Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

£5m deal opens new doors for shed firm

A Co Londonderry company has won a £5m contract to supply sheds to Argos and Homebase.

Yardmaster International, which employs 70 people in Draperstown, has already seen sales increase by a third in the last three years and is now targeting new markets in eastern Europe, as well as further expansion in Germany.

The new deal will see the firm distribute flat packed garden sheds to catalogue and DIY store giant Home Retail Group, the parent company of Argos and Homebase.

Yardmaster was founded in 1984 and makes garden sheds from pre-painted steel, including smaller storage units commonly used at caravan parks and large garden sheds.

The closest competitors to Yardmaster are based in the US/Canada and Australian markets.

Managing director Keith Kyle said online retailing has changed how the company is doing business.

"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," he said.

"We already export to Great Britain, France, Belgium and Germany and will be looking to expand into new sales territories in 2013.

"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 machine operators, administration, sales and management, and employees, from school leavers to university graduates, from Northern Ireland, the Republic, Poland, Lithuania, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Mr Kyle said that despite initial difficulties for the migrant workforce – such as sorting out work permits, benefits and accommodation – the investment in time and effort involved in employing staff from overseas was worth it.

"Now they are very much part of the local community and part of the Yardmaster workforce," he said.

"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.

"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."