The concept was simple but persuasive – providing a fast, efficient, mess-free delivery of quality hardwood logs delivered exactly where the customer wanted, and ordered and paid for online.
Set up in 2010, Andrew and Sally Viney’s Logs for All business quickly took off, and now that the husband and wife team have perfected the concept, built a reputation and proved its profitability, they are offering farmers and landowners the opportunity to share in its success.
The first farming franchisee, Ed Blanchard, has since looked back on “an amazing year” and has said he would “definitely recommend this excellent opportunity to anyone looking to diversify their farming business”.
As well as offering a useful diversification for any farming business, signing up to Logs for All allows farmers and estates to benefit from a considerable increase on the return for standing timber compared with wholesale prices.
“This is an ideal opportunity for anyone who has timber on their land, and it can also work well for those who don’t have their own woodland,” explained Andrew. “With the wholesale price of standing timber at between £14 and £20 per tonne for hardwood and the retail price of logs at £200, the potential is clear.
“We began Logs for All while running our Oxford property business,” he continued. “That meant we had to purchase machinery, rent a yard and buildings, buy in timber at the going rate and pay staff to help chop and deliver the logs, all of which added to our overheads.
“Given that most landowners, farmers or forestry agents will have some kind of storage space, machinery for moving the timber and staff with time on their hands for at least a few weeks of the year, they will face lower overheads and earn an even greater margin. If they also have their own timber, Logs for All is likely to be the ideal diversification for them.”
His comments were echoed by Ed Blanchard, the landlord of the site at Abingdon where Logs for All started and who became the first farming franchisee after seeing how successful the operation was. “We don’t have any timber of our own, but despite having to buy in timber for processing we still had a very profitable first year,” he said.
“With markets continually going up and down and subsidies disappearing, we were looking for an additional diversification opportunity,” Ed explained. “Because we run an arable business our tractor drivers have some downtime, and this allows us to put that time to good use and generate another source of income.
“It’s nice to be able to sell something where we set the price rather than being told the price. Our first year as a Logs for All franchisee was amazing. I really would recommend it.”
Besides the fact that selling logs from the side of the road is much harder under new legislation, the Logs for All offer benefits from online marketing and a well-earned reputation for providing a clean, quality product that is delivered where the customer specifies, covered and securely paid for on line. It will also meet the new legislation from day one.
The other major benefit of Logs for All is that not only have Andrew and Sally already checked out and purchased the most suitable timber processing equipment available, but they rent it out to their franchisees at a highly competitive rate.
“It’s easy to make a mistake, and we went through various options before deciding on the best machine for the job,” said Andrew. “The problem is that it costs an awful lot of money for something that will probably only be in use for two or three weeks a year, which is why we rent ours to our franchisees for a fraction of that potential outlay.”
The idea behind Logs for All is that franchisees will source and process their logs under the guidance of Andrew and Sally during a quiet time of the year, using existing staff – and with different farm businesses all having different peak seasons, that should mean that with a bit of forward planning, the processor will always be available.
Apart from providing suitable transport to get the logs to their final fireplace, franchisees need to meet the high standards that have made Logs for All such a success. It means logs need to be seasoned and dry – but not necessarily kiln dried – and conform to the new regulations.
“If you fell when the sap is down and store the logs for six months to a year after they have been processed, they will meet the requirement of having a moisture content below 20%,” said Andrew. “People talk about kiln-dried logs but that’s not a requirement; it just means ‘dry’.
“There is no requirement for kiln drying and in fact it’s pretty crazy. You shouldn’t have to cut down half the trees in the forest in order to dry the other half so that you can burn them on a fire or in a woodburner. Plan ahead, store them properly and the logs will dry perfectly well naturally.”
While regulations around moisture content look set to drive some lower quality log suppliers out of the market, Andrew is confident that for quality producers, demand is set to soar, with people increasingly enjoying the ambience created by a log fire and the fact that they can warm one room rather than the whole house.
“What they don’t enjoy is having a load of damp, low quality wood dumped on their drive in the rain miles from the house, with no way of knowing how much it weighs and having to leave the money in an envelope under a brick if they aren’t going to be at home,” Andrew pointed out. “And that’s where Logs for All is setting the standard for log delivery.
“Consumers love the product, the marketing and back office assistance provided by Logs for All is already creating a demand and farmers and landowners have easy access to the retail market without having to pay huge start-up costs or take big risks. They also receive expert advice on marketing.”
Andrew and Sally, both from farming backgrounds, set up Logs for All as a secondary business so that they could keep staff employed during an expected downturn in the property rental market. The downturn didn’t happen but the log venture took off and the past ten years have proved the success of the model.