Fox Timber is a perfect example of what can happen when a traditional manufacturing operation fully embraces digital.
Established in 1965, Fox Timber supplies a wide range of timber products to both trade customers and the general public, including treated (tanalised) timber, fence posts and gates, and firewood and briquettes. The majority of these products are designed and produced in its own workshops.
Over the years the proud family business has gone from strength to strength. It now boasts nearly 30 staff at two depots just outside of Preston and Chorley, the most recent of which is a huge 25-acre site allowing the business to hold larger stocks and diversify into new markets.
Despite steady growth in the past, Company Director, Andrew Fox, felt that Fox Timber’s market share was reducing and something had to be done to increase profitability.
As Andrew explains: “We knew we had to do something to grow our business. We are timber experts, not experts in marketing, so we needed help from professionals.”
Initially, Andrew reached out to Boost Lancashire, who introduced him to Thomas Cole Digital, a local marketing and software company. “We chose Thomas Cole Digital because they were able to help plan our branding, e-commerce, software and marketing strategy; showing how we could use our cashflow from future profits. They also helped us with grant funding,” Andrew says.
To explore how to deal with some of the costs of delivering the planned strategy, Andrew contacted the Lancashire Manufacturing Growth Fund (MGF) Team for further support. A Manufacturing Advisor assisted with a successful application for an MGF Grant, which helped to fund two key areas of work.
The first was to upgrade Fox Timber’s website, including its integration into the company’s accounting software. This meant the website could automatically generate invoices that feed into the accounts system, saving on administration time which could then be reinvested into telephone sales efforts.
The second area of work saw Fox Timber invest in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), which directly led to an increase in online sales. As a result, the business estimates that half of annual turnover is now generated from either online sales or sales from people visiting depots because of digital marketing.
The increased income has helped to unlock cash for several new projects, as Andrew explains: “In our next financial year we are set to have doubled our turnover and substantially increased our net profit. More cashflow has also helped us with investment in new machinery for our depots, a new retail shop at our Longridge site, and improved pay and conditions for staff. We’re looking forward to increasing our business growth still further as a result.”
Fox Timber is a great example of just how transformative digital marketing can be for rural manufacturers, says Steve Wilkinson, Manufacturing Advisor: “It’s been very refreshing to see the business move forward so significantly on the back of this cornerstone digital marketing development; with an ongoing enthusiasm to look at further developments in other aspects of the business.”