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COMPANY PROFILE

Life - Norfolk Leisure Style

GTN caught up with Nick Anderson and Debbie Waudby, Directors of Norfolk Leisure, based in Kings Lynn, Norfolk to find out more about the development of the business, the current trading situation and their plans for the future. From its humble beginnings, the company has gone from strength to strength and is set to turnover £30 million-plus this year. This is physically illustrated by the growth in its footprint, with the team having moved to a new office building, new showrooms and warehouse expansion onsite in 2020 and an additional 4,500 sq m planned for late 2021. Their ranges too have expanded and brands include Life, Florenity, Handpicked and Keter with more on the way. There is a good mix of product for both ecommerce and retail sales. Despite such growth, the business retains a family ethos toward both its customers and its workforce. Nick explains, ”our business is built on relationships and we treat our customers equally whether they are small retail outlets or larger groups. We make sure that we have product and time for everyone. We haven’t left anyone behind as we have grown. “We have an extremely loyal workforce, many of whom have been with us a long time. We are still very much a family business in that sense. In the early days when we still manufactured product, my wife, Jo, was instrumental in starting the importing side of the business. Both my son and Debbie’s daughter and sister now work for the business. Communication is key and with around 40 employees currently, we are still able to keep everyone informed and involved.” It won’t have escaped anybody’s attention that the last year has been challenging for a whole host of reasons, not least the cost of importing containers from the Far East. Debbie says, “We normally bring in 2500 TEU containers across the year at an average cost $1,800 per container. This past year has seen costs escalate to between $9,000-$10,000 per container with some companies having been quoted $14,000! Fortunately, we have a strong relationship with our forwarders and brought a lot of our stock in early for a relatively reasonable shipping cost, although still a long way above what we usually pay. Our saving

6 April 2021

grace has also been in that we have warehouse facilities in China which gave us more flexibility.” Nick adds, “Our supplier meetings have taken place online and whilst we have been unable to make a trip to China we are fortunate in that last time around we did an extensive tour. We added a lot of product to our range, in fact too much for one year, and so we continue to introduce some of that. Last week saw 12 containers a day arrive onsite. It is imperative that stock moves quickly and that’s why we need increased warehouse space in the UK too.” Their onsite showroom became an invaluable sales tool in 2020 too. They used this to create a virtual showroom for their Christmas range. With the help of Nick’s son, a film and media graduate, customers were taken on a virtual tour enabling them to click on the products in the showroom for further information. Debbie comments, “It took a long time to develop but was so worthwhile with increased Christmas sales revenue despite few face to face visits.” Is this an approach they are likely to continue with rather than exhibit at trade shows? Debbie comments, “We are still on the fence when it comes to our presence at future trade shows. We have demonstrated a very cost-effective way

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of reaching our customers on our own premises and I am not sure we would do shows in the same way as in the past. The past couple of years have seen the product range move from weave to aluminium and aluminium mix products. Whilst there is still a place for weave the team at Norfolk Leisure feel that this shift will continue with limited opportunities for development in weave. Debbie comments on the second year of strong growth: “Consumers are also looking for quality product and are spending significantly more on outdoor furniture sets. People are investing in their outdoor room and entertaining spaces.” LIFE, one of the most successful brands, was brought into the fold some years and Norfolk Leisure are the exclusive UK partners. The brand has very distinct and desirable designs. Norfolk Leisure has a lot of exciting plans for next year with new products across their ranges. One big development will be the launch of their Norfolk Grills brand of barbecues which they have spent the last couple of years bringing to fruition. Nick adds, “This is an exciting development for us. We have invested a huge amount of time to make sure that we get it right. We will also see lots of new products and development in our Life range, which is constantly evolving.” Nick concludes: “Whilst innovative and strong product ranges are critical, the key to running a business like Norfolk Leisure is about having good people. It takes time to build a strong team but we are fortunate on that front and all our employees play an integral role in the success of the company, as demonstrated by the challenges presented over the past 18 months.”

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