HTA/Ball Colegrave event looks at grower-retailer relationship

The importance of working together was a common theme to come from the joint HTA/Ball Colegrave 'Plant Retailing - Fit for the Future' event.

David Denny and Boyd Douglas Davies
David Denny and Boyd Douglas Davies

The event, held on 14 July at the Ball Colegrave Summer Showcase in Oxfordshire and attended by 90 growers and retailers, looked at the opportunities for selling more plants in garden centres. Plant sales in the UK are currently worth £1.5 billion and one third of these sales are made through garden centres and retail nurseries.

Understanding your customers and their needs and wants are critical and the latest findings from the HTA eye tracker research highlighted the importance of viewing the customer experience through their eyes. Boyd Douglas-Davies, whose Hillview Group is working with the HTA on the eye tracker project, commented how it is proving to be invaluable to really see how your customers view and shop the plantarea.  "You may think you know your garden centre and customers but believe me you don’t", he said. Clear lines of sight,  physical barriers such as hoses, eye level of displays, availability of trolleys and baskets, visible pricing and positioning of signage are just a few of the areas highlighted within the research.

Andy Bunker from Alton Garden Centre and plant buying chair for the Tillington Group, spoke about the changing nature of customers and their desire to find solutions that look good and provide colour. Within his centre he has seen a huge shift towards seasonal plants and plants that "have their moment". Lavenders and this year in particular, supersize lupins have been particularly popular with demand outstripping supply. The relationship between growers and retailers is incredibly important to the success of these sales and he encouraged growers to talk to retailers early in the planning stage to have the maximum benefit.

Kevin Waters encouraged garden retailers to re-engage with their customers and "become an authority on plants rather than just sell a commodity". He spoke about the importance of creating a brand and culture within businesses that really involves staff and then passes onto customers. Keep the messages simple and help customers shop by providing recipe cards, living labels, solutions, stories and integrating the plant offer throughout the whole store. Kevin also encouraged people to think about the need to provide different solutions for different customers e.g. an older gardener will be looking for a different grow your own solution to a young family.

Speaking about the importance of new plant introductions, Graham Spencer from Plants for Europe, encouraged people not to be frightened of trying something new. However, he stressed how it is not enough just to say that something is new – "you need to talk about the benefits, tell the story behind the plant, capitalise on media exposure and make use of the point of sale materials often provided". Alongside new plants there are also the ‘new to you’ plants which also provide huge opportunities. Customers still want pretty, colourful plants that are appropriate for their needs and wants. Closer relationships between growers and retailers are key and Graham also encouraged retailers to visit the Flower Trials in Holland and Germany so that they have a heads up on introductions that will come in a few years down the line.

"We have the best product and still get really excited about new plants and we need to pass this onto our customers," said Neil Grant from Ferndale Garden Centre. We do need to look at who are customers are and provide for their differing needs though. He spoke about the opportunities to influence those customers through the traditional media and social media, particularly during the non-gardening time in the early part of the year when people are "winter daydreaming". We need to be creative in our approach and find the stories to tell, working with growers to achieve this. He added: "It is the most exciting time ever for the industry. Customers are hungry for it and are looking for something fun, rewarding, easy and it has to look good."

Event sponsors were XL Horticulture, Floramedia, Alpha Packaging, EcoVision and HTA Utilities.

The Ball Colegrave Summer Showcase runs until Friday 31 July.

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus

Read These Next

Regional showcase - GroSouth

Regional showcase - GroSouth

A wide range of exhibitors and speakers will feature at GroSouth to update visitors on all the latest industry topics, writes Matthew Appleby.



These tidy evergreen trees are not just for Christmas and come in a range of shapes and sizes, writes Miranda Kimberley.

Pest & Disease Factsheet - Green manure crops

Pest & Disease Factsheet - Green manure crops

Valuable tools to combat pests and diseases, improve soils and boost nutrient levels.

From The Editor - Production and retail showcase

From The Editor - Production and retail showcase

With the first entry deadlines for two of the industry's leading awards schemes looming, this is the perfect time to start thinking about which categories can best support your goals this year - and get cracking on those entries.

Seabrook on...Product showcase and valuable networking at Four Oaks

Seabrook on...Product showcase and valuable networking at Four Oaks

The Four Oaks Trade Show is a must on my calendar.

According To Edwards ... Changes large and small anticipated for UK producers

According To Edwards ... Changes large and small anticipated for UK producers

No one knows the changes that Brexit will impose on the UK over time. Some will surely be massive and they are already being guessed at. But there will be little changes too and some of those will ripple out over time to surprisingly large effect. I don't pretend to know what will happen, but it's fun to speculate.

Follow us on:
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Google +
Horticulture Jobs
More Horticulture Jobs

Pest & Disease Tracker bulletin 

The latest pest and disease alerts, how to treat them, plus EAMU updates, sent direct to your inbox.

Sign up here

Are you a landscape supplier?

Horticulture Week Landscape Project Leads

If so, you should be receiving our new service for Horticulture Week subscribers delivering landscape project leads from live, approved, planning applications across the UK.