In a retail world dominated by conglomerates and chain stores Fieldfare Gardenware products offer a unique opportunity for the independent garden sector, allowing the smaller outlets to compete on a more equal footing.
“This is an industry I feel passionate about,” say Andrew Downey, managing director of Tildenet, the company that bought Fieldfare in 2007. “One I have been involved in for twenty odd years.” In fact Tildenet has been supplying the horticultural industry for over thirty years. Based in the United Kingdom, it also has a thriving export market, with offices and distribution networks worldwide.
The principle selling point of Fieldfare is that it offers own branding to the smaller garden centers, an advantage that was previously only available to larger organizations because of trading volume. Own branding allows a garden centre to have its company name, address, logo, colours etc printed on the packaging, thus setting products apart from other manufactured brands. Apart from offering free-advertising, this also promotes confidence in the product, enhancing a trusting relationship between the consumer and their local garden store.
Fieldfare began as a family business in Northampton twenty odd years ago. Successfully it established loyal relations with its customers, and grew despite outdated technological systems (extraordinarily the father and sons team worked without the use of computers, emails, faxes. Everything was filed on paper). Tildenet, also a family-run business, bought the company in 2007, attracted by its unique character and by the attractive range of products.
“In particular this business serves the independent garden centres,” says Andrew Downey. “Which by their very nature are a much more ethical and friendly sector of business to work with. Most of them are family run businesses like my own.”
“It was a challenging start,” Andrew goes on to say. “We had to bring the company up to date with twenty first century technology. But we managed to turn the business around into a 97% fulfillment rate and a three day turnaround on all orders.”
While Tildenet have modernized the technological side of the company they have also maintained the intimate relationships established with customers.
Fieldfare Gardenware has now grown for the second year running. The company has increased its product range by 15% and is now expanding its ware-housing facilities.
“Currently we supply over 500 garden centres,” says Andrew Downey. “And we are confident we can double this figure within the year. Our customers are seeing the benefits of own brand and are reporting increased sales of up to 40%. In September we will be exhibiting again at Glee, where we will have all the new range on display and hope to meet many existing and new clients.”
This year Fieldfare has launched Agriframes, a range of steel garden structures for fruit and vegetable growing, as well as an attractive collection of flower climbing frames designed by Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen. Also new is its eco range. England is a nation of garden lovers and eco-friendly products go hand in hand with that. Fieldfare has a range of biodegradable products, including jute string, leaf collecting sacks and nature bags for compost collections. They also have Ugrow bee attract, which is a great way to encourage all species of bees into your garden, and Ugrow cat clear, plants that help to keep cats off your flowerbeds.
It is also launching its own brand bird food.
“This is one of our fastest growing product ranges,” says Ruth Green, Fieldfare’s new business development manager. “Everyone is concerned about wild bird care nowadays. It has very much become a UK pastime and is also a great way to entertain and educate the next generation.”
In fact The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds ran over 100 “Feed the Birds Day” events across the UK over the weekend of 24-25 October last year. While people continue to take most available habitats for themselves, we seem to have unleashed a popular moral drive to compensate by providing safe, regular feeding for our birds.
The bird-food products on sale at Fieldfare range from a variety of sunflower seeds, high energy mixes, niyjer seeds, fat balls, and live foods such as mealworms and insect mixes, all of which attract flocks of greenfinches, blue tits, chaffinches, sparrows, robins and song thrushes back to our gardens. Products also include a large variety of birdfeeders, made from either plastic, wire mesh or stainless steel, depending on customer preference. Whether one has a garden, a courtyard or simply a window box, everyone is aware of the need to support British birdlife, and if people can utilize own-branded products from their local independent garden centre, they are also supporting the environment and community in which they live. ..