Garden Centre Retail - October 2015

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Garden Centre Retail Issue 19 • October 2015




Lisa McCormack on growing business in the city

Going undercover Innovative ways to rejuvenate your house plant offer Dutch masters Next year’s plant trends revealed at Plantarium GCR Oct15 P01 Front Cover2.indd 1

Building matters Looking at the future of garden centre design 24/09/2015 09:00

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Welcome to...

Garden Centre Retail Building for the future


elcome to Garden Centre Retail, the market-leading resource for cutting-edge business practice, as well as all the news from the sector. With summer about to become a dim and distant memory, we’ve chosen this issue to take a look into the future of garden centres, with the intent of spreading some positivity as the nights get longer and the days get colder. A major subject this time is garden centre

design, the future of which is examined by retail expert Mike Still on page 14. With centres increasingly becoming the day-out of choice for many people, says Mike, we shouldn’t be surprised when we see space being used in ever-more inventive and customer-orientated ways. On a related theme, we also have exclusive behind-the-scenes features looking at two recent redevelopments – Percy Thrower’s Garden Centre in Shropshire and Garsons Farm in Surrey. As ever, the centrepiece of the magazine is Let’s Hear it From, which this month features an interview with the co-owners of Battersea Flower Station in London. On page 23 you’ll see that John Schofield and Lisa McCormack are also embracing the future – using social media and a unique marketing strategy to become integral to their local community. Last of all, a big hello to everyone the GCR team met at Glee in September. It was a good show this year and we all look forward to working with you over the coming months.


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Garden Centre Retail October 2015


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Garden Centre Retail CONTENTS

contents Garden Centre Retail Issue 19 • October 2015




Lisa McCormack on growing business in the city

October 2015

Going undercover Innovative ways to rejuvenate your house plant offer Dutch masters Next year’s plant trends revealed at Plantarium

Building matters Looking at the future of garden centre design


Mary Berry at Wisley, seeds in space, and a round-up of the industry’s latest news


HTA appoints new president; GCA releases barometer of trade results


Liz Dobbs offers innovative ways to rejuvenate your house plant offer


Kevin Waters adapts his Glee tour of visual merchandising to suit the calendar year

Mike Still says ‘experience’ and ‘lifestyle’ will gain importance in retail structure, look and layout



Des O’Neill outlines the work that went into the recent refurbishment of Percy Thrower’s Garden Centre in Shropshire


Malcolm Scott on the transformation of Garson Farm Garden Centre in Surrey based on its location and history


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John Schofield and Lisa McCormack, co-owners of Battersea Flower Station, on engaging with the community and building a loyal customer base

Geoff Hodge on how you can make the most from this hugely profitable and vital market




Lynda Murray on the logistics of selling homemade produce at England’s most northerly farm shop – Berwick Garden Centre


Buyer Tim Jacob predicts what will get tills ringing in the coming year


We take a look at the highlights from Glee 2015



Our overview of the foremost commercial horticultural event in the West Country


From new ranges to bags and stands


The latest offerings for open spaces


Sizzling offers for when the sun shines


Garden Centre Retail talks to Chris Marsden-Jones, business development manager at Swan Retail


Shining a light on three industry personalities


Halloween, Helleborus and the latest offerings

An interview with retiring GCA inspector Liz Hutson

Garden Centre Retail October 2015


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Wyevale announces 300% rise in insect control product sales

NEWS CENTRE ‘Welcome to Yorkshire’ chief reopens Tong Garden Centre


yevale Garden Centres has projected that autumn will be plagued by wasps and insects after a 300% year-on-year increase in insect control products. They are advising the UK to stock up on control products, in particular to fight airborne black ants and wasps. Duncan Mclean, buyer for garden nourish and control at Wyevale Garden Centres, said: “It is definitely a

bumper year for insects, and homeowners can expect the ‘invasion’ to continue for the next few weeks.” Wyevale Garden Centres has also had a 180% year-onyear increase in wasp control products and suggests the sales increase has been driven by a late season and a favourable weather pattern – hot and dry in June and July. www.wyevalegardencentres.

HTA Marketing Forum 2015



fter three months of refurbishment work, Tong Garden Centre in Tong Lane, Bradford, has officially reopened, with hundreds of well-wishers in attendance. Sir Gary Verity, chief executive of tourism agency Welcome to Yorkshire, cut the ribbon to mark the relaunch. He said: “I was delighted to open Tong Garden Centre and meet the fantastic team. Welcome to Yorkshire looks


forward to working with the team and seeing the centre go from strength to strength.” School friends Mark Farnsworth and Tom Megginson bought the garden centre in May, investing in an extended plant area, children’s adventure playground, and a new coffee shop. They also introduced concessions such as Mountain Warehouse and Bon Marché.

Garden Centre Retail October 2015

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he HTA is excited to announce its first HTA Marketing Forum, taking place at Chesford Grange, Warwickshire on Tuesday 10 November. The forum is for all those involved in marketing and public relations throughout the garden industry. Keynote speakers will include Tim Mason, renowned for launching Tesco’s Clubcard scheme, Tesco Express, Tesco. com and Tesco Personal

Finance, and Gerald Ratner, former CEO of Ratners Group (now the Signet Group). Aimed at garden industry professionals, both experienced and new to marketing and promotions, the programme is designed to ensure that attendees leave with top tips and examples of the best use of new and trusted marketing methods that will bring in new customers and retain existing ones.

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p r o d u c t lni en we s


Mary Berry’s just the recipe for RHS Wisley Flower Show

Thompson & Morgan has named its Vegetable of the Year 2016 as the fully blight-resistant Tomato Mountain Magic F1. Blight is a rising issue for UK growers, especially for plants raised outdoors, because of increasingly wet and humid summer weather – conditions the fungal disease thrives under.


ary Berry opened the RHS Wisley Flower Show in September with a slice of giant floral cake. The RHS ambassador took a large slice from a giant Victoria sponge made of flowers – designed and made by Simon Lycett – to celebrate the opening of the show. Visitors to the week-long show were able to see a plethora of plants and flowers, seek the best gardening advice, and explore the garden in its late-summer glory. Matthew Pottage, acting

curator at RHS Garden Wisley, said: “Mary Berry set the scene for a wonderful show – it looked fantastic this year, with all the nurseries and floral

displays adding an extra riot of colour and scent to the garden at its late-summer peak.” wisleyflowershow

Johnsons Lawn Seed factory visit


AIPH approves Almere for 2022 Floriade


he Dutch Horticultural Council is one step closer to securing Almere as the next location for Floriade in 2022. Floriade Amsterdam Almere 2022 will have the theme ‘Growing Green Cities’, which will put the spotlight on the future role of horticulture in city construction. Bernard Oosterom, vicepresident of AIPH, said: “This is a great way to show the world where green is and what the horticulture sector is able to do. The Netherlands has a great heritage of Floriade Expos and I am confident that Almere will do a great job in continuing this tradition.” GCR Oct15 P06-08 News.indd 7

he International Garden Centre Association (IGCA) paid Johnsons Lawn Seed owner DLF Trifolium a visit to better understand the company’s global reach. A total of 170 IGCA delegates convened at DLF Trifolium’s packing facility in Hojme, Denmark, and were taken through every step of the process. The one-off event showcased DLF Trifolium’s market-leading consumer brands as well as its “ongoing

dedication to the highest quality processes in the garden retail market”. Guy Jenkins, Johnsons Lawn Seed consumer manager, said: “Helping our retail customers understand [our processes] through events such as this one is invaluable as, in turn, it helps to arm them with the knowledge and passion that we possess; something that will pay dividends back in the retail environment.”

The latest cloud-based software for garden centre owners has been launched by Southalls Health and Safety Advisors. The Safety Cloud app enables health and safety management of multiple garden centre sites through mobile access. WJ Group is relaunching the format of its DeckWright Inserts retail kit for merchants, enabling business and domestic customers to retrospectively add a non-slip property to decking that has already been laid. Online horticultural school MyGardenSchool has announced its newly designed and redeveloped website, along with virtual classrooms. Students are able to upload their assignments, liaise with tutors and benefit from reduced complexity and improved usability of the new site. The Association of Professional Landscapers and two of its members struck gold at the Harrogate Autumn Flower Show 2015. Apprentices and young workers from Bespoke Outdoor Spaces and Paxman Landscapes UK took the winning medal with their first solo gardens. Penny Evans, APL learning and careers manager, said: “Any opportunity to build a complete garden should not be missed.”

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Green Digit wins latest GIMA Innovators’ Seed Corn Fund


he winner of the second GIMA Innovators’ Seed Corn Fund has been announced as Green Digit. The team at Green Digit are behind SeedCell, a new concept in growyour-own. SeedCell is designed with a unique pointed triangle cell that acts as a seed delivery system, from which the cells are snapped out and pushed into the soil.

Currently the SeedCell is available in nine varieties, including chilli pepper, tomato and sunflower. GIMA director Vicky Nuttall said: “The judges were impressed, not only with the product’s simplicity, but also with the design and creative flair with which it had been put together.”

Wyevale Nurseries unveils seven new plants at Four Oaks


even new plants were unveiled at this year’s Four Oaks trade show by Wyevale Nurseries. The plants included: Fuchsia ‘Thumbelina Gem’, Geranium ‘Purple Ghost’, Raspberry ‘Ruby Beauty’, Salvia ‘Clotted Cream’, Salvia ‘Joy’, Salvia ‘Love & Wishes’ and Salvia ‘Super Trouper’. Adam Dunnett, sales and marketing director at


Wyevale Nurseries, said: “We were very excited to be able to unveil seven new plants at this year’s Four Oaks trade show. “We were delighted that during the trade show Salvia ‘Love & Wishes’ was awarded the Best Plant Introduction – Nursery Stock Award. “It thoroughly deserves the win.”

Garden Centre Retail October 2015

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Rocketing seeds into space


ocket seeds have been sent into space as part of Rocket Science, a nationwide horticultural science experiment for schools. In conjunction with the Royal Horticultural Society and the European Space Agency (ESA), 2kg of rocket seeds will spend the next few months on board the International Space Station before being returned to the UK to be studied via a nationwide experiment. British ESA astronaut

Tim Peake, who will be conducting the experiments on the International Space Station, said: “I hope that Rocket Science will inspire the next generation to think scientifically, and to consider the fulfilling careers [available] in science and technology.” Rocket Science is an educational project that will allow up to 10,000 schools the chance to grow these ‘space seeds’ in 2016.

