Connel calls for more garden centre customer service training

Garden centres need to focus on how to best serve their customers if they are going to compete with online retailers, John Connel of the Garden Works has said.

Speaking at a seminar at the Four Oaks Trade Show, Connel called for garden centres to train their staff in customer service. He said that large numbers of different products confused customers and retailers had to focus their ranges on what customers need.

"There needs to be more joined up thinking," he said. "This industry isn't growing and in real terms it's declining. Are you happy about that? Because I'm not. You are fighting for your share of the market and you've got an aggressive competitor you didn't have before - the Internet. The value of gardening on the Internet is massive."

He added: "I'm frustrated the industry doesn't take training more seriously," he said. "All the information you need to give training to staff about plants and customer service is out there for free on the Internet."

He maintained that retailers should not see the weather as an overriding factor: "For people who think it's all about the weather, I have no time for that. If you thought this year was bad, you're going to have more like this in the next few years. I know garden centres who have traded exceptionally well despite the weather. It's because they've been working smarter, not necessarily harder."

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