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History of Forbes Rentals

Now a market leader, employing 150 staff, Forbes Rentals was established in 1926, and initially traded under the name of F. Donald Forbes & Co Ltd

early workshop

The founder, Frederick Donald Forbes, (known as Donald), cultivated a keen interest in wireless radios whilst reading voraciusly on the subject as he recovered from Polio as a teenager. He went on to build 'crystal sets', and in 1926 he opened his first shop, on Station Approach in Purley. At this time, the wireless sets ran on accumulators, which needed recharging, and Forbes' early customers dropped their sets off at the shop to be charged whilst on their commute to the city.

In 1936, the BBC set up a television studio but transmission was interrupted when war broke out. As a result, during the war people were entirely reliant on their wirelesses to keep up to date with events.

Regardless of possessing a pilot's licence, and flying his own airplane, Donald was unable to serve in the war due to the Polio he had as a child. Instead, he worked in a factory producing electrical parts for aircraft, and was called upon for Air Raid Warden duties. During this time, the shop was run by his wife Vera and sister Olive. As the majority of the Forbes engineers were called up to serve, Donald ensured that, in the evenings, he did any required repairs for customers himself.

Purley shop in the 1950s

After the war, the business was a traditional retailer, providing radios, the newly introduced television sets and domestic appliances to the Purley and Croydon areas. The company distributed brands such as Bush, Murphy, HMV, Ferguson, Bendix and Hoover. Donald was passionate about serving the local community, developing good relationships with his customer base, and expanded the company by purchasing his second shop, in Selsdon.

In the late 1950s, Donald's son Malcolm joined the company, and recognised the demand for renting equipment. This laid the foundations for the company as it is now.

Donald's other son, Stuart, joined the family business in the late 1960s. This coincided with the first transmissions of colour TV. At this time, colour televisions were not only very expensive, but also highly unreliable. As a result, they proved to be extremely popular for rental. Forbes was ideally placed, as an established electrical company, to leverage from its client base, delivering a high level of service to the local community.

Purley shop

In the 1980s, with the motorway network opening up, the advent of local radio, and a number of video libraries acting as agencies, Forbes started to market on a regional basis, with the VCR now constituting a core part of the business. Stuart and Malcolm opened another shop at this time, in Sanderstead, Surrey.

From here, through the distribution of leaflet advertising, the company grew rapidly across the country, opening depots in Derby and Swindon.

As Forbes moved into the 21st Century they were becoming highly acquisitory, purchasing rental companies across the UK. In 2000 the head office moved to new premises, in Redhill, Surrey. The company then acquired further depots in Wigan, Glasgow and Devon.

The company has developed beyond the domestic market, and has a strong commercial rental arm. With strong trading names as; Forbes Hotel TV and Forbes Laundry Rentals, we now work in a wide range of sectors, including hotels, hospitals, care homes, schools, universities, vetinary surgeries, equestrian environments, spas and beauty salons, gyms, fire stations and The Ministry of Defence.

Redhill staff

Forbes Rentals supplies leading brands, including Bosch, Miele Professional, Samsung and Panasonic. Whilst operating from its extensive nationwide infrastructure, the company continues to maintain the same core belief systems. A dedicated account manager is allocated to each client, and Forbes employs network of dedicated service engineers who are all manufacturer trained. The company aim is always to build long term relationships with each client.

With Malcolm as Chairman, Stuart as Managing Director, and a third generation of family members involved in the business, Forbes Rentals is still very much a family company. Now with the hard work and dedication of their valued employees, it is one of the largest rental companies in the UK, and the exemplary customer service upon which it organically grew, remains an intrinsic core value and belief.