Squire’s chooses Greenfingers to benefit from new carrier bag tax


quire’s Garden Centres has chosen the charity Greenfingers to benefit from the carrier bag tax, which comes into effect on 5 October. From this date, it will be law that large retailers must charge customers 5p per carrier bag. Squire’s will donate all profits from the tax to the charity Greenfingers, which creates inspiring gardens and outdoor spaces for children who spend time in hospices around the UK. Sarah Squire, Squire’s deputy chairman, said: “We are delighted to support the

work of Greenfingers. As a company we recognise the responsibility and opportunity we have to give back and make a difference in the communities in which we live and work.” www.squiresgardencentres.

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news: association news

Association news

The Horticultural Trades Association HTA announces new president as part of Glee 2015


he Horticultural Trades Association has announced the appointment of its new president. At the HTA Annual General Meeting at Glee on Tuesday 15 September, Adam Wigglesworth, of Aylett Nurseries, was appointed president of the association, taking over the role from Stan Green, of Growforth, who becomes the immediate past president. The announcement came as part of Glee 2015, where industry leaders gathered to explore and

celebrate exhibitions from the horticulture sector and meet with other top names in the industry. Handing over the chain of office, Stan said it had been an “absolute pleasure” to have been the association’s president. Carol Paris, HTA chief executive, thanked him for his support and guidance in the past two years. This was echoed by Adam Wigglesworth who thanked Stan for his hard work and enthusiasm in a substantial and important role. Also at the AGM, came the ratification of the

appointment of two new board members – Adam Frost, of Adam Frost Design, and Geoff Caesar, of The Bransford Webbs Plant Company. Re-elected to the board as directors were Bob Hewitt, of Klondyke Garden Centres, Caroline Owen, of Scotsdales Garden Centre, and Mark Pearson and Ian Ashton, of Lowaters Nursery. David Norman, of Abercorn Garden Centre, was also re-elected as a director having retired from the role of honorary treasurer.

Carol Paris, Adam Wigglesworth (centre) and Stan Green take a break from the HTA AGM at Glee

Garden Centre Association Shoppers make the most of the good weather


urniture, barbecues and outdoor plants were the biggest sellers during August this year, according to the Garden Centre Association’s barometer of trade results. The GCA’s results show an increase in furniture and barbecue sales of 30.6% compared with the same month in 2014. Sales in outdoor plants were up 18.2%. Other categories which saw good sales were food hall/farm

Paradise Park, Newhaven, East Sussex GCR Oct15 P09 Assoc News.indd 9

shop, which were up 12.2%, and clothing at 7.7%. Iain Wylie, chief executive of the GCA, explained: “During August, garden centre customers were out in force and making the most of any hints of good weather with the purchasing of furniture and barbecues. It’s great to see sales in outdoor plants were on the up too as people spent time in their gardens before the autumn.

“For the month of August our overall garden centre performance was up by 12.65%, compared with the same month last year.” Mark Gilbert, sales director at Paradise Park in East Sussex, said: “August was once again a month of very varied weather conditions that ultimately favoured the traditional gardener who could enjoy good soil conditions for plenty of extra planting. This was reflected in a 20% growth of outdoor plants sales compared with last year.” The GCA barometer of trade reports are compiled using actual garden centre sales figures and designed to provide an up-to-date trading position statement.

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business: house plants

Going undercover

Liz Dobbs says it’s time to rejuvenate the image of house plants and offer your customers some weatherproof green living

The personal touch


arden centre house plant sales have shown welcome increases in 2015 and there is still plenty of potential for future years. A fresh approach may be all you need to lift a coasting house plant section. First, what do we mean by house plant, and is it still relevant?

The time is right

Thomas Rochfords & Sons were the largest pot plant nursery in the world in the early 1970s, and it all started when they set the trend for indoor foliage plants in the 1950s. They used the term house plants to replace the previous term ‘stove plants’ – an unappealing hangover from Victorian times. Is the term house plant a little jaded? I prefer to call them indoor plants; it broadens the horizons beyond familiar potted plants. Think air plants and other epiphytes that are hung on walls or attached to tree trunks (see or Pinterest for ideas) – they’re a long way from a potted Swiss cheese plant.

The way we live now

Most of the plants we grow in our homes are native to tropical and subtropical regions: deserts, forests and jungles. Rather than the traditional approach


of stating the temperature and light levels required, a useful starting point can be to state that these plants are naturally adapted to dry, centrally heated rooms, steamy bathrooms or shady corners. Maximum-minimum digital thermometers are very useful for helping people decide where to site their purchases, so place a few around your plant displays using models which are available to buy.

Practical matters

Remember to rotate plant displays on your hot spot beds, turnover on these can be double that of other areas. Knee-jerk ‘plant of the month’ signs are a bit hackneyed – themes of two or three plants are the way forward. For a list of themes for 2016, visit Make sure plants are spaced out on the display bench to let air circulate around them – they are less likely to get mould problems this way. Make it easy for customers by providing a selection of pot covers and bags of compost near each display. As most will be bought as gifts, highlight gift wrapping and delivery services. And last but not least, check the staff rota; displays go downhill within the week if the keen plant care staff are all off at the same time. ◗

Garden Centre Retail October 2015

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The house plant section at RHS Wisley always inspires me so I arranged to meet their plant buyer Roger Carter (pictured below). A trained horticulturist from South Africa, he worked for state government on the presidential gardens for 25 years, including the indoor plant arrangements. Roger told me: “I like to be adventurous and offer new or different plants. I browse the A-Z sections of the wholesale websites looking for new lines.” Air plants (Tillandsia) are an example of how Roger goes the extra mile. He said: “I’m researching new ways to display them: between spokes of a bicycle wheel, attached to a grid of lines tacked to a picture frame, even an upturned

empty hanging basket.” Roger uses sales data to keep abreast of seasonal variations: “Bromeliads, insectivorous plants and cacti are interesting to children so I like these to be moved forward in the school holidays.” He keeps suppliers on their toes too, feeding back when labels aren’t good enough or pots are overfilled with compost. Liz Dobbs is a researcher, editor, writer and author on all things garden and plant-related. Twitter: @gardenslady

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Get in the driving seat with Fallen Fruits’ new ‘Tractor’ seat Garden giftware company, Fallen Fruits, whose themed, designer collections are inspired by nature and history, has expanded its unique “Industrial Heritage” collection with the addition of a new Tractor Seat. The authentically designed seat is based on traditional tractor seats and is crafted from cast iron. Available in grey metal, red, green and recently introduced black, the seat will sit comfortably in either a historic home or a more contemporary abode or blend beautifully into any style of garden. Retailing at £99.99, the Tractor Seat completes the ‘Industrial Heritage’ collection, which takes its inspiration from the 1700’s and offers a small range

of lanterns, seating, tables and plant stands. Fallen Fruits managing director Michael Hall explains, “Our Industrial Heritage range is extremely popular as it offers high quality, uniquely designed items, giving consumers something a little bit different. “The addition of the Tractor Seat means the collection now provides a completely coordinated range of products which will enhance any home or garden either traditional or contemporary,” adds Michael. As with all Fallen Fruits garden and giftware ranges, the ‘Industrial Heritage’ collection can be incorporated into the company’s in store ‘shop within a shop’ proposition.

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business tips: visual merchandising

Coming into style

Kevin Waters adapts his popular Glee 2015 tour for Garden Centre Retail, offering a year’s worth of ideas for visual merchandising and plant displays


he Green Heart was pumping furiously at Glee this year, with more than 60 nurseries and plant suppliers exhibiting. It was revamped for 2015 to bring plants back to the centre of Glee – and it succeeded with flying colours. The highlight was a new interactive element, including tours and demonstrations aimed at inspiring retailers to view their plant offer in a new light. The tours I gave at this year’s Glee incorporated 12 promotions – one for each month of the year. I demonstrated how planterias can put together imaginative displays, inject some theatre into plant areas and inspire customers all year round. Every promotion was designed to give retailers the confidence and background knowledge they need to succeed, as well as to explore the inspiration found in every month.

Style of the month

The November promotion included the HTA plant of the month – trees. I suggested linking fruit trees with the food offer in garden centres rather than focusing on the pollination charts, planting instructions and pruning guidelines that usually dominate these areas. For the ornamental range, the idea of promoting ‘birth trees’ was

birth tree, thus encouraging them to buy. December was dominated by the inclusion of a wonderful fairy garden, which will almost certainly represent one of the trending products of 2016. Summer flowering bulbs were put forward for the January display, while the early spring months were filled with growyour-own projects such as patio potatoes and tomatoes.

“Every promotion was designed to explore inspiration in every month” suggested. This is an ancient Celtic form of horoscope based on allocating various trees to the calendar, rather than star formations as in our most common horoscope. Displaying in this way not only allows you to unite 12 completely different trees but offers customers a personal connection to their particular

Another suggestion for spring was the novel idea of growing sweetcorn, climbing beans and squash together in one plot – a system known as the ‘three sisters.’ This idea originated with the First Nation Americans, whose legend claimed these three plants should always be grown together, eaten together and

celebrated together. June’s promotion was linked to the idea of outdoor living and suggested herbs suitable for British, Mediterranean and Mexican cookery, whereas July concentrated on appealing to our sense of smell by suggesting various ways in which fragrance can be used in the garden.

Thrillers, spillers and fillers

One of the most appealing ideas I presented to retailers was the concept of using ‘thrillers, spillers and fillers’ as themes for planting containers and baskets. Working on the basis that containers need three elements – a focal point, something to trail, and a full-looking container – to succeed, the display suggested an alternative outlook to merchandising plants and the other ingredients required. By merchandising by colour and then dividing the display into thrillers, spillers and fillers, customers only have to decide which plants appeal to them, rather than worry about whether they are going to work well together. The addition of a complementary pot, plus any other link purchases necessary such as compost and fertiliser, not only helps to increase the average sale but helps ensure the customer is successful, encouraging them to plant more containers on subsequent occasions. ◗ Kevin Waters is an independent garden centre consultant. Twitter: @GardenWorksKev

The addition of a complementary pot, plus any other link purchases, can help to increase the average sale

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Garden Centre Retail October 2015


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business: the shape of things to come

The future of garden centre design

Mike Still predicts that ‘experience’ and ‘lifestyle’ are only going to become more important in the future, something which will be reflected in retail structure, look and layout


n the current climate, garden centres are well positioned to capitalise on the consumer trend of looking for retail to be more than just retail. There is, after all, a huge drive to improve lifestyle and part of that desire is a better shopping trip. The customer no longer wants to simply buy an item, they are in pursuit of something more – they want an ‘experience’. Garden centres have been providing that experience for a while now. Trading in the leisure and lifestyle markets, they have become known for somewhere to go for a great afternoon, whiling away the time browsing, dreaming about home and garden improvements and drinking a great cup of coffee. But as other retail sectors cotton on to this, what’s next for garden centres, and how does design play its part?

to meet the experts and attend workshops on different subjects will be key.) A related possible development is that customers will start to treat the garden as ‘just another’ room in the house, opening the opportunity to provide an ‘on the spot’ design service, just as kitchen showrooms do at the moment. The need for an A-Z display of plants may disappear as the demand for more instant colour-themed spaces becomes fuelled by the desire to ‘redecorate’ a particular space. Mixing colour, form and texture (from plants, to ornaments, to furniture), just as you would when

decorating the lounge, will become more important for customers as the time goes on. Therefore, it should also become of the upmost concern to you.

