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Advice & information for garden centre professionals


‘Specialists’ NOMA deliver highest standards!

Impressive range of Christmas trees NOMA is introducing an impressive range of Christmas trees with a new slant on merchandising. There are prelit and unlit in a variety of sizes, colours and styles, and pencil trees in a stylish selection of colours including a new Cappuccino and a Grey. The star of the Christmas tree range will be NOMA’s ‘Real Tree’ - 7.5 foot Nordman Fir that comes in a full net, just like a traditional real tree from a garden centre. The NOMA ‘Real Tree’ has realistic foliage, memory wire so it springs in to position, and it even smells like a real tree with an authentic pine scent that fits in the base. This tree is unlike anything else on the market.

Merchandising solutions With more than 75 years in the business, NOMA’s expertise in Christmas lighting is second to none, and its Christmas 2018 collection is certain to stand up to the company’s highest standards. 2018 promises to showcase an innovative and stylish seasonal lighting collection that is sure to capture your imagination and live up to the NOMA motto of being: Specialists, Not Generalists. The 2018 collection will see more bare wire lighting, vintage style filament bulbs and a range of fun new outdoor characters that are sure to be a hit across the country. The Northern Lights will be making a comeback with new characters, and retailers can look forward to some new modern Neons to make their stores shine.

NOMA has created a host of merchandising solutions to complement the ever evolving range, and an enticing range of purchasing packages to make your Christmas busying even easier. These include moveable shelf stands, shelf ready displays, dump bins and plinths, all stylishly branded to make a Christmas display come alive.

See the NOMA Christmas 2018 range at the Harrogate Christmas & Gift Fair Hall A 09, A22 & A24. Be sure to swing by on the first day for a glass of Fizz and a chance to catch up with NOMA’s enthusiastic and professional team. If you are not able to make it to Harrogate then be sure to visit the stunning Hertfordshire showroom. Walk around the lighting wonderland, explore the NOMA forest and enjoy a Grillstream BBQ lunch in the Leisuregrow Bokkie surrounded by rolling Hertfordshire countryside. To arrange your visit contact your local representative or call on 01462 744 500 or email sales@leisuregrow.co.uk Photography by Robert Mills Photography


Do’s & don’ts of selling a garden centre



An exclusive lookback at the major talking points of a momentus 2017

Advice and information for garden centre professionals

DEC 2017-JAN 2018

Top tips for boosting plant saless


Key to the ‘greatest’ customer service Fron Goch MD Justin Williams reveals all...

Great ideas on raising money for Greenfingers

THE TOP INTERVIEWS People in the news


A great customer experience is key at award-winning North Wales Garden Centre

WELCOME TO THE PLEASUREDOME… GTN’s Trevor Pfeiffer spent an afternoon at Fron Goch Garden Centre in Caernarfon and asked Managing Director Justin Williams why customer service is such a vital part of the business.

They may have won numerous industry honours over recent years, but for the Fron Goch Garden Centre team it was scooping GTN’s Greatest Gold Award for Customer Service that topped the lot. And it’s no wonder that they did. In the words of the judges “every time we visit the team are happy and helpful. Their level of service, quality of display and point-of-sale information is so good you just can’t help smiling all the time you’re there.” So what is it that makes this team so successful, and how can other centres look to emulate the Fron Goch magic? “It’s really tied up into the way the industry has changed,” said Justin Williams. “Twenty years ago we were a task-focused market garden and nursery, and we had to think about how productive we were with our time. We used to go around telling staff not to speak to the customers too much. “But we’ve changed massively into a

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Placing a Customer Service Desk near the exit has worked wonders at Fron Goch.


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GTN’s Greatest Garden Centre Consumer Service Team of the Year. leisure industry. Customers visiting garden centres today want an experience. So we are here to give people pleasure and everyone in the business needs to understand that. “We have to continually put the customer first and give them a really great visit. We have become a place for families and friends to meet – a place of celebration, really.” As a result of this change in focus the type of people working at Fron Goch and the training they receive has moved on too. “We’ve had to change the training from task-focus to service-focus but we’ve also made sure we’ve got the right sort of staff,” said Justin. “We are lucky that we don’t have to hire anyone really for their skills because we can teach them. You can have the best RHS expert in the world but if they hate working with people it’s not going to go down very well. Instead we’ve focused on staff who love their job, and love to help others. They need to be naturally empathetic, smiley and happy.” Justin, who mostly likes to advertise for staff via his existing customers, added: “The empathy element is a hunch. I often just sit down for a cuppa with people. I am looking for warmth. That is really important in our industry - warmth. You must let them speak and listen to how they talk about things.” Winning awards is playing a part in attracting the right staff too. “I’ve been astounded in the past couple of years how much awards play a part in successful recruitment,” he said. “People want to work in a place that is winning awards, aspiring towards quality and excellence.” Justin also focuses on the lifestyle experience each staff member seeks. “If it is their second job they may only want to do 18

to 22 hours a week, say in six hour shifts, so I might have to fit it in around specific times to suit them. “We are often moving people’s hours or roles depending on their health, home situations, and level of performance. It’s important to sit down and acknowledge all of these factors – if they’re loving their job then you’re on to a winner. It comes across to customers and the rest of the team and it creates that magic zone of happiness.” It certainly sounds like a recipe for a successful business – but where does this great passion for service stem from? Justin said: “It comes from our childhood and upbringing from our parents, their urge to do the best they can for people and how important reputation is to us. “Our service attitudes have changed over the years but that underpins it. When you come to work, and you’ve got a single-site family business, it’s not only your work it is also your pride and joy. You really want other people to feel that too. It’s not about money – it’s really about everything that has been built up by yourselves, your parents, and your staff. Continued over the page

Fron Goch have taken their catering to the next level, winning multiple Greatest Awards.


THE GTN TEAM Editor: Neil Pope neil.pope@tgcmc.co.uk Associate Editor: Mike Wyatt mike.wyatt@tgcmc.co.uk Director: Trevor Pfeiffer trevor.pfeiffer@tgcmc.co.uk Publisher: Mandy Davies mandy.davies@tgcmc.co.uk Advertising: Alan Burdon alan.burdon@tgcmc.co.uk Ben Greenwood ben.greenwood@tgcmc.co.uk HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Tel 01733 775700 or email subscriptions@gardentradenews.co.uk Subscription rates UK: £145 Subscription includes a password for full access to GTN Online plus a weekly copy of GTN Bestsellers OUR PUBLISHERS GTN is published by Potting Shed Press Ltd, who also publish: * www.gardentradenews.co.uk website * Weekly GTN Xtra and Pet Trade Xtra newsletters * Garden Radio * Official Glee Catalogue and Glee Daily News Online – the only official guides to the garden industry’s leading annual trade show SMALL PRINT All material © Potting Shed Press 2017. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form whatsoever, either for sale or not, without the express permission of the publishers. The information contained in this publication is published in good faith and every effort has been made to ensure its accuracy. Potting Shed Press Ltd cannot accept responsibility for any error or misrepresentation. All liability for loss, disappointment, negligence or other damage caused by reliance on information contained in this publication or in the event of any bankruptcy or liquidation or cessation of the trade of any company, individual or firm mentioned, is hereby excluded.

