Online garden sales discussed by retailers

Garden retailers have been debating the value of online sales, with Blue Diamond and Haskins questioning profitability while Hayes and others say e-commerce is crucial in building future sales.

Wyevale Garden Centres (WGC) will be launching its delayed full online offering in 2016. The group said: "There will be a soft launch of WGC's full online offering towards the end of this year. A full launch of the site will then take place in 2016."

At the recent HTA Garden Futures panel discussion chaired by Horticulture Week, Haskins said it "probably believes you can't make money out of it", while Bents said it "covers it costs" on internet retailing and Bosworth's said it wants to "be part of it". Hayes garden centre is doing 30-40 per cent of trade via the internet, the audience heard, while pure play garden online retailer Primrose is turning over £40m-plus.

Wyevale's launch in 2016 will expand on the click-and-collect services that are already available. But Blue Diamond managing director Alan Roper said he has employed a specialist to research garden online sales and has decided that they do not make money.

He said: "I'd say be very careful and don't rush into something just because everyone is talking about it and you think you need to be there. It will cost you cash and will be a negative cash experience at the moment."

He added that Blue Diamond will offer garden furniture online as a broader range than in-store but will sell on point of difference rather than price. "Outside that I see nothing in the online gardening market for me to give any reason there is a pot of gold at the end of it. Often online products are ones garden centres don't get behind anyway such as hard landscaping." But he admitted online does well with outdoor living and has seen "spikes" in solar lighting and trees.

Roper said non-bricks-and-mortar plant sales have moved from mail order to online. "When people want something they can't get in the garden centre, they go online," he added. For particular plant varieties, keen gardeners will look online so "strength in varietal base in garden centres is very important", he said. Blue Diamond is to run a click-and-collect trial at one centre.

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