Concession demand still strong

'We're in our 10th year and demand for concessions is stronger than ever,' says First Franchise.

Concessions: First Franchise always looking for trends in the market
Concessions: First Franchise always looking for trends in the market

First Franchise says its 10th year in business has been its busiest year yet. The company develops partnerships for retailers that want to have concessions in garden centres and has introduced thousands over the past decade.

Director Keith McIntyre said: "We are now in our 10th year and the demand for concessions is stronger than ever. We've introduced and installed thousands and the vast majority are still there trading. The garden centre market now understands that we promote partnerships. The concession market is maturing but certainly has not reached full maturity."

He added: "I don't suppose people would have believed the concession market would have been as big 10 years later, but as a garden centre owner myself I realised that partnerships were one way to secure long-term viability. We're still introducing new concession formats and leading the market."

The latest development is Appetite Me, whose owner Robert Tate has worked with Notcutts and Van Hage on food halls and is now working with First Franchise advising garden centres on farm shop offerings.

McIntyre said: "We have always looked for trends in the market and we try to find complementary businesses that will work with particular centres and their owners.

"Many of the brands we represent today have been with us for years yet we are still finding new companies and new markets to broaden the appeal of garden centres.

"The way concessions work with agreements has changed significantly with a move towards licences, which makes life easier. Licences are generally 12 pages with a break clause at six months. This takes away legal costs and 54-page leases. Concessions now have their own documents that they give to centres so the process is straightforward.

"Planning consent has always been a defining factor but we're seeing the envelope pushed wider. Garden centres are branding themselves as home and garden centres now, which pushes the envelope wider still and attracts a broader demographic."

He said the first bathroom concession, for lead generation only, and a new format for turf and lawn care and garden furniture concessions are planned, while horticultural concessions are possible in garden centres. "You could see a day when the entire garden centre could have concessions on board. However, controlling such an entity may be difficult.

"But we're better at bringing in a few concessions on site to complement the offer rather than the entire site because we have always selected the right partner for each site."

Footwear partner

Shoe retailer Brantano has opened 35 concessions in garden centres in a year after trialing at Pugh's in Cardiff and would like to add another 50 at around 1,000sq ft each.

First Franchise director Keith McIntyre said: "Brantano is the UK's largest retailer of Clarks shoes, among other major brands, is the leading children's footwear retailer and operates click-and-reserve and a feet-measuring service, which is vital so customers are encouraged to visit a garden centre. The firm believes garden centres are excellent partners."

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