Garden Centre Retail November 2015

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Garden Centre Retail Issue 20 • November 2015



DAVID DOMONEY TV garden expert talks customer engagement

Going mobile Liz Hutson discusses life as a GCA inspector Back to reality Using the internet to drive customers in-store GCR Nov15 P01 Front Cover.indd 1

It’s Christmas! Maximising your plant area during the festive months 28/10/2015 12:51

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Welcome to...

Garden Centre Retail The customer is king


elcome to the November edition of Garden Centre Retail, the only magazine you need to keep up to date with the latest industry developments. It’s been an interesting month, with one particular highlight being the annual HTA Garden Futures conference, which took place in late September in Oxfordshire. One of the themes of the event was the increasing power of consumers, both in terms of the myriad buying options available, and how easy it is now to provide feedback – primarily via social media – on products and services received. As one speaker shrewdly noted, one bad tweet can kill a business. With that in mind, this issue takes a long, hard look at the best ways to please customers (over and above, obviously, providing them with top quality plants, catering, sundries, and so on). We begin with a pair of features offering advice on how to best utilise your ‘virtual’ offer, specifically in relation to getting potential prospects to convert, online and off. The first looks at

site structure and useabilty, while the second explores how to use digital to pry customers away from the internet and get them back shopping in the real world. As ever, the focus of the issue is our big interview Let’s Hear it From, which this month features one of the best-known and loved personalities in the sector, David Domoney. David has spent his career figuring out ways to give the public what it wants, whether as a plant advisor at Notcutts in the 1980s, through to his recent TV work on blockbuster shows such as Love Your Garden. For him, true, lasting success has to involve building profound relationships with those visiting garden centres – something which can only be achieved through promoting the beneficial aspects of gardening itself. Lastly, we have an interview with ex-GCA inspector Liz Hutson, discussing the changes she witnessed during her time in post. Speaking after she stepped down, her comments about how difficult centres sometimes make it – particularly for less ‘gardening-experienced’ customers – are revealing. “Ideally there should be clear, customer-friendly information and neat merchandising,” she says. “Rarely are all those boxes ticked, and sales are lost as a result.” Enjoy the issue.

ADVERTISING Business Development Manager – Jamie Wilkinson Tel: 01903 777 588 Sales Manager – Daniel Burridge Tel: 01903 777 602 Accounts – Lisa Woollard Tel: 01903 777 572 Horticulture Careers – Tel: 01903 777 580 PRODUCTION Design – Alan Wares 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 Subscription enquiries – Jessica Garrard Tel: 01903 777 570

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Garden Centre Retail November 2015


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Garden Centre Retail Systems Multi-channel Retail Management Solution In-Store Mobile Web T 02392 248 550 E W

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Garden Centre Retail CONTENTS

contents Garden Centre Retail Issue 20 • November 2015



DAVID DOMONEY TV garden expert talks customer engagement

November 2015

Going mobile Liz Dobbs discusses life as a GCA inspector Back to reality Using the internet to drive customers in-store

It’s Christmas! Maximising your plant area during the winter months


All the latest news from the industry


HTA awards the Pearson Memorial Medal; GCA reveals Scotland and Northern Ireland winners


Liz Dobbs offers advice on how to update your fruit area to sell to the younger generation of gardeners


Thinking like a consumer is the key to creating an e-commerce site that sells, says Martin Newman


David Domoney talks to Garden Centre Retail about the imminent challenges – and opportunities – that garden centres face

Penny Cook says strategy is the key to the catering recruitment process


GCR Nov15 P05 Contents.indd 5


Garden Centre Retail talks to Mike Lomax, marketing communications manager at Tarmac

Wayne Robbins says an effective website can help get consumers into your store after browsing online


Innovative ideas to catch a customer’s eye






Ex-GCA inspector Liz Hutson on where she thinks garden centre performance can improve


Tim Jacob offers an in-depth look at how to maximise your plant area in the run-up to Christmas


Nina Mason visits Alleyn Park Garden Centre in Dulwich, London


We shine a light on three industry personalities


Cutting-edge hoses, Beatrix Potter watering cans and all the latest product news



Geoff Hodge on how to get the best out of a potentially difficult offering


Machinery to make the toughest chores easier


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Wyevale co-ordinator scoops IPPS International Exchange Award

NEWS CENTRE Blue Diamond to step-up expansion programme


lue Diamond has revealed plans to shift its garden centre expansion programme up a gear in expectation of increasing its profits during the next five years. Managing director Alan Roper (pictured right) told GCR about Blue Diamond’s recent acquisition of Trelawney garden centre in Cornwall, and outlined what he believes to be the benefits for centres working with the company. He said: “We’re stepping up our acquisition – we’ve been doing three every two years, we’re now doing two businesses every year. We’re looking for freeholds and leaseholds, which is how we expand. We’re keen to grow. If any garden centre owner doesn’t want to sell their property and wants their family brand to continue, Blue Diamond is a good place to come. If we acquire the types and size of business we have in mind, we project growth from £82m to £187m in five years.” Alongside Trelawney, Blue Diamond’s newest acquisition is the freehold Newbridge Nurseries in West Sussex. The company’s profits, Roper said, rose 35% in 2014.


en Gregory, product development co-ordinator at Wyevale Nurseries, has won the International Plant Propagators Society (IPPS) International Exchange Award. The 23-year-old is currently in America as part of his prize, joining the IPPS international tour visiting some of the most innovative nurseries and research stations in the country. Ben said: “I am ecstatic to have won the IPPS International Exchange Award. It is an amazing opportunity for me as the IPPS tour is attended by growers, researchers and business owners from across the world. It will be a

fantastic platform for me to network and share knowledge, techniques and experience.”

Shropshire village crowned Britain in Bloom champion


orton in Hales was named ‘champion of champions’ at the recent Britain in Bloom awards ceremony. The annual event, which was held in Sunderland and hosted by TV presenter and gardening expert James AlexanderSinclair, involved 70 finalists flying the flag for their region. According to the judges, Norton in Hales’ commitment to the environment played a large part in its success, an effort which includes an

extensive recycling network involving coffee granules and bark mulch. Judges Martyn Hird and Kim Parish said: “Norton in Hales has achieved exceptional marks in this section, reflecting the strong community involvement. “They should be extremely proud because it really is the entire village that has won the title of Britain in Bloom champion of champions.”

Clothing and food sectors boost September sales


arden centres enjoyed good sales in clothing during September as well as catering from food halls and farm shops, according to the GCA’s barometer of trade results. Clothing sales were up 30% compared with the same month in 2014, while food hall/farm shop sales were up 14.5%. Katie Eckley, manager at The Old Railway Line Garden Centre

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in Powys, which was recently named best garden centre in Wales and the west at the GCA’s regional awards (pictured right), said: “Overall, September was quite a flat month for us, even with the weather being pretty good. Plants and outdoor living suffered but catering, clothing, garden sundries and food hall pulled it back for us.”

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p r o d u c t lni en we s

Great Western Buying Group welcomes two new members to share in buying and marketing


wo garden centres have joined seven others in the Great Western Buying Group. Caerphilly Garden Centre in south Glamorgan and Sunnydale Garden Centre in Cwmbran have joined the group, which includes garden centres from Gloucester and the south west. The Great Western Buying Group consists of garden centres which join together to share best practice in buying and marketing. The group is made up of independent, family-run garden centres and

is currently looking for new members to join. Caerphilly Garden Centre managing director Phil Taylor (pictured on left with Sunnydale’s Jason Samuel) said: “We are pleased to have become part of such a prestigious and well-organised buying group. It is an exciting time for us, the group and suppliers alike, giving us all real potential to do more business and build on and develop exciting and new relationships.” www.caerphillygardencentre.

he HTA has announced its involvement in GroSouth, one of the main horticultural exhibitions taking place in the south of England. The organisation will have a stand at the show, as well as hosting a dinner the

night before at the Chichester Park Hotel. Topics covered at the event will include research and development, sustainable resourcing, the ornamental round table, GROW apprenticeships, and market

data. There will also be an ‘understanding new energy sources’ tour hosted by AHDB Horticulture and IPPS. GroSouth takes place at Roundstone Nurseries, near Chichester, on 11 November.

Squire’s announces new manager at Woking centre


quire’s Garden Centres has announced the appointment of Ed Ridgeon as manager at its Woking centre. He brings a wealth of experience having been assistant manager at Squire’s Badshot Lea and Twickenham centres for six years. His role will be to maintain a “great shopping experience” for customers in Woking, whom Ed (pictured right) described

as extremely knowledgeable. Sarah Squire, Squire’s deputy chairman, said: “We are very pleased to appoint Ed Ridgeon. His experience in horticulture, as well as his retail and financial knowledge, will ensure that Squire’s in Woking continues to be successful and offer a friendly shopping experience for local residents.” www.squiresgardencentre.

Fleuroselect’s International Home Garden Conference

Fleuroselect’s International Home Garden Conference. The event took place on 22 and 23 September in the Aalsmeer area. This year’s topic was ‘the consumer and the retail experience’. The two key speakers were well received by the audience. Nancy van Kleef, of VIRetail, addressed the ongoing changes and challenges in


ore than 90 participants from Europe and as far as South Africa visited the Netherlands to take part in

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Family-owned Highfield Garden World in Gloucestershire has created and filled a new general manager role to help the business cope with its recent rapid expansion. The role has been filled by Tim Armstrong, formerly of World of Water. The GIMA day conference, which takes place on 4 November at Melbicks garden centre, will include David Hibbert, managing director of Stax Trade Centres, as a main speaker. Topics will include tackling IP infringement and online counterfeiters.