Warm spaces

One thing that consumers will undoubtedly come to expect in the future will be the provision of increasingly friendly, comfortable and ‘warm’ spaces. This is an ongoing trend in ‘real world’ retail, as companies continually attempt to differentiate themselves from online competitors. This is something that can manifest itself in any number of ways, for instance

in the desire to be seen as more socially responsible, as well as wanting to be viewed as integral to the local community itself. This will – and already has in some cases – led to centres becoming meeting places for local societies, be it horticulturalthemed or otherwise. This could include mother and toddler or ‘knit and natter’ groups, the ongoing existence of which help drive loyalty, as well as spend in the cafe. On a similar theme, as recycling, reuse and upcycling becomes more socially

What garden centres (literally) look like in the future is difficult to postulate. What we can say for sure, however, is that the process will be organic and a thorough understanding of the market and retail trends is fundamental if you want to stay ahead of the game. To my mind, design will inevitably take on board that the customer wants something different from the high street. Also, as customers’ gardening expertise dwindles, they will demand professional and more informative environments, all the time placing more reliance on their local garden centre for ‘knowhow’. (With this in mind, the further development of ‘drop in’ sessions, opportunities


Raemoir Garden Centre supplied by Catering Design Group

Something different

Garden Centre Retail October 2015

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business: the shape of things to come

expected, garden centres will need to be at the forefront of changes to retail taking these trends into account. Lastly, as indicated, the changing, more convenienceorientated ways in which we shop will also influence shopping spaces themselves. Services at retail outlets across the board must be informed by social media, the opportunity to click and collect, drive-through

pick-ups, same-day and nextday delivery and so on. (It is of course the free time this creates for the customer that fuels the need to fill leisure time with ‘experience’ and ‘lifestyle’ choices.) As grocers struggle to capitalise on the demand for fresh and different food, ‘home grown’ will become increasingly synonymous with garden centres. This puts them in an enviable position of plausibly being able to incorporate farm shops, delis, tapas and

olive bars, cheese and wine emporiums and so on. All will play a part in fuelling the demand for a better lifestyle, and then subsequently fulfilling that demand. Mixing retail with experience will be the key.

Rapidly changing landscape

Consumers will come to expect friendly, comfortable and ‘warm’ spaces

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So how will this play out in terms of how garden centres will present themselves in the future? The usual retail rules will, of course, still apply, which means great displays and visual merchandising, high retail standards, top-class product, and competitive prices. The thing, at least to my mind, that will receive evermore attention, however, is the customer journey, which now has to be ‘pleasurable’ as well as useful. Bringing retail closer to

experience will come at a cost, with buildings that are both fit for purpose and that can also adapt to a rapidly changing retail landscape. Fully-covered outdoor space with opening roofs and full climate-controlled environments will become the norm, while continued flexibility of the retail space will continue to be crucial. Creating a garden centre from scratch, or redesigning your current one, is potentially a costly business. Making sure, as far as you can, that your endeavours are future-proofed is essential. ◗ Mike Still is director of visual merchandising and design agency Clear Retail. 01636 830 270

Garden Centre Retail October 2015


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24/09/2015 09:18

business: percy thrower’s garden centre

Centre fit for a gardening legend Des O’Neill, managing director of Speller Metcalfe, gives an account of the recent refurbishment and reopening of the much-loved Percy Thrower’s Garden Centre

Percy Thrower’s Garden Centre, near Shrewsbury, was established as part of the famous gardener’s legacy following his death in 1988


ercy Thrower is a national treasure to the many gardeners who avidly watched the horticulturist’s TV career blossom, starting in 1956 on the BBC’s Gardening Club then later on Gardeners’ World from 1969 until 1976. He went on to be Blue Peter’s longest-serving gardener, from 1974 until 1987, where he established the Blue Peter Garden at BBC TV Centre. Percy passed away in 1988 and, as part of his legacy, he established Percy Thrower’s Garden Centre just outside Shrewsbury in Shropshire, close to his home. However, in recent years the centre had become subject to ongoing maintenance and access issues, and was in need of some major renovation. In 2012, Cranford Developments was given the formal go-ahead to regenerate

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£7.4m design and build contract – through its client Cranford Developments – to build the new Percy Thrower’s Garden Centre, which now forms part of the Wyevale Garden Centres group and is their flagship store. A major project, the centre has been built adjacent to its predecessor, which remained in use via a temporary access road throughout the works.

Cut and fill Percy Thrower’s TV career started in the 1960s with Gardeners’ World

the garden centre site. It was split into plots and sold to both the Wyevale Garden Centres (WGC) and Waitrose for provision of a new garden centre and supermarket at the Oteley Road site. In 2013, main contractor Speller Metcalfe won the

Working to tight deadlines is the norm for contractors, and the Percy Thrower’s Garden Centre project was no different, with Speller Metcalfe working to a seven-phase plan to minimise disruption. “Finishing within programme was a massive challenge,” said Simon Holdsworth, project manager for Speller Metcalfe. “As well as delivery of the

Percy Thrower’s centre, we were responsible for making the location site-ready for the future Waitrose store. “To do this we had to undertake a cut and fill operation – cutting out the earth and redistributing and ‘filling’ in other areas in order to make the ground level.” At its busiest, there were 88 different trades working on the site, with 14 scissor lifts and cherry pickers running at any one time across the building. To integrate Speller Metcalfe’s sub-contractors with the WGC’s fit-out contractors, the project team carried out a lot of work prior to the fit-out, including setting up additional working areas as well as undertaking a series of ‘toolbox’ talks. Meetings identified the site set-up location, access to the contractors’ compound 

Garden Centre Retail October 2015


24/09/2015 09:54

business: percy thrower’s garden centre

The new garden centre covers 6,300sqm and houses the Coffee Ground Café

through the live site, and tarmacking of the road while the fit-out team continued to use it for access.

Bespoke system

The contractor used the design and build process to advise the client on ‘buildability’ issues, as well as to provide additional expertise that could be invaluable further down the line. In the case of Percy Thrower’s, this included delivery of a bespoke ‘building management system’ that had not been specified in the design but was still delivered within the original budget. The system is designed to enable remote access from head office to a range of building controls, including opening and closing roof vents and operating individual heaters to maintain appropriate temperatures for specific plants. From the point of view of concessions the system is split, which enables each store to alter power and lighting as well as measure its energy use separately. Throughout the project, the team also undertook a vast amount of value engineering, which included delivery of a whole building solution by CambridgeHOK – rather than the original intention to individually price the steel work, cladding and M&E. Sitting a further 120m back from its original position and the main road, the new Percy


Thrower’s Garden Centre provides a wide outlook over the surrounding area. It is accessed via a newly laid road that will be shared by the soon-to-be-built Waitrose as well as additional local housing developments.

Improved facilities

The single-storey building, which has a predominantly glazed roof, was intended to provide greatly improved facilities, including a display area for plants and associated garden centre merchandise. Also included are a greenhouse, offices, storage and kitchen facilities, an integrated botanic kitchen restaurant as well as the Coffee Ground Café and children’s soft play area. The site now covers a total of 6,300sqm (and is also home to the biggest spade in the world, according to the Guinness Book of Records). Three additional retail

Project team

• Speller Metcalfe (main contractor) • Saunders Architects (architect) • Cranford Limited (client) • DW Pointer & Partners (M&E) • Wakemans (PQS) • PCS Consulting Engineers (Structural engineer)

Garden Centre Retail October 2015

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units have also been built to accommodate additional concession outlets, including Mountain Warehouse, Pets Corner, Shropshire Pools & Spas and Yankee Candle. A significant amount of work has also been carried out externally, including augmenting the site’s car parks and adding a pond and rose walkways, leading to three new retail units. Kevin Bradshaw, chief executive officer of Wyevale Garden Centres, said: “The new Percy Thrower’s Centre has been designed with the aim of sparking a love of gardening in all ages. “The pioneering use of space that combines shopping, leisure, dining and events provides the ultimate garden retail experience. “As our flagship store, we believe it stands as an excellent model of the future of our sector. This site is a continuation of Percy’s legacy, his spirit, and WGC is proud to be a part of that.” ◗

Roof vents can be controlled by remote access to maintain appropriate temperatures for specific plants

The centre is home to the world’s largest spade, which stands 12.5m

24/09/2015 09:56


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24/09/2015 09:24

business: garden centre redesign

From the ground upwards Chris Primett, of Malcolm Scott, takes us through how one garden centre took advantage of its location to embark on a redesign based on light, the promotion of its plants and its own history


n 2010, Garsons Farm Garden Centre’s managing director Ian Richardson chose to redevelop and expand his 140-seater restaurant – and reappraised the entire garden centre design in the process. Garsons Farm in Surrey has been redesigned into a modern site based around its unique selling point: the view over the many acres of ‘pick your own’ fields to the north and west. There are more than 95 restaurants within five miles of the garden centre, meaning customers would need a

particularly good reason to visit to eat. Ian Richardson decided with the help of Malcolm Scott Consultants (MSC) the key point of difference would be expressed through the building’s design and location. We relocated the restaurant from within the shop, where there were no views, to the edge of the site where customers are able to dine with scenes of the ‘pick your own’ fields stretching for acres. There are few, if any, similar opportunities for customers in the Esher area, creating an

excellent selling point. The new location also allowed a phased development in order that the existing centre maintained its revenue stream.