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“We’ve always aspired to only stock products that are good and help us to build a solid reputation. However, there’s no doubt the catering element has completely changed the emphasis for our customers. They aren’t coming just to solve their garden problems any more, they are coming here for a positive emotional visit and it’s important that we make their time here as pleasant as possible. We have to think carefully about their needs, be they elderly or visiting with young children for example. “People aren’t just celebrating birthdays here. They are often celebrating being well enough to come out again, a first day out after being confined in their home for a lengthy period. They can receive a huge psychological benefit from coming here and that is so important to us.” With all these factors to take into account, how does the company go about measuring and monitoring its customer service? Justin replied: “One of the best ways is to shadow some customers around the centre, staying just within earshot. It’s a great way to hear some home truths. We have mystery shoppers of course, which help us in understanding how we are doing, and with social media you get a lot of free advice. “One of the best things to have is a customer service desk, not just near the entrance but at the exit too. If you can catch people at the end of their visit it’s a great way to get feedback. “We’ve set this up as a new customer service desk position this year, and it’s been fascinating to see how much we’ve been able to intercept and turn around any small issues

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that may arise. “Or customers may want to congratulate you and that does happen often. I had someone congratulate me this morning on the way we dealt with a breakfast issue, which we solved promptly, swiftly and without fuss. It would have been better for the problem not to have arisen, but they were particularly impressed with the way we handled it and of course I got that feedback from wandering around the centre. Thank goodness for my smart phone because I seem to spend most of my office time walking around the shop floor. If you are there you are going to get talked too.” In the past we have learned how the catering team at Fron Goch has been taught to pre-empt as many situations as possible. “In our training we try to use our knowledge of what happens on a regular basis and of what people’s needs might be to try to preempt given situations. When our customers walk out saying “my word that was good” that is pre-empting in action - it’s not solving something that has happened, it is engaging and using our knowledge to bring about the best situation we can. “Sometimes staff might say it is a bit boring at the tills or in a certain role, but if they fully engage there is actually a lot to think about. They need to get talking to customers, chatting to them and bringing in a level of personal context, not just reeling out ‘did you find everything you are looking for today?’ We try to do that in a personal way, by noticing the customer’s situation and making an effort to pre-empt whatever they might need or want.”


If you want to deliver awardwinning customer service you need to: 4Only employ people who smile and are happy to engage with customers 4Do your office work on your mobile while walking around the centre “listening” into conversations 4Use a mystery buyer service 4Offer exceptional products and services 4Have a customer service desk that can also be used by customers on their way out of the centre.



JO WILKINSON Head of Communications and Insight Westland Horticulture

How long have you worked in the garden industry, and did you start with Westland? I have worked for Westland since February 2012. This was my first job in the horticultural sector, however I grew up in a gardening family. My dad was a horticultural lecturer and spent the last 25 years of his career at Wyevale Nurseries. So even as a teenager I remember visiting Glee and helping dad lay out plant displays. What did you do before that? I have worked in marketing for 20 plus years – a mixture of both agency and client-side. I worked in food marketing for Weetabix and Muller and spent six years in the States working for a branding and innovation company – I even did a stint working for Compare The Market on meerkat advertising. Is it true you visit garden centres and talk to customers as part of your market research at Westland? Yes that’s true, part of my role involves discovering consumer insights, so garden centres are a great place to find gardeners, many of whom are keen to tell you all about their experiences. Do you tell the people you’re from Westland Horticulture? The first thing I do is make sure that the manager of the centre knows I am there

and is happy for me to ask questions. I don’t always tell people that I work for Westland at the start of the conversation – I don’t want this to influence what they have to say. I’ll explain that I’m doing research to understand what they think or feel about a certain topic, and if I’m filming re-assure them that I won’t post the video on YouTube. But after they’ve shared their thoughts with me, then I will let them know who I work for, if they are interested, or if I can give them a bit of advice/guidance. Has the feedback from these trips shaped future planning? Yes most definitely. I am always on the look out for trends and insights that will guide our strategic thinking. The conversations I have are complemented with information from other sources, but I also work with outside agencies on projects that require a more rigorous approach. What’s a typical working day look like? Wow, no two days are ever the same. Today I started off with a de-brief from an external agency. We had been testing advertising ideas for our new product Resolva Pro. We had lots of positive feedback with a few ideas on how to make our advert work even better. Like the SafeLawn Lawnman advert from last year we have something really exciting underway which I’ll look forward to telling

you about soon. The rest of the day has been busy feeding back on media proposals, working on new video content and planning for our integrated communications plan. What’s it like to work for a company like Westland? I love working for Westland. We have a great team of people all working with a passionate determination to bring joy to all gardeners. My job is to champion gardeners, inspire their urge to grow and help them make their gardens even better whatever their ability, experience or project in hand. It’s hard work, but fun if you’re up for a challenge. Do you enjoy gardening yourself? Yes, but like so many people I speak to my outdoor space would definitely be classed as work in progress. I am a ‘Have a go gardener’. I enjoy planting pots and containers with summer and winter bedding. This is the third year in a row that I’ve grown tomatoes and I’m getting better. I can get frustrated sometimes as my ambition is often greater than my ability – lifting and carrying things around the garden from a wheelchair can be quite challenging… but I’ll have a go. To find out more about Westland Horticulture’s market leading products visit www.gardenhealth.com

Jo has been heavily involved in the Resolva Pro and SafeLawn Lawnman marketing campaigns.

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Have you got plant area confidence? Three great ideas to boost those all important sales. Plant sales have been quite strong for the past 18 months and there is evidence of some much needed re-focussing on our plant areas. That’s the verdict of the Garden Centre Association’s Ruxley Rose judge Roger Crookes. “It was very encouraging to see increasing evidence of ‘plant area confidence’,” said Roger after completing his inspections of GCA members throughout the country. “On my inspections I noticed continued growth in sales of ready planted containers, herbs and large pots of flowering perennials and grasses. Instant colours and impulse

appeal are often the bread and butter of the plant area. “I also noted that bulbs are increasingly visible on the plant area rather than the shop and some centres were offering a broader range of conifers, which were looking great at the end of summer, leading me to wonder if we could see a return to the 1980’s enthusiasm for dwarf conifers. “Many centres had an imaginative use of vertical space and roses were looking particularly good. I also noticed some short and punchy ‘personalised’ chalk board signs dotted throughout various centres,


Attractive use of vertical space at Squires Twickenham.

Ruxley Rose winners to be announced at GCA conference The two winners of the Ruxley Rose, judged to have the best plant areas in the Garden Centre and Destination Garden Centre categories, will be announced during the GCA’s annual conference at The Crowne Plaza Hotel in Stratford-upon-Avon between January 21 and 24, 2018. which when used alongside printed Correx boards and POS cards, helped to add a more personal feel.” Roger also noted that hedging and heathers are two plant groups which seem under promoted in some centres.



Creative use of vertical space and simple chalk board messages make this container display at Perrywood Garden Centre very effective.


A strong presentation and range in the rose department at Stratford. This picture was taken in September.


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Top speakers lined up for GCA Conference Former UK Ambassador Charles Crawford and world renowned economist Roger Martin-Fagg are two of the speakers lined up for the Garden Centre Association’s 52nd annual conference, which takes place in Warwickshire on January 21-24. Garden centre owners, managers and their teams who attend the event in Stratfordupon-Avon will be offered expert advice by Charles on the art of negotiation on Tuesday, January 23. Meanwhile, Roger, who presented to GCA attendees in 2014, will be focusing on making economics accessible for noneconomists and helping management teams think through their strategy during his session with delegates, also on January 23. Iain Wylie, Chief Executive of the GCA, said: “Charles is a highly skilled negotiator and mediation specialist. He draws on 28 years’ experience in the UK diplomatic service, much of it in central and eastern Europe, where he served as UK Ambassador to Poland (2003-2007) Serbia and Montenegro (2001-2003) and Bosnia and Herzegovina (1996-1998). “He is also a well-known commentator on international issues appearing on the BBC, Sky, ITV and CNN, has written for the Independent, Guardian, Daily Mail, Sun, National Review Online and Radio Free Europe and is also on the Daily Telegraph comment team.” Iain added: “We’re delighted that Roger has been able to spare the time to come and speak to our delegates again this year. He was invited back by popular demand. “Roger began his career as an Economist

Roger Martin-Fagg

with the New Zealand Treasury in 1972, then as Economist to the Air Transport and Travel Industry Industrial Training Board. In 1975, he was asked to design and run a postgraduate programme in Airline Management for British Airways, which ran very successfully for 12 years at Thames Valley University. “In 1987, he joined Henley Management College to design, deliver and teach bespoke strategic management programmes. He did this for 21 years, covering all sectors, but with an emphasis on financial services, house builders and newly privatised utilities.” For the past nine years, Roger has worked as an independent Behavioural Economist.