HTA to show at GroSouth event



the ‘shopping experience’. Trendwatcher Richard van Hooijdonk, meanwhile, looked at new media and methods of communication. Noordwijk-headquartered Fleuroselect tests, protects and promotes new flower varieties. Its membership includes breeders, producers and distributors.

The Home and Garden Group has announced that Floralands Garden Centre in Nottingham has joined its group, becoming its ninth garden centre. Home and Garden is a family-run business and one of the fastest-growing garden centre groups in the UK. ECT Travel is launching a number of horticultural tours and travel opportunities in association with Plant Heritage, the world’s leading cultivated plant conservation charity. Squire’s Garden Centre in Washington, West Sussex, has announced it will be hold a series of circus shows, before and after Christmas. The shows will take place in a traditional big top, and are described by the centre as “fun for all the family”. A team of fundraisers has raised more than £4,500 for charity Greenfingers by taking part in a parachute jump at a Wiltshire airfield. The jump took place to raise funds for Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice near Sheffield, Yorkshire.

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PETER RABBIT BRAND Treadstone Products has unveiled an exclusive range of bespoke children’s gardening accessories in the form of the Peter Rabbit licence. Based on the cbeebies phenomonen this licensed range features characters from the popular television programme and will include gardening accessories and clothing for children up to the age of seven.The range will showcase Peter Rabbit and his friends, Lily Bobtail and Benjamin Bunny, all of whom are being introduced to a new generation of Beatrix Potter fans through the cbeebies programme. The beautiful branded range includes both clothing and tool accessories helping to encourage children into the garden with character themed products for girls and boys. The launch will also be supported with a new catalogue, merchandising planograms, and POS units. UK Head of Garden Retail, Matt Thompson, explained, “GLEE 2015 was a major opportunity for Treadstone Products to ‘return to the main stage’ in terms of supplying UK garden retail with core gardening essentials. Our new Peter Rabbit collection is a new and exciting proposition for the garden sector providing it with a range that will attract both families and children. It will be easily recognisable and partnered with bright, colourful and eye-catching point of sale.” The company also markets The Good Life range of products. Treadstone Products offers 500 consumer products under ‘The Good Life’ brand which includes a vast range of core and contemporary gardening products. The combination of extensive core range and licensed products featuring top consumer brands make Treadstone one of the leading suppliers of garden products to both garden centre groups and independents. Treadstone has a key focus on customer service, which is backed by a quality supply chain, strong stock availability, and a programme to continually invest in new and innovative products.

Interested retailers should visit Telephone: 01978 664 667 Email:

VEGTRUG KEEPS THE FROST AT BAY WITH ITS NEW COLD FRAME VegTrug, the original self-contained raised bed company, is helping gardeners to keep the frost at bay this winter with its new Cold Frame. Custom made for the VegTrug, the new Cold Frame is a new accessory in addition to the existing range of covers. The wooden frame and 6mm double insulation polycarbonate provides solid cover that will protect your plants over the winter months enabling you to extend your growing season. The Cold Frame has been specifically designed to let in the maximum amount of light and has brackets that hold open the frame either a fraction for ventilation or fully for when you need to tend to your plants. As CEO, Joe Denham explained, “Our greenhouse cover has proved extremely popular since its launch and as the Grow Your Own trend continues to expand, we’re confident that our Cold Frame will be just as much in demand. This is a premium product which is beautifully designed to add to the look of the VegTrug as well as being extremely practical. “The Cold Frame will allow gardeners to grow vegetables further into the winter months extending their season and consequently their harvest. It will also enable those with limited outside space, who have previously dismissed producing their own food, to give growing their own a go,” adds Joe. The new Cold Frame measures 105cm wide by 76cm deep by 145.5cm high and retails at £59.99. | 01206 230025

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news: association news

Association news

The Horticultural Trades Association Colin Squire awarded HTA Pearson Memorial Medal


ndustry stalwart and chairman of Squire’s Garden Centres Colin Squire (left), was presented with the Pearson Memorial Medal at the HTA Garden Futures dinner, which took place on 30 September at Heythrop Park in Oxfordshire. In presenting the award, HTA chief executive Carol Paris said: “I am delighted to present the Pearson Memorial Medal to Colin for his outstanding contribution to the horticulture industry – it is well and truly deserved. A much respected figure, his boundless enthusiasm, forward thinking

and high business standards are an example to us all.” Colin is celebrating his 60th year with the company that was founded by his father DJ Squire. Colin is a fellow of the Institute of Horticulture, a member of the Worshipful Company of Gardeners, and founding member of the Garden Centre Association. His interest in garden design continues, and he designs the Squire’s exhibit at the Royal Horticultural Society Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. Colin has witnessed many changes during his time in the industry. In the 1950s, at a

time when plants were grown in open fields and couldn’t be lifted until autumn, Colin introduced container-grown plants into Squire’s. During the 1970s, the Twickenham site was one of the first centres in the UK to introduce the concept of garden centre coffee shops. The Pearson Memorial Medal for outstanding service to the garden industry has been awarded by the HTA on an annual basis since it was instigated in 1930, in memory of the HTA’s first general secretary, Charles Pearson.

Garden Centre Association GCA reveals Scotland and Northern Ireland winners


he Garden Centre Association has announced its Scottish and Northern Irish regional winners. The presentation took place at Glendoick Garden Centre in Glencarse, Perth. Iain Wylie, chief executive of the GCA, said: “The Scotland and Northern Ireland awards evening is always a popular event and this year was no exception. “It was a great opportunity to visit one of our newer members, Glendoick, and we thank them for hosting the occasion. “There were some fantastic examples of best practice and innovation shown in the presentation and there were some very worthy winners.” Scotland: Best Garden Centre: Garden

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Wise Plant & Garden Centre and Raemoir Garden Centre Best Customer Service: Garden Wise Plant & Garden Centre Best Environment and Community: Garden Wise Plant & Garden Centre Best Creativity and Innovation: Garden Wise Plant & Garden Centre Most Improved: Klondyke Garden Centre – Mayfield Best Restaurant: Glendoick Garden Centre and Raemoir Garden Centre Garden Products Retailer: Garden Wise Plant & Garden Centre and Raemoir Garden Centre Best Indoor Lifestyle: Gouldings Garden Centre and Raemoir Garden Centre Best Outdoor Living: Gouldings Garden Centre and Raemoir Garden Centre

Northern Ireland: Best Garden Centre: Creative Gardens Donaghadee Best Customer Service: Creative Gardens Donaghadee Best Environment and Community: Creative Gardens Donaghadee Best Creativity and Innovation: Creative Gardens Donaghadee

Most Improved: Bushmills Garden Centre Best Restaurant: Creative Gardens Donaghadee Garden Products Retailer: Creative Gardens Donaghadee Best Indoor Lifestyle: Bushmills Garden Centre Best Outdoor Living: Creative Gardens Donaghadee

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business: fruit

An easier pick

An up-to-date presentation of your fruit area is the way to increase sales to the younger generation of gardeners, says Liz Dobbs


ruit is the Cinderella of plant sales – anything you can do to make the experience more beautiful and desirable is worthwhile. Making fruit-growing easier and small-scale is a good place to start to attract the younger generation of gardeners. Some of the new varieties of raspberries and blackberries are going to be real gamechangers and will make growing these fruits a lot easier and more rewarding. No longer just the preserve of allotment holders or those with kitchen gardens, modern raspberry and blackberry plants can be grown on a sunny patio in large tubs. These days, anyone can grow them.

(www.rubybeautyraspberry. com) and blackberry ‘Reuben’ ( fruit on first-year wood, making them easier to control.

Rise of the raspberry

Bigger and sweeter

Primocanes are varieties with canes that produce fruit on the current year’s growth – compared with traditional floricanes that produce fruit on the previous year’s growth. Primocanes are easier to train, with none of the posts, wires or tying-in required of floricanes. There are now varieties that are little more than 1m high and are therefore feasible for container culture. Raspberry ‘Ruby Beauty’

Fruit inspiration from Lubera

Breeder Feli Fernández says her ‘Autumn Amber’ raspberries taste sweeter

The plants may be getting smaller but the fruit itself is getting bigger. An important breeding goal is that the fruit offers a good eating experience although, of course, this varies with the taster. East Malling Research raspberry breeder Feli Fernández explained: “People over the age of 50 expect raspberries to be tart, those between 30 to 50 years prefer a balance of sweet and

sour, and tasters under the age of 30 just don’t expect raspberries to be tart at all.” Fernández bred the apricotcoloured variety ‘Autumn Amber’ which, she said, is less tart than many varieties due to the lack of anthocyanin found in red raspberries.

More fruitful ideas

Strawberries can be offered in a range of different pot sizes: small for planting up growing bags or 3 litre pots for almostinstant patio fruit. Don’t neglect the aftercare for ‘instant’ patio fruit – it doesn’t look appealing covered in grey mould. Trained forms of apples, such as cordon and espalier, for growing against walls and fences, will have wider appeal than traditional trees for today’s small gardens.

