An interview with the owner as the business reaches it’s 30th Anniversary: The Mayfield Group

The Mayfield Group is the UK’s number one provider of decking for Park and Holiday Homes, started in 1989, Mayfield is more or less responsible for inventing decks for static caravans and have been responsible for shaping the industry into what it is today. Digital Storm started working with this prestigious brand at the end of 2018 as marketing partners. We have spent the last eight months establishing Mayfield with a new look that better represents the business and it’s values as it moves into it’s 30th year of trading.

A business that is double the age of ours, we thought it would be really interesting to get to know the people behind it. That is why this afternoon we have had the pleasure of being able to sit down and interview Mike Jarmey, the Managing Director of the Mayfield Group.

What does a typical day at Mayfield look like?

Similar to looking inside a beehive. It really is a hive of activity. Non-stop action from the first arrivers in at 7am until the last leaving at 6pm. Sales orders are processed, products are built and out the door they go to be installed. There is rarely a quite moment.

…and you?

Today I cycled in, (which I do twice a week and have done for the past 7 years), grab a quick shower, make a brew and fire up my email. I prioritise my workload and crack on with the day. My emails take up most mornings and then I turn to the day-to-day duties of running the business. There is never a dull moment and I thrive on the challenges that the day will bring.

You appear to be in the background and not the face of Mayfield?

I leave this to my wife Debbie. I may run the business but she is the May and the field (he laughs). For those who don’t know the Mayfield story and my involvement; Debbie’s husband Tony died not long after I joined the business. They were separated and Debbie and I became an item which was a little awkward but Tony was a great guy and we got along. He was the Levi Strauss of the decking world and literally invented decks to go onto caravans. Everything else is a copy. He did the hard work and well, I just continued to improve what he created. I know he would be proud of what we have achieved.

This year is Mayfield’s 30th Anniversary. How has the journey been so far?

Amazing. No really, amazing. When I joined, Mayfield was the only decking supplier for caravans in the UK turning over £750k a year. We operated entirely from Poole and installed decks all over the UK. We brought materials in from the USA, Finland and Latvia, loaded them into our fitting teams vans and went to the four corners of the country and installed decks on caravans. I can’t imagine doing that today as it would be a logistical nightmare! From the time I have been with Mayfield the company has gone from strength to strength and we now have distributors covering most territories throughout the UK. We no longer buy products in from outside Britain and make our own which means we have become very efficient which in-turn has lowered our carbon footprint. We have more competition than ever and we compete with giants now in our industry but Mayfield doesn’t do too bad as last year we grossed nearly £10m turnover. Not bad for a little family run business!

You mention your time with Mayfield but how long has it been?

Well put it this way, I’m not old enough to remember black & white TV. I’ve been involved with the business for 23 years.

What has been Mayfield’s biggest achievement?

Hmm I’d have to say the invention of decks on caravans so hats off to Tony!

Ok, let me rephrase that…what is your biggest achievement with Mayfield?

Creating the best team and distributor infrastructure. Really, we could not have built the company that it is today without them. Its easy for someone in my position to take the glory but it is the team surrounding me that deserves the credit. My Poole team is made up of skills that I can only liken to that you find in military circles. They are elite. I honestly feel that no task is insurmountable. They never cease to amaze me with their dedication and creativeness. Our distributors are more than just business associates. To coin a phrase, they are more like family and friends. They are great people running great businesses.

And the worst moment?

Spain. We had an opportunity to supply and install our decking products throughout Southern Spain. However, not enough ground research was carried out prior to the venture with both the people we were getting into bed with or the marketplace. In summary, it wasn’t like anything we had expected and worlds apart from the UK caravan market. We didn’t speak the language, we found it difficult to run it from the UK and we had trust issues with our Spanish partners. Consequently, both Mayfield Spain and Mayfield UK suffered. It was hard! But like many new ventures we had learned a lot. We cut Spain lose, dusted ourselves off and put all our focus back on Mayfield UK. We reconstructed the business in a different more sustainable model and not long after the UK industry entered into a climatic slowdown. Fortunately, we were prepared in our new model format and Mayfield quickly went from strength to strength and soon we were back on top. I suppose that in reflection Spain did us a favour as without the new more sustainable Mayfield I doubt we would be having this conversation today. Every cloud…

Is the industry changing?