He has a visiting faculty place at Warwick, Ashridge, Henley and Duke Business Schools and has also been External Examiner at The University of Bath, and a visiting faculty expert at the Bank of England and the Institute of Marketing. Roger leads workshops, seminars and delivers keynote sessions and has worked in the USA, Middle East, Russia and South East Asia. “Tuesday is always our day for strategy,” said Iain, “so Charles and Roger will be joining other keynote speakers giving talks on subjects such as the economy, challenges facing business and direction of future market trends with an emphasis on maintaining and enhancing profitability.”

The GCA’s annual conference will be held Crowne Plaza Hotel in Stratford-upon-Avon from January 21 until 24, 2018. More than 300 delegates are expected to attend the event. Places for the event can be booked via the GCA website www.gca.org.uk.

Entrepreneur & Sewing Bee judge backs creativity at GCA conference

Charles Crawford

10 December 2017/January 2018

Patrick Grant, the dapper-suited entrepreneur made famous for his role as a judge on BBC’s ‘The Great British Sewing Bee’ is speaking at the Garden Centre Association’s 2018 conference. As well as appearing on TV, and despite having no fashion experience and being an engineer by trade, Patrick is also the owner and Creative Director of Savile Row tailors’ Norton & Sons. As well as running his own business, he has a wealth of experience and consults for brands such as Barbour and The Kooples, and is an honourary Professor at Glasgow Caledonian University. Patrick bought Norton while studying for an MBA. Back then, the centuries-old business had shambolic branding and variety of different products, but it stood for nothing. Patrick abandoned the sidelines in guns and sporting tours, hired a new, core staff and focused again on doing a simple thing well, making beautiful suits. Norton continues to make only 300 bespoke suits each year and Patrick has since founded a readyto-wear line, E. Tautz and produced a collection for Debenhams.



2018: a year of transition It’s been a strange year, yet for all that an oddly exciting one when you begin to peer into the detail – a year of transition in which the garden industry has continued to adapt, albeit cautiously, to a rapidly changing retail world. There is no doubt that the internet is steadily standing the retail industry on its head, but not necessarily in a predictable way. ‘Clicks and bricks’ has been a trend this year, as online retailers begin to understand why, how and when consumers still like to visit the high street, retail park…or garden centre. Major garden centre operators are sharpening up their worldwide web presence and going transactional. Our garden centres have been relatively slow to embrace cyber retailing, allowing entrepreneurial web traders with little experience of the garden market to get a head start, but they’re

learning fast – driven by the need to court the next generation of consumers, who will demand that the businesses vying for their loyalty are super net-friendly. Dobbies announced their new tie-up with Ocado would enable them to open an online store next year. In garden centres across the UK, plant sales accounted for an ever declining share of turnover, while catering revenues carried on growing. Bents, who opened their first coffee shop in the 1980s, now turn over more than £6 million from 1000 covers at six locations around the centre. New catering facilities swallowed up massive percentages of garden centre development budgets in 2017. For the new Rosebourne group, which announced during the year that it will open its second site at Aldermaston near Reading in Autumn 2018, catering and food sales are as much part of it raison d’etre as the gardening element…if not more so. However, the precarious balance between plants-and-gardening and gifts-and-leisure has clearly been exercising the minds of garden centre top brass through the year. Centres like Notcutts and Coolings demonstrated that ultimate plant quality and horticultural expertise continue to be eminently saleable commodities. And in the autumn, Nicholas Marshall, whose adventures as the new CEO at Dobbies took up many column inches during the year, announced that his new strategy for the chain would put the focus back on plant sales, which he would like to see doubled. Meanwhile, over at Wyevale Garden Centres , CEO Roger McLaughlan announced a new business strategy designed to shore up the 149-centre group’s finances after 2016’s £122.4m losses and what was described as an unsustainable growth strategy (mainly acquisition-driven). With refinancing in place, he wants to deliver a more compelling customer proposition and experience, invest in people, upgrade systems and improve the supply chain process. If that works, observers believe, Guy Hands at parent company Terra Firma will consider putting WGC back on the market. With WGC’s wings clipped, few major independents changed hands in 2017 and many were happy to invest in a retail sector widely admired for its resilience in a

Left: Tax exile Guy Hands, boss of Terra Firma, had to re-finance his Wyevale Garden Centres group, delaying plans to float or sell up. Right: Roundup, a massive earner for garden retailers, faced an EU ban towards year-end but was given five more years in an eleventh hour reprieve. Opposite page: Dobbies hired Nicholas Marshall as CEO to revive the chain’s fortunes. He announced that plants would be key to the strategy.

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struggling economy. Woodborough Garden Centre in Wiltshire became the Whitehall group’s third outlet; the Squires group and Groves at Bridport anounced ambitious plans for new restuarants; and in Northern Ireland, Hillmount added a third centre as it revealed plans to open a new store in an old church at Ards. Significant investment announced by the British Garden Centres Group for its East Durham GC at Easington could see the workforce there grow from 10 to 300. In Scotland, Caulders acquired its fifth centre, at Cupar. On the supplier front, the biggest news of the year was undoubtedly the decision by Scotts to divest its international businesses, which includes Miracle-Gro in the UK. The news that the businesses had been delivered into the well-capitalised hands of Exponent Private Equity LLP was greeted with relief - we should never underestimate just how important the Miracle-Gro brand has been to the UK’s gardening market since Horace Hagedorn brought it here in the 90s, despite subsequent hiccups. Its consistent annual spend on TV advertising campaigns did much to drive footfall and develop sales in garden centres, DIY chains and the high street. Barbecue specialists Weber aimed to do much the same for the al fresco dining market with a seven-figure TV ad spend over the summer. Elsewhere on the supply side, Smart Garden Products demonstrated its hunger for growth under the guidance of Paris Natar by investing £20m in its new Eureka building at Peterborough, designed with a capacity for 40,000 pallets as the company eyes up


an eventual turnover of £100m-plus. Not to be outdone, Natar’s old company, Gardman (also based at Peterbough) completed its new purpose-built distribution centre at Daventry, breaking longestablished links with its previous home at Spalding and promising a better service from a modern, more centralised operation. The transformation of wholesale distribution in the garden industry, forced by the collapse of Solus, has seen both Stax and Decco make strong gains. Stax’s latest win saw them pick up three of EP Barrus’s garden brands – Wolf, Wilkinson Sword and Town & Country (Barrus’s summer acquisition). As if by divine balancing, Decco

announced it had done a deal with Town & Country arch rival Briers. While we’re on the subject of distribution, SBM Life Science, now owners of the former Bayer garden products brands, agreed to market the long-established MaxiCrop brand of seaweed-based growth stimulants in the UK. The growing popularity of seaweedderived products (now sold by Westland, Mr Fothergill’s and others) is evidence of a swing towards ‘natural’ solutions. Westland, Miracle-Gro and SBM all embraced this trend during the year. The year’s wheeling and dealing also feartured diversification; seedsmen Mr Fothergill’s acquired the respected Darlac garden tools buisness, which will undoubtedly benefit from Mr F’s distribution network and marketing strength. Garden centres who do well with chimenea sales will know how much this market niche owes to pioneering brothers John and Simon Goodwin who, aged 21 and 22, set up La Hacienda in 1989 and sold it this summer for $11m to the Griffon Corporation of the US. One of 2017’s most alarming headlines featured the threat to our gardens and nursery industry posed by the potential spread of the deadly bacterial plant disease xylella fastidiosa, for which there is as yet no known treatment. Efforts designed to prevent it from reaching these shores were redoubled, with the HTA launching a major information campaign to help all growers and importers of plants to put detailed precautions in place. The penalty for not being totally aware of the provenance of every plant you buy could well be horticultural decimation. You have been warned. The industry looked on with interest as Aussie operators Wesfarmers began to transpose its Bunnings Warehouse template on a pilot group of Homebase stores, having