Planning a fruit garden

Espalier apple trees are trained to grow against walls


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Few gardeners know how to plant a fruit garden from scratch – how far apart to plant bushes and trees, how to build a fruit cage, how to check if pollinators are required. It is the ideal subject for a oneoff event or evening talk, combined with some tastetesting, design advice and headline offers on plants, fruit

Lubera was founded in 1993 by plant breeder Markus Kobelt. The company is based in Switzerland but recently entered the UK direct-toconsumer market. One of his strategies is to move fruit from what he calls the ‘edible ghetto’ at the back of the garden and place it in the centre of gardens. To inspire the public, he commissioned two garden designers to design planting displays at Ippenburg Castle in northern Germany. The 17 small gardens, only 2.5 by 2.5m2, were planted with mixes of edibles and ornamentals. An idea worth copying on a smaller scale? Garden centres can stock Lubera varieties through wholesaler Blackmoor.

Fruit suppliers netting and fertiliser packs. Your ‘Cinderella’ fruit offering may need a helping hand for customers to see its beauty, but you can be sure it will be the belle of the ball. ◗ Liz Dobbs is a researcher, editor, writer and author on all things garden and plant-related. Twitter: @gardenslady Email: lizdobbs@btinternet. com

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A new 6500-m2 garden centre for Trelawney (Blue Diamond Group) will be built by Thermoflor. Trelawney are going to expand their business with a brand-new garden centre at a former educational site in Probus, ideally located along the A390 between St. Austell and Truro. Walking the extra mile David Danning (owner of Trelawney): “Thermoflor walked the extra mile,

with dedicated effort throughout the entire preparation process, starting with the cooperation with architects for the design and continuing through the various stages of the quotation”. Trelawney have been successfully running their garden centre at Wadebride since 1970. In past years Trelawney have won the award of GCA top garden centre in the Wales & West region and Garden Centre of Excellence.


The first garden centre for Rosebourne is to be built at the site of a former nursery near Andover. Thermoflor has been asked to express the principle of ‘value for money’ together with HPW Architects. Fresh approach Special attention will be paid to the restaurant with table service and home-cooked food. The restaurant will be accommodated in a special part of the building with an elevated

Spotting and sharing trends

Established as a family business, Thermoflor have over the years gradually evolved into the largest garden centre builders in Europe. The garden centres we have built in the UK are well known: Bents, Longacres, Klondyke, Haskins and many more. Besides offering design and construction, we try to make garden centres even more successful by spotting and sharing international trends. Subscribers of receive branch-specific tips and tools from fellow entrepreneurs all over the world around four times a year.

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roof designed with curved trusses to create an attractive, romantic ambiance for food experiences such as high teas. A key element of Rosebourne’s fresh approach to garden centres is exceptional customer service. The group will use the retail model developed on the basis of their combined experience to offer their customers local fresh produce, seasonal plant offers and a very impressive traditional Christmas presentation.

Contact Ferry Breugem Tel. +(31)6 53194354 Tel. + (31)45 5411458

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business: web optimisation








Turning browsers into buyers Thinking like a consumer is the key to creating an e-commerce site that sells, argues website usability expert Martin Newman


sk your customers which websites they spend the most time on and you’ll hear the same names again and again: Facebook, Amazon, BBC and perhaps MailOnline. The way these high-traffic websites are designed has more of an impact on how successful your own website is than you might think. This means they form their expectations for your site based on what’s commonly done on most other sites. If you deviate, your site will be harder to use and users will leave. He argues that web users expect your website to work in the same way as websites they already use, as they have learnt how the web works by using other websites. So what are the norms you should follow when creating a website for consumers to view on desktops, laptops and other large screens?


Clear propositions

Whether you actually sell product online or not, visitors to your site want to find what they are looking for easily and quickly. For this reason, navigation design and site structure is crucial to the usability of your website.

“It helps to imagine that you are a consumer coming to the home page for the first time” Best practice is to have your navigation menu options along the top or left-hand side of your web design. Your site structure (how pages link with each other) is also crucial as this will determine the options that appear when you hover over each top-menu selection. It

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helps to imagine that you are a consumer coming to your home page for the first time. Clearly outline your value proposition at the top of the home page – if not the top of every page – and also include a phone number so that anyone who can’t find

the information they want can easily call you. Your value proposition could include whether you offer next-day delivery or click-andcollect, the times your centres are open, or if you deliver from your centres to the customer’s home. You will see many major retailers’ sites do this.

Search bars

Alongside your navigation, the search function on your site will also be crucial in helping to convert your site visitors into customers. Your website developer will advise on a suitable search tool to ensure customers can find their way around your site. Several studies have shown that consumers who use search boxes on e-commerce sites are more likely to make a purchase (probably because they have a specific purchase in mind). For larger retailers we would advise a search tool with extra functionality – for instance, it recognises common spelling mistakes and corrects them, and that it understands synonyms (so if someone types ‘firebowl’ it also brings up firepits).

A wealth of information

If you sell products online, two of the other most important 

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business: web optimisation


Clear propositions Search bars A wealth of information Personal details

areas of focus are your product pages and checkout pages. High drop-out rates on these pages (people leaving the site without making a purchase) indicates there is either something wrong with your proposition or the design of the pages themselves. Assuming your products are reasonably priced and delivery costs are competitive, a high drop-out rate on your product pages is likely to indicate a design flaw. Your product pages should include at least one picture of the product, a description of the product mentioning approximate dimensions if appropriate, materials the product is made of, and any details that are not visible on the picture. For the plant category, outline any additional information your products would be labelled with in-store. It is helpful if you can also outline your delivery and returns proposition on this page (many major retailers do this on a tab that sits behind the product info) so customers are able to work out immediately how much a product will cost in total and how quickly they can have it delivered without needing to leave the page. Another ‘nice-to-have’ is a selection of social sharing buttons on your product pages, so visitors can easily share details of your products with their friends on social media. Again, consumers are used to using this type of functionality on other major websites.

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Personal details

Once a customer has added a product to their basket, you need to get them through the checkout. Here we find that asking consumers for too much or unnecessary information before they have made their

setting up a username and password). If you can offer this, then best practice is to allow a customer to use the checkout without registering and give them the option of registering once they have completed their purchase. If you do require consumers to register at checkout, then ask for an email address and password rather than making them select a username they may struggle to remember. Do you really need to know additional information such as date of birth and gender as part of the registration

“Customers particularly dislike being asked for irrelevant personal details during checkout” purchase can lead to them dropping off. Your web platform may not allow you to offer guest checkout (checking out without

process? In consumer tests we have run, customers particularly dislike being asked for what they consider irrelevant personal details

during checkout. Also allow them to use the delivery address as the billing address – or vice versa – rather than have them fill in the same address details twice, and suggest addresses with a postcode look-up field to reduce the amount they need to type. Finally, if they are likely to make repeat purchases it is helpful if they can save their payment details for future use (think about how consumers are used to using Amazon’s one-click purchase feature). In summary, it is quite legitimate – and even desirable – to draw inspiration from those high-traffic e-commerce sites a lot of your customers visit, because it engenders familiarity for users of your own site. ◗ Martin Newman is CEO of multichannel consultancy Practicology.

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business: research online, buy offline

Back to reality In an era where many consumers research in-store prior to buying online, Wayne Robbins, director of e-commerce specialists Iconography, says an effective website can help to redress the balance


o not only keep their businesses open but growing into the future, garden centre and retail nursery owners need to ensure they attract the younger generation. In particular, this means those in their 20s and 30s who are leaving their parents’ homes and becoming responsible for the upkeep of their own gardens and outside areas. A distinctly different generation are coming of age, and you need to think long and hard about the implications this has for your business. Your future customers have grown up being able to use the internet to access what they want, when they want. You may not want to buy a new barbecue at 10pm using a tablet after seeing a Facebook post, but they just might – just like they book flights and do their weekly food shop online.

Young professionals

Think about young professional people in your area for a moment. Chances are they skip TV ads and don’t buy the local paper or listen to local radio. In other words, the tried and tested routes which worked to reach their parents and grandparents will become less effective in the future. For some retailers this is disruptive and unsettling. The local customer who traditionally remained loyal to the “garden centre down the road”, now has a lot more freedom and choice thanks to the internet. However, for retailers this is not just a threat but an opportunity. To take advantage of this, garden centre owners and operators need to embrace


“Many retailers have struggled to define the role a website should play in their business” and develop their online presence – not only to provide another channel through which people can make purchases but also as a tool through which you can get the customers into stores. Contrary to received wisdom regarding customers carrying out real-world research before buying online, it is eminently possible to reverse the trend. In other words, to get them fired-up to visit your garden centre after a session online.

New generation

Potential customers will research online before they make a purchase, particularly with the higher-value items. This new generation of customer is happier to travel further afield than their parents would have to get what they want. However, before they leave the house they need to be sure you sell what they want, that you offer the right options, and that you provide good service. There are many reasons why garden centre retailers have found the web,

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and e-commerce in particular, a challenge. One problem is the complexity of dealing with highly seasonal product ranges. Another is trying to get the necessary information and imagery with which to entice potential customers. A website also takes a lot of work to maintain and, at the end of the day, you’ve got a garden centre to run. However, a good website provides a strong platform for you to engage with customers, not only in your traditional catchment area but, potentially, to a wider audience, for instance via Google local search (as well as social media). A retailer with the right mindset – and web tool set – is no longer constrained by a marketing budget that has been spent on local radio and press adverts. A fully responsive, informative, up to date and easy to use e-commerce website should drive both footfall and sales for your business.

