Nurseries should spread the load and listen to customers

Allensmore, Wyevale and Porters nurseries invited garden centre buyers to open days last week.

Taylor: managing director at Allensmore Nurseries - image: HW
Taylor: managing director at Allensmore Nurseries - image: HW

Why it is important to spread the load, listen to customers and market new ideas to customers were the big themes from some of Britain's largest nurseries at their open days last week.

In Herefordshire, Wyevale Nurseries and Allensmore Nurseries opened their doors to garden centre buyers. New marketing concepts, new plants, expansion plans and having a diverse offer for a wide range of customers were what the two nurseries had in common.

In Formby, Porters Fuchsias' Natalie Porter also held an open day last week, with retailers meeting her suppliers and discussing marketing ideas such as telling the stories of plants via information boards.

"Planterias that may not have as many staff as they would like may want to have more information boards available," she suggested. "We've been able to bridge the gap between our suppliers and our garden centre customers." Some 62 garden centres attended the open day as well as 12 suppliers such as Fargro, Hortipak, Teko and Syngenta, added Porter.

New plant showcase

Wyevale Nurseries showcased a host of new plants including the branded Hydrangea 'Magical' range and Phormium 'Chocomint' as well as plants for the future such as Euphorbia 'Frosted Flame', Dianella 'Wyeena', Daphne 'Perfume Princess' and Primula 'Ooh La La Pink'. Retailers chose their favourites.

Managing director Andy Johnson said listening to customers and "being light on our feet with a spread of trees, transplants, shrubs and herbaceous" are key to success. Wyevale has expansion plans in several areas, with new polytunnels and glass possible, he added. The "plant fest" allowed attendees the opportunity to see the lines first and cast their votes on how commercially viable they think they could be.

Wyevale product development co-ordinator Ben Gregory said: "The most popular new plant on the day was a brand new phormium, the name of which will be revealed at a later date. This new phormium really breaks the mould. It's an extremely compact grower with incredibly fine bronze foliage that will work very well in patio containers. It's also low-maintenance and perfect for the modern gardener."

Allensmore managing director Mark Taylor showed visitors round the nursery's three sites totalling 70 acres, including the four-year-old 40-acre Madley site. New point of sale and displays for Mother's Day (26 March) were showcased, featuring bedding, perennials and exotic stock. Rick McKeever has been working on display ideas. Taylor emphasised how Allensmore is a sales-led rather than production-led business so wants customer feedback on the ideas.

Mitigating changes

Spreading the risk around independent, multiple and DIY customers alongside trading a static 30% of stock helps mitigate any seasonal or exchange rate changes, he added. Impulse later-season plants are important and added value remains a strong element.

Madley has an 8-million-gallon reservoir and there is capacity and planning permission on site for another 10 acres of glass. Three acres went up in 2015-16. Much of this replaced a 2.5-acre site at Evesham that Allensmore has shut down.

The nurseries see advantages in bringing customers to their sites, where they can discuss what each side wants from the other and plan ahead accordingly. Taylor said: "We're constantly trying to improve the offer we deliver to garden centres and this gave us the opportunity to receive invaluable feedback from customers to help us move this forward in a direction that works for them."

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