trumpeted gardening as a prime element of the new format. The cost of assimilating Homebase, re-positioning product categories and launching the price-fighting Bunnings brand in a tight market resulted in big UK and Ireland losses early in thye year and a warning that profitabilty could be a long haul. Once again, the garden industry showed itself to be a formidable charity supporter.. The organisers of Garden Re-Leaf Day said the annual spring fund-raiserand PR campaign had rasised more than half a million pounds for Greenfingers since the inaugural event in 2012. Notable individual exploits included a courageous aercfraft wing-walk by Haskins garden centre group buying director Conna Powles, raising £6,200. No review of the year is complete without a mention of Glee. The 2017 edition garnered plaudits from visitors and exhibitors alike, with many proclaiming it to be the best for years. The new Retail Lab feature was a resounding hit. As the show closed, we learned that it is to re-locate to different halls in 2018, when there will also be a miniGlee at February’s Spring Fair. The industry lost two respected names during the year. Stephen Pickering, who worked for Wyevale Garden Centres at York from 1994 until his retirement in 2012, died aged 70 after a six-year battler with cancer. He was one of the first employees at Challis of York in 1964 and was known throughout his career as “Steve from Challises”. Alistair Lorimer, who died during the summer, had also battled cancer. A highlight of his 30-plus years in the garden centre and plants industry was his contribution to the development of the award-winning Blooms Bicester Avenue project. He later successfully turned his hand to consultancy.

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Through the looking glass We asked key garden industry figures what change they would like to see in 2018... Jonathan Stobart (left) Managing director, Smart Garden Products I hope that the Government and its various advisers, along with their European counterparts, at least agree to a two-year minimum transitional period for Brexit as quickly as possible, with little or no change from the status quo in that timeline. Whatever one’s own position for or against Brexit, I believe that continued uncertainty itself is the worst of all worlds, and at least a clear plan with a meaningful delay will likely give a boost to the economy. It will also give important planning time for all those who import and/or export to make the necessary and considered decisions for their businesses over the medium and longer term. While this is not unique to the garden industry, the impact of Brexit is considerable in our sector due to the significant volume of product, whether plants or hard goods, which is imported from outside the UK. In addition, any worries about slowdown in the economy could of course have negative impact on retail sales, especially when inflationary pressures are creeping ever more into the economy. Despite that, I remain upbeat about future prospects since the gardening industry has consistently proved itself to be very robust and able to adapt to changing economic circumstances. Moreover, a good dose of sunshine and a royal wedding can only help too, and at least one of those is now guaranteed!

Chris Ramsden (right) GIMA president 2017-18 2018 looks set to be another challenging year. Judging by our recent GIMA survey, all our members are experiencing severe pressure on their cost bases due to currency fluctuations and sharp rises in the costs of raw materials. Suppliers and retailers alike should therefore openly recognise these factors and work together to mitigate the effects as well as possible. I am aware this is already happening in a number of cases. Our survey also demonstrated a surprising lack of forward planning for Brexit. This may be understandable given the picture is far from clear at the moment and it will inevitably be some time before a conclusion is reached. Nevertheless suppliers need to start planning now, whether that be to explore further export opportunities, currency contracts or even to look at the bigger picture of where and how they trade. We should also perhaps be more vocal with the relevant Government agencies in an effort to define our ideal outcomes, rather than just simply waiting for it to happen. GIMA is well aware of its role in this regard. There are other pressures and changes going on, of course, but whatever is thrown at us, I have no doubt that together, this industry will continue to thrive and to delight customers with the products and services we offer.

Nick Burrows Chief Executive, Notcutts Garden Centres

14 December 2017/January 2018

Julian Winfield CEO, Haskins Garden Centres & GCA chair 2016-17 We are so lucky in our industry to have been able to change so much over the years and to stimulate our customers to come back and spend more, thereby evolving our shop floor and customer offer beyond all recognition. The two examples of innovation that stand out are the development of our restaurants and Christmas departments and in more recent times, and on a smaller scale, the introduction of branded clothing and the development of solar lighting. These are great examples of product categories that have created new and exciting areas for our customers. My wish for 2018 is that we find the next innovation or inspiration for our customers and keep evolving our business. The need to do this has never been so important with the potential harm that Xylella could do to our plant business, our garden care sales increasingly under threat from the regulators and costs that keep going up etc. These are negative things that we do not have much control over but, with the support of our suppliers, we must continue to evolve what we offer to our customers. 4Turn the page for more views...

2018 must be a year when we see garden centres building their reputations increasingly on exceptional service, expert advice and brilliantly selected ranges which inspire our customers. It’s definitely about plants and gardening first – but with other categories following close behind. It’s likely to be a year for careful navigation of uncertain economic and market conditions.... but also one in which future vision for the sector should stay confident and progressive. For us at Notcutts, we look forward to a number of garden centre redevelopment and upgrade projects – all part of our longer term strategy to make our centres true, quality destinations in their local markets. Our restaurants in particular are becoming increasingly important. We will be focusing on strategies to increase our online business too, as our brand moves into a new chapter. Celebrating successes will also be a big part of 2018 - we have great employees and terrific partnerships which we will recognise and headline throughout the year. Our local communities will be brought ever more into the life of our garden centres through events, demonstrations and community projects.



December 2017/January 2018 15


Through the looking glass Adam Taylor (left) Director of Taylors Bulbs & President of the HTA I am very optimistic for 2018. We offer the consumer the perfect products to enhance their health, wellbeing and environment and although we are a luxury purchase, we are also a feel-good purchase also. The flower bulb harvest of 2017 illustrated that nature ultimately dictates and those who committed to pre-season orders that were big enough and were placed early enough were then best-placed to maximise the opportunity that the autumn bulb season presented. The change I would like from a supplier’s point of view is early commitment by retailers to their seasonal estimates. With both my Taylors’ hat and my HTA role in mind, where responsible traders (retailers and suppliers) show they manage plant health to a recognised standard, government must give us freedom to continue to move goods efficiently with our European partners and without unnecessary operational burden. It is also very important to have the mechanisms to welcome Europeans to come and work in our seasonal businesses. We must also continue to seek alternative methods to operate efficiently and minimise chemical inputs. The recent glyphosate scenario is example of how important it is to get to work on what the alternative may have to be in five years time as chemical usage comes under continual review. Where the science is proven, we must react quickly to protect our environment; however, it is vital that we do not inflict on our own growing operations unnecessary changes that may lead to an increasing susceptibility to disease by demanding too rapid a reduction in chemical use without proper investigation of the potential alternatives.

