Founded in 1990 in the post-communism rush to embrace capitalism, Cellfast is one of the success stories of Poland’s rebirth as a free market economy. Still family-owned, it ranks as one of the biggest players in the lawn irrigation market in Poland and beyond, offering a comprehensive range of water hoses and accessories.
“Garden hoses and connectors are our traditional area of expertise, but we have expanded far beyond our initial specialism,” says Export Director Western Europe Mariusz Niepokój. “We also make metal garden tools at our second manufacturing site in Krosno.”
Krosno is still where the company is officially headquartered, but its biggest manufacturing facility is located in Stalowa Wola. Purposebuilt in 2001, it boasts 50,000 m² of space. A third factory is home to the company’s research and development activities.
“We focus on developing products with an ergonomic and attractive design,” says Mr. Niepokój. “Our ERGO LINE watering system, for example, was singled out for the prestigious Red Dot Award 2015 for outstanding design.”
ERGO is the company’s premium line while its IDEAL LINE and ECONOMIC line serve the mid-price and entry-level price segments. New products are continually being added to the range in response to demand from the market.
This was also the reason behind the expansion of the product range to include garden tools. This product area was launched in 2016 and is part of Cellfast’s ambitious growth plans for the coming years. “This is a new area for us and has been the focus of a great deal of effort aimed at developing products with our signature good handling and high quality,” says Mr. Niepokój. “We believe we have succeeded in creating a line of tools that is modern and easy to use, and whose design will appeal to customers.”
International recognition from the design world has already been forthcoming. Cellfast’s entire range of splitting and universal axes received the iF Design Award 2017 thanks to their sturdy and attractive design. The award is all the confirmation needed that the risk taken in opening a new factory to manufacture tools was the right one.
“Every company reaches the point where diversification is necessary for growth,” says Mr. Niepokój. “For us, that point arrived a few years ago, and the response of the company has been typical of the owner’s approach to the business so far.”
Having built Cellfast into a leading player in the garden hose and sprinkler market, it has taken the logical step to build on its successful brands with a range of garden tools. The move is not so much about protecting current market share but about aggressive expansion into other competitive markets.
Cellfast has ambitious plans for where it sees itself in the next five years. “We are already known as one of the leading manufacturers of garden hoses and connecting systems,” says Mr. Niepokój. “Our goal for the next three years is to become one of the leading manufacturers of garden tools in Europe.”
This is an important distinction, as many European brands are actually produced in the Far East. “We are not worried about having to compete with Asian producers,” says Mr. Niepokój. “By building our own factory, we are able to keep costs down, and by keeping everything in house, we have complete control of the value chain.”
Cellfast has done well to expand so successfully. Its new factory has been designed to be flexible and efficient. Production takes place in very large series to profit from economies of scale. “We are also benefitting from rapid changes in the market,” explains Mr. Niepokój. “Around half of our products are distributed via traditional channels such as garden centers and wholesalers. However, the other half is now sold through DIY stores, grocery stores and discount supermarkets. The success of their business model and their changing weekly offers has benefitted us hugely.”
It has also turned what was once a seasonal business into an all-year trade. “Every day is a challenge and brings with it new projects,” says Mr. Niepokoj. “Before diversification, we had a three-month season while now it is all year round.”
Nevertheless, the biggest season for watering products is from February to May before everything goes into stores. Advertising campaigns are coordinated for around this time too. Around 50% of production is exported to the EU, Eastern and Central Europe, Russia and Africa. This figure is set to grow as Cellfast works towards achieving its ambitious targets.