FieldCandy - Case Study
May 22nd, 2015
Location: Prospect House, Staveley, Chesterfield
FieldCandy has taken the camping world by storm since it was established in 2010, capturing the imagination of camping enthusiasts and celebrities worldwide.
Its unique eye-catching luxury designer tents, which feature around 60 offbeat designs such as leopard print, the world's smallest pub and floral motifs, are all manufactured at the company's headquarters on Colliery Close in Staveley.
FieldCandy is the brainchild of John Harris and Rhona Carr, who began the business as a back bedroom enterprise before entering a business competition and becoming Walpole 2012 Brand of Tomorrow.
Walpole is the trade body that represents the British luxury industry, whose members include; Burberry, Jimmy Choo, Mulberry and Harrods. Each year Walpole selects between six and eight up and coming British luxury brands that they feel have the potential to become leading British luxury brands in the future.
As part of becoming a Walpole Brand of Tomorrow, FieldCandy also gained a year of mentoring and a year's support and guidance from Miscon de Rey Solicitors, enabling it to move into the Chesterfield Borough Council owned and run Prospect House facility at Staveley, in 2012 and begin expanding the business.
Currently FieldCandy tents are retailed direct to the public online via the company's own website and also sold wholesale to a number of retailers including Harrods in London. Sales are currently split 60:40 between wholesale and the website, with an average of three orders a day received via the website from customers throughout the world, including the US, Germany, Japan and South Korea, while wholesale orders can number up to 500 tents at a time.
The business is on a pattern of growth, with turnover forecast to double in 2015. John Harris explains how the business' location in Chesterfield has enabled its growth and is providing a platform for international expansion.
What inspired you to create FieldCandy?
Rhona and I had retired to Italy. Having both been successful and very active in our respective careers before retirement, it didn't take much to fire our imagination and entrepreneurial spirit when we attended a camping show and saw a sea of green and blue tents before us. That sparked the deal for FieldCandy and we began designing and manufacturing the tents at home in Worksop.
Nobody is doing what we are doing and it has really captured everyone's imagination, which means we outgrew our home office within two years.
We began manufacturing 2/3 man tents in a variety of designs. This remains our core product however we have expanded the range to include child's teepees and sunshades.
In 2015 we are launching a new range of travel pillows, called Snoos, and hanging tents called Hang-About, both have been taken on pre-order by Harrods of London, and Saks of Fifth Avenue in the US.
What is a typical FieldCandy customer?
It's impossible to say what a typical FieldCandy customer is because they are so diverse. Wholesale customers include everything from large luxury stores who want to offer their customers something different through to big brands personalising them for use in promotional work.
Because the tents can be personalised we have a lot of customers ordering them as gifts, they are also popular with festival goers as the designs stand out in the traditional sea of green and blue canvas. More recently an 85-year old lady ordered one of our book design tents to use as a reading house in her garden.
Because the tents can be easily personalised the chances are you will have seen a FieldCandy tent and not known it. For instance, the tents that appeared in Channel 4's coverage of the 2015 election were made by us.
Why did you choose to locate the business in Staveley, Chesterfield?
Chesterfield has a central UK location with good transport links. We are close to both J29 and 29a of the M1, which is key as we try to source all our raw materials within the UK.
Journey time to London is less than 2 hours which is absolutely key given that I split my time between here and the capital where our investors are based.
Having a number of office sizes, Prospect House in Staveley offered us opportunity for future expansion as well as very competitive rents. It is a great council-run facility. Being based in Prospect House we have been able to access a lot of practical advice and help from the Council which has proved valuable to the business.
Staveley also offered us a local skilled (sewing) labour force, which is critical to our business as quality is key with each and every tent we produce.
When and how did you become aware of the Chesterfield Innovation Support Project?
The support offered by Chesterfield Borough Council through the Chesterfield Innovation Support Project (CISP) influenced our decision to locate the business in Chesterfield. When we were looking at possible location we did an internet search and were attracted by the range of available premises to let, favourable rents and also practical and financial help offered through the council to businesses looking to locate to the area.
Paul Stuart from CISP gave us practical help and advice across the board, from introducing us to local suppliers and consultants, assisting with recruitment and helping us access available grants.
Which grants have you accessed and what difference have they made to the business?
In 2014 we accessed a grant to develop our website and create an international ecommerce platform. Through the website we are averaging three orders a day from throughout the world and we expect this to increase further.
In 2015 accessing the Regional Growth Fund enabled us to invest in a larger, faster digital printer this year. This will make a significant difference to our business. With our current machine it takes more than two hours to print each tent. With the new machine, the printing time is reduced to 15 minutes.
A benefit of being able to reduce the production time of each tent means we will now be able to build up our stock so that when an order comes in for a standard tent we will be able to pick and pack the same day. Currently demand is so high and production relatively slow, that each tent is made to order and takes a full day from receiving the order to cutting, printing, machining, checking, packing and sending.
With the investment in the website and printing machinery we expect turnover to double this year, and staff numbers to almost double which will set us up for significant further growth in 2016.
What are your plans for FieldCandy and do they involve the business continuing to operate in Chesterfield?
We want to develop FieldCandy into an international lifestyle brand by increasing the product range and its availability via an international retail network.
I can see no reason for production not to remain in Chesterfield. We import some of our company supplies which are not available in the UK, and some of the new electrical products that we offer such as solar chargers and power packs. But I believe that our core products will continue to be printed and manufactured in Chesterfield for the foreseeable future.