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Garden Centre Retail I N D E PE N D E N T B U S I N E S S S U P P L E M E N T ISSUE 1 • MARCH 2018

H OS T I N G E V EN T S DEALING WITH BAD REVIEWS

INTERVIEW WITH B L AC K B R O O K S’

MARK WINCHESTER

&

B I G PL AY ER

SUCCESS STORIES


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WELCOME

W ELCO M E TO T H E ...

Garden Centre Retail INDEPENDENT BUSINESS SUPPLEMENT

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elcome to the first ever independent-focused Garden Centre Retail Independent Business Supplement. This standalone issue is in addition to what Garden Centre Retail already offers. Of those businesses that receive Garden Centre Retail, 85% are independent, with many having just one outlet. Although the chains are doing great things in this industry, independent garden centres can offer something different – they aren’t faceless corporations, churning out product after product for the benefit of their bottom lines. They offer a personal service that is tailored to their local audience, and often offer a place of refuge, with a decent cup of coffee or tea alongside the best products available in the garden centre industry. Some say that running an independent business is more difficult than controlling a chain. For one, you haven’t got the buying power of the big guys (unless you are part of a buying group), so you often can’t match the prices they are offering. On the other hand, though, you are able to quickly alter your business plan without having to jump through too many hoops. People are more aware than ever of the benefits of ‘shopping local’ and supporting independent businesses, with American Express often showcasing ‘shop local’ schemes and the benefit that disposable income has on small businesses. They like the idea that, when they buy from independents, they’re not buying a CEO’s second holiday home in the Bahamas – they’re pumping money into the local economy, with the profits going to ordinary people. Long live independent garden retailers, the lifeblood of this industry.

Joe and the Garden Centre Retail team

CO N TAC T Eljays44 Ltd 3 Churchill Court, 112 The Street, Rustington, West Sussex BN16 3DA EDITORIAL Managing Editor – Joe Wilkinson joe.wilkinson@eljays44.com Tel: 01903 777 577 Production Editor – Charlie Cook charlie.cook@eljays44.com Tel: 01903 777 578 Subeditor – Kate Bennett kate.bennett@eljays44.com Tel: 01903 777 597 ADVERTISING Sales Manager – Tina Savelle tina.savelle@eljays44.com Tel: 01903 777 582 Horticulture Careers – Laura Harris Tel: 01903 777 580 laura.harris@eljays44.com PRODUCTION Design – Lyssa Rutherford

Joe Wilkinson joe.wilkinson@eljays44.com Managing Editor Garden Centre Retail

People are more aware than ever of the benefits of ‘shopping local’ and supporting independent businesses

Printed by Pensord Press Ltd, Gwent, UK Published by ©Eljays44 Ltd MANAGEMENT Managing Director – Jim Wilkinson Director – Lisa Wilkinson Business Development Manager – Jamie Wilkinson MARKETING AND CIRCULATION Client relations – Amber Bernabe amber.bernabe@eljays44.com Tel: 01903 777 581 Subscription enquiries – Emily Maltby emily.maltby@eljays44.com Tel: 01903 777 575 Garden Centre Retail is published bimonthly by Eljays44 Ltd. The 2018 subscription price is £95. Subscription records are maintained at Eljays44 Ltd, 3 Churchill Court, 112 The Street, Rustington, West Sussex BN16 3DA. Articles and information contained in this publication are the copyright of Eljays44 Ltd and may not be reproduced in any form without the written permission of the publishers. The publishers cannot accept responsibility for loss of, or damage to, non-commissioned photographs or manuscripts.

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Garden Centre Retail is available FREE on your mobile device. Simply go to the App Store, search for ‘Garden Centre Retail’ and download the app!

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Whilst every effort has been made to maintain the integrity of our advertisers, we accept no responsibility for any problem, complaints, or subsequent litigation arising from readers’ responses to advertisements in the magazine. We also wish to emphasise that views expressed by editorial contributors are not necessarily those of the publishers. Reproduction of any part of this magazine is strictly forbidden.

Garden Centre Retail Independent Business Supplement March 20183


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CONTENTS

Garden Centre Retail I N D E PE N D E N T B U S I N E S S S U P P L E M E N T ISSUE 1 • MARCH 2018

H OS T I N G E V EN T S DEALING WITH BAD REVIEWS

INTERVIEW WITH B L AC K B R O O K S’

MARK WINCHESTER

&

B I G PL AY ER

SUCCESS STORIES

CONTENTS 09

06 AGENDA Are the garden centre multiples good

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for the garden centre industry’s image?

09 INTERVIEW

We speak to Mark Winchester of Blackbrooks Garden Centre

13 MAKE THE MOST OF

TRIPADVISOR FEEDBACK How to use the popular website to

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your business’s advantage

14 CREATING A SOCIAL MEDIA COMMUNITY Get customers onside through your social media platforms

15 HOW TO HANDLE NEGATIVE ONLINE REVIEWS

Taking your bad press and turning it into a positive outcome

16 LOYALTY CARDS: DECLINED?

We discuss whether physical loyalty cards are on their way out

18 HOSTING EVENTS Why you should consider holding

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events at your centre, and how to do it

20 MENTAL HEALTH AT WORK

Expert advice on managing

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employees’ mental health

21 OFFERING FINANCE TO

YOUR CUSTOMERS The new finance platform making it

easy for both businesses and customers

23 UNDERSTANDING YOUR

AUDIENCE How to get inside your customers’ heads – and boost profits

24 THE HIDDEN COSTS OF SHRINKAGE Measures to help combat theft, and why it’s so important to do so

29 SUCCESS STORY: HIGHFIELD GARDEN WORLD Tim Greenway tells us how the business became such a successful destination

33 SUCCESS STORY:

BOSWORTH’S GARDEN CENTRE

Discussing the centre’s impressive evolution with Sam Bosworth

Garden Centre Retail Independent Business Supplement March 20185


AGENDA

AGENDA Are the garden centre multiples good for the garden centre industry’s image?

CHRIS WELLAVIZE Prestbury Plant and Garden Like most things, the generalisation that the chains are driven by profit to the detriment of horticultural excellence disguises the fact that some of the groups are fantastic retail enterprises. Each location, whether standalone or part of a group, is only as good as its management and the people on the ground who deal with the customers. Online reviews give a good insight as to how well each site does.

GARETH JOHN Wordcaster PR Having been involved with the garden retail industry for 25 years, I believe that the expanding groups are all making the same mistakes when it comes to developing a better image for the industry. As in other retail sectors, the moment a detached head office is created, there becomes a detachment from the customer. Few garden centre groups bother to research customers on the satisfaction they have gained

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The independent centres understand the importance of appearing as living and evolving spaces that can inform and educate customers of all ages

from a visit, and the centre manager loses much of their autonomy – they are often brought in with little understanding of the needs of the customer base. Generally, staff are trained more on how to work the till than on providing the product knowledge that can boost sales and create a helpful image. A centre’s image can be influenced and enhanced if it portrays its approach to corporate responsibility in the media, but the larger groups often spend little or no time cultivating communication with local journalists. Many marketing people are either too restricted, too scared or too lazy to suggest anything that could endear their centres to the public in what is a very competitive sector.

Garden Centre Retail Independent Business Supplement March 2018

Furthermore, the big groups’ investment in technology is often only to help themselves and not the consumer. Does it really speed up service? Fortunately for the garden centre industry, the smaller independent retailers will continue to attract customers, despite the larger groups who want to dominate the market. The independent centres understand the importance of appearing as living and evolving spaces that can inform and educate customers of all ages – and maintain their market share.

SAM BOSWORTH Bosworth’s Garden Centre I don’t want to appear impolite, but it’s a sad reflection on the industry when the biggest player

has been so poor in the way it has operated over the past few years. We have a personal view on this. Podington Garden Centre was bought by Wyevale about four years ago, and we’ve seen a good increase in turnover since then – I’m confident that a lot of that has come directly from there. We’ve picked up four good members of staff who didn’t want to work in that environment. It’s a shame because our customers visit those garden centres – to a lot of them, it’s just a garden centre. The poor customer service or product offering of one garden centre can reflect on the rest of us, and that could have the effect of sending customers away from the garden centre industry and into Waitrose and Next. That’s my concern. w

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GARDEN CENTRE

SECURITY TAGGING Customer theft can be an unseen cost which studies have indicated averages 3%–5% of your Garden Centre turnover. That’s a £30k bill per million every year. Protecting high risk stock such as Seeds, Gifts, Candles, Hand Tools and Watering products with Security Tags can prevent this loss and give a direct improvement to your business Gross Profit.