Basic housekeeping

Many garden centre retailers have struggled to define the role a website should play in their business. Many, for instance, have a basic brochure site featuring a few brand logos and generic product shots, but such an effort is clearly not intended to be an e-commerce site or even give a full reflection of the range of merchandise on offer. This is fair enough but it is not going to do much to encourage store visits either if people judge you – which they will – by your website alone. By paying attention to basic housekeeping, you can convince potential customers that you have what they are looking for when it comes to your physical offer. (And, possibly more important, that you are a knowledgeable, reputable business that they will want to visit and spend their money with). This includes having a modern, easy-to-use site which offers compelling reasons to buy from you in particular.

Differentiate yourself

If you have taken the leap and got yourself a great website which showcases your business to its full potential, you now need to differentiate yourself. After all, as more garden centre retailers grow their online presence, it will become ever more necessary to stand out from competitors in order to keep those customers coming through the doors. This can be done, for instance, by offering online features that also cross over into ‘real-world’ commerce, such as click and collect. Other innovations are

22/10/2015 15:25

business: research online, buy offline

available as well, such as allowing a customer to retrieve a quote online which was given to them in the store at an earlier date. This, for instance, is ideal for that large, bespoke item purchase – such as a shed or garden furniture set – that the customer has now had time to think about and wants to complete. By including functionality such as this, you can ensure your customers keep coming back to you over the years. Proven, robust solutions exist in the market that are ideal for small and mediumsized garden centre retailers which want to run in-store and online retail through a single administrative area. This allows them to overcome many of the obstacles mentioned above, and therefore expand their business. For retailers it is now or never. If you wish to be part of this process and seize incremental opportunities – either by being ‘seen’ by online researchers or by picking up web sales – now is the time. If you truly wish to engage with, and be relevant to, the local, regional and national 24/7 customer, you need to carve out your niche online and stake your claim to the future. What can start life as a ‘brochure’ website can become something which is of huge benefit for driving people through your doors. ◗ Wayne Robbins is director of e-commerce specialists Iconography. Tel: 01460 258530

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Garden Centre Retail November 2015


22/10/2015 15:25









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26/10/2015 15:35

feature: let’s hear it from...


David Domoney

Community project Cultivation Street is helping to kindle the flame for a new generation of gardeners

Following on from his keynote presentation at the HTA Garden Futures conference, TV gardener David Domoney talks to Garden Centre Retail editor Phil Mason on the imminent challenges – and opportunities – garden centres face One of the themes of Garden Futures was that garden retail is in an ongoing state of flux because of increasing consumer empowerment and interest in ‘lifestyle’. How is society changing – and how is that reflected in the way people garden? It’s reflected across the board. For instance, one really interesting trend is there seems to be a much

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bigger interest in gardening across the age ranges, from the very young to the very old. Key Stage 1 and 2 children are being taught about gardening in school now, and there’s a huge focus on it on CBBC and other children’s television channels. That bodes really well for the future as it is engaging children at a very early age and linking

the activity of gardening with fun and entertainment. More broadly, I’m personally seeing a rise in the community gardener through my Cultivation Street project, with people effectively taking control of the area in which they live and turning it into an oasis of colour and growing fruit and vegetables. We’re kindling the flame of a new generation of gardeners and if 

Garden Centre Retail November 2015


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feature: let’s hear it from... it takes hold it could double the number of people across the country doing gardening as a hobby. At the moment the attitude is very positive, which is why we’re pushing so hard through the media. Now is the time to run with it. What can garden centres do to take advantage of the changes to the consumer landscape? I think one big thing would be to help change the image of gardening itself. To me, there’s still a big issue around the way gardeners are seen. It’s either as an older person with a pair of baggy trousers using string as a belt or posh men wearing a blazer and trilby at the Chelsea Flower Show. A big part of how that change is going to be accomplished is to emphasise the positive power of the plants themselves. The sight of a plant makes people happy, whether they’re rich or poor. We’re all humans and we want to live a better life – immersing yourself in a garden makes a big difference. The connectivity of nature and the outdoors is what the medical industry highlights as a key component to health and happiness. So garden centres should market themselves differently? I think so. They need to start emphasising that gardens are intrinsic to the quality of people’s lives. Gardening is so much more than just digging and weeding, but the work and effort involved – the nuts and bolts – is what we tend to talk about. Why not market on the result rather than the effort required achieving the result? I’m not saying you can just walk in and get a beautiful garden and not have to put the work in. But, to me, being in the garden is ultimately about enjoyment – water pistols with the kids, a barbecue with friends, the scent of honeysuckle in the air. It’s that moment when there’s that little bit of peace for us all. I think we get it wrong in the same way when we’re trying to promote careers in horticulture. When you see an advert for nursing, it’s invariably a shot of someone with a newborn baby in their arms rather than emptying a bedpan at four o’clock in the morning. At the moment, when we think of


horticulture it tends to be someone in a high-vis jacket digging over a roundabout, looking as if they are carrying out community service. With that in mind, is there still a sense that some people are intimidated when they visit a garden centre to ask about plants? I think some people are, yes, particularly if they’ve never done it before. It’s almost a phobia, like guys going into the lingerie department for a gift or taking your car to a new garage for repair. People feel slightly intimidated. It’s the same as a new gardener – they feel nervous visiting a professional garden centre and opt to shop at DIY retailers which stock a small range of gardening. It’s a real shame because having spent 10 years as a plant adviser in a garden centre myself, I know that in British garden centres we have some of the best horticultural experts in the world. People can go in, get advice on design, landscaping, plant selection, identification, and pest and disease diagnosis, then be recommended a cure. The equivalent would be a chemists or even a doctor, but there are very few parallels in the retail industry.

David with the staff at Charlecote Garden Centre in Warwickshire

Again, how should garden centres take advantage of that? They need to make more of the resources they’ve got and market

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them in a way that’s accessible. Advertise the fact there’s a really great plant adviser in store, then take it forward by developing talks on how to get started or by going out to community groups. That’s how I started in the 1980s – going out with my Kodak carousel projector giving talks. Garden centre plant experts should be positioned as plant champions, which I think is crucial in garden centres to highlight there is help for novice gardeners just as much as experts and here are the staff that are friendly and can help you. Acquiring new business is essential, so we have to reach out to people who have never gardened before. There are millions upon millions of them in the UK, so if we do it right the returns

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feature: let’s hear it from... will be immense. When people take up a hobby, they tend to tell everyone, which can only be good for business. Word of mouth goes a long way and, if they have just started, they will be talking about it over a long period of time.

David with the team at Dobbies Garden Centre in Atherstone, near Nuneaton

How can community projects such as Cultivation Street help garden centres grow? Cultivation Street, in particular, aims to put garden centres right in the heart of communities. So one of the things we’re targeting is pairing retailers with particular local projects. We work closely with National Garden Gift Vouchers through the HTA. Garden centres get a lot of requests for help, and it’s sometimes difficult to know what’s real – and what is someone just wanting a discount – so we’re putting in a set of parameters. We’re planning to encourage people to come to Cultivation Street first so we can identify what they’re planning and fill out a project plan and basic details so garden centres can gauge easily if the project is serious and well organised. I’m going to put together a ‘select committee’ of garden centres, along with community and education leaders. We want to identify a process and make it easier for garden centres to interact with new customers. Where do the garden centre retail ambassadors you announced at Garden Futures fit into that? How are you planning to recruit them? We already have hundreds of garden centres and garden centre groups behind Cultivation Street. And we will canvas for more by offering a free service of pairing retailers with local communities and schools which just require advice and guidance as they shop to get started. More will be announced in January at the launch. How has the sector changed since you first started working in garden centres? When I started in garden centres plants took up 75% of ground space. Today, garden centres include a very developed gift, leisure, food, clothing and franchise offer, which clearly makes it more of a shopping experience. When

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I began in garden centres in the 1980s, we didn’t have a cafe, we had a coffee machine (just look at garden centre cafes now). We did not have buildings either – it was retailing in greenhouses – if the wind blew and a window pane came out, you’d have to get out the way quick. Today, garden centres hold their own against any high street department store as far as fittings and buildings are concerned. But, all in all, the core the business of garden retailing is plants, the same as it ever was. Do you approve of the diversification and the possible move away from plants? Yes. I think it works well. Garden leisure was always part and parcel of the garden offer, and this diversification across the board is just an extension of that – generating a wider range of products that aren’t a million miles away from core gardening. People just want a good, well-merchandised store. That’s what they come to us for. As I touched on before, the only thing I think we might be in danger of losing is the value we once placed in the knowledgeable guys and girls in our plant advice huts. We seriously underestimate the benefit they can have to help the community and the business. They’re our own retail celebrities. Where do see the industry going in the next few years? I really see the development of the relationship between the shopper and the garden centre being taken to a different level in the future. Less ‘retailer and customer’ and more ‘mentor and enthusiast’ relationship. Garden retail needs to have a personality, rather than just being slick retailing outlets. Customers like to interact and chat to someone who knows what they’re talking about. They don’t want to be sold to, they want to be enthused. We are starting to see a huge effort from both the media and industry at supporting people who are existing gardeners, but there are so many more who we can convert. Promoting gardening was always a passion for me. Now it’s a fortified determination to bring as many people as we can into the fold. w

David in the industry David worked in the garden centre industry for more than a decade as a plant adviser, manager and group buying director before entering the garden design and build sector and from there into television. He has a strong passion for encouraging new gardeners and knows some of the best advice comes from the trained staff in garden centres – he used to be one of them! That is why David has placed such importance on linking garden centres with his Cultivation Street community gardening campaign. David is also a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture and is garden ambassador for Thrive, a national charity which supports people with disabilities through gardening, as David believes the garden can be a key component in health and happiness. To date, David has won 28 RHS medals for his show gardens and, in a desire to give students an opportunity to create show gardens as part of their curriculum, he pioneered the Young Gardeners of the Year competition, now in its sixth year, alongside The Prince of Wales’ Prince’s Foundation for Building Community. In the competition, horticulture students vie to design and landscape their own show gardens. So far, more than 500 students have had the opportunity to create show gardens. For more information, visit, or

David with Prince Charles at the Young Gardeners of the Year competition

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22/10/2015 15:33

feature: catering recruitment

The interview process

Planning ahead and agreeing on strategy is the key to a consistent and professional approach to assessing candidates, says Penny Cook


y best advice for starting the catering recruitment process is to put together a recruitment policy – this will ensure a professional and consistent approach to selection. Taking some time to outline and lay down a policy will help shape your decisions throughout the process based on an agreed strategy.


