Michael Brennan started out selling giftware as Michael Brennan Giftware, and when in 1983, he added cane furniture, Creative Cane was born. Now, trade has come full circle to include basketware, ceramics, lighting and giftware, with cane furniture accounting for 5% of sales.

As a 100% wholesaler, Dublin-based Creative Cane supplies companies such as Woodies DIY, Atlantic Home Care, Harvey Norman, 4Homes and National Hardware. Basketware comes under the Celtic Willow brand, while Tara Giftworks covers giftware, furniture and lighting.

Delivering to all its customers hasn’t always been easy, though. “Stock is held in three warehouses – two in Finglas and one in Hollystown – totalling 40,000 sq ft. We had our own fleet of trucks, but the delivery cycle was six weeks,” Michael explains. “So if a customer had a delivery last week and wanted more, they’d have to wait another five weeks.

“I had been looking at palletising distribution for four years, but cane furniture can’t really be palletised, so I decided to reduce the furniture stock and increase the basketware and other items. Even the cane furniture is now flat-packed so it can be palletised.”

But the real breakthrough came when Michael heard Owen Cooke, Chairman of Independent Express Cargo, on Pat Kenny’s radio show. “I had gone to another haulage company, but couldn’t obtain all-Ireland rates. Independent Express/TPN offers a solution that enabled us to respond to all of our customers’ needs.” When Creative Cane began using Independent Express in January 2008, “it revolutionised our business”, says Michael.

“We retained one lorry to move goods between our warehouses, but 80% of our pallets are distributed through Independent Express/TPN. We could probably do our own deliveries slightly cheaper, but working with Independent Express has made our lives an awful lot easier.

“I don’t have to worry about lorries breaking down, drivers being sick and so on. Using Independent Express has changed our business dramatically, in a very positive way.”