Dining experience

At the new restaurant’s location, which also overlooks the planteria, plant market and display gardens of the centre, customers are surrounded by plants for their entire dining experience, not only reinforcing the centre’s core offering but giving them

a chance to browse from a distance while they eat. Furthermore, with the restaurant at the rear of the site, customers are drawn through every department, allowing them more opportunities to browse and purchase. To exploit every offering of this setting, an octagonal building was designed with five of the faces looking out over: the adjacent fields, planteria; display gardens; and plant market. The building incorporates high levels of

Garsons Farm has undergone a major redesign


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24/09/2015 10:04

business: garden centre redesign

Other recent MSC garden centre projects in the UK...

Highfield Garden World, Gloucester

The restaurant was relocated to afford customers wonderful views of adjacent fields

glazing to maximise natural light, with opening side walls allowing the seating area to spill outside. Dining outside on a fine day puts customers directly in the centre of what they are there to consider and enjoy – the garden.

Overflow area

The restaurant is designed with seating for about 250, with an overflow area within the plant market. This area will be positioned between the existing shop and the restaurant, designed so customers pass through a glazed retail area which will be used to display seasonal products. The entire design has been centred around reinforcing the plant side of the business. Garsons Farm was also redesigned with its history in mind: the building itself was designed as a market hall evoking the early 20th century, when the centre would send salad crops to Borough Market in London. The restaurant

uses exposed, white-painted steelwork that features circular and elliptical voids, which also hark back to early 20th century market halls. Customers interested in the new design can engage in conversation and learn more about the centre’s history, offering a new opportunity for customers to connect with the business. The final element of the Garsons Farm development is the new shop, which replaces the old former tomato growing glasshouses. The new shop features a 6m glazed curtain wall which faces the car park. This gives a distinct appearance to the centre from outside, with customers and plants both benefiting from a high level of natural light. ◗

Groves Nurseries & Garden Centre, Bridport

Monkton Elm Garden Centre, Taunton

Hayes Garden World, Ambleside

Carr Farm, The Wirral The design evokes the look of an early 20th century market hall

Site Data Total Site Area: Car Parking:

2.4ha (5.9 acres) 258 plus overflow

Gross Retail Area:


Shop Area (including Farm Shop):


Restaurant + Kitchen + Servery:


Restaurant covers: 250 + overspill in Market Hall and outside

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Malcolm Scott Consultants can be contacted at: Grove House 1 Loves Grove Worcester WR1 3BU 01905 726353 inmail@malcolmscottcons.

Garden Centre Retail October 2015


24/09/2015 10:04

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GCR Oct15 P22 Sawn/Meadowview.indd 22

24/09/2015 12:27

feature: let’s hear it from...


John Schofield & Lisa McCormack

John Schofield and Lisa McCormack’s mission is to simplify the garden centre experience

The co-owners of urban garden centre Battersea Flower Station in London talk about building a massively loyal customer base through their knowledge of plants and willingness to engage with the community Could you tell me about your background and the history of the business? John: My background was in garden centre management. I’d worked in some big centres but felt like I’d got a long way away from what I actually liked about the job, which was the plants and talking to people. I wanted to return to something I felt passionate about.

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Lisa: I came from marketing and advertising, working for companies such as Orange and Virgin Media. I had no experience of plants, gardening or anything like that. Needless to say, I do now. I wanted to do something different and local – something that mattered to people. We were introduced, about three years before Battersea Flower Station opened, by a mutual friend.

Did you see a particular gap in the market? Lisa: Yes. We just wanted to simplify things for people and make the shopping process easier, which is what we continue to do. My experience of garden centres as a non-gardener up until that point was they were really intimidating if you don’t know what you’re doing. There are so many plants, everything’s in Latin, all 

Garden Centre Retail October 2015


24/09/2015 10:06

feature: let’s hear it from...

that kind of thing. I don’t think you’re made to feel stupid, but it is certainly something that can happen. Why did you choose the location? [Battersea Flower Station is a strip of land with a gate at either end in the heart of south London]. John: It was a long process. It took us about three years to find something in London that wasn’t going to be developed into a supermarket or a block of flats. When we got here the site was completely overgrown and pretty much useless to most people – there aren’t many things you can do with a long, thin strip of land. But even at its most cluttered – and it was really overgrown – it felt quite magical. Lisa: The site had been closed off for about 30 years. It was used by a landscape gardener who had it for storage, before which it was stables. It’s always been used, but no one’s ever been able to walk through it. There are bits of foundations


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everywhere. We don't own it – it's Network Rail property. The whole project is completely self-funded, so it didn't feel frightening. The last thing any of us wanted to do was leave our jobs and become petrified of taking on something too big. What are the main advantages of being where you are? What are the challenges? John: In terms of the location in the broader sense, the big advantage is that London is so densely populated. Our biggest challenge has really been letting people know that we’re here, because it is a single, very long strip of ground and the entrances are not very obvious. We're learning how to do it much better now. There's only so many times people can say to you 'This is a wonderful secret' before you realise it's something that needs to be addressed. Lisa: The reverse side of that, of course, is the fact that if it feels like a secret, it makes it a

more charming space and once people know about us they generally come back. Every time someone walks in, you can hear them on the phone saying 'I’ve just found this magical space'. It’s almost as if it has been scripted. How would you describe your customer demographic? John: There are all different types of people in this area, and that's

24/09/2015 10:06

feature: let’s hear it from... reflected in the customers we get. There are people who have been here forever, who are very proud of where they live and know a lot about gardening. Then there are the first-time gardeners or families who don’t know anything and don't have time to learn.

The Battersea Flower Station site is on a long, thin strip of land and sits at the heart of the local community

There are a few ‘Shoreditch’ touches, left, with the site laid out in sections of products, with an emphasis on simplicity and also convenience

Other than the location, what would you say is your unique selling point? You said earlier that you wanted to make gardening easier for people... Lisa: Yes. One of the things we do – mostly John actually – is help people with the space they’ve got on a one-to-one basis. We’ll go out to them and help them work out what to get and what to put where, free of charge. People really value that we're not expecting them to know anything about gardening. We treat them with complete and utter respect, and all the online reviews reflect that. We’re never going to stock every plant ever, but that's not necessarily what people want. They want customer service – what will work for their space. John: We think we’re a nation of gardeners, but just about everybody we speak to starts off apologetically about how much they don’t know. Everybody thinks they’re the worst gardener in the world – although that might just be a London thing. A lot of them talk about their parents being great gardeners but add that they, personally, kill everything they touch. We do a lot of reassuring, to the point of sitting them down and giving them a cup of tea.

“I think I’ve probably been in every garden in the area”

strawberry tree or how to manage their window box. What's your recruitment strategy? John: We want people with passion who really understand what we’re trying to build, the customer service ethos. We employ gardeners and florists, as we also have a florist offering. It’s important that staff can build a rapport with customers. I’ve worked at garden centres where people knew a lot but didn’t know how to talk to anybody about it. There’s a core of four of us, including Scott, Lisa’s partner, and Phil, our full-time florist, plus some great people who work part time. This is a people business, and so our staff are vital to us. Given the shape of the site, what's your strategy in terms of layout and customer journey? Lisa: The shape actually works quite

well in terms of that, if only because people have to walk past everything to get from one side of the garden centre to the other. It is laid out in sections of products, with the emphasis being on simplicity and convenience. For instance, the compost is near the back gate so you don’t have to carry it very far, and the pots are near the composts. John: One thing we have to take into account is which direction customers are coming in, because we've got front and back gates. We have to entice them in at the front and then get them to keep going. We think about that all the time. Lisa: We've learned that a certain type of customer will come in for what they want – say, a little plant – but won't walk two minutes to go and get it. Right in the middle of the site there is a building we thought was going to be an amazing gift shop, but it just didn’t work. People who come in from the high street don't want to go any more out of their way. What was the concept for the garden centre design? It has got its own look... Lisa: I always said I wanted it to feel a little bit 'Shoreditch', which I think it does. It just looks really interesting to plant up a bicycle or a bath. We’ve used old church pews 

Would you say you're an integral part of the local community, particularly because of the consultations you carry out? John: I think it's certainly seen as a really valuable service. It is a very easy thing to do if you're working locally – although it's obviously time-consuming. I think I've probably been in every garden in the area. The other benefit of that is the people we visit then come back to us because I already know their garden. I get to know people and their whole families and, at this point, not a night goes by without a customer emailing a picture wanting to know about their GCR Oct15 P23-26 Let's Hear It From.indd 25

Garden Centre Retail October 2015 25

24/09/2015 10:07

feature: let’s hear it from... Eight Battersea facts...

“You end up introducing people to each other”

Nine Elms is a district adjacent to Battersea which is dominated by Battersea Power Station, railway lines and New Covent Garden Market. It was named in about 1645 after a row of elm trees bordering the main road. Lavender Hill refers to the cultivation of lavender on the north-facing slopes of Battersea. The hill gained further fame following the 1951 Ealing comedy film, The Lavender Hill Mob. Clapham Junction, despite its name, is in Battersea. Opened in 1838, it is one of the busiest railways stations in Europe. The area was also was the inspiration for a collection of short stories, ‘Up The Junction’ by Nell Dunn, which in turn inspired a Ken Loach play in 1965, a feature film in 1968 and top 10 hit for Squeeze in 1979. Vauxhall Motors was formed in 1857 by Scottish engineer Alexander Wilson at Nine Elms, originally as Alex Wilson and Company, before the firm relocated to Luton in 1907. The Temporary Home For Lost And Starving Dogs was founded in Holloway in 1860 before moving to Battersea in 1871, becoming Battersea Dogs’ Home. The name changed to its present Battersea Dogs & Cats Home in 2002. Battersea Town Hall, opened in 1893, was the administrative centre for the borough. It was opened as a community arts centre in 1974. Battersea A Power Station was commissioned in 1933 and closed in 1975. Battersea B, built to an identical two-chimney design alongside Battersea A to form the iconic four-chimney station, was commissioned in 1953. It closed 30 years later. In 2013, the US government chose a site in Nine Elms to build its new embassy. The building will be completed in 2017.


