Bring me sunshine

Apr 14 | 2016

Deputy Editor David Jordan braved the cold English winter weather to visit the company that has helped thousands of people move to sunnier climes.

As I drove to Algarve Removals’ UK headquarters near Chelmsford on a cold February morning – the dash thermometer read 5 degrees - I wondered what the temperature was in the south of Portugal. Later I went to the BBC Weather site and checked: it was 21 degrees. No wonder so many Brits have decided to live there. During the last fifteen years John Scott and his family have built a successful business moving people to and from Portugal’s Algarve, it’s a niche market, but with around 10,000 UK expats now resident in the area there is no shortage of customers.

As I pulled into the yard men were busily loading one of the firm’s 45ft artics, ready for the weekly run to the sunshine of the Al-Gharb, as its earlier Arab rulers called the region. The name, rather disappointingly, simply means The West.

I was directed to the main office where John introduced me to his daughter Catherine, son Jonathon, and Bonita, who is not part of the Scott family but after 15 years of service has become an honorary member. John’s wife Tracy is also part of the management team but was today having a rare day off.

Algarve Removals was founded in 2001 after John and his family sold their long-established haulage business to a multinational distribution company. “After we sold the business we spent quite a bit of time holidaying in the Algarve and realised there was a gap in the market for a reliable removals and delivery service to and from the UK,” said John. “We had some capital from the sale and so decided to start Algarve Removals. We started with a small van, then a 7.5 tonner and before we knew it we were operating an articulated vehicle and running a regular weekly service.”

The company now has three depots in southern Portugal and has recently opened a branch in Malaga, Spain. There are plans to open a further depot in Ibiza to cater for the large numbers of UK expats now living on the island.

In 2008 the company introduced a new home-shopping delivery service to make it easier for expats living in the relative isolation of the Algarve to buy goods from UK retailers. “If you want to buy, say, a three-piece suite, or a washing machine you have to go to Lisbon or Saville, which are about three hours away from Faro,” said John. “People kept asking us if we could deliver things to them from the UK and so we decided to set up a home-shopping service.”

Algarve residents order goods online from retailers such as John Lewis, Tesco or DFS, and have them delivered to Algarve Removals HQ in Chelmsford. Even small items like CDs and books can be shipped and then collected by the customer from their nearest depot. Large objects can be delivered directly to the customer’s home for a small extra charge.

A new Renault easiLoader high-capacity Luton van was parked outside the office, freshly delivered by the Allports Group and ready for service. The van is one of three which will replace the company’s aging Mercedes-Benz Sprinters and will be used to transport household effects from anywhere in the UK to the Chelmsford warehouse ready for trunking to Portugal. Other than in exceptional circumstances Algarve Removals do not deliver mid-route preferring to concentrate on their niche destinations.

Over the years the company has developed a reputation for high-quality service and reliability and relies mainly on word-of-mouth recommendations and local advertising for its business.

Although most work is for private customers John says he is happy to undertake jobs from other UK removals companies to either the Algarve or Malaga areas.

Photos:  Top right: John Scott; middle left: Bonita; middle right: Catherine; bottom left: Jonathon.

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