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MARK WINCHESTER INTERVIEW

A N I N T ER V I E W W I T H:

MARK WINCHESTER BL ACKBROOKS G A R D EN C EN T R E

How did you get into the industry? I took over from my father about 11 years ago. My father didn’t have anything to do with the day-to-day running of the garden centre; it was being remotely managed, and had potential to improve. It took me a couple of years just to learn about the industry, visiting other garden centres and making contacts. We then joined the HTA and got involved with the GCA, I came up with a business plan, and we went full steam ahead. When you put a lot of capital expenditure into a venture, you never quite know if you’re going to be successful or not. I reroofed the entire building, redecorated everywhere and installed a new restaurant, feeling that the centre should be a pleasant environment for staff and customers alike.

www.gardencentreretail.com 

GCR visits Mark Winchester at Battle-based Blackbrooks Garden Centre, where we discuss the challenges and the successes involved in building a resilient independent garden retail business

What does your job involve, day to day? I spend most of my time here at the centre. Some of the time I manage other businesses – my background is in property development – but I’m based here. I’ve got a manager now, who started four months ago, and while I’ve given him the freedom to make an impression, I can’t stop myself from getting up and walking around the business every half an hour. I don’t interfere with the staff much anymore – I’ve enjoyed the last few months, being able to step back and look at the bigger picture.

What has been the biggest change for you in the past 11 years – Brexit? Brexit is a divisive issue, isn’t it? The vote was almost 50:50, there were no real winners. I’m hoping it isn’t going to affect us. The 2008 crash proved that we’re a resilient industry when it comes to recessions. We have the silver pound, which other retail outlets don’t, although that has been squeezed over the past 10 years. High streets are struggling, but conversely our high-street product sales are on the up. Brexit hopefully won’t affect us, but it certainly won’t help.

What about the labour and staffing issue that may arise? There won’t be an exodus of labour. There was within the initial three or four months, but I think Brexit will be softer than some people are hoping for. Only 3-4% of our workers are non-British, so it won’t affect us too much. I very much hope that we can keep those people here, though. How important is the restaurant for your business? We sell products at the end of the day – we have to, because products are volume and you need volume going

Garden Centre Retail Independent Business Supplement March 20189


INTERVIEW MARK WINCHESTER

The 2008 crash proved that we’re a resilient industry when it comes to recessions. We have the silver pound, which other retail outlets don’t get

through the till. More and more, though, we’re selling leisure. The restaurant is the epitome of that. It’s vital for a destination garden centre, which hopefully we will be one day – we’re getting close to that. A restaurant increases dwell time and our customers need somewhere they can come and have a cup of tea. I always say to my staff that our customers don’t have to come here for tea and coffee, they can make that at home – they come here for a bit of leisure time, and to get out of the house. Some have come for a bit of love and attention. We get some customers for whom we might be the only people they see from day to day. We’re on the main A-road to London, so we often get groups and families from London who have relatives living in coastal towns such as

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Hastings, Bexhill or Rye; they come here as a meeting point, which is lovely to see. Our biggest turnover category is still garden sundries, but that’s not to say we don’t cater for the non-gardening customers that come in. You can see that in the customer journey we’ve created in store. Some people want to come in and just use the restaurant, and that’s fine by me, but I’m not a restaurateur and our car parking spaces are for garden centre customers, so I’ve tried to show them our gardening products on their way out. You mentioned becoming a destination garden centre – that seems to be a trend now. The destination trend is very important, because it helps to combat the pressure we’re getting from the internet. It’s

Garden Centre Retail Independent Business Supplement March 2018

been with us quite a while now, and it’s permeated into every age group – a 70-yearold will be on Amazon, buying things on their phone. At every management meeting we have, we try to reiterate the fact that destination garden centres are more about events, but we still sell products, and that is vital. It’s not necessarily about price matching – what we try to get across is the convenience aspect. That’s why I shop online – it’s not about price, it’s about convenience. I know that I can click a button and a product will be delivered to my door – and we should be providing that kind of service to our customers as well. Do you think garden centre customers now expect to find a quality food offering? Absolutely. A restaurant offers

continuity of income all year round and is also great for seasonal events – but you have to pick the right events. I was discussing Father’s Day recently and I had to stop the team because they were getting so caught up in it; it’s such a small market for us. With Father’s Day, there are a few options out there – you can take your dad to the football, go fishing or go to the pub – but with Mother’s Day, it’s a much bigger thing. Customers’ minds automatically go to garden centres. In this sense, offering tea and coffee and having a restaurant is very important. We’re looking at a 15-20% growth year on year from the restaurant. The happy unintended consequence of that is our increased gift sales, which have matched the growth of the restaurant.

www.gardencentreretail.com


MARK WINCHESTER INTERVIEW

Supermarkets stole business from the high street because they made shopping convenient: everything is under one roof, parking is free and it’s a safe environment – and those things are all true of garden centres What technologies have you implemented? We’ve just gone live with a brand new EPoS system. The garden retail industry is friendly, but it can be too inward looking. It’s great when you’re starting out and you want to know what’s what, but there must be thousands of EPoS providers out there and we all seem to gravitate to the same few. Should garden centres look to other retail markets for inspiration? We are always challenging ourselves. What with Brexit

www.gardencentreretail.com 

and internet shopping, you have to keep asking where the industry will be in five years’ time. I’m quite optimistic about the future of garden centres – we are a resilient industry, although you can’t ignore the fact that gardens are getting smaller and there are fewer homeowners now. People still want somewhere to go, though, whether they’re a young family with toddlers or whether they’re in their retirement years – they need a place to gravitate to, and that’s the unique selling point of a garden centre.

How have garden centres made it through tough times recently, when so many high street businesses didn’t? It all comes down to leisure time and convenience. Supermarkets stole business from the high street because they made shopping convenient: everything is under one roof, parking is free and it’s a safe environment – and those things are all true of garden centres, too. What makes garden centres different, though, is the excellent customer service and knowledge of products.

Do you feel that the garden centre chains offer a lot of competition to the independents? Independent garden centres need to be just that. Customers know we’re independent, and we work hard on that independent image. We will have problems that the chains don’t, but we have a wider range of plants and our buyers have a greater degree of freedom, which the chains’ buyers lack because they buy plants centrally. Chains also can’t match every single customer demographic in each of their stores.

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INTERVIEW MARK WINCHESTER Do you think the chains are good for the garden centre industry? Yes, I do. All gardening retail presence is a good thing, whether that is on TV, in magazines, in the form of chain centres, and so on. The more we can get consumers thinking about gardening and garden centres, the better. If a customer goes to a chain and doesn’t find what they want, they may shop around at other, independent garden centres. What are the challenges that you face as a business? Has the HTA and GCA helped mitigate any difficulties you may have come across? We get a great level of support from the GCA. We use the GCA network, and if we ever have a question to ask, we will always get an answer. The GCA could do with supporting independents more, but I think the independents have more to learn from being members of the GCA. The inspection is a great tool. Merchandising standards have certainly improved here because of us being a GCA member. The HTA is completely different. We’re grateful for the vouchers, and it is great for representing horticulture to the government through DEFRA. You’re a member of Choice Marketing. As an independent, how vital has that support group been? I chair the board of Choice. We have a strong board that meets up on a regular basis, and it’s all voluntary. I would guess that one day out of my week is spent working on Choice. We have a CEO and a manager of operations who run the dayto-day functioning, as well as various forums that specialise in certain areas. Choice is a cooperative organisation that buys collaboratively. In terms of the support offered, it has been vital to the success that Blackbrooks has enjoyed. It’s very hard to pinpoint exactly how; the obvious answer is

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the rebate cheque we get, but it’s much, much more than that. The profitability of the business has improved enormously through economies of scale achieved from Choice membership. Does Blackbrooks offer a loyalty scheme? Yes, we do have a loyalty scheme. The loyalty card is just as important as our marketing. There is a danger, however, that loyalty cards can be quite inward looking – a lot of your marketing budget goes on the card, rather than on looking for new customers, and any retailer knows that it’s better to retain customers than to lose existing customers in trying to gain new ones. Other than your loyalty scheme, how do you keep customers coming in? Our customer service is so important. I’m also a great believer in mixing things up within the store. Some customers come in one a month, but others will come three times a week. Some

