Unexpected business success: Estonian-made garden houses are too popular
10. July 2020

Spring came differently this year and Estonian garden house producers like many other entrepreneurs thought that the future will be uncertain to say the least. All of a sudden something happened and orders started to pour in, leaving everybody surprised.

It is usually heard that Estonia's timber and element house producers are the leading exporters in Europe. There has been less talk about producers of garden houses, saunas and other small buildings, who are actually not any less successful. On the contrary, demand for garden houses has rapidly increased during the past months.  

Powerful year in sales figures

Rain Raudsepp, Managing Director of Estonia´s biggest garden house producers Palmako admitted that the situation didn´t look at all promising in March or April. Orders were cancelled, trucks with full loads returned home. Then it started to slowly get better. A shift upwards came in June when orders started to come from countries that had the strictest Covid-19 restrictions, hence the lifting of restrictions tasted the sweetest. “People invest into their living environment, into garden for instance. While sitting at home they complete tasks that they have postponed. Other activities, such as traveling, were limited,” Raudsepp explained the reasons behind the sudden success. Secondly he pointed out that when many Europeans previously ordered garden houses from China, due to delivery and other difficulties they now prefer closer options. «What surprised the most was how popular all children-related products were - children´s play houses and playgrounds that we sold even when the rest of the consumption was down. There is always somebody, parents or grandparents, that make sure the kids are taken care of,” said Raudsepp.  

Garden house by Palmako. Photo: Sille Annuk

Can´t ignore a demanding wife

Riho Reesar, Managing Director and owner of Western Estonia´s producer Tene Kaubandus admitted that their results have climbed upwards the entire year. «There has not been even a slightest step backwards. If anything, then Covid-19 even boosted us,” he said and added that instead of a 10% growth they have achieved 30%. On one hand the right decisions from previous years are behind the successful growth. “On the other hand though, men are more at home, they have more time and they can no longer avoid their demanding wives: “I have told you for several years, now you are at home, do it!” laughed Reesar. Like other Estonia´s biggest house producers, Tene produces catalogue products. This means that the same type of product is produced in large volumes and there are less special or handcrafted editions. Yet there are producers in Estonia whose focus is on custom-made houses. Reesar is certain that Estonian garden house producers are one of Europe´s finest. «There are a certain amount of success-oriented companies in our region who have the skills and the experience. Estonia is way ahead of many in this aspect,” he summed it up.

Success lies in price and flexibility

Lauri Kivil, Managing Director of Estonian Woodhouse Association, said that there are about 15 garden house producers in Estonia. In trade statistics garden houses are usually in the same pile with timber frame houses. Garden houses more specifically make up about a third in the sales of modular buildings. “Hence, this is a very important area of business in the sector,” said Kivil. Based on the statistics of the first quarter of 2020, Estonia exported garden houses for 25 million euros.   

Local garden house producers have quite a similar handwriting, says Kivil. «Products as such are very similar. I apologize to producers now, but there is quite little engineering involved. Design is simple and repeating,” explained Kivil and added that this was not meant as a complaint.  

What makes Estonian garden houses attractive in Europe? The reason is that local producers are not in a comfort zone. “On the contrary, they are very flexible, always willing to meet the customer´s needs. It is highly appreciated,” said Kivil.    

Kivil also pointed out that although our biggest producers have set their focus on Europe, a boom of buying garden houses has also hit Estonia. Several producers said that local demand has increased but they have to decline offers because the production simply can't handle the volume.

Source and full article (in estonian) available at:  Postimees, Lennart Ruuda 22.06.2020