2007 – Franz Marent (centre) with the company’s then technical manager Kalev Taim and production manager Mike Moss. It used Supermaster machines

Lawn Star success continues, joins global group Einhell

FEW would have been confident of success in 2000 when Franz Marent started Lawn Star, a business making gardening machinery, with the main reason for doubt being that the sector was already heavily traded.

Lawn Star defied the odds, however, and achieved steady growth, expanded into the power tool and DIY sectors and built up exports from its base in Cape Town and eventually attracted the attention of Einhell of Germany, a global leader in the sectors, with which it entered into a joint venture in 2020. Einhell has just (1 March) completed the full purchase of the Cape Town company.

At the outset Lawn Star faced stiff competition from a number of well-established international brands, from Europe as well as the Far East, which were already supplying a seemingly complete range of tools with strong brand popularity.

Marent, who is a qualified mechanical engineer with experience in manufacturing, decided to aim for the top end of the market from the outset, setting up Lawn Star’s own injection moulding facility in Epping. Its first product was a simple electric trimmer (weedeater). The range expanded exponentially, with mowers, brushcutters, chainsaws, garden vacuum/blowers, shredders, hand tools and a complete range of accessories rolling off the production line.

Electrical and fuel motors and components as well as blades and related metal parts were purchased in and assembly of the various products took place on site.

Lawn Star’s strategy was also to buy in products where it believed it did not have any specific advantage and as a result about half the Lawn Star machinery is either bought in, mainly from manufacturers in the Far East, or the components are imported for local assembly before shipment for sale.

The ability to manufacture its own housings proved to be a major advantage for Lawn Star, with products with its trade mark red-and-black housings and handles becoming increasingly visible at gardening centres, DIY and hardware stores.

It grew exports sales first to Namibia and Botswana and then further afield. That led to Lawn Star crossing paths with Einhell, the German manufacturer. Einhell makes a far larger range of products and operates 43 subsidiaries around the world; its products are available internationally and it is poised to enter North America (which is also the largest garden/power tool market globally). It is considered to be No 1 in gardening and No 2 behind Bosch of Germany in the power tools sector in Germany.


Advantages of cooperation

Entry into the joint venture arrangement with Einhell had direct benefits for Lawn Star. Einhell had considerable capability in active battery management technology and was already a leader in lithium ion battery systems, and access to this battery ‘platform’ enabled Lawn Star to leapfrog ahead. Its battery packs can be interchanged to as many as 300 of the tools it produces, which has proved attractive to customers.

Einhell’s switchable amp battery, which allows the battery to be switched between 5A and 8A (between low and higher voltage), has proved popular too.

Access to the enhanced battery technology enabled Lawn Star to recently introduce a battery powered lawn mower.

A current development includes that of waterproof battery technology, which involves making batteries less susceptible to humidity, the latter being one of the main causes of battery failure.

Lawn Star made the transition into the Einhell group with apparent ease. As one of the group’s global subsidiaries, it is manufacturing products where it has clear advantages. It is the exclusive distributor of the Einhell brand and products in Southern Africa. Einhell has partner companies in over 80 countries.

Lawn Star is however about to exit the moulding sector and will within the near future be contracting its moulding work out and instead using its expanded premises for assembly of the main varied components from which its products are manufactured. The base also serves as the Einhell depot for southern Africa.

Einhell’s product range is astoundingly huge, including items such as cordless angle grinders, nailers and routers (cordless everything actually), chargers, pumps, vacuum cleaners, drain cleaners, demolition hammers and stationary tools.

Lawn Star’s model is one which many in the SA plastic converting market strive for, that of producing its own range of proprietary products, as opposed to contract moulding for brand owners. The undertaking presents its own challenge, however, specifically in the marketing area, but Marent seems to have cracked the code over the past 24 years. He has now departed from Lawn Star and is pursuing other new interests.