Garden Centre Retail October 2023

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Solar panels Kirktown

Solar power surge: Kirktown Garden Centre’s green growth initiative

October 2023 Issue 71

Reducing food waste

Too Good To Go runs us through tips for using the mobile service

Yorkshire Garden Centres

Incorporating an in-house sustainability training programme

Plastic packaging tax

One year on from its inception, Acopia Group shares updates

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First off, I want to bring a brand new industry exhibition to your attention – Garden Centre Expo. We’ve been producing Garden Centre Retail for the garden retail sector for 10 years this coming March, but recently, we’ve noticed a gap in the market for a content-led exhibition in the South of England, so we’ve created this event.

This expo will focus on four main pillars – business growth through effective product selection, sustainability, technology and innovation. Our content programme will be built around this outlook, and we’ll start by offering practical, hands-on advice that visitors to the show will be able to take away and implement into their own garden retail businesses. Garden Centre Expo will be held at ExCeL London on 16-17 October 2024, so we hope to see as many of you there as possible.

Moving onto this issue, and following the technology special in October, we’ve got a focus on one of the main pillars of the above event –

sustainability. It’s often said that garden centres are in a perfect position to be sustainable pioneers in retail, but what’s important is taking the first steps towards achieving this – and many garden centres have.

Throughout this issue, you’ll read a fantastic interview with Kirktown Garden Centre which has invested over £80k+ in solar panels, EV chargers and more energy efficient kitchen equipment.

Colin Curran will take us through the thought process and implementation. We’ve also got a feature on the plastic packaging tax that came in last year – the RHS has contributed to an article on plant selection in garden centres, and fantastic B-Corp Too Good To Go shows us a way that we can fight food waste.

We hope you enjoy this issue, it’s a topic that’s close to our hearts and one that we wanted to tackle early on into our new journey with Garden Centre Retail. As always, we appreciate any comments and feedback you may have.

Have a great month.

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3 Garden Centre Retail October 2023 Welcome
The UK’s National Pet Industry Event TELFORD INTERNATIONAL CENTRE 1-2 October 2023 To register for FREE entry visit PATS largest show with over 250 exhibitors • FREE entry & parking • FREE show catalogue • 100’s of new launches • Thousands of products

Pet products

Cultivating sustainability Garden Centre Association’s green practices

Best sellers for 2024 GIMA predicts next year’s trends

Ethos and eco-excellence

Andrew Burton’s approaches for eco-awareness in business

An interview with Steph Bates Sustainability lead for Yorkshire Garden Centres

Shining a light on solar panels Kirktown Garden Centres

The impact of the plastic packaging tax Sustainable packaging solution company, Acopia

Reducing food waste

Learn about the Good To Go app

A recipe for growth Garden centre restaurants

Climate change and plant choice

Insight from the RHS

Waterless Ltd

Innovative, eco-conscious pet care products

The latest marvels for your furry friends

5 Garden Centre Retail October 2023 Contents
News A round-up of the latest industry news
12 14 17 23 27 30 34 40


Garden Centre Retail launches trade exhibition and conference

The team behind Garden Centre Retail magazine has announced a brand-new trade exhibition and conference for the garden retail market: Garden Centre Expo.

Building on the pillars of business growth through effective product selection, sustainability, technology and innovation, Garden Centre Expo is a content-led conference programme with supporting trade exhibition.

Held at London’s ExCeL on 16-17 October 2024, Garden Centre Expo will offer fantastic learning and development opportunities, the chance to explore a range of innovative and forward-thinking products and the capacity to network with industry colleagues.

Portfolio Director Luke Page says: “With Garden Centre Expo we will create an immersive platform that combines thought leadership with an exceptional content

program, alongside industry-leading suppliers who showcase the most pertinent solutions in garden centre retail. We’re excited to curate an event that not only demonstrates cuttingedge products but also fosters insightful conversations, innovative ideas, and develops invaluable connections.

Our aim is to address the most significant challenges faced in the garden retail sector, while also providing a platform for garden centres to receive education and inspiration on the latest topics, trends and subjects within this space. We look to equip them with the necessary tools to cultivate growth and flourish.

This expo will be a hub for industry development, knowledge exchange, and collaboration, further enriching the vibrant garden retail sector.”

Visitors can now pre-register for their free tickets at

Gethin Jones to host the 2023 GIMA Awards

TV and radio broadcaster, Gethin Jones has been confirmed as the host of the 2023 GIMA Awards.

Taking place on Thursday 19th October at the prestigious Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, South Wales, it will be Gethin that will help to reveal the winners of this year’s highly coveted GIMA awards.

Gethin Jones will be highly recognisable to delegates of the 2023 GIMA awards, having enjoyed a varied TV and radio career. Starting on S4C, Gethin then climbed aboard the Blue Peter ship, where he broke four world records, completed three life-threatening task, visited 32 countries and fulfilled a lifetime ambition of flying with the Red Arrows and completing the UK Royal Marine Commando 30 mile Yomp. He has also presented BBC1’s Remembrance.

GIMA Director Vicky Nuttall said: “We are sure that the confirmation of Gethin as our awards host this year will be pleasing news for many! We cannot wait to welcome him to the stage later this year.”

Sales boosted by ‘confident customers’

UK Total retail sales increased by 4.1% in August, against a growth of 1.0% in August 2022. This was above the 3-month average growth of 3.6% and in line with the 12-month average growth of 4.1%. Food sales increased 8.2% on a Total basis over the three months to August. This is above the 12-month average growth of 8.0%. For the month of August, Food was in growth year-on-year.

Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Exec of the British Retail Consortium, said: “Retail sales in August improved, particularly on July’s poor performance. Sale of non-food products had their best month since February, particularly for health and beauty products as retailers continued to invest in new, exciting brands. The sales figures reflected the improvement in consumer confidence in August...Not all areas benefitted, clothing and footwear saw weaker

growth as families held back spending on children’s uniforms and other back-to-school goods until the last minute.”

News 7 Garden Centre Retail October 2023

Data released last week by the HTA shows clear consequences that accelerating a ban from 2030 to 2026 on UK tree and plant growers using peat will have significant environmental and economic impacts. The reduced timescale will more than halve the number of growing seasons to complete extensive trialling to changes in crop production techniques leading to counterproductive outcomes contrary to the Government’s Environmental Improvement Plan.

HTA members’ insights already show that a fast-tracked peat ban could lead to a shortage of 100 million plants and trees immediately following the ban’s enforcement. This scarcity will have knock-on effects on green

spaces, gardens, and streets across the UK, impacting the country’s natural landscapes. Furthermore, one in three suppliers to amenity customers expect disruptions or withdrawals from supply agreements and contracts. Garden centres also anticipate gaps in product availability by 2027.

Now, an economic study commissioned by the HTA from independent economists at Oxford Economics indicates that expediting the ban to 2026 would lead to a staggering £541 million reduction in Gross Value Added (GVA) and a £124 million decline in tax revenues. Moreover, it could potentially result in the loss of 12,000 jobs.

This news comes as we approach the one-year mark since the Government published the response to the consultation on peat sales for horticultural use.

Politicians visit Aberdeen garden centre to address industry challenges

Ben Reid Garden Centre and Nursery in Aberdeen had the privilege of hosting two distinguished political figures last week. On Thursday, 31 August, Stephen Flynn, Member of Parliament for Aberdeen South and Leader of the SNP in the House of Commons, visited the garden centre. His visit aimed to shed light on the pressing issues confronting the horticultural industry in Scotland.

Stephen Flynn engaged in a productive discussion with Simon Fraser,

the director of Ben Reid Garden Centre and Nursery, delving into topics such as the use of peat by commercial growers, plant health concerns, and the challenges of importing plants. They discussed the Horticultural Trades Association’s active lobbying efforts with Defra and the Scottish Government to address these critical issues.

Simon Fraser commented: “We were pleased to support these visits as they help highlight the vital role that horticulture plays in our communities and the active engagement of politicians in addressing the industry’s challenges.”

Horticulture and landscaping supported contributions of £2.8bn towards GDP and over 64,000 jobs in Scotland in 2019. This has the potential to rise significantly by 2030.

Growth in EV destination charging is opportunity for SME’s

Businesses that install Electric Vehicle (EV) charging in their car parking could recoup their investment in less than a year and enjoy profits in year two and beyond.

How implementing an ERP system has helped Lovania Nurseries

After a 22-year growth period, peaking at a £20m turnover in 2021, Lovania Nurseries has recently implemented a company-wide Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, designed to help the business be more efficient.

Could cryptocurrency be on the cards for UK retail?