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in the past. We had a set designer from Battersea Arts Centre come and help us at the beginning. John: You go to a lot of garden centres out of town which are fantastic in terms of range but are ultimately quite soulless. We wanted to be the opposite of that and build on the atmosphere the site already had. The other thing is, we didn’t have loads of money. If you’re in that situation, it is much easier to make something look a bit shabby chic. Other than the one-to-one consultations, what effort have you made to reach the local community? Lisa: We've made a real effort since we opened. We've thrown Christmas and summer parties, with steel bands, flower crowns for the ladies and the children, that kind of thing. One of the things that’s nice about the way we do business is you end up introducing people to each other. A lot of people feel a certain amount of ownership of this site because they've been around here all their lives. It needs to be part of this specific community, so therefore it has to feel authentic. John: We're also on social media a lot. We spend our lives just looking at our phones – it's one of the reasons we're able to do what we do. The consultation is an on-going service, and sometimes we get the most random questions. Sometimes you have to stop yourself from answering at two o’clock in the morning.

The garden centre stocks a great many evergreens and also offers delivery and window box/ planting services

Customers enter the site at one end of the strip and can leave via the gate at the other end, making the customer journey very important

You haven't got much space compared with the bigger centres. What's your policy in terms of plant stock? John: We have to be very directed in what we get in. Because our customers generally want to carry out specific jobs – for instance, putting up a privacy screen on a balcony – we buy with that in mind. We get lots of requests as well and, where we can help, we do. Lisa: We have to be mindful of trends and what's practical for specific situations. People want plants that are green all year round, so we stock a lot of evergreens. I think you'd also be hard-pushed to find a garden centre that stocks as many specimen plants as we do. Before our customers come in, we’ve already made choices about the kind of things that work for the kind of gardens they're likely to have. It's one of the things that keeps them coming back. ◗ John Schofield and Lisa McCormack are co-owners of Battersea Flower Station in Winders Road, Battersea, Wandsworth, London SW11 3HE Tel: 020 7978 4253

24/09/2015 11:24

GCR Oct15 P27 Christmas Fair.indd 27

24/09/2015 09:34

unveils innovative new barrel planter VegTrug, the original self-contained raised bed company, has launched its innovative new Barrel Planter. This uniquely designed planter comes with an innovative plastic base which prevents the wood of the planter from rotting, whilst also encouraging growth and allowing maximum aeration to the roots. Available in three sizes, the planter is perfect for either growing flowers or vegetables, and will sit comfortably on a patio or balcony. Available in Charcoal, Burnt Oak and Natural, the Barrel Planter will blend beautifully in to any style of garden or terrace. As CEO, Joe Denham explained, “Home owners are always on the lookout for more unique and innovative •

products for their gardens and our new Barrel Planter is just that being a stylish alternative to terracotta or plastic planters. “It is also ideal for those homeowners with limited outside space, enabling them to grow either plants or vegetables regardless of whether they have a garden, a patio or a balcony,” adds Joe. The Barrel Planter is available in three sizes, small, which measure 37cm diameter by 30cm high and can retail at £14.99; medium, which is 46cm in diameter by 34cm high and can retail at £19.99; and large which is 55cm in diameter by 41cm high and can retail at £27.99. Pricing will be dependent on trade volume.

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GCR Oct15 P28 Veg/HiTech.indd 28

24/09/2015 12:16

feature: selling home-made produce

Baked in Berwick: maximising sales of home-made produce in farm shops Lynda Murray talks through the logistics of selling home-made produce in the farm shop at Berwick Garden Centre on the Scottish border, from hiring staff to the final sale


erwick Garden Centre is England’s most northerly independent garden centre. Established in 1983, the restaurant has moved and expanded three times and is now set over two floors with 180 covers. The restaurant offers breakfast, lunch, teas and cakes as well as a popular Sunday carvery. The farm shop within the garden centre opened 15 years ago. It is 800ft2 and proving increasingly popular with customers.

Never miss a chance

Our restaurant and farm shop both focus on home-made produce, using local suppliers wherever possible. In recent years we became increasingly aware of the customer demand for takeaway scones, cakes

GCR Oct15 P29-30 Berwick Catering.indd 29

and pies from the restaurant, and were keen to develop this by selling our own home-made produce in the farm shop. However, until recently we didn’t have the resources. Our main worry was that once we started, we would struggle to keep up with demand – we knew we would need to find someone solely responsible for the baking. We needed somebody who was enthusiastic, dedicated and – hopefully – with lots of baking experience. In March 2014 we identified our opportunity. A local bakery ceased trading and we saw this as our time to approach a professional baker to start our farm shop brand. ‘Billy the Baker’ was employed little more than a year ago, originally for two days a

Lynda Murray with just a small selection of the many home-made brands that are on sale at Berwick Garden Centre

week. We soon realised this needed to be increased and Billy now works full time to keep up with farm shop and restaurant baking demands.

Style your brand

Before developing our labelling and branding, we met with Trading Standards from Northumberland County Council to discuss requirements. The outcome of this was that, as our products are made in-house, all allergens and intolerances must be noted on the product, as well as preservatives and colourings. We also needed lists of ingredients to be available for customers and staff to look at. We decided on a rustic, homemade feel to our branding and wanted to be sure our name, 

Garden Centre Retail October 2015


24/09/2015 10:13

feature: selling home-made produce Berwick Garden Centre, was obvious on the label. We chose a small uniform label that could be used for all products to keep the branding costs to a minimum. We wanted to focus on the home-made look for our packaging. Taking Billy the Baker’s experience and preferences into consideration, we researched a few different options but needed them to be universal so the same packaging could be used for different cakes. We learnt that certain packaging is better for certain products – for example, specific types of cardboard dried out some of the tray bakes much quicker than others. We learnt by trial and error, and we’re learning as we go.

Top tips: • Get the right person for the job • Ensure that the products taste good • Don’t do too much too soon • Once you have started you must keep up with demand – make sure you are consistent and do not disappoint

Promote yourself

Our cakes, quiches, pies and other produce are displayed on the main walkway in the farm shop, close to the checkouts. We promote our home baking in regular emails to customers, as well as on social media and through our reward card mail shots. We regularly put on weekend tasting sessions and advertise on tabletalkers in the restaurant.

Lay down the law

As demand and stock levels increased, we needed a set process known by all staff – just like a normal farm shop supplier: • Garden centre staff order the stock from the restaurant when the farm shop stocks are low • Once the order is produced, Billy packages and adds a product label, barcode and use-by date • The order is added to the garden centre EPOS system • The stock is put out on the shop floor for customers to purchase. There is no wastage at all: once an item gets close to its use-by date it is taken back to the restaurant and sold that day.

Never be content The garden centre chose a small, uniform label for all products to keep branding costs to a minimum

The centre has tried and tested lots of cake varieties to identify the best-sellers

Balance your best-sellers with variety

The restaurant works out its production costs, including all overheads, then adds its margin. The farm shop ‘buys’ this from the restaurant and adds a mark-up of at least 45%, which is the price the customer pays for the product. EPOS reports are regularly analysed to identify best and worst sellers. Our best-selling product is a cherry madeira cake – we sold 862 in the farm shop in the first year. We have tried and tested 80 different varieties of cakes, pies and tray bakes to work out which are our best-sellers, and we always offer a varied selection of customer favourites, taking into consideration the season and promotions within the farm shop.

At present, we are trialling a range of home-made ‘free from’ products. In spring 2016 we have plans to expand our farm shop and aim to dedicate a larger area to our homemade products. We would like to develop the range of products we sell, such as ready meals, desserts and breads, and one of our central goals is to use more locally sourced ingredients and suppliers Seeing the success at Berwick, we have sourced a full-time baker at our other site, Dunbar Garden Centre. She has only been with us for three months but we are looking forward to developing a homemade range at Dunbar too. ◗

Lynda Murray is the manager of Berwick Garden Centre in Northumberland


Garden Centre Retail October 2015

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24/09/2015 10:13


• A one-day event for the garden centre retail industry

Exhibitors include...

• Includes a trade exhibition and top quality seminar programme • Takes place in early spring at a crucial time for buyers when there are few other shows available • Easily accessible award winning venue • A comprehensive visitor promotion campaign

Why go to FutureLines? For exhibitors

For visitors

FutureLines aims to deliver an audience of buyers, influencers and decision makers from the garden centre retail industry.

FutureLines will be informative and educational, and will offer great networking opportunities.

For exhibiting information

For visitor information



Call Phillip Every on 01903 777 586

Call Jessica Garrard on 01903 777 570

GCR Oct15 P31 Future Lines Ad.indd 31

24/09/2015 09:19

Plant focus: amazing journey Experienced buyer Tim Jacob talks about his recent trip to the massive Plantarium trade show in Holland, and predicts what will get tills ringing over the coming year


or those of us lucky enough to have been involved in the industry in the Eighties and Nineties, one of the highlights of the year was the annual Woking Show, held at Merrist Wood College, near Guildford, Surrey, every summer. While the show wasn’t perfect, it still allowed growers – primarily in the south – the opportunity to showcase their seasonal goodies, as well as act as a launch pad for any new lines for the following season. And what it lacked in refinement it more than made up for in camaraderie, friendliness and optimism for the year to come.

Feeling lucky

If you were lucky, you might come away from the show with four or five new lines to take and add to your offerings for the following year. The Woking Show’s downfall was the numerous growers it excluded through


Garden Centre Retail October 2015

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its ‘Woking region only’ policy, which left many new products having to find alternative launch pads. British horticulture suffered for a few years until the HTA listened to a small group of growers and retailers, leading to the introduction of the show at Stoneleigh. While the UK now has some really good trade shows, showcasing plants from all over the world, they pale in comparison to the recent ‘Plantarium’ in Boskoop, Holland, which took place at the end of August. Quite frankly, the size, scale and professionalism of the show is mind blowing. Along with the even more impressive IPM Show at Essen, Germany (26-29 January 2016), both these continental plant shows are a must for any grower or retailer. A visit to both is guaranteed to get your juices flowing and open your eyes to dozens of new lines, many deserving bench space next season.

Crazy in Love

Above: Plantipp’s stand at Plantarium for the launch of its new Photinia, Pink Crispy

The star of the show this year was Hydrangea macrophylla Ruby Tuesday from De Jong Plant. I’ll admit it caught my eye with its large red blooms and sturdy glossy leaves but is it really what any cutting edge retailer is looking for to put them at an advantage next year? Most interesting, at least for my money, was what I found on FN Kempen’s stand. Tieme van den Haak, FN Kempen account manager, explained to me their method of growing sturdy, well-branched, flowering echinaceas in a pot. The Mooodz series – bred by Hilverda Kooij – is grown from tissue culture and produces the most stunning colour range I’ve seen. Having never been a fan of variegated plants, I wasn’t initially attracted to the new Photinia launched by Oploo Tuinplanten and Plantipp. Pink Crispy and its marbled

24/09/2015 10:14

feature: plant focus

“Hellebore Christmas Carol will get your tills ringing this year” variegation with pink new growth won’t appeal to many horticultural purists but in the right place – with the right marketing – it’s sure to appeal to the gardening public. The company’s stand and use of props was really quite something. You couldn’t help but ‘stop and sniff’ at the Hoogeveen Plants stand, where the company was showcasing a new, very heavily scented rose bred by Roses Forever in Denmark, called Rose Crazy in Love Pink. It has the most delicious scent, which is an attribute many consumers are still clearly very passionate about. When backed with point of sale explaining this, it’s sure to fly off your beds. (There’s also a red flowering variety. However, I felt it lacked the strong fragrance of its pink partner and won’t be one I’ll pursue.)