Matthew Mein Glee Event Director The garden retail market is continuing to grow, with product diversification and changing consumer spending habits driving much of this expansion. As a result the role of an exhibition has to also evolve, which is why big changes are coming to Glee! From an additional concession show launching at Spring Fair in February, to an expanded September exhibition, the opportunity for garden retailers and suppliers to grow their business with Glee has never been so achievable. Look out for a relocation of the main exhibition. Providing a bigger footprint, Glee 2018 will welcome even more brands, and is set to be revitalised and refreshed. This expansion will allow for Glee’s feature content to also expand. The Retail Lab will be returning, showcasing future trends and arming retailers with inspirational ‘takeaway’ content that will boost business in 2019. The New Product Showcase will also be taking centre stage, with core product sectors benefitting from an update that will reflect Glee’s commitment to growth. The launch of our Spring Fair concession show is also a hugely exciting prospect. A unique move, this additional event has been introduced to match the gardening, outdoor living, gifts, and design-led products buying cycle, which often priorities Spring. This ‘additional Glee’ is designed to inspire retailers, enable them to source new and bestselling ranges, and refresh ranges ahead of key retail spikes. Additionally, Glee’s Spring Fair presence will increase the show’s visibility and encourage buyers to also attend the September show, giving our exhibitors an additional sales opportunity in the year. 4Preview of Glee @ Spring Fair - page 18.

2017 marked the 80th anniversary for Bents.

Matthew Bent (above right) MD, Bents Garden & Home What change would I like to see in the garden industry? A way to control the weather! Plant sales are hugely weather dependent and the Great British weather is one thing that can’t be relied on! People are less likely to spend when the weather is poor which means as a business we are always looking at ways we can encourage our customers to keep coming back. We have successfully diversified with new departments and next year we will continue to develop Bents as a leisure destination, somewhere people can spend the day come rain or shine. Our dining destinations and events calendar will continue to be important elements of the Bents experience as will the launch of our extended adventure golf course, which proved very popular this year. The experience economy is growing at a higher rate than retail and we need to tap into this market when we enter a more challenging retail environment, which is why another key focus for 2018 will be our online offering. Websites are often the first point of call, especially for potential new customers, so we have invested into and launched a brand new site which we believe provides a flavour of what can be found in-store, encouraging those customers who like to carry out research at home to visit and experience Bents for themselves.

16 December 2017/January 2018


Take part in Garden Re-Leaf Day on Friday, 16th March 2018 Great ideas for raising money for Greenfingers Charity - pages 24-25


Glee at Spring Fair 2018 Find out more from Matthew Mein, Event Director Why has Glee added an additional show at Spring Fair? Glee at Spring Fair has been introduced for a simple reason – Spring Fair is the UK’s No 1 Home and Gift Fair, so the audience is already there, ready and willing to do business. Garden centres are already attending Spring Fair, with owner/ operators and gift buyers out in force. Glee’s aim is to encourage other category buyers from across the gardening spectrum to maximise their attendance at Spring Fair. Taking place from 4th-8th February, Glee at Spring Fair will give retailers the opportunity to see new and bestselling ranges ahead of the spring season. A second edition at this time of year will give retailers an additional destination to refresh their ranges for key retail spikes and also provide garden buyers with the latest concepts and trends for 2018, helping them to direct their buying. What shape will it take and what content will it have? Glee’s concession will be located within Spring Fair’s Hall 3, located alongside popular product sectors such as Christmas Gifts, Floral and Seasonal Decorations (Hall 2), and Greetings & Gifts (Hall 3). It will be a concession that will deliver a selection of some of the best products from some of Glee’s core product sectors, retaining Glee’s signature boulevard aisle, highly-recognisable branding and with core gardening at its heart. There will also be a Glee Café, which will act as a hub for Glee’s supporting trade associations – The HTA, GIMA and Gardenex. Offering a wealth of knowledge and benefits, the presence of these trade associations will be a well-attended part of Glee at Spring Fair. GIMA will be bringing its popular Buyer Connect event, helping those exhibiting to maximise their exposure to key garden retail buyers through special speed networking sessions. International buyers will also be able to meet with enthusiastic suppliers within Gardenex’s own International Buyer Event. With 1-2-1 networking meetings set to take place within these two events throughout the exhibition, the possibility for growth from both a supplier and retailer perspective is almost unmatched.

18 December 2017/January 2018

The New Product Showcase – a popular part of the annual Glee September show – will also make its home within the Glee Café. This dedicated area will bring together the most exciting new products from Glee at Spring Fair exhibitors. Who can exhibit? We’ll be welcoming exhibitors from across the gardening spectrum who will showcase products that range from garden decorations, ornaments, statuary and water features, to garden structures and outdoor entertaining. Garden care, where fashion and impulse-buy potential is at its highest, will also be a key feature. To date, we have already secured a number of key brands to exhibit at the inaugural event. Amongst the names confirmed are: Pouf Daddy, Durston Garden Products, Charles Taylor Trading, Design Toscano, Neat Ideas, Darlac Tools, Harrod Horticulture, Apac Packaging, Laurica Plants and VegTrug. How will Glee at Spring Fair affect the main show in September? Glee at Spring Fair will mark an additional opportunity within the buying year. The hope is that buyers that visit Glee at Spring Fair will also earmark the September show as a must-attend event to see what the exhibition has to offer on a much grander scale. What has the response been to the recent introduction? The response to Glee at Spring Fair 2018 has been incredibly positive. Garden centre retailers have been telling the Glee team that with shorter ordering patterns the introduction of Glee in February will be a welcome addition to the buying cycle. The second Glee show will provide an opportunity for retailers to revisit their ranges and see what else is new. Taking

place at the start of the season, the concession show will enable retailers to fill last minute product gaps, ensuring a full provision for the key sales period ahead. Who should visit? Any retailer who wants to maximise sales of garden products in the year ahead – especially those with a strong design focus – will not want to miss out on visiting Glee at Spring Fair. How much will it cost, and how can interested parties find out more? Pricing depends on the size of exhibition space. The Glee team would be happy to discuss individual requirements. Booking space couldn’t be easier - simply contact the Glee team by calling 020 033 2160. Where do I go to find out more? Visit www.gleebirmingham.com for all the latest developments regarding the main September show as well as Glee at Spring Fair 2018.

GTN’s Greatest Award winners to attend Glee @ Spring Fair It has been confirmed that on Tuesday 6th February, GTN’s Greatest Awards Breakfast will be making its debut. This event will see all the winners of the 2017 Greatest Awards – put together by the team at Garden Trade News – meet up for a special networking opportunity. GTN’s Greatest Christmas Awards, being judged throughout December, will also be presented at this special event.



Personal gifts for special moments

The industry responds One of the first brands to sign up to Glee at Spring Fair was VegTrug. The company’s Managing Director, Paul Owen, explains why the February concession show has appealed. He said: “Glee is the only tradeshow we have done this year. We view Glee at Spring Fair as an extra opportunity to speak to people who haven’t ordered yet, but when February comes around are ready to place orders straight away. We are hoping that by exhibiting at Glee at Spring Fair we will see lots of new buyers who are ready to place orders. “I also think that Glee at Spring Fair is the right decision for the brand because it gives us more exposure in the industry, and I think there are still areas where some customers are not aware of us. “We are hoping that by exhibiting at Glee at Spring Fair we can meet and pick up a few more independent businesses as a lot of them already attend Spring Fair. “We are looking forward to showcasing some new products at Glee at Spring Fair, and will definitely use it as an opportunity for exposure and feedback.” Paul’s thoughts were echoed by Dan Durston, Director of Durston Garden Products, who have also confirmed their attendance at the exhibition. He said: “Glee at Spring Fair is another opportunity to get ourselves out there in the market and it’s a great time of year for us. Glee attracts the right people for our brand.”

