Geoff Pygall – A Pickfords Giant

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Back in the 1930’s there was a well known advert for Pickfords, which described the company and its vans as the gentle giant of the removals industry. Over the years many of its senior managers have become to be remembered as leaders, innovators within not only Pickfords but also within the removals industry in general.

One such individual was Geoff Pygall, who became one the leading influencers and innovators of the removal industry in the decades after Word War Two. Geoff began his career with Pickfords in 1942 working in the office at Pickfords’ Eastbourne branch. It’s said that Geoff chose to work in the office rather than the warehouse as it offered more opportunities for career advancement.

Following national service at the end of the forties, Geoff re-joined the company and became manager of the Herne bay branch. His managerial success led to him running several branches in the South of England before he eventually ended up in the Southampton branch – one of the largest revenue earners in the South of England. His success in running Southampton led to his promotion to the post of General Removals Manager and finally to the post of Managing Director of Pickfords in 1976.

The ensuing years would not only see major changes and upheavals in Pickfords but also the wider removals industry. Geoff Pyall was at the forefront of these changes both in terms of Pickfords and the removals industry as a whole.

The late 1970’s and early 1980’s would see one of most significant developments in the history of Pickfords, when it moved from nationalised ownership to private ownership as part of the newly formed National Freight Consortium. This transfer of ownership was notable because it was one of the first under the Thatcher government to encourage staff ownership of their workplace through the purchase of shares within the Consortium. Geoff Pygall, along with other senior management figures, travelled the length and breadth of the country encouraging employees to participate in the buyout. The success of their efforts can be seen in the large numbers of employees who invested in the company.

Under Geoff’s innovative leadership, Pickfords would be the first company to translate the BAR trading conditions into plain English; the first to introduce payment in advance that provided better cash flow and financial certainty; the first to introduce a fixed rate for insurance based on the price of the move rather than the value of the goods; and was a pioneer of palletised storage all of which would be universally adopted by the industry.

However, Geoff’s interests were not solely focused on Pickfords. Geoff gave a lot of his time to developing and improving the wider removals industry. One particular passion, inspired by the knowledge he gained during his time at Pickfords, was teaching for the Institute of Furniture Warehousing and Removals Industry. He would eventually become its chairman and his knowledge of the industry and ability to impart that wisdom is acknowledged by other giants of the industry such as Michael Gerson.

As President of the British Association of Removers, Geoff would take the lead in bringing issues such as consumer protection, licencing and drivers hours to Government and decision makers, making use of the many contacts he had made during his time as MD of Pickfords. Even as BAR President his passion for training and teaching did not end. He would attend as many area meetings as he could, often discussing and advising on how to cost a removal and costing models that individual companies could use.

Even after he left Pickfords in 1982, his association with the company did not end. He was a regular attendee at the Old Pickfordians dinner each year until his death in 2014.
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