Posted on Wednesday 13 March 2013 by Ulster Business
Keith Kyle, Managing Director of Draperstown company Yardmaster, which has just won a contract to supply flat packed garden sheds to Home Retail Group.
Yardmaster International, which employs 70 people in Draperstown, said it has already seen sales increase by a third in the last three years and is targeting new markets in Eastern Europe, as well as further expansion in Germany, to boost sales in 2013.
Managing Director Keith Kyle said: "As the number one manufacturer of garden sheds in Europe, we are delighted to top off an extremely busy couple of years by signing a major new contract with Home Retail Group.
"Currently, we have four shifts working at our highest ever level of output to meet demand for sales achieved through retail catalogues, DIY chains, and, increasingly, online. We already export to GB, France, Belgium and Germany and will be looking to expand into new sales territories in 2013."
Yardmaster garden sheds are constructed from pre-painted steel, with designs having evolved since the company was founded in 1984 into a wide variety of styles.
Keith says the flat packed shed, with its ease of construction and maintenance, has largely replaced the old style garden shed. Yardmaster's offering includes a 10-year guarantee against rust and home delivery to end consumers inside 14 days in several key European markets.
As a market leader in Europe, the closest competitors to Yardmaster are based in the US/Canada and Australian markets.
"Online has transformed how companies like ours do business," said Mr Kyle. "Today, we have to compete on a global stage and that means doing direct deals with, for example, world steel manufacturers, to secure steel to our high specification at the best prices.
"There is a constant requirement to remain competitive and cost effective, especially when it comes to doing business with major European retailers and selling directly on the internet, where the competitive environment changes daily. It keeps us on our toes!"
The company's workforce includes a wide range of skills, including machine operators, administration, sales and management. Employees, from school leavers to university graduates, include locals as well as people from ROI, Poland, Lithuania, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
"Initially, it was quite difficult for our migrant workforce," explained Mr Kyle. "Important issues such as health and safety procedures had to be translated and explained thoroughly. We had to do a certain amount of hand holding to help them with accommodation, language difficulties, work permits and benefits, registering vehicles, making travel arrangements and so on.
"The initial investment in time and effort was worth it, however, because they have proven to be hard-working, reliable employees – as all our people are. Now they are very much part of the local community and part of the Yardmaster workforce.
"Thanks to our success, we have been able to provide employment to people in this area on a full-time, part-time and shift work basis, as well as to bring in new talent and new ideas," he added.
"Also, should new markets open up and grow to meet our expectations over the next couple of years we have plenty of contacts here on the ground to help us expand our workforce!"