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Dobbies Tewkesbury opens – GTN Interview with CEO Graeme Jenkins

The new team.

Flagship Dobbies o p e n s f or bu s in e ss

After five-years in the making, Dobbies Garden Centre in Teweksbur ry of fficially opened this month. Graeme Jenkins, the retailer r’s CEO, speaks to GTN about his hopes for the new store and the chain for 2023.

Running two weeks ahead of schedule, the ribbon was cut in November by Radio 2 DJ Joe Wiley and ITV’s Daisy Payne to mark the opening of Dobbies Garden Centre, Teweksbury. Covering 70,000 sqft with a 600-cover restaurant, deli and butcher, and employing 100 people, its position, just off the M5 and next to the Costwold Designer Outlet due to open in 2024, promises to make it a mecca for shoppers in the Southwest of England.

The Southwest is very much in the eye of Dobbies with a new Little Dobbies opening in Cheltenham in early 2023. Even though Dobbies has a store in Gloucester just short of 25 miles aways Graeme Jenkins, Dobbies CEO, doesn’t think customers will choose Teweksbury over their nearer store. “We do a lot of customer postcode capture to see where our customers are coming from and actually our Gloucester store tends to serve customers that live to the south.” Graeme is also not relying on the opening of the outlet to bring in customers believing the garden centre can comfortably generate a £7m turnover and secure its place as a destination centre in the Southwest. Added to this are new customers that will come from the 1000 or so new homes being built within shopping radius.

With developer Robert Hitchin Ltd, Dobbies has turned a green field site into a new garden centre with all the latest technology. Solar panels, ground source heat pumps and LED lighting throughout mean it has the advantage of being energy efficient but for all its newness, it also has an air of familiarity. When it comes

to its displays, lessons have been learnt from Little Dobbies stores particularly Richmond, London, where certain categories are blended for the benefit of both. One such example is houseplants and Christmas, which at the Teweksbury store work well together. “I think you’ll see a bit more of that, particularly for spring summer, ” says Graeme.

Offering great value is becoming increasingly important for Dobbies. “One of the was we are going to do this is by expanding the Dobbies private label offer, ” says Graeme. As an example, all of Dobbies Christmas lights are now own branded. It’s value range, signified with the black and yellow livery, was launched this June with just over 1000 products. By spring 2023 this will have risen to 4000 products regularly used by gardeners. These lines have been successful especially in the current economic climate and Graeme says he can see how much people like them because Dobbies has recorded a big shift in its value for money index – now one of the key questions asked in its surveys. Its Net Promotor Score, with gives an insight of its customer loyalty and satisfaction, is currently around 50 and is one of the easiest ways Dobbies compares its performance in this area with other retailers.

L-R Graeme Jenkins, Jo Wiley, Daisy Payne and Sam Field with local school children.

Staffing at Teweksbury

The majority of the 100-strong team at Teweksbury are new and recruited locally with Manager Sam Field relocating from the Cirencestor store. Sam has been with Dobbies since 2008 and will be supporting the staff alongside 20 people from other stores who have been drafted in temporarily to offer their experience. Graeme says Dobbies has had no problems recruiting for the garden centre but like many in the industry has had more difficulty finding people to work in the restaurant.

The first visitors are welcomed into the new store.

Waitrose switch over

Additional to plants and garden sundries, shoppers in Dobbies have also enjoyed buying groceries from a range of products from Sainsbury’s. However it has now entered with an arrangement with Waitrose and seven stores have now switched stocking a tighter and more curated range of products. So far sales have been positive. Graeme says sales of Sainsbury’s products was strong and set a tough benchmark to beat. “But it’s up another 20% with Waitrose,” he says. Dobbies in Boston is imminently changing to Waitrose and overall the move will give Waitrose a presence in 22 new locations – particularly further north of the UK. “They’re all doing really well. When you look at the shape of the basket, you can see that people are shopping a grocery top up. It’s chilled, it’s ambient and shows people are comfortable doing a grocery top up shop with us. We’re delighted.”

Another new development is the launch of John Lewis Click and Collect facility. So far it has been trialled with great success in three stores, with Gillingham in Kent being a standout performer. “This is a good driver of new customers and 67 percent of those using