A family wood and coal fuel business is booming this summer, despite the hot weather of May, June and July and the mild winter that preceded it.
Halton-based Logs Direct, which was established 12 years ago, used to be a seasonal business, which worked flat out during the winter months, supplying hardwood for wood burning stoves, but which suffered when the warmer spring and summer months saw everyone turning off the heating.
Now, the team of 12 are continuously getting orders out, for delivery to locations nationwide, including less obvious places like the Isle of Wight and Isle of Man.
By becoming experts in all things wood and charcoal – and ranges that are a natural fit with these products – they have entered new markets and thrived.
When father and son Alan and Andrew Foulds founded Logs Direct, their customer base was very local and day-to-day activity involved supplying domestic customers, within a tight radius of the woodyard, with chopped wood.
At the height of the recession, in 2008/09, homeowners desperately tried to reduce their energy bills and sales of wood burners soared.
At least 175,000 households are now installing a wood burner each year, five times more people than adopted a wood burner in 2007.
Logs Direct started to take advantage of the mania for burning wood for home heating, by supplying large stocks of netted logs to supermarkets.
Things began to evolve when Andrew and wife Liz invited Stephen Talbot on to the board – a sales specialist and self-confessed wood addict - whose connection with the Foulds’ family business dated from the 1990s.
Stephen had worked in the wood and winter fuels market all his life and also had a background in farming.
In the last two years, things have really changed. Pizza ovens have become the new barbecue and both commercial and domestic sales of wood-fired ovens have soared.
Logs Direct has been able to take advantage of this, by targeting restaurants with its superior wood and by also tapping into the domestic market.
Working with chefs has presented new challenges for the Logs Direct team, which grew with the addition of Stephen’s 23-year-old son, Phil Talbot, three years ago, reinforcing the family nature of the business.
“We have brilliant products, but people usually come back to buy from us because of our fabulous service,” said Phil.
“We care about our customers and our customers know that they can speak to each one of us, individually, if they want to.”
This view is endorsed by his father Stephen, who said: “We understand our product inside out, have the ability to get it right most times and keep our promises.
“We know many of our customers by name and, if we do make a mistake, do everything we can to put it right.”
Financial director Liz Foulds added: “Our in-depth knowledge helps us to stand out from other suppliers, but also emphasises how personally involved we all are with the day-to-day running of the business.
“We are real people, who know a lot about wood. Our customers love that.”