Tributes paid to motor retailer pioneer Geoff Snow
MOTORING LEGEND: Geoff Snow, the late founder of Snows Motor Group in southern England, with a collection of his racing trophies.
THANK YOU: Geoff Snow, the late founder of Snows Motor Group in southern England, is pictured centre with management colleagues celebrating the group’s 50th anniversary five years ago. Geoff’s son, Stephen, group chairman, is pictured on the far right. From left, Shawn Gates, Phil Maddison, Les Gattrell (since left), Geoff, Mark Trapani, group managing director, and Stephen.
TRIBUTES: Geoff Snow with his wife of 57 years, Joyce. Geoff, the founder of Snows Motor Group in southern England, has passed away at the age of 85.
He was the driving spirit of a flourishing motor retailer that now employs more than 750 people and proudly carries his surname on 35 franchises across southern England, including in and around Exeter.
Tributes have been paid to Geoff Snow, the founder and non-executive director of family-run Snows Motor Group, one of the top 60 motor retailers in the UK.
Geoff, 85, died peacefully at hospital on August 23rd from dementia-related illness.
He leaves behind his wife of 57 years, Joyce, son Stephen, who is group chairman, and daughters Jacqueline and Jenny, as well as nine grandchildren and a great grandson.
Recently, and poignantly, one of Geoff’s nine grandchildren, Katie, who works in the business, gave birth to his first great grandchild, Oscar.
Snows was originally established by Geoff 55 years ago, in 1962, as an office supplies company in Southampton before he made the transformative decision to enter the retail motor market 38 years ago.
The investment in St James’ Toyota Centre in the port city proved a shrewd move.
From Hampshire to the West Country, Snows now represents the automotive brands of Abarth, BMW, Citroën, DS, Fiat, Kia, Lexus, Lotus, MINI, Peugeot, SEAT, Suzuki, Toyota, Volkswagen Commercial and Volvo, as well as seven used-car outlets named Too Good to Auction, across Berkshire, Devon, Dorset, Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Somerset, Surrey and Wiltshire.
Locally there is Lexus Exeter, Snows Toyota Exeter, Snows Toyota Honiton and Snows Toyota Paignton.
“My father was a pioneer in the retail car industry here on the south coast, with an absolute belief that the customer is king, that if you get the customer service right every time then the sales will follow.
“We’ve seen generations of families buy from Snows because of what Dad did – he knew the importance of making the purchasing decision process as comfortable as possible for the buyer.
“That philosophy is at the heart of what we do at Snows – it is enshrined in our training academy, on the forecourts and in the service bays.
“Car manufacturers soon realised that Snows was a family-run brand trusted and respected by customers of all ages and requirements.
“Whilst as a family we grieve, my father’s legacy very much lives on in the company name and the pioneering culture he instigated and oversaw with his trademark driving spirit.”
Katie Snow, group project and development manager, and granddaughter to Geoff, said:
“Grandad has been an inspiration to me and the entire family.
“It was a special moment when he attended our group conference at the Concorde Club in Eastleigh earlier this year, an example of how much Geoff loved being part of the business many years after retiring.”
Mark Trapani, group managing director, said:
“Whilst we mourn the loss of Geoff, we also celebrate his life and the wonderful business he has built, creating hundreds of jobs along the way and making car ownership a joy for customers over the decades.
“Geoff was always a special man in so many ways. He recognised talent and gave people opportunities to blossom.
“I joined Geoff and soon became a director with a clear brief. He was always fair and could be a very generous leader provided you managed the pennies.
“He was a great inspirer who allowed you to get on with anything you were prepared to commit to.
“Away from the business Geoff was always most sociable and welcoming and he loved being amongst like-minded people.
“He left an indelible mark on the business he created and the people he allowed to embark on the journey with him. I for one will miss him enormously.”
Shawn Gates, group financial director, also paid tribute:
“Three generations of my own family have served Snows. My father first worked for Geoff in 1962 for many years at Snows Office Supplies. I joined the business in 1991 and my son, Louis, joined the group in 2016.
“It has been a rewarding experience working for Geoff and many families owe him a debt of gratitude for what has been achieved with the group over 55 years.”
Never one to miss an advertising opportunity, when he first ran an office supplies and printing business in Southampton in the 1960s, Geoff ensured that his company cars had the name Snows emblazoned on their roofs because office workers would see the name from the increasing number of high-rise buildings being built.
Geoff Snow was born on July 3rd 1932 at Charlton, Andover, Hampshire. He joined the Royal Navy as a Boy Seaman just three years after the end of the Second World War in 1945, drawing a weekly pay of five shillings at HMS Vincent, Gosport, near Portsmouth.
Aged 29, he fulfilled his desire to start a business, having had a range of jobs and competing in autocross races which fired his love of cars.
As well as the office supplies trade, operating out of leased premises at 49 Oxford Street, Southampton, with boundless energy and zest, Geoff’s business interests included a ladies’ hair salon and a decor firm.
It was Snows Business Forms, a print manufacturing company he founded, which opened Geoff’s eyes up to the motor retail market in the 1970s.
The firm, which operates from a 27,000 sq ft facility in Millbrook, Southampton, and has now been trading for more than 40 years, supplies more than 20 of the UK’s largest motor manufacturers, along with around 10,000 commercial customers.
In 1979 Geoff invested in St James’ Toyota Centre, the first full introduction to the retail motor trade, with various franchise deals following.
Geoff, who lived in Romsey, Hampshire, retired in 2007, with son Stephen taking over as chairman of the group, which is headquartered at Snows House, Second Avenue, Millbrook, Southampton.
Funeral details have not yet been finalised.