Prince Charles' Estate Sells NZ Tools
7 May 2002
A small New Zealand business - the Campbell Tool Company - has just finished packing up a large consignment of goods for sale at Prince Charles' Highgrove Estate. It's a marketing coup for a husband and wife team who make gardening tools from their home factory in Karori, Wellington.
In 1995, unable to buy quality gardening tools, Murray and Elaine Campbell decided to design and make their own. Their focus on quality paid off, with Campbells' gardening forks and trowels now stocked by several prestigious UK outlets including the Prince of Wales' retail outlet at his Highgrove Estate.
The Campbells were delighted when leading London store Fortnum and Mason began stocking their tools, and thrilled when Highgrove Estate's own gardeners began using them. But there were many hoops to jump through before Highgrove Estate became a stockist for our tools, says Elaine.
"The implements had to be inspected by the Prince's own industrial design consultants for material, construction, ergonomics and aesthetics; the wood for the handles had to be from sustainable sources and so on." For sale on the estate the implements are re-branded 'Highgrove' and bear the Prince of Wales feather logo, but the labels also say 'Made in NZ by the Campbell Tool Company'.
The Campbell tools were born out of frustration with the existing poor quality tools available. Murray made the prototypes for Elaine after she complained all garden tools either rusted, bent in the middle or were tiring to use. A civil engineer by trade and designer by inclination, Murray went back to 'first principles' to make something better.
The resulting tools are the work of a craftsman - long lasting quality with no short cuts for mass production. The trowels and forks have stainless steel blades and tines brazed onto an unbendable tang, bonded into a waisted wooden handle. Extra leverage is gained by the deep angle of the tang and correct alignment from the handle along to the tip of the tool removes stress from the wrist.
Overseas retailers increasingly appreciate this quality, with Campbells' tools occupying a narrow, deep niche in the market. "The world is swimming in cheap, mass produced tools, but there is still a market for tools that won't bend or break with their first use," Murray says.
While marketing overseas to retailers, the Campbells sell in New Zealand by mail order and to only a few selected stockists.