Yes, it is and I’ll give you two answers as to where we see it changing. 1) Homeowners are purchasing bigger and more luxurious homes which has a direct knock-on effect with the homeowners also wanting bigger and more stylish decks. Over 50% of the decks we now install include upgrade options such as glass, LED lighting, multi-level and hot tubs. Top end is the market that is growing and we like it. 2) My second answer to your question isn’t so attractive. The trade side to our industry is becoming more price-focused and less about the quality, service and the environment. We recently tendered on a National contract where the focus was solely price-driven. The norm is to meet the product specification and submit your best prices. If your successful, you get a slice of the business. Its how the world goes around. This tender had no specification and no environmental policy to meet. It was all about the price they wanted to pay for the products and nothing else. The problem I have with this is that to meet their prices corners would have to be cut which is not in the interest of the homeowner who will ultimately pay the price as the products simply won’t be as good. In my view, large corporates should be leading by example, setting the standards and working with their suppliers to give the homeowner the best quality products at the best prices. You wouldn’t buy a Mercedes and accept Kia quality. Is the same difference.

Well, who are the industry innovators then?

If we’re talking about homes, you only have to look at who we partner with at exhibitions. If we’re not, then I would say some of the new park groups emerging which are not over inflating prices and delivering quality and value. Homeowners are savvy and do their research. Many of the enquiries we receive are from customers telling us what they want (in a nice way) and not what they have been told they can have. Freedom of choice allows the customer to be creative and this translates to £££’s. Some of the big groups are so out of tune to this looking only at their bottom lines which should be driven by the customer and not the other way around. Its simple business economics.

Are Mayfield products really as environmentally green as you say they are?

Yes. It has taken a lot of time nurturing supply chain relationships to give us access to their R&D departments. This is where it all starts as we will design a material brief and work with them to achieve it. Rather like a cake chef (us being the chef) and the ingredients (being the supplier). If it all goes to plan then we end up with a nice cake and everyone likes a nice cake. Finding a material supplier that could reliably give us a wood free recycled substrate material was just another process. However, to extrude a product from it took a substantial amount of capital investment in machinery and tooling but its what was needed for us to minimise plastic going in to landfill.

Why isn’t wood-free composite decking all the fashion?

You’re right. Composite is very much in fashion and we supply it when a customer specifically requests it. I like that composites have done a fantastic job promoting plastic decking of all types as before composite there was really only timber known to the masses. There is a downside to composite decking in that it is very difficult to recycle and requires regular maintenance in most cases.

What is it with the bees?

Since 2010 we have supported the Bumble Bee Conservation trust (BBCT) of which we are life members. I watched a documentary about the importance of all types of bees and felt compelled to do our bit to help by donating. Since then bee awareness has exploded and everyone now knows the importance of taking care of our bees. We are also members of Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) as being plastic producers we want to be a part of keeping our oceans clean. We are a coastal business and the majority of our customers are located around the shores of the British Isles so it seemed fitting to be a member of this great organisation.

What can we expect from Mayfield next ?

BIG things! We have been working on a business strategy for the past two years which we will hopefully see come to fruition by the end of 2020. Don’t ask me what it is. All I can tell you is that it is ‘Pentagon’ type top secret and is very exciting.

Finally, what can we tell people that they wouldn’t know about you personally?

I like to surf big waves on my surfboard with my kite. I’ve surfed in some exotic places such as Brazil and Africa as well as the southwest coast of the UK. I mountain bike and ride single track and DHB. I snowboard. I pretty much like any outdoor activity even down to watering the plants in my garden as it gives me a sense of enormous wellbeing. Wait…isn’t that a line from a Blur song?

Mike Jarmey, Managing Director at The Mayfield Group
Mike Jarmey, Managing Director at The Mayfield Group

We hope you found this interview as interesting as we did? If you want to learn more about the businesses that we work with then visit our blog or connect with us on Linkedin.

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