GiftScribes Gifts Limited has been providing a comprehensive range of high quality Christmas decorations and beautiful piggy banks, directly to the giftware industry, for more than 10 years. The uniquely personalisable ‘Rudolph & Me Inc.’ Christmas tree decorations are beautiful, design-led decorations that can be personalised with hand-written names – by the retailer at the point of sale – to create a personal and permanent keepsake. Surprisingly, the demand is not limited to just November and December. The popular and perennial ‘This Little Piggy Inc.’ range of piggy banks includes both traditional pigs and contemporary

designs made from sturdy ceramic with a hard-wearing glaze and pretty, raised artwork. Together with a selection of other table top decorations and photo frames, the combined range of products totals nearly 400 individual designs. The trade-dedicated website offers online ordering; although telephone orders are welcomed. Meet GiftScribes Gifts at Harrogate Christmas Show in January – Stand Q25. Contact: Linda or Howard Thomas Tel: 01584 811 190 Email: sales@giftscribes.co.uk Web: www.giftscribes.co.uk

No-risk profit opportunity The original in-store media company Neat Ideas provides an exceptional no-risk profit opportunity for retailers. With over 30 years’ experience, Neat Ideas consistently delivers exceptional sales through a combination of innovative products and in-store media promotion. The company offers full sale or return. Everything Neat Ideas does, from selecting innovative quality products to its packaging design and smart in-store media, is designed to ensure maximised sales. “With our in-store media and promotional approach, we ensure that our products offer a more profit per square foot,” says Neat Ideas. Sales Manager: Colin Higgs Email: sales@neatideas.tv Contact: 01476 576289 Stand number: 3D26 – E27A

20 December 2017/January 2018



Santa arrived in style at Squires Garden Centres Santa swapped his traditional sleigh for various quirky forms of transport when he arrived at Squire’s Garden Centres. He arrived on a Double Decker Bus, Horse & Carriage, Christmas Float, in Squire’s Heritage Van, an American Classic Car, and even in Lightening McQueen from the Disney film Cars! Here’s a selection of pictures of Santa arriving in style.


December 2017/January 2108 21


Christmas Top 10s Christmas product sales have peaked earlier and higher than ever before in 2017 according to the GTN Bestsellers Sales Volume Charts. Tracking weekly EPOS data supplied by garden centres, our analysis shows sales of the Top 50 Bestselling Christmas products start racing ahead at the start of November and smashing previous records as we move into December. But what are the changing trends in Bestselling Christmas products? We’ve delved into the GTN Bestsellers archives to bring you the Top 10 Christmas Products in the last week of November from 2011 and 2014 to compare with this year’s crop. Across that eight-year period, personalised Christmas items continue to dominate at the top but this year has seen an influx of Christmas chocolates and sweets that has changed the make-up and contributed to the sales increases.

Find out more about the Christmas Bestsellers trends as well as Bestselling Garden Products, Growing Media, Wild Bird Care and Plants by subscribing to the weekly GTN Bestsellers service. Email karen.pfeiffer@tgcmc.co.uk 2011 UK Garden Centre Bestsellers Xmas Chart Top 10 Week Ending Sunday 4th December 2011 (Week 48) Pos Product description



History & Heraldry Snow Globe Decorations


Russ Berrie Personalised Santa



Premier Battery Operated Eva Snowman 15cm



History & Heraldry Waiting For Santa Stocking



Blue Chip Christmas Coaster 2011



Premier 100 White LED Lights


Blue Chip Christmas Wish List Door Hanger



History & Heraldry Christmas Stocking Badge



Salco Glass Holder with Advent Candle



History & Heraldry Santa Stop Name Plaque




2014 UK Garden Centre Bestsellers Xmas Chart Top 10 Week Ending Sunday 30th November 2014 (Week 48)

2017 UK Garden Centre Bestsellers Xmas Chart Top 10 Week Ending Sunday 3rd December 2017 (Week 48)

Pos 1 2 3 4 5 6

Pos Product Description

7 8 9 10

Product description History & Heraldry Spinning Tree Decoration History & Heraldry Christmas Money Box History & Heraldry Christmas Carousel Charms Premier Colour Changing Xmas Characters 10cm Premier Battery Operated Beaded Garland Casa Grande Christmas Coaster Global Journeys Xmas4Me Personalised Christmas Stories and Songs for Kids History & Heraldry Christmas Tea Light Carousel and Charm Set Konstmide Reindeer, 23cm, Battery Operated Premier Battery Operated Cream Flicker Wax Candle pack of 5

22 December 2017/January 2018

Barcode 886767044750 886767006611 886767021874 5053844047934 5050882343271 630204816772 650922554626 886767022000 7318301582037 5050882084655



Steenland Milk Chocolate Coins 50g



Suki Personalised Angel Ornament



Hometown World Santas Secret Elf Personalised Books



Suki Personalised Snowman/Snowgirl Ornament



Lindt Children’s Advent Calender



Lindt Teddy Bear 10g


Playwrite Christmas Jingle Stick



Jeno Floral Glitter Holly Pick



The Millford Collection Scented Pine Cones



JVL Christmas Machine Washable Doormat





Succession Planning... By Mike Gilbert, Partner, Gilbert Evans

Garden centre property specialists Gilbert Evans and leading accountancy firm Wilkins Kennedy have collaborated on articles advising independent garden centre operators on succession planning. Last month’s advice focused on Inheritance Tax and now Mike Gilbert reviews strategies to step away from the business. For every independent garden centre operator, the time arrives to decide on the best timing to step away from running the business and choose who is best placed to take on the responsibility of the centre operations and its staff. Succession planning is complex and, at times, charged with emotion. Choosing the best option depends on individual circumstances and understanding why an owner is considering succession planning is critical to ensure the most appropriate advice. The difference between a retirement exit from the business and one caused by cash flow issues is significant and different circumstances require different strategies. Our experience as garden centre property specialists has shown that many owners have little idea of the options open to them and anxiety is further exacerbated with the realisation that there is rarely a second chance to get it right. Hence the need for two essentials: early planning and professional advice. There are several routes that can be considered, each with its own set of risks and rewards. Passing a business on to the next generation Life is different to previous generations and whilst in past years one might have automatically passed a business down to the next generation, this is not always the case today for a variety of reasons. 4The next generation may not be interested in taking over the business. 4The business may have developed beyond the capabilities of the next generation. Many larger garden centres are now multi-million-pound turnover retail businesses. No longer are they the small retail nursery/garden centre from which many developed. 4Conflict amongst family members can distract from making the right business decisions.

The management skills required to run such operations are rarely inherited through genes. They are gained through experience. Just because one generation is successful at entrepreneurship, it does not mean that the next will be the same. If the decision is made to pass the business on to the next generation, then seeking early advice from a tax specialist is a must. Gifting a business, inheritance tax and retaining a right to income can all take years in planning. But if passing the business on to the next generation is not an option, what are the alternatives? Employing a management team If retaining ownership within the family is important, employ a management team that is capable of the day-to-day running of the garden centre business, reporting directly to the family board members. The risk is being able to accurately assess the capabilities of the new management team. The rewards include retaining ownership, receiving an income and maintaining control of the strategic direction of the business without enduring the stress of the day to day operational management. Implementing a management contract Putting into place some form of management contract with another existing garden centre operation has significant advantages including benefiting from proven retailing skills,

1 2 3 4

Only one chance to get it right. Plan a strategy.

Early planning is essential to secure maximum value. Remember in some instances it takes seven years to minimise tax liabilities. Work through the issues and take advice. Decisions should be based on impartial professional advice rather than emotions.

5 6

better buying margins and the potential to incentivise performance. A significant drawback is possible loss of control. Leasing the business Leasing removes management responsibility whilst guaranteeing a regular rental together with an initial capital sum for the goodwill of the business. The covenant of the tenant is critical to long-term value and taxation may be an issue so this must be investigated at the earliest stage but the freehold investment is retained and has a value. Selling The final option is selling the business and subsequently investing the capital sum to provide income. This can potentially be very tax effective, particularly if Entrepreneurs Relief is available. With early planning and professional advice, correct structuring of the transaction should minimise any tax liability. Succession planning involves a combination of maximising value and tax planning. As leading garden centre property advisors, we know that succession planning is critical and can take months, sometimes years. Initiatives to achieve the best route can take time to mature. Decisions should be based on impartial professional valuation, legal and accountancy advice rather than emotions.

