Demand for garden products has boomed during lockdown – as Altrincham-based Grono can testify.
As the company nears £10m turnover this year, we met up with managing director James Benjamin.
ALTRINCHAM TODAY: Tell us a bit about the background to the company.
JAMES BENJAMIN: The company was founded about 11 years ago when Lionel (Gilmartin, pictured above with MD James Benjamin) came across a bit of artificial grass, and given the entrepreneur he is, thought this product could really take off in the UK. From knocking on customers’ doors it has grown rapidly and we’re in a range of builders’ merchants.
AT: How long have you actually been in Altrincham?
JB: We’ve been here just over a year. Lionel lives here and we’ve always had our business meetings in Altrincham. It’s an up and coming town and we love the buzz and how everything is on your doorstep.
AT: Can you give us an introduction to what Grono is?
JB: We sell artificial grass and composite products into builders’ merchants. We import them and in some instances manufacture them. We also develop our own products so invest heavily in R&D. We supply builders’ merchants including Jewson, Travis Perkins, Huws Gray and MKM – around 800 altogether at the moment, from northern Scotland to the south coast, and we’re expanding into Ireland.
The last three years we’ve doubled turnover every year and profit even faster than that. Three years ago we were turning over £3.2m, then £5.5m, we’re on target for £10m this year and next year we’re targeting £18m.
AT: What is it about Grono’s products that make you stand out?
JB: We’re competitively priced and also do a lot of product testing. We import from countries all over the world and although they give you a quality certificate, we do our own quality checks in our warehouse. We’re now the market leader in composite products – a composite product is a wood/plastic mixture that is 95% recycled material such as plastic bottles.
AT: During the pandemic there’s been a big trend of people improving their gardens. Have you seen an impact?
JB: Yes there’s been an absolute boom in the industry. A lot of people are investing in their property instead of going on vacation, and we expect it to continue like this for the next two or three years. We’re expanding our product range to meet this demand – at the moment our product range includes grass, fencing, cladding and decking, and we’re bringing in pergolas, firepits and Alexa decking lights. We listen to what the market’s doing and go off and develop our own.
AT: What is the vision going forward?
JB: The vision is to use our innovation to bring quality products to market and ensure we stay as market leaders. We’ve developed three types of decking board which the market hasn’t seen, as well as patented products, which will all get released in the next two to three months. We’re not just importers, we’re inventors, and we’ve got high aspirations to really take control of the market.
AT: Bringing it back to Altrincham, how much room have you got to grow here?
JB: We’ve got a lot of room here. This office can probably hold 45 staff and we’ve got around 18 office-based staff at the moment, so we’re here for many, many years to come. What we bring back into Altrincham is our builders’ merchant network – once every three months we hold a garden party here for clients and the local business community, and it fits perfectly with the kind of company we are.
AT: So your message to Altrincham-based customers is?
JB: Anyone is welcome to come into our courtyard and see our products, and if they like them we’ll arrange for the builders’ merchants to see them. We’ve also got a big display at Jewson in Altrincham and in the new fan zone at Altrincham Football Club.
Check out the full range of Grono products at grono.co.uk
Photos: Karen Herman-Wright