Business

Monday 22 September 2014

Grafton cementing growth with product line changes

Woodie's owner buoyed by rise in sale of its building products

Roisin Burke

Published 09/03/2014 | 02:30

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Gavin Slark, CEO of the Grafton Group

Woodie's DIY owner Grafton Group is rethinking its product lines to get back to first principles – selling DIY kit, gardening tools and plants.

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"We're conscious we did broaden the offering at Woodie's possibly a bit too much," said chief executive Gavin Slark. "We need to refocus that offering on the areas that were particularly strong."

Product lines at the 30-store Irish chain that have proved less of a hit lately include fishing tackle, partyware, home accessories like candles and cushions and, the object of everyone's dreaded weekend activity, flat-pack furniture.

"We had a very, very large range of self-assembly furniture – we need some but not the size we were carrying.

"What the customers want is DIY, decoration and gardening," said Mr Slark.

On the building materials side of the business, where Grafton owns Chadwick's and Heiton Buckley, builders and plumbers have begun buying materials in force for the first time since the property crash, especially since the second half of last year.

"Most noticeable in the second half is the resurgence of growth in Irish builders' merchanting business for the first time since 2007," said Mr Slark. "It marks out the end of the downturn and the beginning of the recovery.

"There's a general increase right across the board in the work small- and medium-sized builders are doing," he said. "And as well as the strong greater Dublin area during the second half of the year recovery was filtering down towards Cork, Galway and Limerick."

Grafton is about to close the €20.5m acquisition of Belgian builders' merchants and DIY chain MPRO and is growing business in Belgium as well as Britain, where it plans to expand its building materials business.

"We are constantly looking at acquisitions but they have to demonstrate very good value. If we find the right opportunity whether it's for €2m or €25m it's very doable for us. We're at our lowest level of debt since 2001. There isn't anything we're looking at doing that we can't afford," Mr Slark added.

Grafton Group reported €2.3bn revenues and €78.3m profits, a rise of 35 per cent, in its results for 2013.

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