Digital currency has its difficulties, but as major brands such as Starbucks and Whole Foods explore how to adopt it, it’s likely that cryptocurrency is here to stay, and it could be the payment method of the future.

How technology can improve the customer journey in cafes and restaurants

The F&B offering in a garden centre is now more important than ever, with catering sales up 21.63% year-on-year according to the Garden Centre Association’s Barometer of Trade figures for April 2023.

News 8 Garden Centre Retail October 2023
Peat ban brought forward will have “negative environmental and economic impacts”, says HTA
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Garden Centre Association members are embracing the challenge of promoting environmental sustainability and responsible practices within their industry. From sustainable sourcing and water conservation to energy efficiency and education, these centres are playing a crucial role in fostering a greener future.

In line with this commitment, the GCA executive committee held a strategy meeting in 2021 to come up with the policies that would be required to move the Association forward.

The GCA agreed to work with the Horticultural Trade’s Association (HTA) on their sustainability



improvements to our supply chain can be made. With the necessity for businesses above a certain size to begin recording their carbon footprint, a group of member garden centres have joined the Planet Mark sustainability certification initiative for measuring this. Then, through involving all staff, and indeed customers, aiming for a minimum reduction of 5% every year.

A key benefit of being a member of the GCA is that you get an annual, unannounced inspection from one of our four independent inspectors and an important, and ever-expanding section of the currently 218 points scored, is on environmental and sustainability practice.

This includes not only their policies but also practices. This section has its own award, currently sponsored by Savills and named after the late Paul Cooling, who was a passionate supporter of protecting our environment.

to achieve the best chemical free results. Some centres are also embracing the concept of ‘slow gardening’, encouraging customers to choose plant varieties that require fewer resources.

Water scarcity is a pressing issue, and centres are playing their part by promoting water conservation. Most centres provide guidance on watering techniques, such as drip irrigation systems and proper mulching. Centres are also increasingly investing in energy-efficient technologies. The implementation of LED lighting systems, solar panels, and energy-efficient heating and cooling systems not only decreases energy consumption but also sets an example for customers to follow suit.

roadmap and support the HTA representing garden centres, when speaking to government regarding future policies.

Several webinars have been organised, attended by approximately 150 different member businesses, and discussions have been had with the Garden Industry Manufacturers Association, GIMA, for further collaboration on how

One way garden centres are demonstrating commitment to environmental responsibility is through sourcing sustainable products. In 2020, a meeting was held between GCA members and suppliers at Harrogate Christmas Fair to discuss supply issues and achievements. Many centres are now prioritising suppliers who adhere to ethical and environmentally conscious practices. Additionally, garden centres are increasingly focusing on offering organic and pesticide-free gardening solutions. The GCA has just launched new modules in its GROW e-learning platform on sustainable pest and disease control to give staff the confidence to advise customers on how

Some centres have even gone a step further by employing renewable energy sources to power their operations, showcasing their dedication to a cleaner and more sustainable future.

About Peter Burks

Peter Burks, CEO of the GCA, is a fully trained horticulturalist and has worked in directorial and senior management roles for over 40 years. Peter helped set up/run the multi-award-winning Sanders Garden World in Somerset. He also became regional manager of the South West for Wyevale Garden Centres, and general manager for Trelawney’s in Cornwall, as well as managing Fermoy’s Garden Centre in Devon.

Opinions 11 Garden Centre Retail October 2023




Sustainable gardening

Burgon & Ball agrees that sustainability will continue to play a major part in product development and consumer buying decisions moving forward.

Managing director, Rainer Schubert says: “It’s much more than a trend, but the need to build sustainability into products is stronger than ever. Retailers look for sustainably produced products because it’s the right thing to do for their shoppers and there are usually environmental standards that buyers have to observe when selecting ranges.”

Its latest RHS-endorsed range of brushes minimises its environmental impact at all stages, with natural fibres; recyclable plastic

elements and recycled content; plus, production and shipping options selected for their reduced carbon footprint.

Another trend the company identified is gardening in a changing climate. Shifting weather patterns are bringing hotter or wetter summers, while summerlike conditions are now extending well into the traditional autumn period. Catering to this change, Burgon & Ball puts the spotlight on two climate-resilient flowers from the Asteraceae family: China aster and coreopsis in new additions to its top-selling RHS Gifts for Gardeners series.

In 2023, Germie – winners of the 2023 GIMA Innovators Seed Corn Fund –

successfully capitalised on the sustainable gardening trend, as its innovative seed growing kits hit the right chord with customers. “The environmentally friendly and reusable nature of our kits has contributed significantly to our success this year, reflecting the strong resonance with sustainability-focused customers,” says founder Eric Baudouin.

He continues: “Looking to 2024, we foresee a continued emphasis on sustainability and expect the demand for products that enable individuals to grow their own plants to increase.”

Robust recycled materials

Consumers are increasingly drawn towards products made from recycled and recyclable materials, particularly when they boast outstanding longevity and performance. This is a big part of Primeur’s eco story, with its

Opinions 12 Garden Centre Retail October 2023

offering of market-leading recycled rubber products and is something the company will put an even greater focus on in 2024.

“Sustainable materials are key,” says Primeur’s Sarah McLafferty. “But people also want products that offer good value and have a long life, whilst being safe for use around children and pets.” Tapping into this demand, Primeur’s collection of non-toxic and virtually indestructible recycled rubber garden borders, stepping stones, decking, and planters are predicted to have another strong season ahead.

Tierra Verde planters are being launched in a brand-new eco material for the 2024 season, while market feedback and early orders indicate that the award-winning recycled rubber Play Tiles Primeur debuted at Glee are set to be best sellers in 2024.

Following in-depth research into the pot market, AMES has launched Apta Lightweight planters, which are constructed from recycled materials, offering frost and UV resistance, and are designed for indoor and outdoor use. Even better, the pots will be fully recyclable at the end of their life. The shapes, sizes and finishes are based on preferred choices amongst consumers, resulting in a range that will have greater mass appeal. Two collections will initially launch the Lightweight range: Weben with its ‘woven’ designs in neutral colourways; and Beton featuring ‘concrete’ planters in the same neutral colourways.

Modern rustic

The modern rustic trend continues to garner attention and Burgon & Ball expects this style to remain popular in 2024. This no-fuss aesthetic combines practicality, a love for the

beauty of materials, and a nod to industrial design. “We’re exploring this look with the latest additions to our Sophie Conran for Burgon & Ball collection,” says Schubert. “The seed organiser and two indoor watering cans perfectly showcase the textured beauty of galvanised steel.”

Tapping into this love of natural materials and a rustic aesthetic is Deco-Pak with its Country Bond and Essentials ranges, which are “tailored to customers seeking the latest garden design trends”.

Deco-Pak director, Craig Hall, explains: “Consumers will be thrilled by the opportunity to transform their outdoor spaces into elegant, stately home-inspired havens. The Country Bond range will allow customers to create paths and driveways reminiscent of grand estates at an affordable price.”

Welcoming wildlife and getting growing

As gardeners embrace more sustainable products and practices, Taylors Bulbs found its newly-launched Wild Garden range for 2023 –featuring a mixture of naturalising bulbs and pollinator-friendly varieties – to be very popular indeed. The firm’s Garden Great Collection range has also grown in sales year on year, with examples such as ‘Bee & Butterfly’ and ‘Snowdrop’ collections emerging as bestsellers. Meanwhile, grow your own products, such as seed potatoes, onion sets and garlic are continuing to prove very popular. Taylors

Bulbs saw high demand for its “Plant Now for New Potatoes at Christmas” seed potato packs this summer and early indications are showing customers are very keen to get their spring 2024 GYO requirements booked early.

Moving indoors, house plants are still very much “having a moment”, say Natural Plant Food Company founders William Tuer and Alistair Wannop. The company predicts continued interest in indoor gardening, driven by millennials. They add: “Indoor gardening is so accessible. Plant influencers are playing a huge part in this, combining their indoor plant knowledge with interior design skills to elevate a space.”

As novice growers recognise the value of feeding houseplants regularly to support healthy growth, the Natural Plant Food Company’s Tend Indoor House Plant Feed comes into its own. “We’re expecting it to fly in 2024,” they conclude.

About GIMA

Garden Industry Manufacturer’s Association (GIMA) is a membership organisation of around 150 members representing the majority share of suppliers and manufacturers in the UK gardening industry. Formed in 1999, its goal is to promote commercial, trading and industrial interests of UK and EU based companies. GIMA is run by a small team of dedicated professionals and governed by a council of members.