Garden Centre Retail Independent Business Supplement March 2018

centres I go to always have the same products and the same categories in the same place. The bigger categories need to stay where they are, but you need to mix it up sometimes. I’m never afraid of bleeding one category into another. You will walk around our store and see some giftware out in our furniture department, lights with giftware, and so on. The biggest thing I learned from the chains is to do away with supplier stands. I’ve taken on a new manager with a supermarket background, and he fell into that trap straight away. Supplier stands mean nothing to customers. My customers don’t come in looking for a Hozelock or Briers product, they come in looking for a hose and some wellies; signage should reflect the product, rather than the brand. Would you agree with the statement that being a retailer partly involves being a psychologist? Yes, I would. It’s about working out what the customer needs, and that’s what our buyer

does – but a customer often doesn’t know what they want. Every customer needs to feel confident that they are making the right choice. Does Blackbrooks make use of seasonal staff? I’ve always had seasonal staff at Christmas. They used to make up less than 0.5% of my wage bill, but that’s changed recently – our new manager, with his supermarket background, expects us to use a lot more. Using seasonal staff does have positive consequences, because it allows you to screen staff – if you have some keepers among your seasonal staff, you will make them permanent! What does the future hold for Blackbrooks? Onwards and upwards. Garden centres are wellplaced to be successful. There is a lot of nervous tension out there, but hopefully I’ve gone some way to dispel that – we’ve been through the rough patch already. w blackbrooks.co.uk

www.gardencentreretail.com


ONLINE REVIEWS BUSINESS

M A K E T H E M OS T O F

TRIPADVISOR FEE D B AC K

How should businesses properly manage online feedback? First, it is encouraged that all business owners register on TripAdvisor for free so that they can take ownership of their property’s listing on the site. With the rise of social media and review sites, an online presence is almost a given for businesses these days, and it’s therefore important to take ownership of that presence to ensure you have an influence over how your business is represented online. By registering on TripAdvisor, owners can take control and start managing their online reputation by making use of the free tools and resources. The internet has revolutionised the leisure industry and dramatically changed the way people shop. Consumers are no longer as interested in hearing what businesses have to say about themselves – they want to hear what others have to say about their experience. It is therefore essential for businesses to keep abreast of what is said about their business online, and to respond where possible. Once registered to TripAdvisor, owners are urged to log in to the Management Centre for their business and sign up for notification emails to alert them each time they receive a new review, so that they’re aware of what customers are saying about them – good and bad. Take advantage of what’s on offer It’s a good idea to get to know what’s on offer in the

www.gardencentreretail.com 

GCR caught up with Hayley Coleman, UK media relations manager at review site TripAdvisor, to find out how businesses can manage their online reputation, keep track of comments and take advantage of what TripAdvisor offers

The internet has revolutionised the leisure industry and dramatically changed the way people shop Management Centre, in order to take full advantage. There are a host of free marketing tools available at the click of a button, including: Widgets – These allow businesses to showcase their TripAdvisor ratings, latest TripAdvisor reviews and TripAdvisor awards on their own website. Customers can also write reviews about a property without ever leaving the business’s website. Review Express – Owners can send customised emails to their customers, encouraging them to write a review about their experience on TripAdvisor. TripAdvisor Insights – A comprehensive online resource of the latest trends, studies, news, best practices and video content. Online Webinars – Focused on TripAdvisor services and the free ways in which owners can promote their business on the site, from how to leverage TripAdvisor tools to best practices for improving their rating.

Engage with customers Some of the most successful businesses on TripAdvisor are those that regularly engage with their reviewers – whether their comments have been negative or positive. A 2016 Phocuswright study demonstrated the importance of management interaction with consumers’ reviews and the impact that management responses have on consumer perceptions of that business: the results showed that 65% of TripAdvisor users agree that seeing management responses to reviews will make them more likely to book. In addition, 85% of TripAdvisor users agree that a thoughtful management response to a negative review improves their impression of a business. Take note of what your customers are saying, and address any recurring issues TripAdvisor is great because it offers a window into both the good and bad things that your business is doing. Through

keeping an eye on what your customers are saying about your business, you’ll know where you’re going right and will be able to reward staff members who are being called out for doing a good job. In addition, you’ll be able to see any negative trends developing and address them. In the case of any negative feedback, we’d suggest trying to understand the background situation and identify the root cause of the problem. Once you have some background, develop a strategy with your staff on specific improvements that need to be made. Come up with an action plan for what your business will do and which team member will take the lead. If the issue is something you can’t fix, consider how to better set expectations for customers, perhaps with updates to your website. Either way, be sure to monitor future reviews to make sure the same problems don’t come up again. w

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BUSINESS SOCIAL MEDIA

C R E AT I N G A

SOCIAL MEDIA COMMUNIT Y Paula Parker of PP8 Marketing explains how garden centres can use social media to their advantage

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ocial media and usergenerated content is playing a major role in the way today’s brands engage with and maintain their loyal consumer base – and attract new customers. Despite being well placed to build a direct dialogue with customers, though, the gardening industry has been relatively slow to take advantage of this opportunity. Participation in social media channels continues to grow. The number of Instagram users is estimated to increase from 15.7m to 18.4m this year, while Twitter will grow from 12.4m users to 12.6m. However, Facebook remains the most popular social networking site in the UK, with 32.6m regular users this year. A report recently quoted in the Guardian (Feb 12, 2018) stated that the largest growth in Facebook users will be among the older demographic, with 600,000 new over-45s expected to join this year. In total, this age group will represent 37% of users. With all these options and limited resources, where do you start?

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I would strongly recommend taking some time to consider your social media strategy, and how it fits with your business plan. First, understand clearly what your brand is – define its personality, what makes it unique, and how it can create a great community and following. Next, consider who you want to communicate with. Who is your target customer, and what do you want to say to them? “Our customers want to be inspired – they don’t want to be sold to,” says Hannah Powell, communications manager at Perrywood Garden Centre. “Our social media content reflects the instore experience, and it really works! We see customers liking us off the back of our posts, tagging friends on Facebook campaigns to organise visits to the centre.” A quick search on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram reveals the huge volume of discussions that are already happening. In the time it takes you to read this article, dozens of posts featuring the #gardening hashtag will have been made, and that’s just one of the many hashtags that are relevant to our sector. Social

Garden Centre Retail Independent Business Supplement March 2018

media-savvy garden centres are building communities with their social media followings and consumers. They are developing a positive dialogue, where content even becomes user or consumergenerated. Invite your users to post photos or videos of their

most. Aim to actively engage with your audience through conversations – social media is social after all, and real engagement is rewarded by the social media companies. “There can be many pitfalls and rules to social media that only experts can guide in,”

Invite your users to post photos or videos of their gardens, showing the results of products they’ve purchased from your centres

gardens, showing the results of products they’ve purchased from your centres – or even photos of how they have been inspired by your instore experiences. Consider who can build and deliver your social media plan and activity. Your posts should be consistently high quality and add value to your brand; you can test which days, what time of day and what kind of content engages your audience the

cautions social media expert and allotment blogger Sarah de Mul. “Don’t expect a beginner to understand how you should adapt to the latest Facebook algorithm.” Last but not least, have fun while creating your posts and interacting with your audience! w CONTACT

Paula Parker is the owner of PP8 Marketing Consultancy. www.pp8marketing.com

www.gardencentreretail.com


ONLINE REVIEWS BUSINESS

HOW TO HANDLE

NEGATIVE ONLINE REVIEWS Susan Hallam, managing director of digital marketing agency Hallam Internet, offers expert advice on handling negativity posted online, and turning criticism into a positive customer experience

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ad reviews can be unfair, misleading, and just plain inaccurate. They are an important introduction to your business for potential customers, but they also contribute to your local SEO and help to improve your local ranking, your conversion rates, and your site’s appearance in search engine results pages. If your business does receive a bad review, bear these 10 things in mind: 1 Take time to cool off. Sleep on it before you reply – but don’t wait too long! 2 See if friendly customers jump to your defence. Their independent rebuttal will be much more valuable than your own. 3 Reread the comment. Triple-check – sometimes comments can look harsh or abrupt when they’re written in haste. 4 Create an action plan. Put together a plan you can use that addresses and resolves any genuine criticisms. 5 Understand the customer’s point of view. Put yourself in their shoes. 6 Identify yourself. When you reply, identify who you are and how you’re related to the business. 7 Say you’re sorry. But only if you’re wrong!

