where his company plans to set up operations, but signalled it would be somewhere in the region.

ComfortSystems began exporting last year, but its overseas clientele is now served from Jamaica, where the company operates from three locations. Negril will become the fourth outlet.

"We started exporting to a Caribbean island in 2017 and we have been approached" to set up shop there, Walker said.

ComfortSystems launched into business in 2006, and now has outlets in Kingston, Montego Bay and Ocho Rios. Negril was chosen as the fourth location because of the absence of rivals.

"Our research has shown that despite the vibrant tourist market and numerous hotels, villas and guest houses in that locale, Negril does not have a single air-conditioning or refrigeration company which is capable of serving the needs of that market. The nearest ones are in Savanna-la-Mar, which is almost 30 kilometres away, requiring over half-hour of driving time to get there," said Walker.

"We have answered the call and will be opening our Negril outlet on March 1 ... and will be within shouting distance of most of our customers."

The premises, located along the White Hall main road, have been leased for five years with the option to renew. The office is launching with six employees, but Walker said he would be adding service personnel and growing the staff count to 26.

Prior to expansion, the company was targeting business growth of 12.5 per cent to 15 per cent, this year, but Walker now says he is aiming to double that.

ComfortSystems is a supplier of Windchill air-conditioning equipment and Duralite energy-saving bulbs. Both brands are owned by the company.

The bulbs and Windchill units are manufactured in China for ComfortSystems.

Back in 2015, when he moved the company's headquarters from MoBay to Kingston, Walker indicated that the company's annual sales were in the ballpark of $100 million, 75 per cent of which was contributed by the air- conditioning segment, and the remainder from energy-saving products.

He was not as forthcoming with current sales figures, but indicated that the business was growing.

"Subject to our auditors confirmation, we would say we met most of our 2017 targets, and while the year was a bit more challenging than was anticipated, I think we will be smiling when the accounts are tallied," he said.

This year, it is targeting export growth and new sales from the introduction of a new energy-saving air-conditioning unit.

Walker declined comment on the investment in the new product and his expansion programme, but said the financing was mainly from internal resources.

"But, our bankers are very amiable and are on standby should the need arise," he quipped.

"We are in this for the long haul and we have resources to keep us going for quite a while. But if we do not see what we are looking for in say a 12 to18-month period, we would take another look at our strategies."

Walker is otherwise in the preliminary stages of planning the expansion of ComfortSystems' Kingston complex, and for that project he will be seeking financing, he said.

avia.collinder@gleanerjm.com