Opinions 13 Garden Centre Retail October 2023

Ethos and Eco-excellence

When I am asked about sustainability within the garden centre industry, I feel that the solution is about much more than adding insulated walls and solar panels, controlling food waste, or deciding where to source plants from. We all appreciate that sustainable support comes in the form of product selection which considers plastic packaging and sustainable product choices.

We work with garden centres and builders every day, and site development and building are a key focus of our work, and increasingly includes sustainable options in development plans. While the last few years have seen garden centres continuing to focus on the environment and sustainability, the focus of retailers’ efforts is shifting into new areas.

The message is getting across to business leaders that the environment is a pivotal factor in the messaging and brand of a business and includes the need to demonstrate considerations of the recycled/resale market, the use of technology in sustainability, and adherence to regulations and frameworks.

According to the Deloitte 2023 CxO Sustainability Report, many chief experience officers rated climate change as a ‘top three issue’.

The report highlighted that:

• Climate change ranked ahead of seven others concerns, including innovation, competition for talent, and supply chain challenges. Only economic outlook ranked more significant.

• T he majority (61%) said climate change will have a high/very high impact on their organisation’s strategy and operations over the next three years.

• S ome 75% said their organisations have increased their sustainability investments over the past year, with almost 20% saying they have increased their investments significantly.

As the public interest rises, driven by such things as David Attenborough highlighting climate change concerns on TV, and increased activist awareness, most of us continue to seek solutions to live in a more sustainable way, including using fewer of Earth’s resources.

The garden centre industry and its customers have had a number of issues with some unsustainable practices, including the use of peat in compost, plastics in plant pots and packaging, and the use of mains water to keep the garden and planteria plants alive, all of which have an environmental cost, but I often wonder

how can a garden centre be more sustainable through its team?

One way is to engage with the team and encourage an environmentally responsible mindset as part of ongoing business development, increasing staff awareness and engagement in identifying and working toward sustainable goals, which also can have large benefits. According to Cultivating Capital, in addition to the financial benefits that sustainability practices such as energy conservation provide, studies have found that employee retention, productivity, and overall engagement all go up.

Paul Polman (ex-CEO of Unilever) wrote an article on ‘engaging employees to create a sustainable business’, identifying reasons to include the employees in sustainability plans. This is relevant across many industries, and he noted that there were a number of aspects to consider, including:

• Defining the company’s long-term purpose – to erase the conflict that people sometimes

14 Garden Centre Retail October 2023

feel between their work duties and their personal values is to stress the longterm interests of the company in a sustainable approach.

• Spelling out the economic case for sustainability – to help employees see the economic case for operating in a more sustainable way is not always easy, but it is crucial; otherwise, people will think that sustainability is just about “doing good” and not also about “doing well.” A good example of this might be as simple as turning lights off or not having all gas burners on in the kitchen.

• Creating sustainability knowledge and competence – Sustainability affects all aspects of a business, from energy consumption to procurement. To bolster the “can do” belief and attitude among employees, it is important to invest in educating employees about sustainability as well as to create systems and processes that make it easier for employees to integrate sustainability into their business decisions, such as supplier negotiation.

• Making every employee a sustainability champion – at Unilever, as part of leadership development, the most senior executives were encouraged to identify their personal purpose in life to help them shape their future career at the company. We already see environmental champions in some garden centres, and this is something I personally feel helps in delivering ongoing aims for sustainability.

• Cocreate sustainable practices with employees – which is another important way of embedding sustainability in a company’s ethos and to engage employees in the cocreation of sustainable practices. Businesses already offer rewards when an employee develops a good idea and often these rewards are outweighed by the benefit to the garden centre.

• Make sustainability visible inside and outside the company – several social cognition models point to the important role that visibility plays in changing people’s beliefs and attitudes and influencing behaviour. Measuring and communicating progress on key sustainability indicators will attract positive customer perception.

Sustainability isn’t something new, and I believe that it is something everyone in the team can, and should, help with. From the owners of a garden centre through to the buyers and shop floor team, and on to the shop floor, everyone can play their part in driving this environmental focus forward.

As with most initiatives, leadership and endorsement of this message comes from the top of the business and trickles down, and a positive culture is essential to properly focus on this.

I am confident that the garden centre industry is a leading light in the UK for sustainable business aims and is in perfect alignment with the products being stocked and the brand perception from our customer base.

So, my question to garden centre professionals is: “If you are not being sustainable, why not?”

About Andrew Burton Andrew works for garden centre and farm shop business strategy and rural planning specialists Malcolm Scott Consultants. He provides commercial, operational and business development experience and commercial advice to clients in the retail and catering sectors. Andrew now sits on the Farm Retail Association Council, having previously been on the Garden Centre Association Board.

15 Garden Centre Retail October 2023
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Garden Centre Retail catches up with Steph Bates, sustainability lead at Yorkshire Garden Centres, a collection of four sites, to discuss training, investment and recycling policies to make sure the group is working towards sustainability targets.

There was a time when a garden centre’s core offer could be said to consist of little more than the products that it sold. Customers essentially expected a decent range of topquality merchandise, available at competitive

An interview with Steph Bates


prices in a welcoming environment. And successful operations gave them precisely that, nurturing the business model that has served the industry so well up until to the present day.

While it would be fair to say that things haven’t changed that much – the above certainly still holds true, after all – garden centres are now becoming increasingly defined by more than simply what’s on the shelves. For instance, they often now represent a particular kind of lifestyle concept, with businesses at the

top end becoming synonymous with the idea of ‘luxury’ living.

Possibly even more profound than this development is the way in which garden centres have become increasingly equated with concern for the environment. This is no surprise, particularly given how close the concept of ‘sustainability’ is to gardening as an activity. Or to put it another way: gardeners are literally looking after the Earth (or indeed, the earth).

One UK business which has fully embraced this ongoing shift in identity is Yorkshire Garden

Features 17 Garden Centre Retail October 2023

Centres, which has recently accredited its own in-house sustainability training for staff. According to its lead in this area, the move was prompted – at least in the first instance –by the moral case for change. Business benefits soon followed however, with the move positively affecting everything, from overheads to staff morale.

Four sites

The story of Yorkshire Garden Centres begins in 2015, when owners Mark Farnsworth and Tom Megginson acquired Tong in Bradford. “With investment and ambition,” says the YGC website, “[Tong] was transformed, and the team grew quickly to deliver a muchimproved shopping experience, as well as a new restaurant, food hall and outdoor playground.”

The acquisition of Tong was followed by new build Tingly in 2022. Otley and Bingly, also located in Yorkshire, was then aquired afterwards.

Giving an overview of the business, its sustainability lead, Steph Bates, said:

“Yorkshire Garden Centres is made up of four sites, with Tingly opening in September of last year.” According to Steph, the new site was “designed to be sustainable in as many aspects as possible. It’s a key area of our business, something which we refer to as ‘climate and community’.”

She continued: “I was brought in last February to lead on that aspect of the operation, essentially to map out the path to our goal of being carbon neutral by 2026. Within that, we wanted a very structured approach, focusing on things within our control.

“We wanted to acknowledge that there were some things [we were doing] that weren’t fully sustainable. We want to do the right thing, both for our planet and in terms of the impact that we have on it.”

As well as the design of the new site in Tingly, another

area of the business where sustainability is a key focus is staff awareness. This is most apparent in YGC’s Carbon Literacy Training scheme, which was launched earlier this year.

Describing the scheme in a statement released at the time, a spokesperson for the business said: “The team at Yorkshire Garden Centres has developed the training programme in conjunction with the award-winning Manchester charity: The Carbon Literacy Project.

Features 18 Garden Centre Retail October 2023

[This is to] equip its 509 employees with the skills to contribute to becoming a carbon neutral business.”

The statement continued: “The Carbon Literacy Project is based on the premise that in order to cut carbon emissions by the kind of reductions demanded by science, then the culture needs to change alongside technology.”

Discussing what the company’s commitment to the environment means in practical terms, Steph says that as well as the training, current strategies include investment in irrigation systems, as well as innovative approaches to energy management, paper sourcing and so on.

Over the course of the last year meanwhile, they’ve looked specifically at food wastage, with Yorkshire Garden Centres having pledged its commitment to zero waste landfill.

According to Steph, a big part of this is a concerted effort to turn food waste into energy and fertiliser, making sure that it’s “handled sensibly so it can be recycled.” The company also recycles its oil, in order to create biofuel.