Once a recruitment requirement has been identified, the next step is to write a job description and person specification. This detail will provide the criteria against which a candidate can be assessed throughout the process. The interview strategy should be clarified at this point. Who will hold first interviews? What questions are you going to ask? And will the second interview involve a trial shift? Once this has been decided and you have drawn up a shortlist of candidates, call them to confirm and follow up with an email confirmation letter. Make sure the email includes details of who they will be meeting and where they need to arrive. I would also suggest calling them again the day before to reconfirm.

A relaxed chat

The interview location is also important. For example,


“Just remember: if a person’s attitude towards life is positive, most other things can be taught” interviewing someone in the corner of your busy restaurant will be very distracting for both of you, so somewhere quiet is preferable. Most people will be nervous, so take a few minutes to ask them about their journey and whether they found you easily. You can also offer them a tea or coffee, which will help relax them enough for you to start the interview. Ask them to tell you about themselves and start talking through their CV. Since you will already have a copy of this, you will have made notes prompting questions you want to ask.

Character and competency Competency-based interview questions are used to predict how successful a candidate would be by understanding how they have handled situations in the past. For example, “tell me about a time when” or “describe a situation” followed by “so what were you thinking at

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that point” or “what was your decision-making process”? If a person’s attitude towards life is positive, most other things can be taught.

A quick turnaround

When you have completed all the interviews – ideally in as short a timeframe as possible – arrange a round of second interviews. If the second interview involves a trial shift – which is always recommended for restaurant/catering managers and chefs – then, again, plan who will be there to observe and be clear on what you are looking for. After the trial shift, wrap it up with a chat and ask how they thought it went and if they remain interested? Assuming it goes well, offer as soon as possible – verbally and in writing. The longer the process takes – no more than two to three weeks is ideal – the higher the risk of losing your preferred candidate. ◗

Competency-based interview questions Your questions will be tailored to the position you’re recruiting for, but there are some competency-based questions that are common: • What KPIs have you been accountable for achieving? • What tools do you use to effectively communicate? • Can you give an example of when you increased either sales or profit of your restaurant? • Tell us about a time when you had to deal with conflict within your team. • What methods do you put into place to effectively train your team? • What has been the most difficult decision you have had to make and how did you arrive at it? • What has been the biggest achievement in your career to date?

Penny Cook is director of Penny Cook Recruitment.

22/10/2015 15:36

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26/10/2015 14:39

feature: state of the industry

Going mobile

Ex GCA inspector Liz Hutson discusses garden centre performance across the country, and where businesses need to improve How did you become a GCA inspector?

“Reactions range from fairly calm to downright distraught”

I had been a judge for the GCA’s Ruxley Rose and Christmas competitions and had mentioned that if ever a position became available as an inspector, I would be interested. About a year later a position arose and I was fortunate enough to be approached.

What changes have you seen in the four years since you started? Given the recent inspection results, I’m guessing there’s been an improvement… This is not quite as straightforward to answer as it might seem. The simple answer is yes, standards overall have improved. Having said that, some have improved more than others. The top performing centres are obviously pushing the boundaries every year, but there are others which are using the inspection process to benchmark standards for themselves and just quietly getting on with it, improving steadily as a result. In

Professionalism has improved overall in the garden centre sector

many garden centres the standards of some departments are off the scale – equal to or better than the high street – for example, the many superb catering offers, food halls and a high proportion of indoor lifestyle departments. Because I’ve had an opportunity to see some of the centres in Scotland and Northern Ireland twice in the four years I’ve been an inspector, they are probably the best areas to compare. I was impressed with these the first time around and I am equally, if not more impressed this year. Some of the Scottish centres in particular are really up against it because of the shorter season and are very focused as a result. Proportionately, compared with other areas, the Scottish and Northern Ireland centres are very forward thinking in terms of trends. As an example, one fairly small centre in Scotland sells more clothes than many of the larger centres south of the border. The other important change is that of consumer expectations and demand. All businesses need to be able to respond quickly to trends and changing customer needs – and the opportunities these offer – in order to thrive.

What was the general reaction at garden centres when you arrived unannounced? Did any of them panic?

It’s interesting and often amusing to see the different reactions when an inspector turns up – although perhaps not for the garden centre. They range from fairly calm to downright distraught and everything in between. I can safely say there is no good time to inspect a garden centre as


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far as I can see. Early inspections are not generally welcome as centres are usually not quite ready and the weather is often against them. Mid season may not be great because it’s busy and difficult to keep on top of things. Late season is not ideal because they can be low on stock. There is often much grabbing of brooms and dusters, signage going up in short order and you frequently see the same member of staff popping up in several different departments in a bid to increase the staffing score. But there is always a welcome, often a laugh and, unfortunately for my figure, some excellent cake!

What are the broad trends in garden centre retail at the moment?

Every garden centre excels in some areas and less so in others, so it is hard to generalise. There is definitely more professionalism overall in the management, marketing, buying and general shopping environment. Some of the groups are also becoming a lot more slick in their approach, particularly in areas such as catering. On the other side of the equation, I do feel core gardening is a bit behind the times and could suffer – which would be a bad thing for the trade, the consumer and the bottom line. It is an important and unique point of difference and the raison d’etre for having garden centres in the first place.

What changes or improvements have you seen in terms of staffing and which issues still need to be addressed? Again, it is difficult to generalise. Some centres have a good staff to

22/10/2015 15:43

feature: state of the industry

customer ratio and their staff are well trained and knowledgeable. Others run on quite low staff numbers and rely on self service to a large extent. This is not so much of an issue in some departments but, where customers need advice or reassurance, if there is no one to ask and/or knowledge is limited, this affects customer service standards and, ultimately, sales. Allocation of staff according to departmental maintenance needs and customer advice could be improved in some cases. If staff are motivated and proactive, the costs can be offset by an increase in turnover and profit. Multi-skilling a proportion of staff might be an idea so they can step in where needed, whether it be in the planteria, on the tills or in the restaurant.

Does staff training receive enough attention?

I’m going to do my best to be objective The GCA has the e-learning initiative, which is great, especially if you have larger numbers of staff to train. On the other hand, good live training takes some beating in terms of really motivating staff, staying on trend and being interactive and I would say – again, being as objective as possible – that this is needed more and more in the ever changing arena of retail. The ideal would be regular, live training in addition to online training as a foundation.

Given your background, do you have an opinion on how garden centres market themselves and how that could be improved in the future? This is not going to come as a surprise to GCA members – I

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mention it a lot – but I think most garden centres would benefit from targeting younger customers and women more effectively. For example, less experienced customers (and that is the majority nowadays) would be lost in most departments to do with core gardening – we know a lot of them walk out without buying anything simply because they are so bewildered and overwhelmed. Keeping up with lifestyle trends and giving customers ideas and inspiration is also a big opportunity. However, many planterias, especially, are still very traditional. Ideally there should be clear, customer-friendly information, neat merchandising for easy selection and a handful of easy to replicate, well thought-through displays that change on a regular basis to keep things fresh and constantly target a cross-section of customers. Rarely are all those boxes ticked – and sales are lost as a result. There are also opportunities to market collectively – how many high street stores ‘do’ Christmas as well as most garden centres? Yet garden centres rarely get a mention in lifestyle magazines. When I’ve been Christmas judging and mention this to my friends, most of them haven’t even realised garden centres ‘did’ Christmas!

“Keeping up with lifestyle trends and giving customers ideas and inspiration is also a big opportunity” Garden centres need to target younger customers and women, says Liz

What are your plans for the future?

One of the great benefits of being an inspector is having the chance to see many garden centres first-hand. I tried to view them through the eyes of a customer, as well as scoreinspection criteria. I could see many missed opportunities and fairly simple, low-cost ways to make the most of these so I’m putting together a series of roadshows, the first of which will be in February/March 2016. It is entitled Grow Your Own Profits and will focus on boosting sales of core gardening by joining all the dots cohesively, from marketing to staff/consumer education and everything in between, as well as giving garden centres all the tools they need to really make a big difference to customer service and sales across several departments. It has had great trade support and I am very excited about it, although I will miss many aspects of my role as an inspector.