Family trees

Top right: Hydrangea macrophylla Ruby Tuesday from De Jong Plant Below: Echinacea Mooodz series from FN Kempen

I have a lot of time for Jeroen Dunant, of De Fruithof nursery, near Kapelle in Holland. His showing at Plantarium once more showed why the company is a leader in producing both tree and soft fruit throughout Europe. Their ‘family trees’ (available in apple, pear, plum and cherry) have five different varieties on one tree, each of which pollinate each other and ripen at

different times. To the consumer they are an ideal size. Their handy 5L pot and ‘easy carry handle’ makes for easy transit from GC to garden. The new trailing ‘bud blooming heather’ series from Garden Girls saw Nelly (violet), Janina (red) and Claire (white) doing what they do well. That is, producing long-lasting colour through the autumn and into the winter. Silvana is the first ever bud-bloomer with silver foliage and one I’ll be keeping an eye out for when it arrives in the UK. I’m still in two minds about the new Skyline Callunas from Beauty Ladies. Grown predominantly for their form and unique-shaped foliage – it’s sort of square and pyramidal – it’s not prolific in its flowering, and I fear this might be one of those plants that us horticulturists are attracted to, but the consumer bypasses.

Swiss finishing school

I’m sure I’m not alone when I say I’ve experienced planting a bamboo and then almost instantly regretting it. Their growth, vigour and ability to grow through almost anything can easily get out of hand – but not apparently with ‘It’s a BOO, not just a BAMboo’ from ID’Flor. This variety looks like it’s been to a Swiss

finishing school. As well as being fully winter hardy, it’s non-invasive and won’t lead to battles with your neighbours. It deserves a place in your plant area for sure. Swiss fruit breeders Lubera caught my eye a few years back with its red fruiting apples and numerous soft fruit introductions. The company once again came up trumps at Plantarium with the launch of Blackberry Little Black Prince, which is a dwarf, thornless blackberry which only ever reaches 60-90cm in height and bears fruit on oneyear-old wood. It’s a perfect way to introduce children into the beauty of grow your own, and one that will find its way into my garden. One last thing – with the nights drawing in, Christmas can’t be all that far away. My Perfect Garden took advantage of Plantarium to showcase its Hellebore Christmas Carol, which looks certain to grasp a large chunk of market share in this indoor/outdoor category. Along with Verboom Beauty they will set your Christmas tills ringing, I promise you. I can’t wait for Plantarium again next year. Combining it with a trip to the Green Direct show is a must and easily justifiable in our ever-more busy work schedule. ◗ Tim Jacob is key account manager for Garden Centre Fresh. He has more than 25 years of experience in buying and sales within the industry.

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Garden Centre Retail October 2015


24/09/2015 10:14

feature: glee review

Show review: Glee 2015 We bring you the highlights from three days of exhibitions, presentations and awards


lee 2015 was a success, with three days of exhibitions, presentations and awards from the top figures in the industry. With more than 500 exhibitors this year, on


14-16 September visitors were treated to a range of showcases for services and products. The event held its annual New Product Awards, as well as introducing the Glee Buyers Power List for the first

Garden Centre Retail October 2015

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time to celebrate the garden retail buyers who have gone above and beyond to make a difference in the industry. Event director Matthew Mein gave his closing comments on a successful event: “Thank

you to all of the 500 exhibitors who’ve put on a fantastic showcase that sets the garden industry in a great light for 2016 and thank you to all the visitors, many of whom I’ve seen here for all three days

24/09/2015 10:15

feature: glee review All the winners from Glee and GIMA 2015:

of the show. The Glee New Product Showcase really set the bar for next season with some great innovations and some fantastic new takes on old ideas that will undoubtedly sell very well.” w

Glee New Product Awards: Best Garden Care (Accessories) Product: Cloud Controller, Hozelock Best Machinery and Tool Product: Baksaver Barrow, Baksaver Barrows Best Plants, Seeds and Bulbs Product: Raspberry Ruby Beauty, Wyevale Nurseries Best Garden Care (Chemicals, Fertilisers and Compost) Products: Sylvagrow Compost 100%, Melcourt Industries Best Pet and Wildlife Product: Loktop 2 Port Mealworm Feeder, Petface Best Home, Gift & Clothing: Occasions Gift Range, Speak & Jackson Best Leisure: Outdoor pouffe, Fallen Fruits Best Catering and Speciality Product: Findlater’s Gluten-Free Bread Best Landscaping and Construction Product: Miniature World Range, Vivid Arts Glee Buyers Power List: Best Independent Garden Retail Buying Team: Haskins Best Online Garden Retail Buying Team: Best Multiple Garden Centre Buying Team: Blue Diamond Best DIY/Builder Merchant Buying Team: Homebase Best ‘Other’ Garden Retailer Buyer Team: John Lewis Glee Retailers’ Choice Award: Uuni, with the Uuni 2 wood-fired oven GIMA Innovators’ Seed Corn Fund: Green Digit with SeedCell

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Garden Centre Retail October 2015 35

24/09/2015 10:15

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Propagate new customers with the GroTray from Mr. Fothergill’s The compact propagation system that only needs watering once. Part of the Mr. Fothergill’s Garden Time range designed for novice gardeners.

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GCR Oct15 P36 Mr Fothergill/Spear.indd 36

24/09/2015 11:40

feature: south west growers show preview

Show preview: South West Growers Show We take a look ahead at the foremost commercial horticultural event in the south west of England, now in its 42nd year


ne of the UK’s top commercial horticultural exhibitions, South West Growers Show, will take place on Wednesday 7 October at the Matford Centre in Exeter, Devon. At the time of going press, more than 50 exhibitors had already been booked, with reservations for space filling up fast. Now in its 42nd year the show is aimed at growers and plant buyers, ranging from garden centres and retail outlets to local authorities and the landscaping industry. Visitors can browse key growers and suppliers of specialist horticultural equipment and services, as well as source the latest plant introductions and products.

David Jackson, chairman of the show, said: “As a group of growers this is now our seventh year of running the show and we are really pleased that it continues to grow year on year. From the comments we have received from our exhibitors, we realise that these regional shows are becoming ever more important as a good, costeffective way to have face-time with the customer, especially here in the south west.” “This year, we are pleased to welcome back Container Centralen, with the trolley damage exchange service, and also members of the International Plant Propagators Society European Region, who will begin their annual

EXHIBITOR PROFILE: Container Centralen trolley exchange For growers in the south west, exchanging damaged trolley bases and shelves will be made much easier by the mobile exchange service brought to South West Growers Show by Container Centralen. Visitors can bring damaged bases and shelves and Container Centralen will exchange them for fully serviceable replacements. The company is also offering visitors the opportunity to bring along good quality, black-tagged or blank trolleys to be introduced back into the system with a red tag, for £8.35 per trolley. This offer will be available at the show and for a limited time after. SWGS chairman David

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Jackson said: “The management team running SWGS has always tried to give exhibitors and visitors something extra when attending our show at Exeter. Container Centralen ran a similar exchange at the show in 2013 which was very well received, so we were thrilled when they agreed to run a similar service at this year’s show.” Prior booking for this service is essential, the company added, and the service is only available to existing customers. Representatives from Container Centralen will be on hand at the show to answer questions and advise visitors who don’t already use their services.

conference at the show. “The South West Growers Show has established itself as the foremost event in the south west for the commercial horticultural industry. “For the visitor, it provides the ideal venue to meet key growers and horticultural suppliers as well as sourcing the latest plant introductions and products; for the exhibitor, it offers a unique business-tobusiness environment which

results in more than 90% of attendees purchasing or placing orders.” w South West Growers Show takes place on Wednesday 7 October at the Matford Centre, Exeter, and is open to trade visitors between 9am and 4pm. Admission is free.

Garden Centre Retail October 2015 37

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24/09/2015 10:56

product news

Product news

All the latest news from leading product providers in the horticultural and garden retail sector

Yankee Candle lights up Halloween


ankee Candle is launching a limited edition collection of candles and accessories to celebrate Halloween. The range includes ‘Witches Brew’ and ‘Candy Corn’, two fragrances presented in stylish ‘ombré-tinted’ jars. They are complemented by a range of accessories including ‘Spooky Face’ votive holders (in the

theme of monsters, skulls or pumpkins), and the new Jack O’Lantern pumpkin melt warmer. The ‘Spiderwebs’ collection, meanwhile, consists of metal sculptures that cradle jar candles and votives. The company’s popular Black Cat jar candle holder, Melt Warmer and candle clinger have also returned this year.

New garden retail head for Treadstone


readstone Products has promoted Matt Thompson, right, to be its new UK head of garden retail. His main responsibility will be to promote the Treadstone brand to UK retailers, as well as looking after the company’s new range of gardening accessories, including ‘The Good Life’, ‘Laura Ashley’ and ‘Peter Rabbit’. Commenting on the promotion, Matt said: “Treadstone Products has a reputation for providing innovation and quality and is currently in the process of launching a number of lines, so it is a very exciting time.” Matt first joined Treadstone as a national sales manager.

Helleborus at heart of Hayloft’s autumn catalogue


Fiskars brings new commercial director on board


Prior to this, he started his career at Sainsbury’s Homebase working as a trainee garden centre manager, before becoming a deputy manager for Wyevale, followed by Dobbies. He subsequently worked as a general manager with the Blue Diamond Group, followed by Notcutts.

iskars UK has appointed Richard Carr as its new commercial director, reporting to regional director for southwest Europe, John Grayson. Grayson said: “Richard’s knowledge of Fiskars and our recent UK progression presented me with a tremendous opportunity. He was the stand-out candidate.” Carr said: “I have respected Fiskars for a long time and watched with admiration how the UK business has thrived in the past few years under John’s leadership.”

ayloft Plants is launching its autumn 2015 catalogue, which contains rare Helleborus collections and bulbs in keeping with the company’s motto: ‘rare, unusual, exciting’. Yvonne Walker, Hayloft MD, said: “2015 will be a fantastic year for Hayloft Plants with sales up in excess of 35% on the previous successful year. “We owe massive thanks to our customers for sending in their orders and to those who order many times a year from the plethora of sales channels now available 24/7.”