One further area of the strategy centres around the disposal of unwanted plant trays. Discussing this in particular, she says: “It’s taken us a while, but we’ve found a local supplier that can take them without the operational complexities of having to have them washed. That’s the part which is the real challenge for garden centres.”

wanted to acknowledge that we are a Yorkshire based company, and as such want to do as much within the local community as we can. We’ve clearly defined how we go about that, for instance, with our charity of the year.”

Sustainability training

Moving on to the sustainability training itself, Steph says that it has grown out of a desire to “give the team the knowledge to understand what’s happening with the climate, and the impact that it has on them in this environment.”

She explains: “The training helps to give staff motivation and encouragement to [become proactive] when it comes to sustainability.

“For instance, at the end of the sessions, everyone makes two pledges about how they’re going to reduce their carbon footprint. One of these is focused on them as an individual, with the other being more focused on the group.

“We’ve had lots of ideas so far, for instance the roll-out of sustainable travel policies. We’ve also got people creating food waste best practice groups, information from which can then be shared with all our catering. That includes things like ordering, storage, rotation, and so on.

every one of us, as well as the futures of our children. Right now, we’re at a pivotal point where the changes need to be made. We can choose to watch people make those

The above is part of what Steph refers to as the company’s ‘sustainability’ pillar, of which the other three include ‘people’, ‘love nature’ and ‘community’. The latter, as will probably be no surprise, encompasses the work the company carries out within the local community. Speaking of this, Steph said: “We’ve always

“Some of our people are also pledging sustainability messaging throughout their instore displays. For instance, staff are currently working on a ‘pledge shed’ which communicates the pledges which have already been made. The shed will also show customers what they can buy in-store to help them with their own sustainability journey.”

As mentioned, the core driver behind Yorkshire Garden Centres’ commitment to sustainability is the moral case. The business simply thinks that it’s the right thing to do. Asked why the sustainability piece is important, she explains that: “Honestly, it’s going to impact

changes and slowly join in, or we can pave the way ourselves.”

She continues: “Our original driver really was just that the team cared about this. It came from a place of collective passion. Plus, people now align garden centres with that ‘love nature’ messaging.

“Everybody needs to be doing this, and we need rapid change fast. In my opinion, the education about how we can actually make a change isn’t shared enough. People need to be able to connect on a personal level.”

As solid as the moral case is however, at the same time there are clear business benefits to adopting this approach. In the first instance, this consists of the ways in which the cost of actually running the business is anticipated to come down.

“One of the things we’ve noticed is that sustainability goes hand in hand with economic

Features 19 Garden Centre Retail October 2023

savings in the business,” she says. “It’s not been our primary motive in all this, but there’s a business sense to it as well.

“We’re not currently in a position to track the anticipated savings, but it’s certainly something that we’re looking to do. We did an on-site audit, and we estimate that we could make a 10 to 20 percent reduction in energy consumption by installing meters.”

The other business benefit of course is the opportunity to tell customers what they’re doing, thereby incorporating Yorkshire Garden Centres’ stance on sustainability into its overall offer.

Discussing the marketing aspect in particular, Steph says that they do indeed share the story of what they’ve done, whether that’s via instore messaging or blogs on the website. “There’s definitely a commercial angle to doing this well and sharing it with your customers,” she says.

The UK garden centre sector currently feels like it’s in a process of constant evolution, prompted in large part by external challenges (not least climate change). Yorkshire Garden Centres’ approach could easily be considered an exemplar when it comes to this aspect of business.

Features 20 Garden Centre Retail October 2023
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Up in the northeastern corner of Scotland, 15 miles from Aberdeen, is a small harbourside town called Stonehaven which is famous for its Hogmanay fireballs ceremony, Dunnottar Castle, and now, one of Britain’s leading garden centres in sustainability: Kirktown Garden Centre.

Here, manager Colin Curran discusses solar panels, electric vehicle (EV) chargers, and sustainability from a garden retailer’s perspective.

Investing in solar panels

Kirktown Garden Centre was bought by the Gammie family in 2000. For the family, whose background is agriculture, the garden centre seemed a logical next step in growing their business. The mindset of guardianship of the land whilst encouraging and promoting growth of the natural eco-systems, as well as investing in the future of the environment, has been the basis for both farming and gardening for generations.

More recently, the importance of sustainability and protection of natural resource globally has become clearer with a particular need for focus on renewable energy.

Fast forward to today, and KGC is investing over £84k in the solar project, which includes 97 new solar panels and a full kitchen refurbishment – showing commitment to ensuring the business is sustainable as a service and employer within our local community for years to come.

Benefits of their installation

Garden centres are at the forefront of sustainability, and KGC is keen to promote new methods of operating in the industry. We initially invested in solar panels in 2019 in a move to create a more sustainable operation. The original panels, 37kW capacity, showed great success in lowering use of fossil fuels and therefore lowering emissions. This further investment in solar energy will increase capacity by a further 39kW per hour, and is estimated to reduce CO 2 emissions by 247,500kg over the next 20-year period.

How are garden centres leading the way?

Maybe I’m biased because I hear about it more, but when you speak to others in

the industry, the word sustainability comes up all the time. It’s almost being thrust down our throats, but not in a negative way. It seems to be at the forefront of everything, especially in the last two to three years – such as with peat free compost. As garden centres, we seem to be driving it a lot.

Is there a cost-related advantage to installing solar panels?

There is a benefit in reducing energy costs, which has impacted significantly in operational costs to the business over recent months. The solar project energy cost saving of around £10k annually allows the owners to further invest in the future of the business.

Features 23 Garden Centre Retail October 2023

The solar panels will produce a substantial cost saving in energy usage across our restaurant and garden centre, and whilst the project is incurring huge investment costs, it is predicted a return on this investment will be generated within seven years. And most importantly, it will allow us to increase our environmental credentials.

Has there been financial aid from the government or is it self-funded?

This has all been self-funded by the centre. The directors are fully funding this. They’ve investigated some of the aid that is available, but there’s

been nothing that would suit our needs regarding that.

What was the process in setting up the solar panels: Did you approach a company or were you approached? And did you know what you wanted?

Jim Gammie who owns the business, has done it on a farm recently, so he had good knowledge of what was needed and who we could use – but we did look at other options. We went to the company that he used for his own farm. That was a tried and tested company, and he was happy to go with them. We initially used a company who came in and gave us ideas on how to save money or reduce costs as well as advice on what products to use – whether that’s taking out old fridges and freezers, upgrading them, etc. One of the things they came up with was the solar panelling. We also looked at wind and other options to generate power.

You’ve also installed some EV chargers –what’s the thought process behind that?

The EV chargers are being provided as a service for customers and the local community. Many more customers are now driving electric vehicles, whilst very few rural areas have easily accessible charging points in any volume. KGC will have six charging points which can be accessed 24 hours. It is hoped that these may drive new visitors to the garden centre and restaurant as a stop off for those on longer journeys. These will be operated by an external provider called PoGo.

We were approached about a year ago from one of their representatives, and after looking at a few other options, we felt that this was going to be the right fit. They will have full control of the chargers paying us an annual rental for the spaces.

What was the investment from the centre in these chargers?

That has been all done by PoGo – we have had no expense on that at all. This was one of the factors for us, there was no outlay from the garden centre at all and basically, any issues –if there are any – is on their part. It’s for them to make sure they get it up and running in time, or that it’s all maintained in a timely manner. It takes it out of our control in a way; it was one of the key things that we wanted to do when we were looking into this, and we didn’t want to add more pressure to the team in the garden centre. So this is definitely a great addition to have.

Features 24 Garden Centre Retail October 2023

Was this a proactive decision?

Yes. Where we are, there are not many charging points. There’s one main one in the centre of the town. I’ve been with this business two years, and when I came in, I wanted to see in what ways I could change the business, increase footfall coming in. We looked at this for the first

One probably 60 miles down the road, who already has it, and another one north of us that is looking to do it as well. They liked what we were doing – whether they went ahead with it or not, I’m not sure.

We did speak to two other centres as well, and we’re also part of the HTA. Having sat at some of the meetings, you hear about how some of the centres are doing it and some are not right now. Everyone has their own opinion on what is the right and wrong way to go about it – it’s a minefield to be honest.

Are there future plans for further investment?

year, but there was quite a lot of financial outlay. We were then approached by two parties that wanted to do the install for free, and this was the better way of going for us. We pushed it in the last 8-12 months.

How has the reaction been from customers?

We are fortunate at KGC to have a very loyal, local customer base who are eager to commit to supporting the future of our business. We are always keen to update our customers with changes we are making in KGC and overall, these are well received and favourable.

Did you look at other garden centres for inspiration?

