An eye-opener from Ruscrete
Catalogue reviews on this website have normally focused on the brochures produced by the major manufacturers, who have the advantage of generous budgets, dedicated marketing bods, a national or international audience and all the other pluses that come from being a multi-million pound business, so it's a novel experience, and a genuine pleasure, to be presented with the opportunity to critique a top-quality brochure from a smaller, regional company.
Ruscrete is a specialist landscaping materials supplier, based down there in Southampton, that has developed a strong local presence and a loyal following over their 40 years of trading, and the sumptuous A4 landscape brochure they've produced belies their relatively humble status. Indeed, there are brochures from national manufacturers that pale when compared to this offering. Immediately, there's sense of quality and permanence engendered by the heavyweight cover and 64 full-colour, semi-gloss pages so much so that it's easy to forget that this is a relatively small, regional supplier.
The brochure opens with a attractive double-page panorama of the Ruscrete HQ balanced with sparse text extolling the family values of a family-owned and managed business. This is followed by a couple of pages outlining the various services available, such as their trade counter, free half-hour design consultation, and an onsite bistro. Four pages are then given over to garden styles, helping customers, and contractors, identify a style to suit their taste and their home. This is something that's been done in publications from much bigger companies, but the Ruscrete selection relies more on photos and sketches and less on waffling, rhetorical blurb. Four pages isn't a lot of space, but they have managed to capture the essence of eight distinctive garden styles and to stimulate further thought.
The real meat of the brochure considers various groups of product, starting with the current favourite, Natural Stone, and progressing through wet-cast patio paving, pools, block paving, walling, timber, and that awful decking stuff. It's at this point that the true nature of the company really strikes home. Many of the images have been seen before, and that's because Ruscrete are primarily a supplier and not a manufacturer. However, the photographs selected are largely well-chosen, if somewhat on the small scale, and it's refreshing to read original text. The inclusion of retail prices is a real boon, with prices for individual elements and guides to square metre prices, making comparison of various options a doddle.
Perhaps those brochures produced by larger companies with much larger budgets have spoiled us over recent years, with their lavish full-page, mouth-watering photos. Ruscrete have focussed less on coffee-table appeal and more on giving a taster of what can be expected. There's no doubt Russell Lloyd and his team would have loved to be able to include full- and double-page stunning images, but they've achieved a comfortable balance between having just enough eye candy and descriptive, genuinely-helpful text.
The products are sourced from many of the most respected national manufacturers, so it's critical to achieve a portfolio that offers the best from each while still catering to all tastes and budgets. Hence, we see paving from the likes of Stonemarket, Brett, Bradstone, Formpave and Marshalls alongside “white label” generic materials that offer an acceptable degree of quality at a more than acceptable price.
It's a gargantuan task selecting a multi-brand range such as this. We are phenomenally lucky in these islands to have so many quality manufacturers and such a wealth of products, so choosing just which top-of-the-class riven-effect wet-cast flag range to stock, with which mid-range and which economy offering is not something you can just take a stab at. Selecting products to create a palette that will appeal to a wide customer base with hugely varied tastes and pockets of dramatically differently depth demands an almost obsessive knowledge of the market and a remarkably keen understanding of just what it is the customer requires.
What struck me as I turned from page to page was the sheer number of products that I, too, would have selected if asked to put together the epicure's choice of hard-landscaping materials. It's uncanny – or maybe not, because quality always speaks for itself.
If you are within an hour or so of Southampton, I heartily recommend you head towards the Totton area of town the next time you have a project to hand. I know I will be doing just that the very next time I find meself in that part of the country. If you can't get there just yet, you could always try the website, or give them a call to request your own copy of what is, without doubt, a little gem of a catalogue.
Tel: 023 8086 5046