Two North West landscape companies have merged in a bid to target a gap in the commercial market as a "first in, last out" contractor.
MJ Hulton in Cheshire and LCS Landscapes in Greater Manchester have merged as Hultons Holdings and last week launched two trading divisions - Hultons Landscapes and Hultons Fencing.
The merger will provide a springboard for growth, according to managing director Graham Buck. The company has already employed 10 new landscapers and fencers, bringing total staff to 60, and predicts turnover will grow by eight per cent over the next year.
Buck said the merger brings economies of scale that enable the company to be more competitive. It has closed the former LCS depot in Wigan and the company operates out of the former MJ Hulton depot in Warburton, Cheshire. Buck said there has been no redundancies but three managers decided to move on.
MJ Hulton previously focused on grounds maintenance and soft landscaping, while LCS was known for its arboriculture work, fencing and soft landscaping. Together they have built up a network of commercial and education clients.
Buck said top-tier commercial contractors such as Balfour Beatty, Bam Nuttall and Sir Robert McAlpine are looking for a one-stop shop when awarding landscape contracts and small companies are being pushed out.
"We're a company that's a little bit different and we can offer clients a wider range of services," he added. "We can put the hoarding up, carry on doing the landscaping, the fencing and then the grounds maintenance. It makes it a lot easier for a lot of clients - they don't want a lot of landscapers on a contract."
He said the growth in the first year will come from offering existing clients an increased range of services. Expansion, with satellite depots, is an aim for the future. "We're interested in other areas of the country and looking at replicating the business model we've got here," said Buck.
Hultons is looking at the Midlands and other areas of northern England. "There seems to be a lot more confidence in the market. We've got a lot more enquires at the moment but what we seem to be lacking is large projects."
Market revival - Landscaper picks up work
Paxman Landscapes is another company to say the market has picked up in the north, particularly in small projects.
Based in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, it won £10,000 of grounds maintenance contracts in March and around £50,000 in soft landscaping. It expects a further £115,000 in landscaping deals by the end of April.
Managing director Justin Paxman said market conditions are better but added: "Things have picked up because we've put ourselves out there. We're turning over £170,000 a year and want to get that to £300,000." He credited a vigorous social media policy with helping him turn the company around from near collapse five years ago.