We spoke to a couple of other garden centres locally.

Has sustainability always been a pillar of your business?

Garden centres must continually assess recycling and waste ethics. We have recently completed a full review of our waste processes: we recycle plastics, cardboard, cooking oils, metals, aluminium, wood, we also invested in a baler last year, and we are using more energy efficient lighting. The restaurant kitchen has already been refurbished with new induction and all electric cooking, as well as an upgraded refrigeration with better energy ratings.

We wanted to go bigger with the solar panelling, but we weren’t allowed to. That will probably be something we look at again when legislation changes. We also looked at backup batteries for the panels as well – the recommendation was to leave it for six months or a year and see how we get on. If we then want to go with the backup, that will be the time to look at it, when we know what’s coming in and going out. There are still more tweaks we can make, such as improving lighting throughout the centre. We also do our own watering, so we will look into utilising the water coming off the roofs of the centre and storage for that too.

Whatever is in store, Kirkham Garden Centre seems to be making strides in becoming an environmentally conscious place for both the industry and its community.

Features 25 Garden Centre Retail October 2023

University by Dr Geoff Whiteley. It is made from wheat straw, is an earthy brown colour has a neutral pH and lasts on the surface for up to two years.

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What does the

Plastic Packaging Tax

mean for garden centres?


The Plastic Packaging Tax (PPT) came into effect in April 2022 to encourage the use of recycled rather than new plastic within packaging. This cornerstone of the government’s environmental policy was expected to drive up recycling rates by around 40%.

While recycling is proving more popular with consumers and businesses, we still produce excessive amounts of plastic waste. Currently, only 16% of plastic waste is recycled to make new plastics, while 40% is sent to landfill, 25% is incinerated and 19% is dumped.

With 8-12 million tonnes of plastic ending up in our oceans each year, it’s time to turn the tide and examine the possibilities and potential to change or adapt the everyday products we all use in business and at home.

The role that packaging plays in reducing product waste has the potential to result in a positive environmental impact on a global scale. We all know that there is no future in limited resources and according

to Zero Waste Europe, the time has passed to “recycle our way out plastic pollution” so this needs different thinking and a joined up approach to reducing and managing plastic waste, moving more towards a circular economy.

Has the PPT Worked?

So over a year on, has the Plastic Packaging Tax achieved the intended outcome? According to a recent article in Garden Centre Retail recycling rates have actually decreased, so this expected change of behaviour does not seem to have happened. However, as far as consumers are concerned – despite the current cost of living crisis –sustainability is still just as important and a key factor in deciding where to shop. According to a recent report by American Express, now is not the time for retailers to lose focus on making advancements in ethical and sustainable business practices.

How can garden centres affect change?

With increased sales so far in 2023 overall, garden centres are showing strong recovery. But with continued concerns on water prices, scarcity of supply and the focus on responsible water use, the sector certainly has its own challenges. Coupled with the expectation that they should

undertaken by garden centres such as using capillary matting to reduce water consumption and plant loss, or using perforated pallet wrap to


transport plants with recycled content driving down plastic use or switching to a peat-free plant medium can go largely unnoticed by the shoppers in store.

Where you can make that noticeable difference tends to be at the till point. Having a range of environmental conscious POS is your

27 Garden Centre Retail October 2023

chance to get noticed and appreciated in the right way.

Get carried away with carriers

And it does not always have to be paper. There are pros and cons for both, just make it clear to your customers why you have chosen what you have. Below are some reasons that show the “right” choice isn’t the same for everyone.

When paper is right for you?

• 100% safely biodegradable

• 100% reusable

• 100% recyclable

• Can have FSC accreditation

• L ess environmental impact at end of life

• Avoids PPT costs

When plastic is right for you?

• Can contain recycled content

• Are 100% recyclable

• Very durable – can be used up to 43 times

• Takes 4x less energy to produce than paper alternatives

• Potential to have greater environmental impact at end of life

• Avoids PPT costs when containing 30%+ recycled content

If you think only plastic will do for dealing with wet or newly watered plants for customers on the way home, kraft wet strong plant carriers are just the trick for paper plant carriers and boot liners.

Sustainability will continue to drive innovation with new products that are better for the environment. A new range of biobased carriers or bioplastics (bio bags) using ingredients such as corn starch, sugarcane and potato starch or compostable materials, are all derived from renewable sources. These polymers behave exactly like their plastic counterpart with none of the environmental impact.

Compostable bags need to be certified OK HOME Compostable, just as paper bags need official FSC certification if purporting to have evidence of this complete chain of custody. Compostable bags can be completely broken down into a nutrient rich compost but crucially this needs to be possible at home, not an industrial facility and hence it’s so important to check for the OK Home mark. Using this type of material helps to reduce our continued reliance on fossil fuels.

The bag for life and jute bag options are designed to be more durable and longer lasting which also means they are a great option for investment for branding purposes. They really win when it comes to capacity, strength and reusability and again come in a range of materials as well as recycled textiles which ticks the environmental box.

About Acopia

We have been working in partnership with garden centres nationwide for over two decades with brands such as Blue Diamond, Dobbies, Garsons, Frosts, Notcutts, and RBG Kew to name a few. Being able to provide our garden centre customers with a variety of sustainable options is important to us, as well as the sector as a whole. If you would like to learn more about what we can offer, contact Letitia Kerkham at

28 Garden Centre Retail October 2023 Features
All photos ©Jonathan Fridlington Photography
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It is widely accepted that the UK has a significant food waste problem. In this country, approximately 9.5 million tonnes of food are sent to landfill from various stages of the supply chain including production, processing, distribution, retail and in the home.

The Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) says that the UK is targeting a 50% reduction in food waste by 2030, and the government has set a 20% reduction target by 2025. New legislation will be in place by the end of 2023, and implementation of the new food waste legislation in England requires companies to revise their food waste management and disposal practices to ensure compliance.

The legislation, which follows the passing of the Environmental Act in 2021, aligns

How can garden centres WASTE? FIGHT FOOD


with the UK government’s goal of eliminating food waste to landfill by 2030, as stated in the Waste and Resources strategy for England (WRAP).

All food waste producing organisations in England must adapt their current practices to meet the new legislative requirements by the end of 2023.

This means that UK businesses must not throw their food waste into their general

waste bins in order to prevent it from going to landfills.

In Scotland and Northern Ireland, businesses are already legally required to have a dedicated food waste bin if they throw more than 5kg of waste away each week.

30Garden Centre Retail October 2023 Features

Tips on reducing food waste:

• Conduct a waste audit: Start by conducting a waste audit to understand the types and quantities of food waste your business generates. This will help identify specific areas where waste can be reduced.

• Source reduction: Minimise food waste at the source by improving inventory management, purchasing practices, and production planning. This includes accurately forecasting demand, avoiding overstocking, and using just-in-time inventory systems.

• Donate surplus food: Establish partnerships with local food banks, shelters, or charities to donate surplus edible food. This can help ensure that excess food is put to good use and benefits those in need.

• Implement portion control: Train staff to practice portion control and serve appropriate portions to customers. This can help reduce plate waste and ensure that customers are not served more than they can consume.

• Use an eco-friendly waste management company: Collectors like us will ensure that your waste food is composted or put through the process of anaerobic digestion to turn it into biogas. These methods can help divert waste from landfills.

• Educate staff and customers: Provide training to staff on food waste reduction strategies, including proper storage and handling practices. Educate customers about the importance of reducing food waste and offer tips for minimising waste at home.

Wales is expected to follow suit by October 2023 and England by the end of the year/early 2024.

An area often cited as a stumbling block in helping to reduce waste is the lack of food redistribution – limited infrastructure and coordination for redistributing surplus food contributes highly to food wastage. This is where certified B Corp social impact company Too Good To Go comes in.

“Every day, delicious, fresh food goes to waste in food businesses up and down the country – just because it hasn’t sold in time” explains Sophie Trueman, country director for the UK and Ireland. “The Too Good To Go app lets partners sell this food in a Surprise Bag – for a reduced price that’s fair for them and the consumer –to save it from going to waste.”

Currently, Too Good To Go is available in 17 countries across Europe and North America, making it the world’s largest food saving

app. To date, Too Good To Go has saved over 200 million Surprise Bags from being wasted globally. And in the UK alone, the community has saved 28 million Surprise Bags of food from being wasted.

There are around 80 garden centre sites partnered with Too Good To Go in the UK, including Dobbies Garden Centres and British Garden Centres, the latter having launched a partnership in August this year.

