Mr Fothergill's launches seeds and ranges to keep momentum behind grow-your-own movement

Mr Fothergill's has unveiled a host of changes across all of its brands as it looks to maintain interest in the grow-your-own movement.

Managers of its Fothergill's, Johnsons and DT Brown ranges for retail and catalogue sales announced hundreds of new products, ranges and strategies at an open day last week, in an effort to maintain the double-digit growth enjoyed by companies selling in the grow-your-own market.

But while Mr Fothergill's is revamping its ranges to keep up the momentum, joint managing director David Carey acknowledged that the combination of factors fuelling the boom might not be in place next year.

He said: "We are fully aware it can't keep going the same - there are always peaks and troughs. That's quite disheartening, particularly as we still work on a stock credit basis. But the large retailers are really pushing grow your own and as a group of suppliers we just have to work to maintain that."

Retail marketing manager Ian Cross talked visitors through changes to the Johnsons and Fothergill's retail ranges, which will both see significant turnover next year.

There are to be 51 new varieties in the Johnsons range and 100 for Fothergill's. For Johnsons there will be more emphasis on disease resistance, with a range of 21 modern varieties that require fewer sprays and a re-branded children's range.

Cross said that retailers were too focused on vegetables at the expense of flowers. He explained: "We want to pick up on the idea that flowers are easy to grow so we have the quick fix range and extended the range of speedy salads introduced last year, which have been phenomenally successful."

For Mr Fothergill's retail arm he said there would be 28 new and exclusive varieties, a new unusual vegetable range and a new stand-alone pea and bean range.

He added: "Our biggest overall selling range of varieties is pea and bean so we now have a stand-alone range. What we have tried to do is fill it with modern varieties that are bred for flavour."

Direct marketing manager Tony Dixon reported that last year's catalogue revamp had seen a strong response, with the Autumn Inspiration range up 38 per cent and the seed catalogue up 20 per cent. "We are quite pleased that the move to a new format worked well in the eyes of the customer, so we are going forward with that," he said.

He added that the strength of sales for catalogue-only varieties was a clear indication customers were demanding a wider range of varieties. He also revealed that the catalogues would include 20 new and exclusive varieties, 20 that are new to the UK and 160 that are new to Fothergill's.

DT Brown general manager Tim Jefferies said their catalogue refresh had led to a 20 per cent sales increase. "That says to me that the grow-your-own boom is still very much there because Brown is very much a fruit and vegetable company," he said.

The brand has 140 seed introductions and five exclusive varieties for the new season. Jefferies said he hoped to introduce types that would give the longest possible cropping period.

He added: "We are trying to work over the coming year on all-year-round crops, so we are working on whether we can grow through the winter." The company will also introduce a same day seed-dispatch service this year.

MR FOTHERGILL'S: BEST SELLERS

Flowers
1. Sweetpea
2. Petunia
3. Cosmos
4. Sunflower
5. Asther
6. Pansy/viola

Vegetables
1. Tomato
2. Carrot
3. Lettuce
4. Pea
5. Herb
6. Cabbage


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