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8 Clarify the situation. If the review is inaccurate, explain the situation. 9 Stop with the sarcasm. It never looks good. 10 Monitor the situation. Ensure you’re aware of where and when these bad reviews stem from. Identify bad reviews In order to effectively deal with negative reviews, you need to understand where your customers are talking about your business. From social channels to review sites, there’s an array of monitoring techniques that can help you to identify the online extent of your customer reviews. Audit your review process The first step is to do an audit of your current reviews and the platforms they’re on. A “[brand name] + reviews” search will help you here. Next, identify the most important sites for your brand – search Google for: “[industry keyword] reviews”. Pick your platforms To give your review strategy direction, you’ll need to decide which platforms to focus on, depending on your findings from the above. These could be Google Reviews, Facebook,

third party sites such as Trust Pilot, TripAdvisor and Yell, or sites specific to your niche or location. Use this checklist to make a decision: 1 What are the rules of engagement for each review platform? Some sites, such as Yelp, have specific rules about how and where you can ask for reviews. Google, on the other hand, is happy for you

reviews – they want to know your product or service’s shortcomings. If someone takes the time to point out flaws in your product or service, it’s a good indicator that they’ve genuinely used it. We need to know what our customers think, and your response is important: a professional, friendly and quick reply shows you’re proactive in finding a solution.

It may seem counterintuitive, but bad reviews can be a valuable part of your marketing strategy

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to approach customers. How easy is it to leave a review? Do customers need to create an account? You want to avoid creating additional barriers. Is it free? If not, how much does it cost, and what do you get for your money?

Show your best face It may seem counterintuitive, but bad reviews can be a valuable part of your marketing strategy. Remember, customers are looking for negative

Over to you If handled correctly, negative reviews can give businesses an opportunity to build trust and credibility. However, it’s important that you formulate a strategy so that you can act successfully on negative reviews. w CONTACT

Hallam Internet is a provider of digital marketing services, founded in 1999. www.hallaminternet.com

Garden Centre Retail Independent Business Supplement March 201815


B U S I N E S S L O YA LT Y C A R D S

LOYALT Y C ARDS:

DECLINED? Following the cutbacks to Tesco’s Clubcard loyalty scheme, Garden Centre Retail wants to know if the industry still sees a future for a physical loyalty card, or whether the future of loyalty schemes lies in phone apps

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esco has recently faced a backlash from angry customers after announcing it was cutting some of its Clubcard rewards – so much so that it’s delayed the cuts until the summer of 2018. The issue that’s facing the big supermarkets is that the public is driven by convenience. If a customer was nearer to a Sainsbury’s or an Asda than to a Tesco, would they really consider going that extra distance and spending the extra time getting there, just to get a few more points on their Clubcard? Garden retailers are a little bit different; for one, there aren’t often five different garden centres from five different companies within a mile radius. Does that mean that a garden centre is simply rewarding customer loyalty without needing to? Are customers looking online for a product, finding that your shop is the only one that has what they require in stock, and claiming loyalty points without showing loyalty? Would a garden centre lose custom if it didn’t run a loyalty card scheme? A recent survey undertaken by Garden Centre Retail showed that only 45% of independent garden centres run a loyalty or reward scheme. More independent garden centres have an EPoS system (48%) than a loyalty scheme. Stewarts Garden Centres has had a loyalty scheme in

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place since 2003. It’s a free privilege card scheme issued to customers who request to be added to the promotional database, and ensures that the members receive the business’s substantial and informative magazine, Seventeenfortytwo (the Stewart family first became involved in horticulture in 1742). Stewarts’s current active membership exceeds 35,000, with all of those members receiving details of promotions and offers during the year, including updates

“The potential of using an app to replace the card scheme is something we will consider in the future, but many of our customers enjoy the simplicity of using their privilege card to generate points towards discounts,” says Terry. “We see the scheme as a way of having additional communication with our customers. Seventeenfortytwo, as a publication, has a larger circulation and readership than some regional newspapers!”

to get millennials to part with the high levels of disposable income they have. In conjunction with houseplants – a big draw for this generation, which has little outside space but a huge desire to be closer to nature – would a smartphone app, and the ability to make payments with the likes of Apple Pay, work to entice millennials? Members of this generation are more ‘cashless’ than those who came before, and don’t necessarily carry a wallet – but

Millennials are more ‘cashless’ than those who came before, and don’t necessarily carry a wallet – but they do have phones with the technology to pay for items

on new products and plants. Customers collect points in centres and at the coffee shops in the Christchurch, Broomhill and Abbey centres, and can collect and redeem points on some of the company’s landscaping services, too. More than 50% of the business’s transactions involve a loyalty card. Terry Head, retail and marketing director at Stewarts, says that the business welcomes the feedback gained from the thousands of customers who make use of the scheme.

Garden Centre Retail Independent Business Supplement March 2018

Card holders who do not spend throughout the year are sent reminders to check that they are still in the area, so as to avoid unnecessary administration costs. “We believe that creating something that can be held and read shows we recognise that not everyone enjoys using the internet,” Terry goes on. “It would be daft to effectively reject loyal customers who are not part of the IT revolution!” Target audience has a massive impact on this issue. Most garden centre owners are currently working out how

they do have phones with the technology to pay for items. With this technology, it would also be possible to ‘push’ notifications to flash up on home screens, informing people of what the latest offers are, which items are back in stock, and even garden centre events that they may be interested in (especially if it’s terrarium building). Loyalty cards may be on their way out in supermarkets, but until we see a shift in the ‘standard’ garden centre customer, they may be with us in our sector for a while yet. w

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L O YA LT Y C A R D S B U S I N E S S

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BUSINESS HOSTING EVENTS

HOSTING EVENTS Garden Centre Retail speaks with Mike Burks, founder and director of the three-site The Gardens Group, to find out why the independent garden centre group hosts events at its stores Why does The Gardens Group host events? Hosting events really helps to increase footfall – especially during the quieter gardening also giving months – us a great opportunity to support the local community and engage with younger and less experienced gardeners. How does the company make money from these – does it charge an entry fee? We don’t really see events as a revenue stream. They’re more of an opportunity to attract people to our garden centres, restaurants and farm shop, build stronger relationships with our existing customers, and give potential new customers a reason to drop in. What kind of events do you host? We host all sorts of events throughout the year, from fundraising initiatives, forums and free school holiday activities to art exhibitions, fitness classes, and food and

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drink tasting sessions. Our award-winning Christmas displays from October to December also attract hundreds of new visitors to the garden centres each winter. When is the best time to host events? For us, the best time to host events is when the garden centre is quieter, so from January to early March and then from late June until late September. What is the target audience? Our target audience varies depending on the event, but predominantly we are looking to offer more value to our regular customers while also enticing families and budding gardeners through the doors. Over the years, our garden centres have become well-known and friendly venues for people to host their own events at, too. How do you approach people who you’d like to get involved with an event?

Garden Centre Retail Independent Business Supplement March 2018

We have been very lucky to welcome the likes of Carol Klein, Toby Buckland and Clive Farrell to speak at Castle Gardens in Sherborne. The approach to these individuals very much depends on who we are working with on the event – for example, the Carol Klein event was in collaboration with our local bookshop, which was a stop on her book tour, while Toby Buckland and Clive Farrell were invited by the Dorset Wildlife Trust to its Wildlife Friendly Gardening Awards, which we sponsor, judge and host. Where in your centres do the events take place? A lot of the events at Castle Gardens are hosted in The Butterfly House, which was, once upon a time, part of Sherborne Castle’s walled garden. It can hold up to 80 seated people comfortably, and means that the garden centre can still function if the event is on during opening hours. Our festive events usually take place

among the Christmas displays, as these are very atmospheric, and any food and drink events at Brimsmore Gardens take place in The Apple Tree Restaurant and Farm Shop. What would you say the biggest challenges are when hosting events? We have always been very aware of the need to make sure there is enough space to park, especially when we launch the Christmas displays. During such popular events, we have a team on hand to monitor the car park and ensure all of our visitors are safe. How do you drive attendance for events? All of our events are promoted in store through posters and seasonal leaflets, as well as through our e-newsletter and social media. For any highprofile events, we will make sure the local and regional press are informed, too. w thegardeneronline.co.uk

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GNOME’S ARE IN!

