Bakker Spalding unites plant catalogues

Company relaunches with single brand identity to match profile of mail-order rivals and avoid confusion in marketplace.

Exclusive: ‘Queen of the Night’ - image: Bakker Spalding Garden Company
Exclusive: ‘Queen of the Night’ - image: Bakker Spalding Garden Company

The Bakker Spalding Garden Company has relaunched with a single brand identity and is hoping to increase its UK profile to match rivals in the mail-order market.

Dutch firm Bakker bought the Spalding Bulb Co brand and mailing list in 1989, keeping its and the Spalding catalogues separate.

Bakker Spalding UK managing director Adrian Nind said the time is right to bring the catalogues together. "They have become similar so we have amalgamated them to save money and help us promote ourselves as one brand so there's no confusion in the marketplace."

The company has three main UK spring catalogues, three autumn catalogues and other smaller ones. It sends out 500,000 parcels a year and holds 15 million addresses across Europe.

Nind said the internet is changing the "very traditional" catalogue marketplace, giving a "fascinating opportunity to present a wider range than in the catalogue" through online videos, extra listings, emailing and interaction via Facebook, on which the company has 35,000 "likes". This is more than its competitors in plants and garden centres, according to Nind.

But he added: "We will never get to the stage where we drop the catalogue because people like to plan their gardening and browse. They spend all day looking at computer screens so the last thing you want to do in the evening is look at another."

The company operates across 22 countries in Europe, with Germany and France the biggest followed by the UK. Eastern Europe is its fastest-growing region. The UK business turns over £13m a year. Bakker Spalding also plans a new website at end of the year.

Nind said prices and growth are fairly static, and to "not expect too much" growth because of the fragile economy and unpredictable weather conditions.

He added that the product range remains similar to what it has always been, with daffodils, dahlias and tulips top-sellers and hardware at five per cent of sales.

Lilies, including the exclusive 'Queen of the Night', are big enough this year to warrant separate promotion, he pointed out.

The weak euro is "helping us with what we buy in Europe", said Nind. But fuel price falls have yet to impact. He is concerned that the industry under-prices with loss-leaders.

He added that unless the BBC makes Gardeners' World - which he said moves around the schedule too much - a prime-time show, as it does with Countryfile, new gardening trends will fail to take off.

Higher profile Telling the company's story

The Bakker Spalding Garden Company has a lower profile in the garden media than other brands, according to managing director Adrian Nind.

He wants to improve this through PR and telling the story of how the company was born 70 years ago out of the "hunger winter" of 1944-45, when families blockaded by Germany would send bulbs as gifts for receiving clothes and food from relatives abroad.

There are 600 staff In the Dutch head office and 14 full-timers in Spalding, rising to 40 in season to man the call centre.

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