TAKING GARDEN HUTS TO GREENER PASTURES

TAKING GARDEN HUTS TO GREENER PASTURES

THE Tropical Lifestyle superstore has emerged from last summer’s storms with an aggressive marketing campaign to take the garden structure maker to greener pastures.

Manager Matt Buchel (pictured) has adopted a ‘Burke’s Backyard’ approach to luring customers who want long-lasting gazebos and Balinese style huts.

The company has set up Tropical Lifestyle TV, an internet television channel showcasing its products.

“I got the idea from the US to provide product information to customers, so they know what they are buying beforehand, even if they live in other states,” says Buchel.

The programs vary from seven to 15 minutes in length, offering a tour of gazebos and various buying tips. They are produced in-house by affiliated marketing company SmartMarket Media, which had FY2011 turnover of $400,000.

“We set up our own marketing company about a year ago and have not only produced entire marketing solutions for ourselves but also a shipping agent, accountant and builder,” says Buchel.

“I’m planning to introduce new educational products about outdoor lifestyle as a do-ityourself (DIY) club, with a `Burke’s Backyard’ style.”

Buchel studied marketing for 15 years and was runner-up at the 2011 International Marketer of the Year Awards in the US. His own market research shows most customers are seeking value instead of just price.

“They want something of good quality at a fair price. We provide a higher quality product that meets national engineering standards with more roofing components, better staining and stronger structure,” says Buchel.

“People often approach us saying they bought a cheaper hut from a competitor that went bad and now want to buy a better one from us.”

Tropical Lifestyle has sold DIY gazebos to local government, holiday resorts and body corporate organisations. Most individual customers are between 30 and 50 with 70 per cent female.

Buchel believes this is the norm because women have historically made decor-related decisions.

To this end, the company employs five women, but Buchel says the gender proportion has always been skewed in favour of men due to the heavy lifting involved and lack of administration work.

The business used the quiet period during last summer’s bad weather to support clean-up efforts of existing Brisbane-based customers.

“One guy had a whole lot of drama with his gazebo and we helped rebuild it free of charge. A few of my guys who worked for me helped out in a few other places too,” says Buchel.

Having moved from Bundall to Nerang and now Ormeau, the business may move again – this time to a larger site in the same area.

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YOUNG ENTREPRENEUR FINALIST
Matt Buchel
Tropical Lifestyle
GARDENSCAPING
PRODUCTS
Age: 38
Business Est: 1981
Staff: 25
Growth: 58 per cent
Turnover: $6.2 million

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