GTN November/December 2021 - Garden Trade News, UK

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Thinking outside the box Growing Brand Awareness Over the past couple of years, we have seen an increase in brand awareness. We found a real difference between exhibiting at Chelsea in 2019 and this year. In 2019 we had a small stand and used it as a vehicle to talk to people. The stand featured a map showing all the Dobbies branches (it came not long after Dobbies acquired the Wyevale Centres). Visitors to the stand were less familiar with the brand but the map provided a great way of starting a conversation by asking where their nearest Dobbies was. This year everyone coming to the stand was saying My local Dobbies is… and especially those London based visitors to Chelsea with many of them having been to our Chiswick or Westbourne Grove stores. We were getting comments such as ‘We just dropped in, amazing store, just fantastic’, which is hugely encouraging. We just didn’t expect this level of growth of awareness to happen so quickly – given the nature of Dobbies being a Scottish brand and then developing into a national brand. You would think it would take years to develop that level of brand awareness in the south. But we have been pushing all the right buttons in the right place… with very strong PR pushing our message out there. It is about the authority in what we are doing, helping to re-establish the brand and doing things like Chelsea, and then with these stores as well – awareness has stepped up hugely. We have also been refitting the stores

Marcus Eylees, left, with Little Dobbies colleagues who are a mix of staff from existing Dobbies garden centres plus newly trained Little Dobbies staff.

The range of plants in Little Dobbies meets the needs of new gardeners and houseplant enthusiasts looking for something special

that we acquired from for Wyevale to give them a totally different look and feel. Our Little Dobbies stores are styled in a similar way to provide a joined-up look across our estate.

Changing Trends Now that we have left the EU weirdly it seems that we are becoming more European in our approach to gardening! It has always been the case in the past that when we have seen trends at the European shows you take inspiration from it but you always have to tone it down for a UK audience. Now you can pretty much lift these trends directly – largely a result of social media, especially Instagram. People are now looking to all sorts of countries and styles for inspiration. The renaissance of interest in houseplants continues to be incredible – and this is reflected in our Little Dobbies stores with around 70% of sales being based around this trend. We once dreamed of having per

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capita spend on houseplants as they have in Holland, where houseplants are treated like cut flowers. After usually being at the bottom of the per capita spend table we are now rising up the ranks which is fantastic and we are seeing consumers, especially in the younger market, not just buying a single plant but collecting them- everything from airplants to Monsteras. This younger audience, along with the 3 million-plus additional gardeners that have come on board through lock down are helping to drive design-led gardening. There is a high visual expectation of this audience. The product needs to look good as well as fulfilling the whole nurturing/ wellbeing aspect as well. This applies to other products too, such as pots. Consumers are looking to change the look of their outdoor area across the seasons through the use of different pots. They have more of a clue of the look they are trying to achieve and want to spend the right money to make it look good. We help with this by providing inspiration and combining products, such as plants and pots, adding value with a 1+1 = 4 approach. We have invested in our social media activity and lifestyle imagery to assist with this.

Guiding the consumer We have seen a huge increase in the number of customers that want to garden but don’t necessarily know how to do it. Whether they have an indoor space, balcony, window box or small terrace – it is our role to help them satisfy that urge – that is what it is all about. Customers are keen to do the right thing and when it comes to customer service in Little Dobbies it is key that we don’t use jargon and keep it simple. We make sure that we simplify the messaging and make great use of QR codes to take them to our website to tell them just 2 or 3 points about what they need to do. If customers want more

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