“Our experience as garden centre property specialists has shown that many owners have little idea of the options open to them and anxiety is further exacerbated with the realisation that there is rarely a second chance to get it right.� www.gardentradenews.co.uk

December 2017/January 2018 23


Kew Green Hotels break the £100k mark for Greenfingers Charity Find out how they did it in our Q&A with the company’s Managing Director Neil Sewell. Tell us about Kew Green Hotels. We are one of the UK’s leading hotel management companies, with a growing estate which currently includes 55 hotels across the UK, from Glasgow to Brighton. Our portfolio includes independently branded hotels, as well as a range of international brands under families, including IHG, Marriott, Hilton Hotels & Resorts and Accor. How did you hear about Greenfingers Charity? Individually we’ve all supported charities in our hotels, however I felt it was time to focus our collective efforts, together as one family, and so I chose Greenfingers. I thought we could make a big difference too. Having canvassed opinion throughout our business it’s fair to say it touched everyone of us, we’re emotionally hooked! You’ve raised over £100k since the partnership began in late December 2016, how did you kick-start the fundraising? In essence we wanted to have FUN and that’s certainly been the case throughout the year. We started with a sponsored water ‘battle’ between our head office and leadership team in December’s icy sea right opposite the Holiday Inn, Brighton. And then working with Linda Petrons (Head of Fundraising & Communications at Greenfingers) we launched an Accumulator Challenge and developed a calendar of events for the year ahead.

Kew Green Hotels CEO Alex Pritchard (left) and Managing Director Neil Sewell (right) present a cheque for £100,000 to Linda Petrons and John Ashley of Greenfingers Charity.

Helen Barker (above), from the leisure sales department, ran an amazing 53 races to raise funds for Greenfingers Charity. Watering cans (above right) donated by Gardman were used as collection boxes.

24 December 2017/January 2018


What else have your teams been doing to raise money and what’s planned for the year ahead? This page really isn’t big enough to list everything, but here’s a flavour. We took part in the 2017 Garden Re-Leaf Day walk, some of us walked 10 miles whilst others did the full 20 miles. We plan to do the same again on 16th March 2018. Helen Barker, from our leisure sales department, took it upon herself to run 53 races for 53 gardens, which is a staggering effort with over 1000km run. Three golf days have been incredible, showcasing the charity as well as being great fun for our customers and suppliers. Following a successful garden party by one of my colleagues, we’re now planning to host parties in our own gardens, FUNdraising with friends and families. We now have an annual Go Green for Greenfingers fundraising day where we all dress in green with wigs, make up, nails, you name it! Gardman have also supported our efforts

GREENFINGERS Neil Sewell, Managing Director of Kew Green Hotels, takes part in the fundraising activities for Greenfingers Charity.

Garden Re-Leaf Day promises to be bigger than ever

by donating watering cans which we’ve turned into collection boxes. Our major franchisor IHG also match funded our efforts during their dedicated IHG Foundation Week. Together we’re making a difference. Has the partnership made a difference to staff and the business? It has made a real difference at every level. It’s brought us closer together as the family of Kew Green Hotels, as we all communicate at one level with a common focus. The value that our teams get from events such as volunteering in the garden, taking part in Garden Re-Leaf Day to running a 10k together has been evident to see. It’s how we work as a team together that counts – it builds confidence among individuals and creates a common vision that gives back to the community. How important is charity support to Kew Green Hotels? We set out to add value to the business,

make a difference to others and enrich the communities of our hotels. Our outstanding charitable efforts to date have made us extremely proud, as we can say with confidence that we are making a difference. Would you recommend that other businesses should partner with Greenfingers Charity? Yes, from the first phone conversation I had with Linda in 2016 to the first meeting with John Ashley (Chairman), Linda and Sally Jenkins (Financial Controller) before our launch to the business, I’ve been impressed by the enthusiasm, dedication and professionalism of the team. Our relationship in this last year has grown to the point that we see Greenfingers as part of who we are and what we do. So give Linda a call and get involved, you won’t regret it. For more information about how you can support Greenfingers Charity, call the team on 01494 674749 or email Linda@greeenfingerscharity.org.uk


Following a fantastic Garden Re-Leaf Day in 2017, Greenfingers has announced 2018’s event will take place on Friday 16th March and with some new exciting events planned it promises to be even bigger than ever. The Garden Re-Leaf Day Walk will take place again and is now open for entries. Starting and finishing at Wyevale’s World’s End Garden Centre, Buckinghamshire, there will be two routes available – a gentle 10 mile walk or a more challenging 20 mile route through the Chilterns. The popular Plantathon will return with Greenfingers Charity calling for garden retailers across the country to pot up as many plants as possible within a 12-hour time frame. Sponsored to plant from dawn to dusk, many garden centre teams have had brilliant fun with this challenge, going on to upsell their pots with a donation from each going to the charity. There are loads of other ways you can get involved. From holding a quiz night, virtual in-store challenge or making a donation from every cuppa sold in the café. However you choose to support Garden Re-Leaf Day, it really is a great FUN way to increase footfall and at the same time engage with customers, motivate your team and raise your profile both locally and in the garden industry press. What better way to start the gardening season? Linda Petrons, Head of Fundraising and Communications at Greenfingers said; “In 2017, a staggering £100,000 was raised, and with your support, we are hoping 2018 will be even bigger. Whether you are a retailer, supplier or lover of all things gardening we encourage you to get involved with our Garden Re-Leaf Day events or organise your own event or promotions to raise vital funds to help make a difference to children and families who spend time in hospices.” You can sign up to take part in Garden Re-Leaf Day in 2018 by visiting the Greenfingers Charity website... www.greenfingerscharity.org.uk/gardenreleaf

December 2017/January 2018 25



Garden centres and nurseries are highly sought after by investors looking for profitable returns on their financial outlays. Here, GTN looks at the process of buying and selling in this lucrative sector of the market.

Do’s and don’ts of selling a garden centre business Alexander Mackie Associates have been established for over 25 years, exclusively specialising in the valuation, acquisition and sale of garden centres and nurseries throughout the United Kingdom. The agents continue to be highly successful, partly due to the company’s reputation and ability to handle the negotiation and sale of businesses in a private and confidential manner. Alexander Mackie Associates thrive on their reputation, recommendations and successful sale transactions, which include the recent sale of The Potted Garden Nursery in Kent to Coolings Nurseries, and Selby Garden Centre in North Yorkshire to the Noble Family, owners of Victoria Farm Garden Centre and Café. We understand further sale announcements will be made in the New Year. Marketing and IT Director, Darren Earnshaw, spoke to GTN about the buying and selling of a garden centre business and how experienced agents like Alexander Mackie Associates can make the whole process run smoothly.

retail sections of our industry. In addition, some existing smaller garden centre operators and some well-known larger garden centre operators are seeking to expand their groups.

Is there a high demand from individuals and/or companies wishing to buy garden centres? Yes, at present there is a high demand from individuals and/or companies wishing to buy garden centres and retail plant centres – currently the demand is far outstripping the supply. More private individuals, private equity companies and venture capital companies are wanting to enter the garden centre and

Why are garden centre businesses attractive? Garden centres and retail plant nurseries are attractive due to the opportunities they provide for excellent profits, providing the centres are well operated. A garden centre with comprehensive planning consents in place is able to offer its customers an extensive shopping experience by selling a large number of varied goods and services all in one place.

