Garden centre wholesalers Decco and Stax look to have satisfied the market after a period of turbulence in the garden product market when Solus went into administration in 2014 and now there is an opportunity to grow the sundries market again, they say.
Solus once turned over £100m but administrators split it up, with its brands going to Scotts and its distribution business being mainly picked up by existing players Decco and Stax. Scotts sold on the Chapelwood and Bermuda brands, while Smart Garden, Crest Garden and others took Solus's product market share. There has also been some consolidation in suppliers, with Westland buying Sinclair, for instance.
Decco and Stax took over much of Solus's business and their new chief executive Charlie Lacey says the company, established in 1947, now has a £100m turnover in home and garden and construction and industrial supplies.
Stax has eight areas of business including outdoor/gardening and DIY areas and has a £110m annual turnover. It supplies 50,000 businesses on a cash and carry wholesale basis as well as a delivered wholesale service. Stax also has own brands in outdoor and gardening.
The company has 350,000sq ft of warehousing, a £9.7m inventory, a field sales team of 36, more than 6,000 customers and 55 Decco delivery vehicles. Its garden product warehouses are located in Belfast, Chesham, Ipswich, Leeds, Newton Abbot and Perth.
Companies distributed include Fiskars, Apollo, La Hacienda, Walsall Wheelbarrows, Doff, Vitax, Johnston & Jeff, Rentokil, Oasis Floral Products, Neudorff, DLF, Scotts, SBM, Maxicrop, ALM, Cuprinol, Spear & Jackson, Hozelock, Bosch, Jeyes, STV, Haws, Strata, Town & Country and Felco. Vitax's Colin Wetherley-Mein points out that 90% of his product sells through Decco.
Lacey says Decco has stock-keeping units (SKUs) of each company with plenty of depth. He is looking to find "new business, new markets or new products to sell". His 36 sales people are "an extension of your sales team". He says a company such Neudorff could not justify a full sales resource on the ground "and we were able to plug that gap through our sales guys".
He adds that some large garden centre groups are big enough to have central warehousing but prefer to spend their money on developing centres rather than building warehousing.
Choice, Tillington, Klondyke, Robert Dyas, Blue Diamond, Haskins, Notcutts, Prosper, Future, Mole Valley and Hillier are among customers. High street DIY is 51% of sales, while 42% is garden centres.
"Garden centres are more sophisticated in their approach to retailing and category management with a lot more space and volume but sundries are becoming less and less relevant because of their destination profile," says Lacey. But he points out that sundries are in fact core gardening and says there is an "opportunity there to raise the profile and floor space of sundries, core gardening and ferts and chems."
Decco picks 3.7 million branded products a year and Lacey says his customers have the advantage that they are branded products, unlike "non-trusted" brands sold by many discounters. He adds that 18% of his sales are now through online ordering. Decco is the biggest supplier for Scotts, with £2.9m of stock, 28,000 deliveries, 293,000 picks and 300 SKUs. In contrast, specialist brand Neudorff has 10,000 picks.
Garden Industry Manufacturers Association (GIMA) director Vicky Nuttall says: "Both Decco and Stax have established themselves as key players in the distribution of garden products to independent retailers including garden centres and high street hardware and DIY. They've definitely plugged the hole left by Solus."
Decco is Tillington's principal wholesaler and the buying group is pleased with the service it provides as well as the terms offered.
Choice Marketing's Michelle de Lavis Trafford said: "We use both Decco and Stax as both are now fully established in serving our members since the demise of Solus. The current system works for our members who are nationwide, giving them the choice of Decco or Stax."