The organisation will launch the service, developed with buying group Associated Independent Stores (AIS), on 12 December. Representatives from about 70 garden centres have already confirmed their attendance, a response that has delighted GCA chief executive Gillie Westwood.
AIS is the UK's largest independent non-food buying group, with a combined membership turnover of around £1.8bn. It has a membership of 270 independent department stores and specialist retailers that operate 611 outlets across the UK and Ireland.
Westwood said there was a natural fit with AIS because there was already a crossover between department stores and garden centres on several product ranges such as giftware, Christmas goods and furniture. She said it was also a good time to consolidate the independent market. "We've got to do this as an industry because of the huge buying power out there.
"With Tesco coming in (to garden retail) as a major player, we need some help and we can only do that by safety in numbers."
The GCA had been in discussions with AIS for about a year to see how the relationship would work.
Westwood said: "It is very much in its infancy but we do believe it has great potential."
- The GCA has confirmed it will relocate its head office to Leafield in Oxfordshire in the next few weeks (HW, 25 October). The move is part of an ongoing programme to refine its administrative structure and will reduce travelling times for head office staff.