Stewart Garden builds on success


tewart Garden is adding new round and deep trough planters to its collection. The company said the new additions build on the success of its alreadyexisting square lead effect planters, extending a collection which it launched in 2014. All planters in the new range feature the silvered buffed effect, meaning

GCR Oct15 P39 Product News.indd 39

every planter is unique. They are designed to be durable, light and easy to move. They are also guaranteed to withstand seasonal frosts. Channel manager Gavin Wray said: “They’re destined to be a big hit because customers know that Stewart Garden stands for exclusive design, quality and durability.”

Garden Centre Retail October 2015 39

24/09/2015 10:17

The one stop shop for all your horticultural needs be it either pictorial packets or wholesale seeds for plant sales.

Tel: 01376 570 000 Web: Email:

GCR Oct15 P40 Taylor/Kings.indd 40

24/09/2015 09:28

products: category review

How to sell... seeds

& bulbs

Geoff Hodge talks about how to maximise sales from this massively profitable market which is vital to the industry


ust as ‘mighty oaks from little acorns grow’, so do massive sales from small seed packets and bulbs. The seed and bulb market is considered to be worth about £350m at retail, with the value from garden centres worth £185m. Although the packet seeds market has shown a 2% volume decline year on year (according to Germany-headquartered market research institute GfK), seed and bulb sales remain vitally important. What else contains the anticipation of a beautiful garden and the true joy of gardening? If you organise your seed and bulb displays correctly, that couple-of-quid sale from one packet of seeds will grow into a trolley-full of products. Don’t leave them loitering at the back of the shop. Rather, bring them into the limelight and surround them with everything they need to grow to perfection.

As easy as A, B, C

Mr Fothergill’s and Suttons Seeds both firmly believe seeds should be displayed in a strict A-Z. Group together the different seed formats for that species, such as seed tapes and mats, standard seed packets, and organic seeds. Seeds are still a very

visual sale, even for keen gardeners who know the names of the plants they want. Many people navigate and browse by the pack images. This means stands require enough space for people to see them in clear, well-lit surroundings.

Stand-alone themes

You don’t have to restrict yourself to the A-Z format only – grouping by themes also works incredibly well, especially for those customers who don’t traditionally buy seeds. As Fleuroselect’s plants of the year for 2016 are cosmos and tomatoes, you should make the most of the advertising and marketing that will be created by this promotion. Most suppliers provide themed ranges, often with their own display stands and stand-alone display units. These are perfect for positioning next to growing products in hot spots and other high traffic areas. And don’t forget there are now plenty of fabulous seed gift ideas – or you could look into the hybrid flower seed market created by Miracle-Gro Flower Magic.

Light bulb moments

Adam Taylor, of Taylors Bulbs, says flower bulbs are mostly impulse purchases and

success will come from displays positioned in areas of high footfall. Most customers don’t seek out flower bulbs unless they are keen gardeners. Taylor also says the obvious ways to display bulbs are by species or colour. Displaying by colour is most successful when choosing a single species – such as tulips in autumn – or by doing it on a large scale. These displays should be complemented by hot spot or feature displays of bulbs by use, such as suitable for containers, fragrant or ‘perfect for pollinators’. It is important to engage with customers and offer them ideas, suggestions and solutions. Simply hanging the packs next to a pot and bulb fibre is no longer good enough. Innovative, eye-catching displays and engaging with customers are essential. Loose bulbs emphasise the horticultural credibility of a centre. However, they must be well managed and positioned where staff can oversee the display to prevent theft and keep it looking perfect. As all the major seed and bulb companies are launching exciting product ranges for the coming year, you’d better get in touch with your suppliers and see what your customers will be asking for. w

Geoff Hodge is a writer and broadcaster. He writes for various gardening magazines and websites and has written eight books. Previously, he was a garden centre manager GCR Oct15 P41 Geoff Hodge Bulbs.indd 41

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24/09/2015 10:18

products: seeds & bulbs

Biodegradable SeedCells

Green Digit, a company that was formed only last year, launched its new product SeedCell at Glee 2015. The seed packets are designed to be snapped apart and planted in the ground, without the use of tools. The disk is made from recycled materials that,

once planted, absorb and retain moisture which is then fed directly to the seed as it biodegrades. A pack contains eight cells which can be planted individually and at different times. RRP: £2.95

Latest products

seeds & bulbs The latest offerings, from new ranges to bags and stands ▲

Kings Seeds stands

Essex-based seed merchants Kings Seeds has released two new ranges of flower seed which, the company said, it has chosen on merit for their outstanding garden performance. The flower stand includes 200 pictorial packets, while the sweet pea stand includes 40. Both stands include a POS board. King Seeds said all seed is tested in its own laboratory where it can ensure the highest possible standard for germination.

▲ Taylors Bulbs gift bags Taylors Bulbs is launching a range of colourful bulb gift bags for the autumn. There are four different blends available, including assorted alliums, assorted daffodils, double tulips, and triumph tulips. Taylors said the products are designed to be vibrant, with glossy printing, eyecatching photography and colourcoded rope handles. The supplier has also updated the packaging for its flagship pack range, Taylors Choice, and its Classic Combinations range. RRP: £6.99


Garden Centre Retail October 2015

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▲ Mr Fothergill’s new line Mr Fothergill’s latest collection of seed-based growing lines is aimed at new and novice gardeners. Its Garden Time range packaging has been designed to stand out on shelves, making it ideal for high-season impulse lines and garden gifts throughout the year. Mr Fothergill’s has also added a self-watering propagation system, the GoTray, to its range of GIMA award-winning products the GroBox and GroMat. RRPs: from £3.99 to £10.95

Suttons Seeds’ Crimson Crush

The new Crimson Crush seeds from Suttons Seeds are the world’s first fully blight resistant variety of tomatoes, the company has announced. They contain PH2 and PH3, two genes which make the tomatoes resistant to all common blight strains in the UK, including the most prolific ‘Pink 6’ and ‘Blue 13’, it said. Each pack contains 10 seeds that are said to produce a multitude of tomatoes, each weighing up to 200g. RRP: £3.99

24/09/2015 10:18

products: artificial grass ▲

Hi-Tech Turf

Following its success during a trial with a number of trade customers last year, Hi-Tech Turf has released its Ibiza artificial grass for all trade customers. The turf has a pile height of 26mm and has been used in installations ranging from 10m2 to 2,000m2. The company said the turf is hard wearing and versatile, with a mixture of light and dark green tufts to give it a realistic appearance. RRP: £21 per m2

Latest products

artificial grass

Urban 10 Witchgrass range

Greenacres Retail Grasses This summer, UK artificial grass manufacturers Greenacres, a division of AT Industries, launched its range of Retail Grasses in 4m x 1m rolls. The range includes the 30mm pile ‘Lush Lawn’, 23mm pile ‘Real Grass’ and two 15mm grasses, ‘Vale’ and ‘Orchard’. The rolls are pre-packaged and can be merchandised to accommodate the retailer’s selection of grasses in a branded display box. RRP £49.99 to £74.99

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New offerings for open spaces

Privately owned company Urban 10 is promoting its Witchgrass range. Witchgrass includes nine varieties of artificial grass which, the manufacturer said, are all easy to install. These range from Standard, which has a 5mm pile height and is suitable for light traffic areas and displays, to Supreme, which is the highest quality and suitable for landscaping, gardens and terraces, with a pile height of 38mm.

Artificial Grass Direct

‘Regent’ has been deemed Artificial Grass Direct’s new top of the range product following feedback from customers. The company has more than 15 years of experience in supplying artificial grass. Its new product is 40mm in pile height with a colour mix of four shades of green and a mid-brown thatch. RRP: £29.50 per m2

Perfectly Green

Perfectly Green has recently released the Nunnington grass which, it said, has fast become the most popular premium lawn in its range. The pile

height is 40mm, with diamond-shaped yarn and UV protection which helps to maintain the colour for longer. The company said that the grass has a “high-

tech construction”, which makes it highly durable as well as being easy to drain. RRP: £28.20 per m2 www.perfectlygreen.

Garden Centre Retail October 2015


24/09/2015 10:19

products: outdoor cooking Big Green Egg

Big Green Egg has a new addition to its range. The new MiniMax barbecue has the trademark green enamel coating which helps to prevent rust, as well as insulated walls to allow cooking regardless of weather. The temperature can be easily controlled with a series of vents. With a height of 50cm and accompanied by a sturdy carrier, the MiniMax is portable and suitable for camping. Big Green Egg said the barbecue is perfect for those who want versatile alfresco cooking. RRP: £550

Latest products

Sizzling offers for when the sun shines

The Alfresco Chef

The Alfresco Chef has launched something a little bit different from a traditional barbecue – an outdoor wood-fired oven called the Forno Ciao. Standing at 181cm, its stylish design includes a refractory cooking surface and a stainless steel dome. The company said it takes only 15 minutes to heat up and can cook a pizza in 90 seconds. It can also be used to cook fish, sear meat, and bake bread and cakes. The Forno Ciao is available in three colours: yellow, green and grey. RRP: £1,095


Swedish stove brand Primus made an impact at this year’s Glee with the launch of its new Primus CampFire range, which gained an award in the New Product Showcase outdoor leisure category. The range of double burner stoves, stainless steel pots and pans, and high quality accessories are designed and manufactured in Europe. The company said the range is great for those looking for high quality, stylish, portable and durable cooking options when outdoors. Pictured is the Onja stove. RRP: £105


Garden Centre Retail October 2015

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Grillstream is known for its uniquely designed barbecues which stream the fat away from the heat source. This helps to avoid flare, preventing food from being burnt on the outside while still raw on the inside, as well as making the barbecue easier to clean and producing healthier food. The Grillstream Island BBQ contains this feature as well a battery-operated rotisserie, backlit LED control knobs, and an integrated side burner, chopping board and ice bucket. RRP: £799

outdoor cooking

▲ Grillstream


American barbecue manufacturer Weber said the MasterTouch is its best charcoal barbecue to date. Branding it the ‘king of the kettle barbecues’, Weber said the MasterTouch has all the features of its original kettle barbecue, including the porcelain-enamelled bowl and lid which carry a 10-year guarantee, and a stainless steel One Touch cleaning system. In addition, it includes two baskets for holding charcoal, a charcoal measuring cup, as well as an integrated tool holder. The MasterTouch is also available as a gas barbecue and comes in a choice of five colours. RRP: £259.99

24/09/2015 10:19

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24/09/2015 23/09/2015 09:29 10:21

people: trading with

Trading with... Chris Marsden-Jones Swan Retail

Swan Retail’s business development director talks about how his company’s software can help clients expand their customer base Can you give us a brief outline of your company and its products?

