Growth year-on-year: 7.2%
Type of operation: Delivered wholesaler/manufacturer
DCS Europe chief executive Denys Shortt has never been one to take defeat lying down. As a former England international hockey player and an award-winning entrepreneur, he has become used to success.
So when he set about finding a new supplier for DCS-owned cosmetics brand Enliven, only to discover that either UK suppliers didn't want his business or that sourcing from abroad was not all it was cracked up to be, he decided to make it himself. Last month DCS Europe opened a £1m factory in Wolverhampton employing 24 people producing the 70-strong Enliven range as well as other own label health and beauty products.
The move comes at a time when many UK manufacturers are either closing down or shifting production abroad. However, Shortt says it was actually an obvious move once the natural business routes had been explored and subsequently dismissed.
Shortt says that when he began his search for a new supplier to help grow the brand, he was amazed by the lack of suitable UK suppliers. There were only 15 decent-sized health and beauty suppliers, he claims. Six of these were losing money and the others were unwilling to take on his business.
Although it is currently a £6m range, Enliven is a 99p brand at retail and some hard-pressed suppliers did not believe there would be enough margin in it for them, says Shortt. After this setback he looked overseas but soon found he could not find a strong-enough financial argument for taking production abroad.
“Most businesses that move out of the UK do so because it is cheaper to manufacture abroad and ship it back here for sale,” he says. “But when I looked at China, for example, the costs of labour, production and shipping really mounted up.”
The Enliven range will be clearly labelled Made in England and Shortt says there are a number of extra benefits to producing at home. “We are supporting the UK economy, providing jobs and reducing our carbon footprint,” he says.
Shortt predicts the new factory will turn over £1.5m in its first year. Half of the goods produced are sold in the UK and the rest in 50 different countries around the world.
The brand is available in markets as diverse as Nigeria, Libya and Vietnam, and the Made in England tag is giving the brand extra kudos around the world, particularly in its most recently opened export market, India, says Shortt.
In October DCS shipped its eighth container-load of Enliven products out to India in six months. “We are in more than 100 stores throughout India and are getting consumer emails from all over the country saying how great our products are,” boasts Shortt. “India's big chains have also now contacted us. Consumers like UK-manufactured brands.”
Shortt stresses, however, that DCS remains firmly committed to its original wholesale routes. Although a member of Landmark, the company supplies almost all of the other companies in The Big 30 wholesalers as well as many smaller ones besides.
He has always recognised the importance of innovation and not keeping all his eggs in one basket. Since launching the company in 1994, he has worked hard to find creative solutions to problems rather than follow what everyone else does.
When he looked at packaging costs and the impact that was having on his business, he set up DCS Packaging. Rather than simply shelling out for ill-fitting off-the-peg IT, he had a system tailor-made that then led him to set up another branch of the company, Enable Software. Among Enable's current customers is Sainsbury's.
The IT business, a move designed to solve a problem unique to DCS, ended up being sold to other companies. Likewise, the new manufacturing arm is attracting the attention of other businesses who want DCS to make products for them in Wolverhampton.
Other wholesalers may not wish or be able to replicate Shortt's move into manufacturing but they can certainly learn from his spirit of adventure.