Offering food drives garden centre footfall, retailer reports

Developing a food offer has been a successful footfall driver for Oxfordshire-based Purely Plants.

Owner Sally Stephens said working with local suppliers had helped the small centre develop a niche market. The aim had been to supply local and unusual food products not found in supermarkets.

"It's been fantastic. We started off small and worked with suppliers. Small suppliers often struggle but by helping each other out, we've seen the benefits."

An oil supplier was willing to send out smaller-than-usual stocks to help things get started, while local preserve producers had come in to run tasting sessions.

Stephens said this co-operation gave her centre an advantage over larger competitors but believes suppliers need to be more flexible.

Some plant and food suppliers offered poor service when it came to distribution and this could be an issue in small centres like Stephens', where small staffing levels made it difficult to collect goods.

But those suppliers who provided a delivery service to customers would find that they are loyal, Stephens said.

The food department had proved more labour intensive which meant they had to find a staffing balance between it and the rest of the centre.

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