Swan Retail (formerly known as G7) has been providing EPoS and retail management systems to the garden centre and retail nursery sectors since 1992. We are a progressive organisation and develop our own software in line with technological trends and the requirements of our customers. We integrate our software with the major ecommerce platforms, giving our customers the opportunity to trade ‘multi-channel’, expanding their reach and potential customer base.

What is the ethos of the company?

We believe the retail environment for garden centres and nurseries has changed dramatically with the rise of the internet and general advances in technology, including the introduction of smartphones and tablet technology. Our aim is to help retailers fully grasp these changes and use them to benefit their business, aiding expansion and ensuring they succeed into the future. We aim to provide a high level of customer service while providing an easy-to-use system which streamlines business processes, enhancing efficiency and profitability.

What is your route to market?

We sell directly to retailers, using trade shows and industry conferences, regular newsletters and trade press to communicate what we can offer. We also maintain an online presence through our own website and social media profiles.

Which are your best-selling products?

Swan is designed to manage the complete stock and financial operations of retailers and provide a fully integrated multi-channel solution. The Swan application encompasses a wide range of functionality, making it adaptable to the individual needs of the retailer, from nursery management to EPoS and through to selling online. This results in the entire company being focused on the development of a

GCR Oct15 P47 Trading With.indd 47

single application in line with industry trends, technological advances and feedback received from customers.

What additional support and promotions do you offer for garden centres?

We offer support to our garden centre customers in two ways. The first is our seven days a week office-based helpdesk. Manned for 363 days of the year, we are here whenever we’re needed, from something as simple as wanting to know how to access a specific report through to getting our customers back up and running after an equipment failure. The customer services team also take charge of installing upgrades to our retail system as and when they become available. The second area of support we offer is our annual user group, where customers can meet other retailers from within the garden centre and other sectors to discuss their use of Swan within their business and also learn about, and influence, the development path of the product.

What is the unique selling point of your brand?

The Swan software is owned in-house, meaning we have full control over the direction of development. There are 40 people supporting the application, giving it a solid grounding. With a focused development path we aim to provide a future-proof solution to retailers that will grow with their business. Swan is an end-to-end, cloud-based solution which incorporates EPoS, financial accounts, supply chain and nursery management. We already work with more than 100 garden centres and retail nurseries as well as being members of both the HTA and GCA, and working closely with AIS. These links with retailers and trade associations allow us to gain a good understanding of the requirements of this sector.

Are you planning any new products in the next 12 months?

Following on from our recent release of an app for customer special ordering – for large ticket, bespoke items such as garden furniture, BBQs, sheds and greenhouses – we hope to make use of tablet-based app technology to transform how retailers use our system within their businesses. The apps we are looking to develop include supply catalogues, delivery confirmation and a new generation of EPoS – giving a greater degree of flexibility and performance. ◗


Chris Marsden-Jones is business development director for Swan Retail. Tel: 02392 248550

Garden Centre Retail October 2015


24/09/2015 10:19

people: horticulture careers

For full details on all jobs, please go to Call 01903 777 580 or email with your vacancy



Reporting to the plant centre manager, you will work closely with buyers and senior management and be responsible for the merchandising and presentation of all plants, driving impulse sales, exploring sales opportunities, and championing our plant advice services; all while delivering sales targets. The role will also have duty management responsibilities, helping to lead an experienced team. We seek a self-motivated, experienced plant retailer with a record of delivering exceptional customer care. You will have managed large, multi-skilled teams and be able to deliver results. You will have strong leadership skills and enjoy motivating and working within a team. You will need to be proactive, a great communicator with attention to detail, and have the ability to manage simultaneous tasks to an excellent standard.

Dutch Nursery seeks a target-driven general manager to take the business to a new level. The family-run, retail garden centre requires a manager with a clear commercial vision to lead and develop our friendly team. You will be fully accountable for great customer service and increasing sales and gross margin. You will work with directors and board to deliver a strategy to increase footfall and uplift ATV. This role requires someone who finds it easy to talk to customers and motivate staff. You must have five years’ retail experience at senior management level; a keen interest and knowledge of gardening and lifestyle consumer trends; working knowledge of EPoS; a record in exceptional team leadership and motivating staff; experience as a buyer for a retail firm; a ‘can-do’ attitude.

For more details, go to

For more details, go to



The role is part of the centres senior leadership team alongside the restaurant manager and deputy manager. It could suit a manager at a small centre looking to step up or someone in a larger centre looking to join a group for progression. The role involves leading and motivating your team to provide the highest standard of customer service, plant care and merchandising. The centre has a unique customer base as it adjoins a large supermarket. I seek a superb planteria specialist with a knack for retail. Candidates will lead a horticulture-focused team and so they must have good knowledge of the subject. Retail experience must be good, with a demonstrable management ability in a retail environment. This could have been developed in a role outside horticulture but must be recent.

We are seeking someone to implement changes to enhance customer experience when purchasing our specimen plants. They will be responsible for merchandising and presentation of plants and products and delivering team sales targets; driving impulse sales; championing Tendercare advisory services, open days and events; ensuring the sales team are trained and capable of delivering fire and first aid procedures and to oversee security for the retail area; and overseeing repairs and improvements via a monthly report. The successful applicant must have experience in running a retail or wholesale planteria space; plant knowledge to RHS level 3 minimum or industry-gained equivalent and be good at directing a team of semi-skilled labour on their own initiative. A clean driving licence is also desirable.

For more details, go to

For more details, go to



The candidate will work alongside the plant area and catering managers and report to the directors. However, the plant area manager’s position is also vacant and, for a candidate with strong horticultural knowledge and experience, there is scope to combine the positions. We seek someone with: energy who leads from the front; has knowledge of plants and their ideal growing conditions; proactivity to generate sales; good customer service and merchandising skills; ability to lead and motivate a small team; three years’ experience at supervisor or manager level in a retail environment; good organisational and project management skills; five years in a relevant retail environment; and ability to work in a team. Passes at grade C or above in English and Maths desirable. Some IT skills expected.

We require someone with a passion and knowledge in plant care to optimise our presentation, advice and sales, in particular the ‘outdoor plants’ section. Responsibilities include assisting with the day-to-day operations of the Plant Area to ensure the highest standards of service, housekeeping and performance are met; to achieve or exceed sales and gross profit targets while minimising costs; to recommend plants, products and services to customers; to ensure all complaints are recorded and dealt with in line with company policy; to regard stock as an investment which needs to turn back into cash as quickly as possible; to take an active role in plant care; to plan and construct inspirational displays; to ensure all paperwork is up to date; to input sales information on to the EPoS.

For more details, go to

For more details, go to





Garden Centre Retail October 2015

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DUTCH NURSERY Hertfordshire



24/09/2015 09:34


people: staff room GCR asks quick-fire questions to a selection of people working within the garden centre industry

Andrew Watson, garden team, Cranborne Garden Centre How did you start out in the garden centre sector? I always had a love of horticulture when I was growing up so the opportunity to take a horticultural apprenticeship in a garden centre sounded like the right option for me.

of mine. I am fortunate to work in a garden centre that specialises in this area. There is such a diverse range and lots to learn in this section.

What is the best thing about your job? I love working with plants and working outdoors. It’s hard to beat on a hot, sunny day. What is your favourite section of the garden centre? Herbaceous perennials are a big hobby

Jimmy McRae, plant area supervisor, The Mains of Drum How did you start out in the garden centre sector? When I was 15, I started on a City & Guilds three-year apprenticeship with the late Bill Wyllie at W Smith & Son Garden Centre in Aberdeen. I left to join The Mains of Drum in 2013. What is the best thing about your job? Plants and people. I enjoy the seasonality of the job and getting satisfaction from seeing healthy plants grow and flourish. Over the years I have helped many family generations with different gardening styles and makeovers. What is your favourite section of a garden centre? It has to be the plant area, but I also enjoy the restaurants – especially scone tasting. How do you think garden centres have changed during the past ten years? I think garden centres have responded to television programmes such as the BBC’s coverage of Chelsea Flower Show and Alan Titchmarsh’s Love Your Garden programme. They’re more in touch with the latest gardening trends and have become more ‘destination’ stores rather than just for plants.

GCR Oct15 P49 Staff Room.indd 49

What is your favourite flower or plant? It is impossible to narrow it down to one. Roses are a big favourite – I have been collecting them for most of my life. What is your favourite day-to-day chore at work and why? Hand watering. I don’t get a chance to do it very often with so much of the irrigation in our centre being automated. I find it really relaxing and it’s a great opportunity to have a good look over your stock.

Darran Oakley, director of purchasing, Squire’s Garden Centres How did you start out in the garden centre sector? My dad and grandad got me interested in gardening from a young age. We lived a five-minute walk from a garden centre and they used to buy me plants to grow at home. That ignited my passion for gardening and my love of being outside so it seemed a natural progression to go and work for a garden centre. I gained my National Diploma at Pershore College and have been in the industry now for more than 30 years – starting at Squire’s in 1998 What is the best thing about your job? The best thing about my job is definitely the fantastic people I work with. There is a great team here who have loads of experience. What is your favourite section of a garden centre? It has to be the plant area. Plants are my passion and are still very much at the heart of the business. It’s great to walk around and get enthused by new and different plants. What is your favourite flower or plant? I particularly like Clematis, because their flowers are so spectacular. They are showy and over the top, and are a bit special in the garden. I always head to Raymond Evison’s stand at Chelsea each year to see his fantastic display of Clematis.

Garden Centre Retail October 2015


24/09/2015 10:28


Liz Hutson The retiring GCA inspector on the state of the garden centre sector Rebranding fruit for the modern gardener Get tills ringing with Christmas plants Website optimisation to boost online sales


Highfield Garden World’s Tim Greenway talks about running a family business

Out on 29 October GCR Oct15 P50 Next Month.indd 50

24/09/2015 10:43


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