What is your favourite area of a garden centre?

I have a soft spot for core gardening as that is how I started in the trade – ie training on garden care products. I also like the more ‘girly’ departments, such as indoor lifestyle, but I am totally obsessed with food so if I had to pick one favourite it would be catering. It is a great way to attract new customers quickly, by word of mouth. Nothing travels faster than news of great coffee and good food, so I love the potential as well as the offer. It is my Achilles heel as well as my passion – I put on 8lb during the last inspection window and am still struggling to lose it! ◗

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22/10/2015 15:43

feature: plant focus

Plant focus: plan better for increased Christmas sales Experienced buyer Tim Jacob offers an in-depth look at how to maximise your plant area in the depths of winter


bet by now your indoor Christmas displays are approaching completion having had months of planning initiated by the likes of the Spring Fair or trips to the Kaemingk showrooms, with its 8,000m2 of professionally merchandised festive sundries (apparently more than 17,000 product lines). No doubt you’ve spent hours deliberating about the best display method for your new range of LED lights, 32in felt Father Christmas figures and plethora of Christmasassociated sundries that each garden centre, regardless of size, seems to stock ready for the imminent shopping frenzy? But how much planning have you given to your outdoor plant and Christmas tree displays this Christmas? I’m guessing the real tree order was put to bed a few weeks ago and was based more or less on what you sold last year? I do question whether garden centres spend enough time thinking about, and making best use of, the outdoor plant area during the Christmas period. It used to make me chuckle when I saw plant area staff drafted in to the shop to help erect elaborate displays to showcase the latest in Christmas-themed tapestries. Or, asked to help build an all-singing, all-dancing faux front room to aid sales of personalised musical Christmas-themed mugs or 3ft singing reindeers! Have we lost focus on the primary reason folks visit garden centres in the often bleak and dreary November/December days? With the average 6ft Nordmann generating a unit sale of £40 to £50 – and a healthy cash profit to boot – shouldn’t we give a little more thought to how we display them


better and perhaps add as much ‘theatre’ to the outdoor displays as we do inside? When was the last time indoor staff were asked to help the poor old ‘shrubbies’ in the plant area? I experienced a few Christmases with Squire’s and, I must say, they work exceptionally hard on real tree sales. December is a time when outdoor plant sales are hard to come by and the outdoor area needs to work for its money. With a little forethought and focus, plants (both indoor and out) can be given a chance to shine. Planning and designing a memorable festive shopping experience for your customers is surely a must and can result in not only a fun time for all but significant money through your tills. Here’s my checklist for a successful and profitable festive tree sales period:

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“Far too often I see trees still wrapped in their original netting on the shop floor” Don’t be afraid to experiment

Perhaps it’s too late for 2015, but have you considered it’s not just about the Nordmann? The Fraser and Noble Fir are great alternatives and may give you something other than price to help you take on your local competitors.

Display – give it some planning! Showing off your trees is surely the most important consideration of all. Far too often I see trees still wrapped in their original netting on

Designing a memorable festive shopping experience for your customers is a must

22/10/2015 15:45

feature: plant focus

Some varieties of Poinsettia reveal their red bracts later than others

the store). Labels need to be clear and concise, with the price and size clearly visible.

Don’t make purchasing logistics difficult

the shop floor. How can we expect the customer to choose their perfect tree in this state? Yes, we could unwrap and hold it up – but that means every purchase has to be accompanied by a member of staff. Spikes on pallets, with each tree drilled and security paint applied, allows your trees to be displayed at their best.

Point of sale signage – keep it accurate and informative Have you considered that not all customers understand metres and centimetres and might prefer signage in old-fashioned feet and inches? Why not have both? Sell the attributes to each type of tree and ensure you offer accurate care instructions to reduce the amount of returned trees before Christmas Day. Advertise your home delivery service and answer all the relevant questions before they get asked.

Keep labelling clear and concise

Given enough planning, you could have all your trees labelled with your garden centre logo and/or care instructions that offer information on recycling post-Christmas (or even a 10%-off voucher applicable through January when brought back into

GCR Nov15 P24-25 Plant Focus.indd 25

Tim says keep your point of sale signage informative, and why not display sizes in both metric and imperial

Don’t expect your customers to have to wheel their 6ft tree through the shop to pay. Not only is this physically difficult, it prevents them from wandering around and purchasing all the extras you have on show inside. Make it easy for the customer by issuing raffle tickets at the treeselection point and have this waiting (trolleyed up, with complementary plastic boot liner) at the tills.

Large tree pre-orders can be real money-makers

How pro-active have you been in trying to secure large tree orders from local council offices, schools, churches and high-street shops? These potential customers often leave it far too late to come in and ask for that 3m Nordmann at £250 retail. How much easier (and more profitable) would it be to plan these sales in advance? Why not advertise this service in-store from September and reap the rewards later (taking a healthy deposit to avoid any changing of minds)?

Accurately record your sales – you won’t remember them in six months

How many of you record tree sales by line each week? Analysing what you sold (and when you sold it) allows you to improve and build for

the following year. Yes, come 25 December you may have sold all your 210cm to 240cm Nordmanns (7ft to 8ft for us slightly older folk) and deemed it a success – but what if they had all gone by 1 December? Could you have sold the same quantity again? You may think you’ll remember one year’s sales to the next but I promise you, you won’t. Only accurate stock counts (we used to do ours weekly and then twice a week nearing the end) will give you the information you need to improve sell-out and increase sales.

It’s not just about the tree

How many of you have sat down with your bedding growers and selected the best varieties of Poinsettia to suit you? Some varieties exhibit their red bracts later than others, making them more suitable to later sales from, say, mid-December onwards, while other varieties lend themselves to either smaller pots or larger pots depending on their growth rate and habit.

Wreaths and garlands

These items can add valuable sales if merchandised properly. Think about how (and where) you sell them, remembering all the rules that apply to trees are applicable here as well. Good luck and Merry Christmas! w 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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22/10/2015 15:45

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product news

Product news

New ranges from leading product providers in the sector – from hoses and pallets to axes, garden seats and Peter Rabbit watering cans

Fiskars introduces its X factor


iskars is releasing its fourth generation of axes which are “virtually unbreakable”, a company spokesman said. The eight chopping and splitting axes feature a new “structural” grip for increased safety and faster swing. The blades are ultrasharp and double-hardened for maximum durability.

Treadstone adds Potter designs

The spokesman added that the X-series of axes are “an evolution of craftsmanship”, enabling the “perfect match between task, size and skill of the individual user”. The X-series range has been awarded the Red Dot Award 2015 for the quality of its design.


Pallets get plastic fantastic


Cutting-edge hose keeps the water flowing


he Everflow, a new Royal Horticultural Society-endorsed water hose, has been released by Copely Developments. The product, the company said, has been developed using “ground-breaking technology which allows water to flow continuously, even if the unit becomes knotted or crushed”. It added: “All hoses have a tendency to kink and become tangled, but the Evercore ‘flow protect’ technology allows the continuous flow of water in all states.” The Everflow forms part of an RHS-endorsed range of products, including heavy duty Aquaflex irrigation hose, watering accessories and micro-drip irrigation products. has added a versatile plastic collar to its range of pallet accessories, designed to cut shipping costs and prevent avoidable damage. Jim Hardisty, managing director of, said: “Historically, stretch wrapping and pallet walls have been used to offer added protection to palletised goods to avoid damage and unauthorised access. However, these solutions are only suitable for a limited range of applications and present several problems. “Our versatile plastic pallet collar offers superior protection over traditional options, without the disadvantages. Plus, it comes with a number of additional benefits.”

readstone Products has unveiled an exclusive range of bespoke children’s gardening accessories, incorporating Peter Rabbitrelated designs. Based on the CBeebies programme which features Beatrix Potter’s famous characters, the licensed range features Peter Rabbit himself, along with Lily Bobtail and Benjamin Bunny. Matt Thompson, UK head of garden retail at Treadstone, said: “Our new Peter Rabbit collection is an exciting proposition for the garden sector, providing it with a range that will attract families and children. It will be easily recognisable and partnered with bright, colourful and eyecatching point of sale.” The company also markets the Laura Ashley brand of gardening accessories and The Good Life range of products.

Thoroughly modern Grange range


ecorative garden structures and fencing company Grange has unveiled its Contemporary range. The company said the products offer consumers “modern designs combined with the highest-quality materials, providing substantial, solid garden features”. The range includes a contemporary heavy-duty gate,

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which has an integral metal frame and planed and rounded

slats. It can also be used alongside the company’s fusion trellis, which is a unique design combining wood and metal. Antony Barrett, Grange trade marketing manager, said: “Our new Contemporary range is the result of detailed consumer research and also Grange listening closely to customer feedback.”

Garden Centre Retail November 2015


22/10/2015 15:48

products: category review

How to sell... power


Geoff Hodge offers advice on how to get the best out of a potentially difficult offering


o you sell powered garden machinery? Have you given it over to a franchise or concession so their machinery experts can deal with the grief and hassle? Or have you thrown your hands up in despair and given up after serious competition from the local DIY superstore? All three scenarios are commonplace these days. At the garden centre I managed we were fed up with people using our expertise and knowledge of the products we sold, then going off to buy them cheaper from the local shed. We decided to stock top-of-the-range machinery – letting the local shed make a few quid mass-selling cheap rotary mowers. We also decided that to have a USP, we would deliver, set up and demonstrate the machinery on-site. We also offered a full spares and service programme in partnership with a local machinery expert. This worked brilliantly for us – even though you might think giving up or using a franchise or concession are the only options. Making a tenner profit on a small electric rotary lawnmower may not float your boat, unless you have the room and customer base to shift shed-loads of them. But making a hefty profit on more upmarket models may well be worth investing in.