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BUSINESS HR

M EN TA L H E A LT H

AT WORK

View HR’s Gemma Murphy offers advice on how employers can nurture and manage the mental health of their staff members

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left 2017 shocked at the extent of the increase in mental health issues at work landing on our desks, and the number of clients requiring support to deal with situations. Mental health support in the workplace is something that resonates with me, and with the pressure that everyone around us is feeling, I can only see it becoming a bigger issue. In six years, the number of days lost to poor mental health has increased by 26%, with 70m working days now lost each year due to mental health problems. When presenting a workshop on mental health at work last year, 95% of the audience raised their hands when I asked who among them knew someone who suffers or has suffered from a mental health condition. What does this tell us? Mental health conditions are a growing epidemic, and they require employers to take stock and think about: • Whether your business is a good place to work • Ways to support employees with mental health concerns • Ways to support employees impacted by other employees’ mental health concerns • Managing behaviour and absences caused by mental health concerns. Most people find it difficult to talk about mental health at home and work, so mental

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Whether an employee’s mental health condition stems from the workplace or another source, in most cases mental health issues will impact the workplace

health issues do not normally manifest themselves until they become a bigger problem for an individual. Mental health conditions can be triggered by work, financial issues, genetic disposition, life events, posttraumatic stress, bereavement, breakdown in relationships, post-natal depression – everyone’s trigger is different. Recent NHS Digital Data Report showed that: • There was a 14% rise in fit notes relating to anxiety and stress between 2015-16 and 2016-17 • Fit notes for mental health problems were being issued for longer periods of time than any other types of illness. Whether an employee’s mental health condition stems from the workplace or another source, in most cases mental health issues will impact the workplace. Businesses should think about the issues mental

Garden Centre Retail Independent Business Supplement March 2018

health problems can cause in the workplace, which can include: • Absenteeism • Fall in production • High attrition • Low morale • Stress • Financial costs • Time costs. The problem cannot be ignored, and businesses need to start considering their plans for supporting employee mental health in the workplace. Some key considerations for employers: • Meet with employees to discuss any issues • Identify the cause of the

problem: home, financial, work, family? • Review the employee’s workloads and environment • Provide training to managers on identifying mental health concerns, and on supporting employees (they are not trained professionals!) • Review your processes for supporting employees with mental health conditions • Review your sickness absence and capability processes • Review your workloads and environment – is your culture right? • Seek guidance when problems persist. w

ABOUT

ViewHR is experienced in dealing with and supporting businesses to help them manage a range of mental health concerns and situations. If you have a situation you wish to run past the company, or are interested in running its mental health workshop in your business, contact ViewHR on 01425 205391 or at info@viewhr.co.uk.

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FINANCE BUSINESS

O FFER I N G FI N A N C E TO

YOUR CUSTOMERS

GCR spoke with Christer Holloman, CEO of finance platform Divido, about how garden retailers can increase customer base, average transaction value and conversion rate by offering interest-free financing on transactions over £150

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ivido was started four years ago, when Christer and his team saw a gap in the market when it came to how shoppers were being served finance. “We have three big selling points, which are the reasons the business started,” says Christer. “The first one is that, traditionally, a garden centre would link up with one finance provider, whereas we link up with multiple competing providers of credit. This means that more customers get accepted for credit and the price is lower because they compete with one another in real time. “The second selling point is that we are omnichannel. Most garden centres aspire to offer products online as well as in store, and we offer finance across all the channels they sell through.

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“The third selling point, although this is perhaps not relevant to the current garden centre market, is that we work in more than one country. If a business was to ship

offering terms for around 50 years. It’s a great way to broaden your customer base, upsell on current transactions, and increase the browser-tobuyer conversion rate.

Credit, these are the things you can benefit from.” The difference between Divido and other finance platforms, such as PayPal Credit, is that it offers access

If you have a customer hooked but they think it’s a lot of money for a product, they may take the product if you can give them monthly instalments

products outside of the UK, traditionally there would be incumbent finance providers that wouldn't be able to offer customers finance outside of the UK.” Offering finance isn’t a new thing for retailers; DFS, IKEA and other stores have been

“If you have a customer hooked but they think it's a lot of money for a product, they may take the product if you can give them monthly instalments,” explains Christer. “This isn't exclusive to Divido – whether you work with Barclays or with PayPal

to multiple competing lenders, driving down the cost to the customer and increasing acceptance rates. Innovate UK, a government scheme set up by Tony Blair to help keep British inventions based in Britain, gave Divido almost £250k,

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BUSINESS FINANCE

because it recognised that the company was making it easier for British consumers to purchase items – and for British retailers to sell products. “For the first time, we've introduced competition and transparency into the finance sector,” Christer tells us. In the garden retail market, Divido’s customers include garden centre chain Dobbies. The idea is that, if a customer walks into a store and finds the lawnmower they want, they will see the ticket price of, say, £500 – but the ticket will also state that the product is available interestfree for £50 a month over 10 months. “If you’re a financially savvy customer, you are likely to choose to spread the cost – even if you’re a millionaire,” Christer says. “The sales adviser gives the customer access to the Divido platform on a store tablet, and the customer is sent a text message or email, so that they can apply on their own device while in store. They then get the yes or no and tell the shop adviser they've been accepted for, say, £50 a month. The sales

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The reason people go to garden centres is usually because they own their own home and want to make improvements, and that is a good place to start when it comes to creditworthiness

adviser logs onto their own Divido system and processes the transaction as usual.” Once this real-time process has been completed, the full cost of the transaction is transferred to the garden centre. This is one of the main differences between this platform and the more traditional ways of offering finance. “Previously, some very traditional garden centres may have offered a customer finance or monthly instalment system, but they did it themselves on a homemade system, invoicing the customer monthly and hoping that the invoice would be paid,” explains Christer. “With this solution, the garden centre gets all the money upfront, guaranteed. Whether the customer pays it back or not, the garden centre isn’t left out of pocket.” The two most frequent questions Divido is asked by retailers are about acceptance rates and costs. “Truth be told, the acceptance rate depends on your customer base,” Christer says. “The

Garden Centre Retail Independent Business Supplement March 2018

less affluent your customers are, the less approvals you will get. However, the reason people go to garden centres is usually because they own their own home and want to make improvements, and that is a good place to start when it comes to creditworthiness. In the garden centre market, we have around a 95% acceptance rate.” When it comes to the costs involved, Christer tells us that this is under the retailer’s control. “We work with lenders and underwriters, which essentially provide the credit,” he says. “They make money on interest, so either the customer pays for the interest or the garden centre does. “Some retailers don't want to pay for the system – garden centres may have the margin to support it, but some sectors don't. In that case, the customer pays a monthly interest on top of the payment. The garden centre is totally in control of this decision. However, if you want to increase your customer base, average order value and conversion rates to the fullest, you offer interestfree credit. If you start charging 10% interest, customers think they may as well buy it on their credit card. The mobile phone and headset manufacturer HTC, one of the largest consumer electronics companies, saw its

conversation rate increase by 166% after adding Divido to its website – but the company works for SMEs, too. It is currently in a partnership with an independent jeweller in London, for example, whose average transaction went up 12% since it started using the system. The Divido system’s minimum transaction value is £150, and the maximum amount available for lending is £25,000, although the transaction average is around £1,000. The most common type of credit offered is 0% interest for 12 months, and there is no application fee, no monthly fee and no fee to pay back early. What about the future? “We currently have more than 700 retailers using our system,” Christer explains. “We also want to make it a lot easier for SMEs to start using Divido. We're integrating with payment providers now, so there is almost no payment platform or e-commerce platform that we're not speaking to or integrated with.” With the typical garden centre a destination for people wanting to buy higher-priced items such as garden furniture or tools, offering finance may just be the future of the industry, especially for these greater value products. w CONTACT