“Too Good To Go is always looking for new partners to join our mission to fight food waste together. We work with any business that has food going to waste, so are always on the lookout for new partnerships,” says Trueman.

“It’s incredibly quick and easy to get signed up – many businesses start saving food the very same day. All businesses need to do is register their interest via our website and a member of our sales team will then be in touch to walk you through our platform and get your schedule set up fully.”

As soon as a business is live on the Too Good To Go platform, they can start saving food waste that very same day. Businesses simply update the app to show how much

31 Garden Centre Retail October 2023 Features

surplus food they have available to sell each day – or they can set a scheduled supply if they have more predictable levels of food waste. Rather than listing individual portions of food, businesses fill a Surprise Bag with food that hasn’t sold in time, setting a reduced price that’s fair for them and the customer.

“The concept is simple,” explains Trueman. “Customers search the app for local stores with surplus food available, purchase their food via the app (all payment is handled securely through the platform) and are given a time to come and collect it which is pre-set by the business. Upon arrival, the customer simply swipes their receipt in the app to confirm their collection and takes their Surprise Bag home to enjoy.”

And the benefits go far beyond profit, although that plays a part. The Too Good To Go app helps turn unsold food into opportunity. Consumers can access great food at great value, knowing that this one small action has made a difference for our planet (saving one Surprise Bag helps to avoid CO 2 e emissions equivalent to 440 smartphone charges).

“It’s a win-win-win for businesses who can reach new customers and drive their brand reputation, recover the otherwise sunk costs of food waste, and further their sustainability goals by reducing the amount of food going to waste,” concludes Tureman.


Too Good To Go is a service with a mobile application that connects customers to restaurants and stores that have surplus unsold food. The service covers major European cities, and in October 2020 started operations in North America.

32 Garden Centre Retail October 2023
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team will be in touch.
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A recipe for growth – sustainability in garden centre restaurants


As garden centre catering continues to evolve, it is essential for restaurant owners must keep up with evolving and sustainable trends that consumers are now turning to. The drive for restaurant sustainability is more than a fad and as the effects of climate change manifest themselves, it is the responsibility of restaurant managers to mitigate their environmental impact.

The Environmental Act 2021 states that separating food waste is mandatory for UK businesses, and you are no longer permitted to put food into general waste and send it to landfill or incineration. Restaurants have been coming up with innovative ways to recycle excess food.

Hillier is one garden centre which aims to work innovatively, sustainably, and with integrity across every aspect of the business, including within all of its 19 restaurants and coffee shops. Dan Williams, Head of Restaurants, told us that: “In 2018, Hillier initiated a contract with BIFFA to monitor the amount of waste being produced. Through a customer portal, Hillier can see exactly how much waste is being sent to recycling each year, which is then reported back to Planet Mark.

“Waste is disposed of in clear bags to ensure full visibility and sales data is provided to restaurant managers to aid plan production. Hillier’s recycling volume has gently increased

and additional recycling streams have been put in place to separate food, glass, wood, green waste, paper, and plastic.”

Donating food locally is an initiative that has also been adopted by Squire’s. Sarah Squire, Chairman of Squire’s Garden Centres tells us: “Our food halls have partnered with local food banks to ensure any surplus food is not wasted. Moving our offer to table service with food cooked to order has had the effect of reducing waste.“

Tong Garden Centre partners with a Yorkshire-based food waste contractor to ensure leftovers are turned into a green energy source and fertiliser as Marketing Manager, James Beaumont explains: “Turning our surplus food into energy results in a closed loop waste system. Last year our food generated enough power for 6.81 homes for a full year, this diverted almost 40 tonnes of from landfill! Our teams are resourceful and do all they can to reduce food waste – creating tasty specials or partnering with local food banks.”

Raglan Garden Centre also uses this natural recycling method. “All food waste is sent to an anaerobic digestion plant,” says Operations Director, Karen Hughes. “This allows us to convert food waste into renewable energy and organic fertiliser, reducing our carbon footprint, whilst feeding future purchases with the best fuel for growth.”

Food waste technology

There is an increasing awareness of the problem of food waste and new technologies are emerging to combat it that garden centre restaurants can make effective use of, with disposers and digesters now banned.

Tumblebug’s Ecobot can dry food waste overnight, reducing the volume by up to 90%,

Features 34 Garden Centre Retail October 2023

producing an output that is a dry, stable, odourless mixture like compost. Andrew Rowney of Tumblebug explained how it works: “The output from an Ecobot is rich in nutrients, and while it is still classified as ‘waste’ and cannot be sold as compost or fertiliser, it can be used as a soil conditioner to improve growing in your nursery and the garden centre grounds, or given away to customers, local growers or the local council.

“Tumblebug is also undergoing trials with UK partners to prove the value of dried food waste as a feedstock to pyrolysis, which, when combined with other organic waste, produces biochar that can be mixed to produce a highperforming growing medium to replace peat in the next generation of compost and fertilisers for commercial and domestic growers.”

At Tong, Beaumont says: “By the summer of 2024 we have plans to fully investigate the

opportunity to introduce watering heating technology into our sites- capturing refrigeration heat and using it to create an onsite source of energy to heat water.”

Elsewhere, Pugh’s Garden Village has made a significant investment in solar panels for its Radyr store in northern Cardiff. The business has now installed 600 square metres of solar panels and over a year these panels will help Pugh’s save approximately 20,000kg of carbon dioxide – this is the equivalent atmospheric impact of planting 10 trees a day!

Over at Hillier, the use of induction cooking has been introduced in all of its redeveloped restaurants to provide power only as needed, when a saucepan is in contact, to reduce energy waste.

Every busy garden centre restaurant produces a significant amount of waste oil. With demand for green products that are produced with used cooking oil, such as biofuels and agricultural feed rising, Raglan Garden Centre and British Garden Centres partnered

Features 35 Garden Centre Retail October 2023

with oil recovery teams to recycle the waste oil produced from their restaurant into biobased diesel.

British Garden Centres uses only sustainably sourced cooking oil in its restaurants and cafes, so it doesn’t impact the environment whilst Hillier’s restaurant teams also use sustainable cooking practices such as batch cooking items in quantities and reusing cooking oil that is supplied and taken away by the same company.



When Raglan refurbished the Sugarloaf Restaurant in 2020, they sourced chairs made from recycled fishing nets, which are now available for sale in-store. The Raglan team also recycle all bottles, jars and broken glassware from the restaurant with the company’s glass recycling forecast for 2023 set to be an impressive 5,000 litres.

Another retailer that is looking to make thoughtful choices on material and design to reduce and eliminate packaging and contribute to more sustainable innovation is Squire’s. Sarah Squire comments: “We have made some small changes across our 16 centres including the use of disposable cartons for takeaway foods which is either recyclable or compostable, paper straws and bamboo cutlery. We have removed single-use condiment offerings, replacing these with serving sauces as required in ramekins, which can be reused.”

Pugh’s has a comprehensive recycling programme in place which Amy Hawkins, Marketing Manager tells us about: “All five of our coffee shops and restaurants recycle 100% of our unused coffee grounds through local Welsh company ‘Grounds for Good’. So far we have recycled six tonnes of coffee grounds which has helped to generate 1,364 KW of renewable energy, plus helped to save around 10.2 tonnes of CO 2 from being produced.”

Pugh’s single-use plastic use has been significantly reduced since using a local dairy for all of the milk in its restaurants. All the milk used in our hot drinks is supplied fresh from a local family-run farm in Newport direct to Pugh’s. By analysing the amount of milk, they use in a year, Pugh’s have calculated that by using fresh farm milk, they save around 30,000 milk cartons from going to landfill every year!

Locally sourced Using locally sourced produce in the restaurant industry has numerous benefits.

Not only does it support the local economy and cut food miles, but it also ensures higher-quality food.

Pugh’s is passionate about turning to its communities and finding homegrown products they can easily source and access, as well supporting a fully accredited living wage

Features 36 Garden Centre Retail October 2023

employers, as Amy explains: “We only use loose Hard Lines Coffee beans in our coffee shops and restaurants meaning we don’t use any plastic coffee pods. Hard Lines Coffee is sustainably sourced and locally roasted only 0.7 miles away from our Garden Centre in Radyr, meaning we are supporting a local, Welsh business and cutting down on our transport miles.”

Squires consciously sourcing locally helps contribute to reducing our carbon footprint, as well as with supporting local suppliers and championing local produce. “Wherever possible we buy local including milk

from dairies as well as products like Sussex Charmer cheese and Hampshire watercress, local gins and drinks on our menus.”

by December 2024, with 25 (15%) of them already certified Carbon Literate. Within the training, the teams at Tong made pledges to reduce their personal and team emissions.