Robots and batteries

If you’re going to specialise in garden machinery, two areas to consider concentrating on are robotic lawnmowers

as most consumers have lots of questions. Throughout Europe, robotic lawnmowers recorded 64% revenue growth in the first half of this year. And, with an average model costing about £1,000 all the way up to £4,000, this is an area you can make good margins, turnover and growth. Similarly, revenues of cordless, batteryoperated tools showed an increase of 33% during the same time-frame. Apart from the fact that the Li-ion battery-powered tools are fantastic products in their own right, once a consumer has the battery it will power a wide range of other tools. Get the battery into customers’ hands – they’ll be thrilled with the tools – and they’ll come back to buy the others. The Ryobi ONE+ and Bosch cordless systems are perfect examples of where you can benefit from this add-on spend.

Get online

Revenues of cordless, battery-operated tools showed an increase of 33% in the first half of 2015

and battery-powered machinery. Both are particularly popular at the moment and showing good sales growth, and both benefit from the personal sales approach that a garden centre can offer

Sales of robotic lawnmowers are up 64% in the first six months of this year


Garden Centre Retail November 2015

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If you’re going to sell powered tools, you have to have a good online presence. More and more people are doing their initial buying research online and if you’re not out there, you won’t even be considered for a visit. Just as vital is making sure your website is optimised for search engines so that you are as high as possible on all the search listings. You need to follow the example of the big players in retailing. Click and collect is now an important part of online retailing – bringing both online and bricks and mortar operations together smoothly and seamlessly. And you must flex the muscles of your multichannel supremacy. Click and collect is evolving from purely a point of collection to a means for consumers to test out the goods they are buying. And, while they are in store, you need to wow them with everything else you have on offer! ◗ 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

22/10/2015 15:49

products: power tools

EGO Power+ complete kits

EGO Power+ is offering savings on complete kits of body, battery and charger, items that were previously only available to buy separately. The company, which created the industry’s first 56-volt lithium ion battery, is now selling the EGO Power+ chainsaw with a 2.0Ah battery and charger included.

Latest products

power tools

MTD BV3000G Leaf Blower

VonHaus cordless hedge trimmer

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Flymo launches robotic lawnmower

Flymo, one of the UK’s leading lawnmower manufacturers, has launched the Flymo Robotic Lawnmower 1200R. The new product works unassisted, operating day or night regardless of weather, with a perimeter wire system marking the boundaries. It mows the lawn, dispersing grass cuttings back into the lawn as natural fertiliser, eliminating the need to throw them away. The lawnmower is battery powered, emits no fumes and creates minimum noise, covering a maximum area of 400m2. RRP: £949.99

Equipped with 51cm precision blades, the new cordless hedge trimmer from VonHaus boasts a fast, low vibration cutting action, oscillating at a speed of 1,400rpm. The ergonomic cordless design has a soft-grip rubber handle offering easy and comfortable use, while the two-stage dead man’s safety trigger prevents accidental operation. The anti-vibration system allows users to get closer to the hedge for higher efficiency, and the durable hardened steel blades make it easy to cut through branches up to 15mm in thickness. RRP: £47.99

Offers that make the hard jobs easy

American manufacturer MTD has produced the BV3000G, a leaf blower with a two-cycle engine and an airflow of up to 165km/h. Distributed in the UK by Barrus, the BV3000G can clean a property fast and efficiently. For smaller areas it can be switched to the vacuum feature, which immediately takes up and shreds leaves and small twigs, storing them in the attached carrier bag. RRP: £159

The chainsaw comes fitted with a 350mm Oregon bar and its brushless motor system allows a smooth cut. It is also pitched as light and easy to manoeuvre thanks to the precision weight balance. An EGO Power+ blower package is also available. Chainsaw RRP: £269

Multi-tool from eSkde

The new MT10204 multi-tool from garden tool manufacturer eSkde comes supplied with a combination of powerful products for a tidy garden all year round. The model boasts a 1,200W electric motor, and comes with a bump feed strimmer head, a metal threetooth brush cutter blade, a 255mm chainsaw, and a 440mm hedge trimmer with multi-angle blade adjustment. It has a 10m power cable and an ergonomic handle as well as a shoulder strap making the tool easier to carry. RRP: £195

Garden Centre Retail November 2015


22/10/2015 15:50

products: plant labels Burgon & Ball’s painted plant labels

British brand Burgon & Ball has launched a range of RHS ‘Gifts for Gardeners’. The range includes a set of painted and natural wooden plant labels, a gardener’s notebook, and twine in a tin. The plant labels, which come in packs of six,

are available in three different botanical artworks from the RHS’s Lindley Library to match the rest of the range of gifts – Chrysanthemum, Passiflora, and Rosa. RRP: £7.95

Latest products

Plant Labels Innovative ideas to catch a customer’s eye

Createpose’s new graphics platform

Createpose is a cloudbased graphics platform, which allows retailers to create, print and display their own POS signage using editable, branded templates. The easy-to-use system covers all POS requirements, from shelf barkers to large A0-sized posters and gift vouchers. Retailers can have their existing designs uploaded to the system or work with Createpose to create new bespoke templates that reflect their brand. The company said the product gives retailers complete control of their in-store graphics, significantly improves time and cost efficiencies, and can help to bring a high level of brand consistency and customer communication to their shop floors, particularly across multiple stores.

Natures Markers, from homeware manufacturer Rowen and Wren, are made from natural wood wastage, produced when a tree needs to be cut back, or comes to the end of its life. Each one is unique and is made from hazel collected from Buckinghamshire, where the markers are also individually hand finished. They stand at about 26cm. The set of five comes neatly packaged and each marker has a carved tip so they can be labelled. RRP: £18.00


Garden Trading has produced slate markers for both herbs and vegetables. Each set comes in a pack of six, presented in a craft box, tied with string. The text on the slate is laser printed to withstand the elements, making them practical as well as aesthetically pleasing. The herb markers include chives, parsley, rosemary, sage, mint and thyme. The vegetable markers include beetroot, chard, lettuce, rocket, spinach and spring onions. RRP: £9.50

Rowen and Wren

▲ Slate markers from Garden Trading

Garden Centre Retail November 2015

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▲ Longcombe offers OKI labels Longcombe, one of the leading manufacturers of horticultural labels in the UK, is offering a range of labels from OKI. Longcombe is a partner of the printer manufacturer, and offers trade prices on OKI consumables, spares or parts when ordered with the labels. The range includes self-ties, stick-ins and self-adhesives, swing tags and bed cards, as well as banners and shelf-edge cards. For the latest prices, contact Longcombe directly.

23/10/2015 15:48

people: trading with

Trading with... Mike Lomax Tarmac

Marketing communications manager Mike Lomax on how Tarmac makes its products stand out in the market Can you give us a brief outline of your company and its products?

Tarmac is the UK’s leading sustainable building materials and construction solutions business. It combines the knowledge and expertise of two of the construction industry’s most iconic brands: Tarmac, the pioneers of the modern road, and Blue Circle, the company that patented Portland Cement. It employs about 6,900 people at more than 400 locations. Our innovative products and solutions span aggregates, asphalt, cement, lime, ready-mix concrete, road contracting services, building products and recycling services. It also offers a comprehensive range of solutions for the DIY, retail and garden centre market.

What is the ethos of the company? Tarmac aims to be customers’ preferred choice for sustainable construction solutions.

What is the structure of the company?

Tarmac has operations across the UK and five business units – Cement and Lime; Aggregates and Asphalt; Contracting; Building Products and Readymix.

Why did your company develop a range for the garden centre market? We developed our new range for the garden centre market after we conducted research among this audience

and identified a demand for easy-to-use, handy products. We’re proud of our commitment to finding new solutions to make our customers’ lives easier and our new packaging and design really does make all kinds of jobs very simple and manageable.

Are your products available exclusively in garden centres?

Our products are designed for the wider retail environment and are available at both garden centres and national retailers such as Wilkinson’s.

How do your products stand out? What is the unique selling point of your brand over its competitors?

Our products are entirely unique in today’s garden centre market. They stand out for many reasons – how simple they are to use, how easily they can be transported, and how much time, waste and money they save our customers.

What additional incentives do you offer garden centres?

While we do not currently offer any formal incentive schemes, we do support our garden centre customers by granting them incredible flexibility in their order quantities. We understand that the needs of each individual centre are different and constantly evolving, so we work hard to make sure we offer a service that works for everyone.

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

We are always looking to innovate with new products and ranges – so watch this space!

Was your range developed with a specific customer base in mind?

The range is suitable for a whole array of typical jobs, from fixing a fence to laying a patio or building a brick barbecue. We are confident that the new range caters for people of all levels of experience and ability.

How important is innovation for your brand?

Innovation is one of the most important aspects of the Tarmac brand. We have always worked to be the most innovative player in our industry and we are immensely proud of what we have achieved in this.

How important is branding and packaging to you?