Divido is a retail finance platform that allows companies to offer instant customer finance. www.divido.com

www.gardencentreretail.com


CUSTOMER SERVICE BUSINESS

UNDERSTANDING YOUR AUDIENCE Simon Beer of Big Wave Media shares his tips on keeping customers happy and thus increasing return rates to your store

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o ensure your customers have pleasurable experiences across the different channels of your business, it is vital to view your services from their point of view. A customer’s perception of your business is often the difference between happy, returning customers, and dissatisfied customers who are unlikely use your services again. Reported statistics highlight this point, demonstrating that 86% of customers will stop liaising with a company due to a poor transaction or service experience. This shows that getting it right first time really is key. Here are some tips on how you can incorporate a strong, customer-focused approach into your consumer strategies. Step into their shoes First and foremost, adopting the customer’s viewpoint when connecting with a service is crucial. A mystery shopper report of your centre could be very effective, enabling your

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business to gain a genuine insight into the way you are observed as a company and providing you with feedback and improvement recommendations. Furthermore, it is essential to view the services you offer from a digital perspective. With 60% of the UK’s population now owning a smartphone, it is vital that your website is streamlined and displayed in an easy format on various screen sizes. Get to know your customers It is imperative not only to understand your customer demographic, but also to understand the service and products that they expect and require. Friendly and professional customer service is a small but crucial step that helps to maintain satisfied customers. Going above and beyond their expectations is often what provokes a positive reaction, and one way that companies can do this is through incorporating random acts of kindness – whether that’s a free coffee in the

restaurant, or a ‘buy one get one free’ offer on seed packets for loyal customers. It is these unexpected but genuine actions that create a positive stir, and remind the consumer of your brand’s human side.

result. Much like random acts of kindness, this individual approach strengthens the personable image of your business, and helps to reaffirm it as a brand that cares about all customer experience.

Going above and beyond expectations is often what provokes a positive reaction

This is great for your business, as more and more customers share their daily encounters with companies through social media, and can strengthen your online brand image. Act on feedback Acting on customer feedback shows that your business cares. Whether it’s replying to tweets, emails or old-fashioned letters, it is important that customers appreciate that you have received and acknowledged their contact, and that you intend to do something as a

Every retail outlet is going to make mistakes, but it’s not the mistakes that reflect on the business – it’s the way they are dealt with. w

CONTACT

Big Wave Media is a creative agency with offices in Exeter, Plymouth and Torquay, providing innovative and cost-effective marketing, design and digital services with a focus on results. www.bigwavemedia.co.uk

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BUSINESS SECURITY

THE HIDDEN COS TS

OF SHRINK AGE GCR talks to Jeremy Davies, managing director of GCS (GB) Ltd, about the hidden costs of shrinkage to garden centres, and the processes that can be put in place to prevent these losses

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eremy Davies has been involved in the security industry since 1994, and has 24 years’ experience working within the retail loss prevention field. In this time, garden centres have changed from stores that sell plants to leisure destinations that offer experiences as well as garden and home-related products. This has led to highly desirable, expensive items being sold in garden centres. While high street stores have reduced shrinkage by implementing tagging systems and training their staff, the garden centre industry hasn’t fully woken up to the hidden costs of theft. Staff at high street stores receive loss prevention training and are switched on to customer theft. Many have been trained on the best way to approach a potential thief – and if they don’t pick the threat up, the tagging system, supported by strategically placed cameras, will help. Latest British Retail Consortium (BRC) figures show that around 75% of the shrink is due to customer theft, and Jeremy believes that the garden centre industry suffers much more than the average retailer – but it is still lagging behind when it comes to security. Jeremy’s company GCS primarily focuses on this

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area, as well as on mitigating the risk of burglary and staff theft; it is also the designated HTA security advice line provider. GCS has been called on by many companies in the garden centre industry to test existing security measures

As there is no tangible bill for these losses, garden centres often don’t realise the extent of what is happening. Due to the stock-managing systems that many garden centres use, it could take a year for a garden centre to value the shrinkage

This happens regularly and is quite simple to understand. The garden centre industry is an easy-going, laid back industry that thinks the best of people, and thieves are taking advantage, meaning garden centres are a soft target.”

Due to the stock-managing systems that many garden centres use, it could take a year for a garden centre to value the shrinkage

using a ‘Secret Thief’ exercise, where a member of the GCS team will take on the role of a shoplifter for an hour. The ‘Secret Thief’ often steals more than £450 worth of products in an hour, and sometimes as much as £800. “Garden centres now sell the same desirable products that are found on the high street,” says Jeremy. “Thieves aren’t stupid – they know that it is easy to blend in with the crowd in a garden centre, and that the security isn’t as hot in garden centres as it is in high street stores. It is logical for a thief to target garden centres – they can park for free, wander in, pick up a few items, take them out to the car and start again.”

Garden Centre Retail Independent Business Supplement March 2018

– and customer theft could be as much as 5% of a company’s turnover. This means that for a business that turns over £1m per year, the shrinkage could be as much as £50,000. “If a garden centre owner received a bill for £50,000, they would jump on that issue straight away,” says Jeremy. “As there is no invoice sent for the sale value of the items that have been stolen, they can’t account for the cost. “Garden centres that operate a well-run tagging system have seen their stock loss reduced and managed, while increasing sales through improved product availability. If the item has not been stolen, it is still available to the genuine customer to buy.

Five product categories are considered particularly desirable targets. “These are the core targets,” says Jeremy. “Thieves tend not to steal bulkier items such as fencing, plants and aggregates.” These products are: Seeds “Seeds are worth more than gold by weight, and can be easily pocketed,” Jeremy explains. Stolen in bundles of five to 20, a handful can be stuffed into a pocket – hardly noticeable as a thief walks out. “At £2.50 per packet, this may not seem a lot, but multiply that by 20 and theft can easily wipe off all of a garden centre’s margin in that category.”

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SECURITY BUSINESS

Retailers invest in tagging systems time and time again, because a well-run system works

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Garden Centre Retail Independent Business Supplement March 201825


BUSINESS SECURITY Candles Candles are desirable, high-value products that are easy for a thief to resell. “Professional thieves list these products on eBay, then steal to order,” says Jeremy. Hand tools These are relatively highvalue items, considering their size. “Things like lawnmowers do get stolen, but things such as secateurs are easier to conceal, as are multiattachment tools,” Jeremy tells us. Watering products These are products like spray guns and hose connectors. Customers will often buy a watering system, but not want to pay for the extras – so simply take them. Clothing This includes branded Wellington boots and highvalue branded jackets and gardening gloves. Professional thieves put their energy into stealing what they can turn into hard cash. They will often go into a store with a shopping list to get maximum value for the time they invest in stealing. At the other end of the spectrum are the pilferers – those who are genuinely shopping in store, but will pocket two packets of seeds as a discount they believe they are entitled to. The easiest way for a garden centre to increase its gross profit without increasing its sales is to reduce costs. By installing a security tagging system, a garden centre can protect the most-targeted categories. A well-run tagging system will keep watch on your products, irrespective of how big your garden centre is or how many staff you have. It is also vital to ensure that the tag used is suitable for the product it is protecting. GCS helps with this aspect, and also trains staff on how to approach customers when the alarm sounds.

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Training staff It’s crucial to train staff how to respond to the tagging system when a customer has set it off – the customer needs to be given good service while the cause of the alarm activation is investigated. GCS trains staff to think about the tagging system alarm in the same way they think about the EPoS

Internal theft The most common types of internal theft are staff members skimming from the till, not charging friends and family for every item, or processing refunds with receipts left behind by customers. Skimming is most common in garden centre cafés, as they are cash-rich environments;

entrances and exits, on the main thoroughfares in and out of the business, and covering the customer toilet entrance. It can also be useful at night to prevent burglary and damage – but theft is most effectively prevented by having a tagging system supplemented by CCTV. Jeremy recounts a recent meeting with the director of a large independent garden

The garden centre industry is an easy-going, laid back industry that thinks the best of people, and thieves are taking advantage

card machine declining a card – it is simply the machine that has raised the flag, and not the member of staff who is accusing a customer. Tills are usually located near the exit, and staff there are on hand to help customers and react to the tagging system when the alarm goes off. Customer interaction training is very important, and there are several stages you need to go through. Even if you don’t get to the bottom of what has caused the alarm to sound, a thief wants to be anonymous, and the moment the tagging system goes off, they aren’t. Retailers invest in tagging systems time and time again, because a wellrun system works. Another thing garden centres can do to prevent theft is create a red route. Take the layout of a garden centre, with tills at one end and the café at the other. Between the two, you map out the high-risk areas of the centre, creating a formal route for staff to go through to make it more difficult for thieves. This also helps to improve customer service, and more sales can be made due to genuine customers asking staff for advice. Customer service is a fantastic way to prevent stealing.

