Hillview Group managing director Boyd Douglas-Davies has said "kissing and cuddling" is the key to success for his new garden centre chain.
The retailer plans to be around 10 centres in size, but currently has one centre, the former Hillier at Studley in Worcestershire.
Speaking at a Garden Industry Manufacturers' Association business meeting in Henley-in-Arden last week the former Webbs chief executive boss said garden centres customers were full of emotion and retailers and garden centres were better placed to "cuddle" them than the self-scan check-out model at supermarkets.
He added that the industry could better understand customers' worries by looking at internet chatrooms.
He explained how he solved a customer's garden furniture problem by buying her a cheap set on eBay. "She became a loyal customer."
Douglas-Davies said garden centres have a confusing offer, with too many brands that buyers did not recognise. He said Hillier had passed his contacts on to all of its 270 Studley suppliers, but he had slashed that supplier base.
In his centre, show gardens are being built in half of the planteria, with plants arranged for looks rather than alphabetically.
He added: "We believe the garden centre is the place to be because it is a totally flexible outlet to keep engaging with the customer." He said be it Christmas, Easter, Mother's Day or garden furniture time, garden centres thrived on change.
He added: "Hillview saw a huge opportunity to create retail outlets engaging with customers locally." Two more sites in the Midlands will be strongly advertised locally.
Garden Re-Leaf Momentum builds
Garden Re-Leaf has the "world's biggest tweeter" supporting it as well as the nation's favourite gardener. The influential user of the micro-blogging service has contacted the charity day's founder urging him to strengthen the Re-Leaf website because his tweets will drive so much interest.
Alan Titchmarsh will also give the event a push at the Garden Media Guild event on 30 November. But event backer Boyd Douglas-Davies said non-gardening celebrities were needed to give the fundraiser impetus. "Garden Re-Leaf should be whole industry working together."
Keep it simple - The Hillview way
- One man management and buying team.
- Keep it simple for customers.
- Website to reflect the centre.
- Show buying too complicated.
- New products hard to find at Glee or in Garden Industry Manufacturers' Association product digest.