Solus Garden & Leisure consolidates garden centre distribution

Solus Garden & Leisure has consolidated its distribution to garden centres, reducing its suppliers from 100 to 20 and with more than a dozen of its own brands driving the business.

More than 250 garden centre owners, including groups from Choice and Tillington, have visited the company's Droitwich showroom in the past few weeks to see ranges for 2011.

Solus brands now include Yeoman (now 43 per cent of garden tools in garden centres), Adorn (gift and indoor), Yeominis (kids tools), Woodland Wilf (gnomes), Vento (laundry), Chapelwood (bird care), Joseph Bentley (tools), Botanico (grow you own), Revolution (barbeque products and lighting accessories), Camelot (outdoor living) and Bermuda (water gardening).

It has 300 staff, a £100m turnover, six depots, supplies 2,000 garden centres and is moving into multiples such as B&Q.

Managing director Nick Davies said he expected Dobbies to start centrally warehousing and distributing its own products as it grows, but added that Wyevale dropped the idea in 2007 after finding the costs were higher than expected.

Davies said the wholesale sector had "polarised" to just Solus, Decco and Stax. "We had to grow Solus brands to continue to live and breathe," he explained.

Brands still being supplied by the business include Scotts, Hozelock, Wilkinson Sword, Town & Country, Bayer, Jeyes, Johnsons Seeds, Fiskars, Sinclair, Spotless Punch, Cuprinol, Vitax and Fastforward Music.

Solus came out of "big ticket" outdoor furniture in 2009 and has gone into outdoor living - parasols, hammocks, gazebos, cushions and folding furniture.

Davies said many garden centres were switching from furniture to accessories, too. He pointed out that freight, exchange and manpower problems from China had now stabilised.

Chapelwood manager Henry Corbett said bird food was now £15.25m (nearly 26 per cent) of the £59m-a-year garden centre market. He added that new sales growth would lie in wildlife-friendly products such as toad abodes.

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