Garden Centre Retail Independent Business Supplement March 2018

staff members may purposefully fail to process a transaction through the till and then pocket the money. Processing a receipt kept from a previous transaction is also a common form of internal theft. The product is either never returned and the staff member will take the cash from the till, or they will find a receipt, go into the garden centre, find an item on that receipt and get the refund for it that way. Home deliveries can also be used for internal theft. Jeremy has come across many instances where a staff member will load extra things onto the van when delivering to a genuine customer’s home, and then deliver the extras to their own house. They get away with it and do it consistently. CCTV is a fantastic tool to have in your security armoury, but most businesses incorrectly believe that CCTV on its own is enough to prevent customer theft – unless you invest in someone to watch the footage all day, every day, but this isn’t the best use of this commonly deployed security system. CCTV has its place and is best deployed over tills, in the cash office and on the cash collection route. Anywhere money is handled should have surveillance. CCTV should also be deployed at

centre that turns over 3m a year. “This large business had focused on growing sales and improving customer experience, but the gross profit had not fully reflected these efforts,” he tells us. “This business is estimated to be losing £90k-120k every year due to shrinkage. There was no tagging system and little coverage from its homeinstalled CCTV, and staff had not received any loss prevention training.” Other garden centres in the same area, which GCS had worked with in the past, were much harder targets for thieves, having followed GCS’s loss prevention advice. Jeremy expects that his business will be able to improve this company’s fortunes to bring it in line with its competitors. w

CONTACT

Jeremy Davies works for GCS (GB) Ltd, helping garden centres improve their gross profit by implementing security systems and loss prevention training to reduce shrinkage. GCS is also the official provider of the HTA Security Advice Line. customer.service@gcsgb.com 01892 300878 www.gcsgb.com

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INDEPENDENT

IMPARTIAL

INVALUABLE

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sales@quintons.co.uk


HAWK ESMILL NURSER IES

T

he Warwickshire-based family company Hawkesmill Nurseries has been providing quality seasonal plants to retail nurseries, garden centres, and landscapers and garden designers for more than 40 years. With more than 3.5 million plants grown throughout the year and a range of more than 1,200 varieties, Hawkesmill has a plant for every season and business alike, including perennials, herbs, grasses, wildflowers, alpines, vegetables and strawberries. There is plenty of opportunity for customers to benefit from season starter collections and promotions throughout the year. For 2018 the Hawkesmill team will be bringing a touch of colourfully romantic flair to its customers with its brand new Tall Bearded Iris Range and its Victorian Viola Collection. Within the new Iris collection are some of the best ‘Flag Iris’ varieties available. The Iris takes its name from the Greek word for rainbow, so it is

hardly a surprise that there is such a wonderful array of colours on display in this range. From the snowy white, beautifully pale blueveined ‘English Cottage’ to the very en vogue bright purple-blue of the exotically named ‘Alcazar’, this selection knows no bounds in offering shades and hues of delight! The Tall Bearded Iris Range has a total of 12 varieties: Alcazar, Bedtime Story, Edward of Windsor, English Cottage, Immortality, Imperator, Salonique, Sangreal, Senlac, Sign Of Leo, Springtime Madonna and Tulip Festival. The Victorian Violas Collection is a range of new perennial violas bred by RHS Gold medallist Rob Chapman. The 25 varieties have improved colour, scent and vigour over those violas already on the market. Delivery for these varieties is from this March onwards. Garden retailers can contact Hawkesmill Nurseries for more information about all of its products by phoning 01676 532334 or by emailing sales@hawkesmillnurseries.co.uk.

www.hawkesmillnurseries.co.uk Twitter: @HawkesmillNurs Facebook: @HawkesmillNurs


HIGHFIELD GARDEN WORLD

SUCCESS STORIES

S U CC E S S S TO R Y:

HIGHFIELD GARDEN WORLD With income from its onsite concessions factored in, the modern day Highfield generates more than £10m net – but how did this family business start out? The business started in 1921 in Haverfordwest, Wales, and was originally a real plant business. Primarily, it grew willows for basketmaking. In 1935 the business moved to Whitminster in Gloucestershire, purely because of transport links such as the train and developing road links. There was no Severn Bridge at that time, so everything had to go through Gloucester. The business then developed a nursery and started mail order trading via a catalogue. Over the years, we exhibited at several RHS Chelsea Flower

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GCR catches up with Highfield Garden World owner Tim Greenway to find out how the centre has remained at the top of the independent retail game Shows, winning a number of Gold medals for our exhibits. Then, in 1987, the owner wanted to retire and none of his children wanted to come into the business. My mother – who was effectively running the mail order side of things at the time – and a colleague by the name of Trevor Wellington effected a management buyout and bought the business. At that time there had never been a garden centre on-site, just a very small garden shop – the site that we are on now was a rose and fruit-growing field for the nursery. We got planning permission for the

garden centre and opened it in 1992. How has Highfield Garden World competed with the chain stores in the last couple of years? We’ve always been independent, and we’ve always done our own thing, rightly or wrongly – sometimes we’ve fallen flat on our face! Hopefully we’ve succeeded, and that’s why customers like us. We offer something different. We’re surrounded by Wyevales, so we are almost an oasis in that retail desert. We still grow on our original nursery site, so

we are continuing the plant heritage that a lot of our older customers still remember. What’s changed for you as an independent retailer over the past few years? The growth of the groups that are swallowing up independent garden centres, and the impact of the internet. Internet trading has had the biggest effect on our business in the last five years. We have no plans to trade online. Here’s an example of why: two years ago we were a premier Weber barbecue stockist. Then we found that customers would come

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SUCCESS STORIES HIGHFIELD GARDEN WORLD

in, look the products up on their mobiles and then say to us that they could get the product cheaper online. In the end we decided to stop selling them altogether. What are the challenges you face at present? The internet certainly affects certain product groups. Staff recruitment, progression within the business and cost control are also challenges. We buy a lot of product in dollars or euros, and currency fluctuation affects that. Are you a member of any marketing or buying groups? We belong to the Great Western Partnership, a group of nine garden centres throughout the South West. We’re in there with Monkton Elm, Bernaville, The Gardens Group, Plymouth Garden

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Centre, and so on. We meet regularly, and we consolidate our buying where we can in order to get the best terms. What has contributed to Highfield’s success? Hard work and determination! We’ve had the garden centre for 26 years. Where money has allowed, we have invested in developing and expanding the business. When we first started, we were a five-anda-half-acre site. We have now grown to almost eight acres, with more than 300 car parking spaces, and we’ve managed to purchase an additional 19 acres of adjoining land. We’ve also got a great team – Stella Gray, our accounts manager, started working for the business back in 1980 as a stock controller, and 38 years later, she’s still here. Julie

Garden Centre Retail Independent Business Supplement March 2018

Which other independent centres inspire you? When we started, any other garden centre was an inspiration, because we were learning. As we started to grow, we kept a close eye on Webbs of Wychbold, because it wasn’t very far away. Further north, we always find time to visit Bents Garden and Home, and Barton Grange Garden Centre. We’ve been to both within the last few months.

incredible because of their buying power and marketing skills, but I can’t think of one chain centre that we strive to follow. If a customer wants standard gardening bits – compost, bedding plants and the like – they can be excellent. But when a customer wants something different, an independent has the edge. Two of our key plant staff have been to the Netherlands, Germany and Italy in the last six weeks, buying plants for us. I know the chains have buyers who buy from abroad, but we have a particular insight into what our customers look for.

What about the chains? Not really – we possibly take tips on how not to do things. Don’t get me wrong, some of the promotions they come out with are

How do you keep customers coming through your doors? Customers like new products, and they like a store change. Originally, we were a bit reluctant to do that, thinking

Wyman, one of our chefs, has just celebrated 25 years with us. We have kept some good core staff throughout the history of the business.