We put a lot of time and effort into ensuring our branding and packaging are an accurate representation of Tarmac. We recently rebranded all our products but our iconic Blue Circle logo has remained as research showed us how strong the association was between this and the brand’s reputation for quality. w


Mike Lomax is marketing communications manager for Tarmac. Tel: 0845 812 6232 Twitter: @LoveCement

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23/10/2015 10:08

people: store visit

A fine vintage GCR assistant editor Nina Mason spends a day at Alleyn Park Garden Centre in Dulwich, looking particularly at its gift shop and homeware offerings


lleyn Park Garden Centre is like the Tardis, deceptively small on the outside. It was founded 11 years ago on a former builder’s tool hire yard, undergoing an extensive makeover to turn it into the garden centre you see today. Making use of every square foot, the garden centre prides itself on its displays and wide variety of plants and trees. It also features a gift shop, which stocks products from small-scale manufacturers to avoid competing with chain stores, and a ‘vintage’ shed with items sourced from all over the world. I spent my day getting to know the routine of what the Independent on Saturday dubbed the “best garden centre in London and the South East”, The Times branded a “hidden gem” and The Telegraph online deemed “a brilliant place to pick up all your gardening essentials” with a “shed-full of vintage furniture”. 10am The sweeping and tidying was already over by the time I arrived, so the day started with managing director Karen

Kidd showing me round the layout of the garden centre. Every display has been expertly thought through, including stands specifically for plants which need shade. Karen told me: “I think using some quite large structures which are completely movable gives a sense of it being a garden rather than a retail outlet. Things get shifted around constantly to keep it fresh for the customers.” 11am The early rain took care of the plant maintenance so my first task was to unpack deliveries, making sure I put aside items ordered for customers. I helped staff member Valerie unwrap and position some large plant pots for the front display. Co-founder Robby Ward said: “We have definitely got an image here. Somebody called us a boutique garden centre and I think that actually hits the nail on the head. We try to be completely different from other garden centres with our layout.” Karen added: “One of the challenges is constantly looking out for new products and new people.”

Midday All staff tidy the plants as they walk around the centre throughout the day, making sure everything looks neat for customers. Karen explained that each member of staff had their own section to look after to give them a sense of ownership. She said: “When it comes to staff the two key things for me are enthusiasm which, for me, counts above everything else. The second is to never knowingly sell something to somebody that is not actually right for the plot they’ve got.” 1pm More customers arrive as the sun comes out. It becomes apparent the garden centre is exceptionally customer-driven as every customer is greeted and offered assistance. “We try to make sure, even at peak periods, that everybody is offered help,” Karen told me. “The vast majority of our customers will come from a relatively small radius, so we want the repeat business.” 2pm To make more space in the gift shop for new arrivals some items had to be moved to the vintage shed. The shed remains from when Karen and Robby acquired the site but they only started to sell vintage products seven years ago after items Karen sourced for display roused customer interest. Last year, they also started to sell a wider range of house plants. Karen said: “The principle with the vintage shed is it makes a great display area for the house plants and pots. Having that display is what it’s really about.” 3pm to 5pm The last tasks of the day were to put out the new plants that had arrived, which the staff always managed to find a place for despite limited space, and to tidy up the garden centre ready for the next day’s trade. w Alleyn Park Garden Centre, rear of 77 Park Hall Road, West Dulwich, London SE21 8ES Tel: 020 8670 7788 Email:


Garden Centre Retail November 2015

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23/10/2015 10:11

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people: horticulture careers

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Glasshouses bought and sold. Venlo specialists. Structures for Garden Centres. All aspects of glasshouse work including poly roofs snow damage and Composite panels. Tel: 01262 608831 Fax: 01262 409004 Email: Website:

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



You must have retail management experience. Plant knowledge would be preferential.You will also: support the branch manager in leading the team to maximise sales and deliver excellent customer service; manage a trading department to ensure all targets are achieved while adhering to company policies and procedures; drive sales through data, trends, resources and delivering high visual standards; be able to plan and manage a busy retail department; be a self-motivated and enthusiastic team leader and member; have excellent people management skills developed in a demanding environment; be an excellent communicator.You will also be responsible for stock control.

Our client has purchased a garden centre in Essex with major investments set to turn the centre into a thriving business. They are currently seeking a general manager who has the knowledge and experience to cover all aspects of the business to include daily operational efficiency, planning of layout across the site, setting and agreeing budgets, purchasing of stock, sourcing and negotiating with suppliers, health and safety and recruitment of a full team of staff. This is a unique opportunity for those who have a proven track record at this level of management and confident to take on this challenging opportunity in return for an excellent salary.

For more details, go to

For more details, go to




MORE PEOPLE Yorkshire and the Humber

My client, a garden centre group, seeks a talented plant area manager to take on a big role in the running of a garden centre in Yorkshire. The plant area manager will be responsible for the day-to-day operation of the plant area, creating unique displays and working with the group’s plant buyer. You will also take on duty management responsibilities supporting the garden centre manager and assistant manager. We seek an established plant area manager, with superb plant knowledge, good man-management experience and time spent in quality, high-end retail. For more details, go to

GCR Jobs.indd 33



We are seeking a plant area assistant for an established retail nursery in Lancashire. Retail experience is preferred but a good peopleperson with a drive to succeed will be considered. We are looking for someone with a minimum of interest in growing and selling plants. Some plant knowledge is preferred but not required as on-the-job training will be given.

For more details, go to Garden Centre Retail November 2015


26/10/2015 16:06

people: staff room


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

Alex Springer, retail assistant and house plant buyer, Alleyn Park Garden Centre How did you start out in the garden centre sector? I trained as a fine artist for five years and, when I graduated, found myself looking for a part-time job that would be creative and fulfilling. I started at Alleyn Park Garden Centre as seasonal help and quickly realised that I loved working there.

to create a beautiful space at home. Gardening is about cultivating an ideal place to spend your free time.

What is the best thing about your job? Everything is about positivity – customers are coming into the garden centre because they want

Fraser McTaggart, assistant manager, The Mains of Drum How did you start out in the garden centre sector? My grandparents saw a job vacancy for The Mains of Drum just before it opened in the local shop and suggested I apply. They were both keen gardeners and couldn’t wait to use the staff discount. I have now worked in the industry for six years and it has grown on me every year. What is the best thing about your job? No two days are the same. Like many garden centres our shop, restaurant and outdoor departments are constantly changing, and I enjoy doing new displays. I also really enjoy designing the adverts and monthly newsletters for our customers. What is your favourite section of a garden centre? I personally veer towards the barbecue and food sections. Nothing beats sitting outside with family and friends while attempting something new on the barbecue. What is your favourite flower or plant? I love Acers because of their vibrant colour and interesting shapes. It helps start a Japanese garden theme which, when it is done right, can be timeless.


Garden Centre Retail November 2015

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What is your favourite day-to-day chore at work and why? My favourite job is to mark up all of the pots that come in without labels. It is a great way to learn while taking the chance to memorise plant names and their characteristics. What is your favourite flower or plant? My favourite plant is Gunnera manicata. I can’t wait to have a garden with the right conditions for them – anything with that ‘tropical Jurassic’ feel is a winner for me.

Mark Broughton, outdoor plant manager, Green Pastures Plant Centre, Norfolk How did you start in the garden centre sector? My first foray into the industry took place about 18 years ago when I worked as a volunteer, assisting people with mental health problems, to cultivate plants for sale at a charity garden centre. That led on to a paid job with Homebase, then eight years with Notcutts. What is you favourite section of a garden centre? I think it has got to be the bedding plant section, in mid-May. There’s something quite beautiful and mesmerising about a sales area that is full to bursting point with all the colours of the rainbow. What is your favourite flower or plant? For pure comedic value it has got to be Rubus cockburnianus, but in truth I love the Digitalis genus. Very simple, elegant and relaxed. What is the best thing about your job? I have to say there are many aspects I love. But when a customer visits with a basic, hand-drawn picture of their garden and wants my help to design a border, that certainly gives me a buzz.

22/10/2015 16:00

FULL RANGE OF ACCESSORIES FOR EDEN’S ZERO THRESHOLD GREENHOUSE RANGE Following on from the launch of its Zero Threshold™ range, the first design breakthrough in aluminium greenhouses for more than 25 years, Eden Greenhouses has now added a purpose designed collection of accessories. The range features the Eden Zero Threshold™ Sliding Door System, which offers users ‘no trip’ access - particularly helpful for wheelchair users and for anyone using a wheelbarrow or trolley. A range of aluminium shelving and staging designed to fit perfectly in every size of all the four models is available in aluminium, green or black to match the greenhouses perfectly. The sturdy design uses cantilever bracing to attach directly to the greenhouse frame and the slat design features a ribbed finish to help water drainage from pots and trays. The new ventilation accessories include solar powered automatic roof vent openers and a six blade louvre vent. This fits perfectly in the side of any of the four Zero Threshold™ greenhouses and again is available in matching colours. The water butt system comprises a 100L water butt, made from recycled materials and available in grey and black. It includes a black water butt stand and a hosepipe compatible tap. Also in the range is a gutter connecting kit, which is designed to offer an easy solution to joining both gutters to a single water butt. It uses 40mm push fit connectors and the greenhouse down pipes to join to the centrally located water butt. Additional fittings are available separately to allow an end user to create a custom water harvesting set up.

Interested retailers should contact their Eden Halls representative or call the company on 01242 676625 or email Brookes.indd 25

26/10/2015 15:42

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26/10/2015 11:41

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