Training and Certification Engaging staff is key to implementing both a sustainable strategy and a message to customers. Tong has accredited its own Carbon Literacy training and equips teams with the climate knowledge, tools, and motivation to reduce carbon emissions and impacts on the planet. All catering teams will be trained

Hillier is also working towards securing their position as an industry leader in good environmental practices. In 2018, Hillier joined Planet Mark to better measure its environmental performance and ensure it is consistently making improvements. Planet Mark is a certification programme that offers businesses the support to understand their impact on the planet whilst helping to build transparent and trusted businesses in terms of sustainability progression. It provides the chance for companies to measure and find opportunities to reduce carbon emissions, energy and water consumption, waste, and more.

Features 38 Garden Centre Retail October 2023
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climate change

How has affected plant choice in garden centres?


Since the 2002 publication of the RHS report looking at the impact of climate change on gardening –Gardening in a Global Greenhouse – the global climate has undergone dramatic change. In this time, the 10 warmest years have all occurred. And with the climate crisis taking centre stage in many political summits, the population of the UK is aware of the need to make changes in their lifestyle.

So, how is plant choice and plant availability affecting garden centres? “Garden centre plant choice is always evolving,” explains RHS senior plant buyer Duncan Mclean. “Customers’ tastes and needs are driven by how they use their gardens. Mediterranean-type planting and containers are not unusual. Exotic plants are increasing in popularity.”

The tendency of shoppers to buy on impulse means that the RHS is seeing a demand for

drought-tolerant plants, even in the height of summer. In hanging baskets and summer container plantings, the boundaries are being blurred with the inclusion of spider plants and tradescantia which would traditionally only be found in a houseplant section, but are now able to thrive outside with proper protection.

Dr Chloe Sutcliffe, RHS Sustainability Fellow, shares: “Drought-tolerant plantings have a role in helping green spaces cope with water

40 Garden Centre Retail October 2023

and higher temperatures at certain times of year. However, climate change will bring much more extreme and chaotic weather in general. So as well as drought, we are also likely to see heavier rainfall and more violent storms and wetter winters, and whilst days of frost may decrease overall across the UK, extreme cold events are still on the cards.”

Following on from this, it’s likely that buying of plants will need to be altered from what’s happened before. Mclean picks up: “Purchasing behaviour is different from how it was a decade ago. Things like trees and fruit bushes would have peak sales in autumn 10 years ago, but now the peak has moved to spring. This trend has been driven by a new kind of customer with a more immediate buying appetite.

“Attitudes amongst growers and retailers have become more adventurous in this time. Mediterranean and Australian natives are more readily available within the market and garden centre customers are positively engaging with these types of plants and the effects that can be achieved by using them. Exotics are more desirable now than ever. Hot summers and cool container plantings lend themselves to banana,

canna, and colocasia. There is also a desire for plants which support wildlife.” And with regards to the traditional plants on sale in garden centres, Mclean sees this changing slightly too.

“Traditional styles of planting and plant types will prevail, but the herbaceous selection may look slightly different to what we have today. “There will be a need for garden plants which are more resilient to extremes of weather. Not just heat but cold and waterlogging. Pots and hanging baskets will have a new persona and sunloving succulents will be more common. Indoor/outdoor type planting will fit with lifestyle trends and biodiversity and supporting pollinators and wildlife will remain in the customer mindset.”

UK gardens

It’s suggested that planting styles in UK gardens may change. Less likely are we to see swathes of wispy shrubs, pops of colour and indulgent borders. “It is difficult to predict exactly which plants will cope and which plants won’t cope with the climatic changes that the UK is likely to see, says Dr Sutcliffe. It’s important that we start building resilience into our gardens so that they are well equipped to cope with a range of future eventualities. This can be done by increasing diversity and redundancy in gardens. Redundancy in this context means having more than one plant doing the same function within

the garden. This way, if they lose one plant due to a climate impact, at least another will remain which supplies a similar function in the garden.”

Natural ecosystems are often capable of absorbing high levels of environmental disturbance before they breakdown significantly, so looking to nature for inspiration on how to organise garden plantings is an idea to be shared. A more naturalistic planting style where plants are intermingled is often more confusing for pests than one where everything is block planted, for instance.

Trying to match plantings to the prevailing microclimate is especially important for limiting the amount of added care they require (and the time and resources that go with this).

Native plants

Dr Sutcliffe believes that, in a hypothetical scenario, some UK native plants could be at risk. “There is evidence from around the world that plants are being forced out of their natural ranges in response to climatic changes already taking place, and on top of this, many UK natives are under threat from other pressures such as habitat loss and invasive species.

“Hypothetically, if climate change continues unabated to the point where native ecosystems are significantly altered, then many native plants could die out entirely in their natural ranges, and some would die out altogether.”

Features 41 Garden Centre Retail October 2023
According to Dr Sutcliffe, until humanity stops adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, global warming will continue, and the climate will become more chaotic, which

will pose major problems for growing plants of all kinds, both native and non-native. Humanity needs to transition to clean energy and develop a more harmonious relationship with nature to avoid the risk that many plant (and animal) species will go extinct.

Dr Elisabeth Larson, RHS Ecosystem Services Fellow, is part of the team at the society that is researching into plant selection for future climates. Dr Larson explains: “The RHS has several projects researching garden plant choice in relation to climate change, pest and disease management and biosecurity, as well as investigating which plants can help mitigate some climate impacts such as heat waves and flooding events. However, this is a complex task, especially as the projections are uncertain and there is no ‘one’ list of plants suitable for any scenario. One project, partly

funded by the Frank P Matthews tree nursery, is looking into which garden trees can provide benefits to gardens and the surrounding microclimate, and under what environmental conditions they thrive or will stop growing/ thriving and providing benefits.”

This, says Dr Larson, is where garden centres can have an educational role to play –keeping the gardening public aware of what’s happening. “The RHS is examining how gardeners can lower their carbon footprints but also how they can have a positive handprint; creating much needed space for biodiversity where insects and other animals can thrive, where plants can draw-down more CO 2 and where flows of water through the landscape are well regulated. In addition, the RHS is advocating for a peat-free horticultural sector, to preserve peatland ecosystems which are

essential as carbon sinks and as habitats for threatened species.

“Garden centres can help with this by advising which species are suitable for different conditions, by looking for opportunities to increase the genetic diversity in the ranges they offer, and by recommending that customers increase the diversity of plants in their gardens.”

Garden centres can find fantastic information and ways to help educate customers and staff. Dr Sutcliffe recommends permaculture design as a place to start from a philosophical perspective since it recommends getting to really understand the ecology of your gardening space before deciding what to plant where.

The RHS also provides great online resources where gardeners can find out about which plants might be best suited to the prevalent conditions in their gardens.

Features 42 Garden Centre Retail October 2023


Timber Displays Limited

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Please contact us for our trade catalogue:

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New and second hand aluminium benching: Fixed, Semi rolling, mobile and sales benches.

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Meet the supplier Waterless Ltd

Garden Centre Retail catches up with Nathan Goodfellow, head of pet products, and Katie Perkins, marketing manager, about their range of pet shampoos and associated products.

Established in 2009, Waterless Ltd is a forward-thinking, science-based manufacturer of eco-friendly cleaning products, designed to reduce the use of water when washing. Based in Swansea, the second largest city in Wales, Waterless creates innovative hygiene products and antimicrobial solutions to help people and pets stay clean and healthy.

Initially set up as a manufacturer of human waterless washing products, working with the NHS to offer solutions for bed-bound patients amongst other sectors, Founders Victor Efford and Jess Efford, owners of four whippets between them, diversified into developing products for pets around 10 years ago. With a business now full of pet owners and pet lovers, each member of staff has known of the difficulty of bathing animals.

Since the launch of this range of products, the business has upped sticks from Gloucestershire to a larger premises in Swansea and has experienced an era of sustained growth over the past couple of years.

And it’s not only the products that lead the way in sustainability, but the business was also created to do good. Perkins explains: “From the start, the owners wanted it to be a very sustainable business. They didn’t want to add to the environmental issues that we already have. It’s always been a factor. With our products aiding in waterless washing, we’re helping reduce water use. With the years, we’re getting more and more droughts, so it was always

our number one agenda.” As other businesses caught up with Waterless, the business was able to develop their sustainability credentials even further.

The product packaging is made with PCR (post consumer recycled materials) up to 100% recycled and recyclable materials, and all products are made in-house with 100% renewable energy.