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HIGHFIELD GARDEN WORLD

SUCCESS STORIES

When a customer wants something different, an independent has the edge. Two of our key plant staff have been to the Netherlands, Germany and Italy in the last six weeks, buying plants for us

that when you enter a supermarket, you always want to know where the fruit and veg is, where to find the milk and so on. But now we do like to change things around a bit. Customers want to be inspired and they want to experience things they can’t find on the internet. We find that moving certain product groups within the centre keeps it looking fresh, and it improves sales dramatically. We’ve also got a fantastic restaurant that will seat 300. The restaurant alone will grow to almost £2.2m this year.

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What will the industry look like in five years’ time? There will be fewer independents. Some of the groups, such as Blue Diamond and Dobbies, certainly look as if they will start to eat up a few more independents. Those that survive will continue to thrive – once again, they are offering that point of difference, which a group garden centre will always find hard to replicate. What’s the next step? Four years ago we invested £2.5m and we’re now looking

at the next development. We were approached by our local canals restoration trust, which is seeking Heritage Lottery funding. If its plans come off, a stretch of canal will reopen along the bottom of a field that we own, adjacent to our main site. It approached us about using that site to develop a mooring base for narrowboats. Off the back of that, we went up to speak to Guy Topping at Barton Grange, which has a marina on site. Guy gave us some insights into how he developed it.

Separately from that, we’re working with our architect Chris Primett of Malcolm Scott Consultants. We’ve realised that within the next two or three years our restaurant will reach capacity, so we’re looking at ideas for the next stage in our food offering. We are working on that with Chris and we have one last remaining parcel of retail land that we’re also looking to develop. As ever, we’re certainly not standing still! w highfieldgardenworld.co.uk

Garden Centre Retail Independent Business Supplement March 201831


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BOSWORTH’S GARDEN CENTRE

SUCCESS STORIES

S U CC E S S S TO R Y:

BOSWORTH’S GARDEN CENTRE GCR speaks with Sam Bosworth, partner at Bosworth’s Garden Centre, to find out how the centre has built on its success to become a great independent garden retail business What’s the history of the business? The business has been on site since 1959, when my grandparents and father moved here. It was originally a market garden; my father wanted to be a farmer, but, fortunately for me, they couldn’t afford a farm at the time, so they ended up with a market garden selling fruit, vegetables and flowers. It’s the same story as many other garden centres, where the pressures of farming and cropping on a small scale meant that the agricultural side of things dropped away in the Seventies and Eighties, leaving

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the horticulture. We have always sold everything through the gate, we’ve never wholesaled anything, so that took over and the retail and nursery side of things took off. How long have you been involved in the business? I went to Writtle College between 1987 and 1990 to study a commercial

horticulture course, and came back to the business after that. How has Bosworth’s competed with the chain stores? Because of our history, we’ve always had a strong connection to plants and a strong plant offering. We’ve also always provided great customer service and plant knowledge to our customers.

That’s our strength, and it is often a weakness of the multiples. If those companies got their act together they could put some pressure on us, but up until this point in time, they haven’t done that. What’s changed for you as an independent business in the last few years? Over a longer period, we’ve

I said we would never sell coffee, furniture or gifts, but we sell all those things now. We’ve had to adapt and change our offering as customers have demanded it

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SUCCESS STORIES BOSWORTH’S GARDEN CENTRE

had to change and develop our offering. Like a lot of garden centre businesses, we were a retail nursery 25 years ago. I said we would never sell coffee, furniture or gifts, but we sell all those things now. We’ve had to adapt and change our offering as customers have demanded it. In the more recent past, the biggest thing that we’ve had to contend with is online shopping – not just in terms of e-commerce, but also in terms of people’s expectations, their ability to find information very quickly and their ability to complain instantly through contact forms, emails and social media. Those things have kept us on our toes 100% of the time. What challenges does the centre face? Online will continue to challenge us. We started an e-commerce platform a couple of years ago, which we’re gradually feeling our way into;

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it’s not something that is a major part of our business now, but it is something that we have put in place because we feel it will become more important in the future. You think more of your business will be done online? More business will be done online than it is now in percentage terms. If you take our plant sales over the last 15 years, they’ve dropped within the garden centre in percentage terms, but they’ve increased in gross value terms. We’ve adapted and changed over the years to bring other products to the fore. It will be the same with our online sales, they will grow in percentage terms, but we will be able to adapt and change to bring other products and services into the business, in order to make sure our bricks-and-mortar store retains its standing.

Garden Centre Retail Independent Business Supplement March 2018

Which independent garden centres do you look to for inspiration? We’re a member of the GCA as of last year, and we’ve been in Choice Marketing since it started – I was a director for the first 10 years and chairman for two. We compare figures within the group on a weekly basis. It’s a competitive world out there, so we’re all trying to aim at those above us, which in our group tends to be Raemoir and St Peters. It’s easy for us to go to the Bents and the Barton Granges of this world and look around, but they are so far away from us in terms of what they are doing that sometimes we need to be more realistic when it comes to the centres we’re trying to look up to. They don’t need to be big, they just need to be centres that are doing an excellent job in any one area. We will look and compare ourselves against any centre. I would hope that any

garden centre could come to us and look at our plant area and think we do a good job. Do you think collaboration within the industry benefits a business like yours? It’s fantastic. The first group we joined was the Retail Business Improvement Scheme (RBIS) with the HTA – my mother joined it in 1990. We had about £90k turnover at the time, and I’d only just re-joined the business. We had the likes of Barrie Tyler from Burston Tyler Garden Centre, John Little from Poplars, Clifton Nurseries, Chessington, they were all part of that group. It’s always stuck in my mind that they were willing to come here to a tiny centre and offer help and advice. We’ve stayed within the RBIS ever since then. We were originally part of the North Thames group, and that group has merged with South Thames, so we decided

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BOSWORTH’S GARDEN CENTRE

SUCCESS STORIES

It’s really apparent that the garden centre industry is totally unique in its ability to share figures. Other industries can’t believe how open we are

to jump ship to the Midlands group, which has given us a fresh set of garden centres to look at. Within that group we have Fosseway, Pacific, Planters, The Old Railway Line and some other good garden centres and nurseries, which we can take inspiration from. In the North Thames group, we grew from being the smallest centre to probably the biggest. I know we’ve changed groups now, but it’s still good to give information back. When we started out in the RBIS and in Choice, it was always myself or my parents that would go to the meetings and get the information; now that we’ve grown and developed a better structure, with more staff in place, it’s good for me to send some of my more senior managers to these meetings so they can get as

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much inspiration as I did. A couple of times I’ve been to meetings with Choice or the GCA and RBIS and they’ve had speakers from outside the industry, and it’s really apparent that the garden centre industry is totally unique in its ability to share figures. Other industries can’t believe how open we are. How do you keep customers coming through your doors? We run a reward card system. We have an issue here in that our infrastructure is virtually at capacity now, and we are trying to do something about that, but we’re not actively marketing to new customers – we’re working harder with our loyalty customers to try and get more visits out of them, and a higher spend per customer. Our infrastructure cannot cope.

What do you think the industry will look like in five years’ time? The independents have weathered the storm over the last 20 years. We’ve stayed where the greengrocers, the butchers and the bakers have disappeared. The public increasingly wants to work with local businesses, local suppliers and local producers, and we’re in a strong position to do that. You will probably see independents pushing that more than we have in the past. Personally, with my plant background, I think garden centres will reinvigorate their plant offerings and their enthusiastic attitude towards selling plants. That’s a strong area and we’ve been lucky with the weather in the past few years; I hope that will continue so that garden

centres can be a focal point for the outdoors, nature, plants, greenery and the community. What’s the next step for Bosworth’s? I get fed up with saying it, but we’re trying to move to a new site because we’re now landlocked, with housing either side of us. We’re looking to try and move to a new site with more space, and sell this site for housing to help fund the relocation. That is something that I’ve been saying for the past 15 years! We’ve just been through Christmas, which is a particularly intensive time of year with lots of customers in a small space, and that has focused us again. That’s our intention, and that’s what we want to do as a business. w bosworthsgc.co.uk

Garden Centre Retail Independent Business Supplement March 201835


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