26 December 2017/January 2018


Also, as garden centres are usually located out of town, they are able to offer free parking to their customers for an unlimited time. What’s involved in selling a garden centre? The first step an owner should take is to contact Alexander Mackie Associates for a confidential discussion and to ask us to undertake an abridged valuation of their garden centre or nursery. This involves a site visit to their garden centre or nursery and meeting the owner. We will view the premises and collect all the previously requested information we require to undertake the valuation prior to returning to our offices. We will then prepare the

INSIGHT when valuing the business. This is why any garden centre and nursery valuations must be undertaken by an industry experienced valuer. Has there ever been an occasion when an owner’s valuation has vastly differed from your own? Occasionally an owner’s valuation has differed from our own – in many cases our valuation has exceeded their expectations. However on the odd occasion the valuation has been lower than their expectations, we have advised them that we will accept their instruction to sell their garden centre or nursery. However, the maximum we are prepared to market their garden centre or nursery at would be for 10% above our valuation figure. We would suggest to them that we attempt to secure a purchaser at the higher price for a period of three months. If a buyer has not been found during this time we would recommend that the asking price be reduced to the current open market valuation figure at that time.

valuation, which will be sent to the owners in letter form. Following receipt of our valuation, if the owner wishes us to proceed, we will forward our ‘Terms of Engagement’ letter for them to sign and return to our offices. Once we are in receipt of this letter we will proceed to produce a comprehensive sales information brochure. Once they have approved the brochure we will begin our marketing procedure. What form does the marketing procedure take? Initially, we will search our extensive database to see if we can identify suitable purchasers who have already registered with us. Once identified, we will inform them of the availability of the garden centre or nursery. We will add a brief discreet description of the garden centre or nursery to our website, however we will not mention the garden centre or nursery by its name – we will only refer to the county of its location. Should the client so wish, we can of course add a more comprehensive description and also some photographs. Our website is easy to navigate and it’s well known within the garden centre and nursery industry as well as being viewed by a substantial and ever increasing number of interested parties from outside our industry. In addition to our own website we will add the garden centre or nursery to several other websites we advertise on – again, not mentioning its name. These sites reach a broader audience, including additional individuals and companies who are not necessarily within our industry or country. If necessary, we will also advertise in appropriate trade magazines at our discretion. It is worth noting that all of the above marketing costs are borne by our company. Unlike a number of other companies who

charge for these marketing costs upfront. As a result we have an incentive to secure a buyer as soon as possible. What happens if the enquiry is genuine? If the enquiry is genuine we will send the interested party the comprehensive sales information brochure we will have previously prepared. If required, prior to the release of our comprehensive sales information brochure we will obtain a signed non-disclosure agreement (NDA) from the enquirer. When a buyer has been found, their offer in writing has been accepted and their funding has been confirmed, we would draw up a ‘Heads of Terms Agreement’ which would be then sent by us to the respective solicitors. When the transaction concludes, our commission becomes due and payable by the vendors solicitor from the sales proceeds on the date of the sale completion. We charge a percentage of the sale price achieved, which will have been agreed at the outset. Again, by working on a percentage, this gives us a further incentive to secure the best possible price for the business. Our longstanding professional expertise ensures that the sale transaction will be as smooth and stress free as possible. Is there anything unique in the process that’s different than selling any other type of business? Garden centres and nurseries are all unique and their individual make-up can be complex, therefore valuing and selling them cannot be compared to selling other types of businesses. Is there a set formula for deciding how much a garden centre business is worth? Due to the complexity of the make-up of a garden centre or nursery there are a number of factors that are taken into account


In your view is the industy changing? The industry has changed dramatically over the last 30 or so years. In the early days of garden centres, for example, plants within garden centres were the most prominent items to be displayed and sold and they amounted to circa 75% to 80% of the annual sales. However, for the last few years this percentage has dropped quite considerably for the majority of garden centres, to be replaced by gifts, cards, clothing, aquatics, machinery, tools, to name but a few! The introduction of cafés, coffee shops, restaurants, farm shops etc. has been prevalent. We have become more discerning and demanding as customers – for example, requiring more covered heated indoor sales areas, and some form of on-site catering etc. It has therefore been important for retailers to change or enhance their existing offerings to satisfy these customer demands. If undertaken, these changes will hopefully have ensured their continued success within the industry.

If you are a garden centre or nursery owner and you are thinking of selling your garden centre or nursery, now is a good time to place your business on the market. As stated within the article, presently the demand for these businesses is currently outstripping supply. If you would like to talk with Alexander Mackie Associates Ltd. in confidence, please contact them and ask to speak with either Darren or Donald. Their contact details are below: Telephone: 01732 522222 E-mail: darren@alexandermackie.co.uk or donald@alexandermackie.co.uk. Website: www.alexandermackie.co.uk

December 2017/January 2018 27




Another year done – where has the time gone? 2017 has certainly not been without its challenges – Brexit anyone? – but there is no doubt we ended on a high, both as an industry, and as a trade organisation. Looking back over the year there is no doubt that Brexit continued to enjoy its status as the elephant in the room. Despite the government’s lack of clear guidance for businesses, there is no doubt that Brexit’s impact has already been felt, particularly when it comes to the rising cost bases that are continuing to squeeze margins. There is no getting away from these cost rises, and these challenging trading conditions will continue into 2018. However, with inevitability comes the opportunity to prepare. Open dialogue between suppliers and retailers will help avoid ‘surprises’ in the short and long-term. I’m sure that 2018 will also see a focus on the efficiency of the supply chain. GIMA’s role as a trade association also comes into the fore in such scenarios. We’re

here as ‘a shoulder to lean on’, offering the opportunity to network, share ideas and support suppliers of all shapes and sizes throughout the good times, and the bad. Looking back on GIMA activities in 2017, it’s safe to say that we had an action-packed agenda. We picked up two new awards along the way – the Perennial ‘Charity Champions’ Award, for raising 4% of the 2016 Hortaid Campaign, plus silver at the inaugural Award Awards – and celebrated another year of success with another well-attended GIMA Awards. Our wider calendar of events have all seen attendance increase, with our core members engaging with these events more than ever before, setting the stage for further event expansion in 2018. Our buyer relationships have also been strengthened as a result of our Buyer Connect event. A number of high profile retailers have taken part throughout the year, including independent and multiple garden centres such as Wyevale and

Hillview; and high street retailers and distributors such as Wilkos and Decco. GIMA’s membership has remained strong throughout 2017, with diversification the most notable trend. As garden centres continue to evolve, so has our membership. Over the last few years we have welcomed a wealth of suppliers from across the giftware, homeware, clothing and seasonal product sectors, and we expect to see this trend continue in the year ahead. 2017 has also been a year that has seen us work closely with other trade associations, including the HTA. We make no apologies for this as we believe there is real value in organisations coming together to provide a united voice on those topics that affect us the most. The Garden Press Event is one example of how our close relationship adds value for both members and nonmembers. The 2018 event will be our second year at the helm, and we’re excited to showcase a reinvigorated event with a new location, growing exhibitor

list and an even more engaged audience. We’ll also shortly be sharing details of a new joint conference set for late 2018, where we’ll bring together suppliers and retailers to discuss those hot topics that are shaping our industry. We’re also excited to be joining Glee at Spring Fair in February 2018. We’ll be bringing our Buyer Connect event to the show, helping suppliers to maximise their exposure to key garden retail buyers through special speed networking sessions. It’s safe to say that 2017 has been a memorable year, but I have no doubt that 2018 will be even more so. One thing I know for sure is that GIMA will continue to be here for its members, and also that our industry will ride any storm that may pass our way. Here’s to another fantastic year. 4GIMA is here to hear the thoughts and experiences of its members, and would also love to hear from non-members also. Please share your experiences by emailing info@gima.org.uk

GIMA has got its sight set on a another successful year for its members and the garden centre industry in general in 2018. Events like the GIMA Golf and Activity day will again play a big role in bringing suppliers and retailers together.

28 December 2017/January 2018


Profile for Garden Trade News

GTN Dec-Jan 2017-18  

GTN Dec-Jan 2017-18