According to Seabrook...Garden industry faces tough challenges

Walking the avenues at Glee, a leading member of the garden centre world asked where I thought the industry would be in 40 years time. My immediate reply was that there would not be one as we know it today.

His response was total agreement, which quite took me back considering this was coming from a much younger man. The problems are shrinking garden size and price. Consumers are given cut prices by the retailer as the only reason for making a purchase.

Strange really when the consumer has little idea of what items in the garden inventory cost. Homeowners need good service and value for money, which brings success and resulting pleasure from their purchases.

Judging The Sun Flower Power Competition it was inspiring to read how pleased competitors were with their results from using QVC-purchased Flower Power fertiliser and compost, both sold at prices well above your average garden centre. TV shopping channels are akin to the barrow boys of the past, selling with great enthusiasm and demonstrating what products will do.

This is very different from the rows of Danish trolleys laden with ailing plants at cut prices by the exit of your local supermarket. Buyers for big supermarkets all too often have little or no horticultural experience and work solely on buying at the lowest price.

Do this and you have no margin for sales staff, plant care, training, innovation and promotion.

Good growers are not necessarily good business people. Successful horticultural businesses are often built by two people with complementary talents.

One of our best ever promoters and sellers of roses was the late Harry Wheatcroft, who stood proud on the world stage while his brother was at home growing. The great Tom Rochford built the UK houseplant business, ably backed by company secretary Mr Paul.

What chance for one of our leading garden outlets today with two directors who have plastic grass for lawns?

Peter Seabrook is a gardening writer and broadcaster

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