The products

A water-based product, the range of waterless pet shampoos and conditioners are easy to use, portable and can seep past fur to reach the skin of the pet.

Goodfellow, an admitted sceptic when he first joined the business, explains how the product is used: “The product comes out of the bottle like water, and with a little massaging it in, it lathers up. The fact that the product is

water based itself means it can seep past the fur. You’ve probably seen dry shampoos that are either a powder or a spray in the past, and don’t get me wrong they smell amazing, but it doesn’t clean your pet. Ours seeps down to the skin and then when massaged in, it will bring everything up such as sea salts, blood, sand, fox poo, etc. You then towel it off without the need to rinse.”

Features 45 Garden Centre Retail October 2023
✓ Premium Quality
Barn dried
Dust extracted ✓ 30% recycled content
100% recyclable ✓ 2 & 4 kg bales
Straw available in pond nets Contact us on: ✓ Meadow, Timothy, Rye, Silky Soft or Barley straw

Suitable for all types of fourlegged friends, from horses and cows to ferrets, guinea pigs and rats, the range has three different products: The mulberry product works best for getting rid of tough dirt and fox mess, the coconut version is gentle and kind, therefore good for puppies or elderly animals and a peppermint shampoo has been created to be a natural flea, tick and fly repellent.

There are other products too. “We also have a leave-in detangle spray. It’s basically the conditioner. We have a King Charles cavalier who is prone to mats behind the ear – a common problem for this breed. After we’ve used the shampoo, you spray this in and comb through, which then gets rid of all the dreadlocks as we like to call it,” says Goodfellow.

Sustainable ingredients

All Nilaqua products are water based. For transparency, we list all of our ingredients on the bottles of our Nilaqua Pets range, keeping in mind any pets with sensitive skin. “All of our formulations are blended and manufactured in the UK, removing any importation. We make sure that all cosmetics are developed and manufactured using ingredients approved by the ‘UK/EU Cosmetics Directive’ in such small amounts there is little to no risk of irritation to the pets,” Says Perkins. All waterless ltd formulations have not and will not be tested on animals and are completely vegan friendly.

Goodfellow follows up:

“We try to make sure all our suppliers are eco-friendly and by sourcing ingredients in the UK, we’re keeping our carbon footprint as low as possible. It’s key to us.”

The garden centre sector

Having been hired to develop relationships with various retail sectors, Goodfellow, who has ‘got the ball rolling in the garden centre market’ believes that the sector and the Waterless products would pair perfectly. He says: “It can be a difficult market to crack as this sector seems to be busy all year round, but it’s an area I am having great success in. Garden centres can be a one stop shop. Most of the garden centres I talk to are in the process of launching pet departments. I’ve noticed a lot more dogfriendly garden centres. It could be possible for these centres to set up a DIY dog-washing station on the way in, things like that. I’d love for people to see the potential of the Nilaqua Pets range.”

For further information on the Waterless range of products, contact:

Nathan Goodfellow

01453 357 337

Features 47 Garden Centre Retail October 2023

Products Pet Products


Chicken Bone Broth

Cotswold RAW

Cotswold RAW’s free-range Chicken Bone Broth, with turmeric, is a new addition to the range. The bone broth is a frozen product available in 500ml resealable and recyclable pouches. It can be defrosted and added to meals, or warmed as a separate drink to help revitalise pets. The broth is suitable for both cats and dogs. This bone broth is an easy-to-digest nutrient-rich superfood. It’s a great source of protein, minerals and nutrients which can provide digestive support to dogs and cats, helping to heal and restore gut health.

RRP £10.95 (500ml)

Recycled Bird Feeders

Rosewood Pet Products

This contemporary range of three feeders is from 100% recycled plastic – with each feeder preventing 21 drinks cartons from going to landfill or being burnt; plus, they use over 50% less energy to produce compared to equivalent virgin-plastic feeders. Stylish as well as robust (no more rusty metal or rotting wood) the seed version has a removable feeding port, for easy cleaning, and will accept most seed mixes, sunflower seeds and even smaller suet nibbles or pellets. The peanut feeder will also accept larger suet pellets and nuggets.

The fat ball will accept standard sized fat balls and larger suet nuggets.

RRP £3.50


Let furry best friends unwind with tasty camomile, lavender and valerian root infused wellness treats. Created by ethical pet brand HOWND, these soft and chewy 100% plant-powered treats are naturally low in calories and gluten free. Perfect for fireworks season, car journeys, trips to the vet, and for rewarding good behaviour. A range of five functional flavours is accredited by the Vegetarian (Vegan) Society and PETA Not Tested on Animals.

RRP £2.95

Eco Poop Bags


Made from corn starch these ecofriendly, compostable poop bags are completely plastic free and are a sustainable choice for the eco-conscious dog owner. They not only help the environment but also offer a pleasant-scented experience, with a hint of aroma to disguise those unpleasant smells. Plus, their strength ensures a hassle free clean up. Each pack contains 30 rolls of 15 Eco Poop Bags, providing you with ample supply.

RRP £35.00

Pet Natural Stinky Dog Shampoo


The WildWash Pet Natural Stinky Dog Shampoo uses Lemongrass and Peppermint to naturally remove even the worst odours, including fox poo. This is a great all-round shampoo for everyday use. WildWash uses fully recycled components and all products are made in the UK in a solar powered apothecary. The business carries the Cruelty Free International Leaping Bunny Logo. Kind to pets’ skin, and kind to the planet, pets will love you for it!

RRP £9.95

Products 48 Garden Centre Retail October 2023
DotDotPet are on a mission to disrupt the pet lifestyle category More than just products we are a brand pet parents are drawn to & proud to use on their pets Unique treats, one of a kind award nominated eco towels, amazing shampoos & accessories Our values: Fun, Eco-Conscious, Diversity & Pet First For more information contact us at or visit FEED YOUR DOG AS NATURE INTENDED find us... @CotswoldRAW or #CotswoldRAW COTSWOLDRAW.COM


Staffing Creating a culture

Food gifts Toys

…and more!

Next Issue 50 Garden Centre Retail October 2023
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With you from 25 October

The right choice for the planet

ecofective® are proud to develop products that enable gardeners to make the right choice for both their plants and the planet. With no nasty ingredients ecofective® is child and pet safe, wildlife friendly and kinder to the planet. ecofective® gives gardeners very effective alternatives to conventional chemical garden care products, providing the tools to create beautiful gardens, using the best and most environmentally sensitive formulas available.

The award-winning ecofective® Organic Superfood range provides a multi-action 6 in 1 booster for plants and an organic feed solution that reduces carbon footprint.


Organic Superfood liquid feeds are a new range available for 2024. Promoting bigger, healthier, and happier plants, fruit and veg, Organic Superfood liquid feeds provide great results for gardeners with increased crop yields and bigger brighter blooms! Part of the reason behind these results is due to the ability of Organic Superfood to provide improved root development of plants and supporting plants during stress conditions such as heat, drought and over watering. The new liquid feed range is produced from a blend of natural ingredients, sugars, amino proteins, phosphate and is enriched with seaweed, promoting strong and healthy growth.

ecofective® Organic Superfood for All Plants is a concentrate formula that provides healthy vibrant flowers and bumper crops of fruit and vegetables to include peppers and chillies. ecofective® Organic Superfood for Tomatoes is also a concentrate solution that encourages the plants to take up nutrients quickly, giving results sooner, for happier, healthier, tastier tomatoes. ecofective® Organic Superfood Pour & Feed for All Plants is a ready to use feed ideal for indoor and outdoor potted plants, hanging baskets, and plants under glass. Look after acid loving plants with ecofective® Organic Superfood for Ericaceous Plants. Suitable for azaleas, camellias, rhododendrons, heathers, magnolias, outdoor and under glass grown strawberries, blackcurrants, gooseberries, raspberries, and other edible crops like capsicums (chillies, peppers).


The new Organic Superfood liquid range is available in a new 1.2 litre pouch, which is recyclable. The new pouch also uses up to 70% less plastic and consumes less energy resources throughout its entire lifecycle, compared to that of a rigid plastic bottle.

As well as being more sustainable, ecofective® Organic Superfood 1.2 litre pouches are supplied with a value-added promotion with 50% extra feed, retailing at £7.99. The 50% extra promotion and flexible pouch also features on the new ecofective® Organic Seaweed, a natural growth stimulant for all plants. The 50% extra deal is highlighted on pack so the special offer can be easily seen by shoppers in store.

If you want to help create happy plants and a happy planet contact the Sipcam team - to discuss the expanding Organic Superfood range, the right choice for the planet.
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