Roper explains how to adapt to industry trends

Blue Diamond managing director Alan Roper opened the Garden Retail Summit with an inspirational talk on Redfields Home of Garden & Living.

Blue Diamond managing director Alan Roper
Blue Diamond managing director Alan Roper

He said the Hampshire store has been adapted to fit industry changes in which a garden centre owner needs to be a restaurateur and fashion and home retailer rather than just a horticulturist.

"I can't think of another retailer that holds such a diverse range," he said. Roper explained that he rebuilt Redfields for an ABC1 demographic and ignored franchises, which are "like a virus permeating in garden retail. I find them quite appalling, very high street - and not even the nice end."

Showing slides of Redfields, which fully reopened in 2015, Roper said space for houseplants "has been justified", room fragrance is a "massive profit driver", bathroom is a "good profit centre" and a "cheese story" in kitchen and "bungalows" shows how products are used to drive sales.

"Less is more," he added. "There's an awful lot of stock in some garden centres." Roper also said he uses little point of sale: "No one reads signs - focus on the product". He said his fashion departments has a £5m turnover, without concessions, and the Redfields model is inspiring new redesigns at Festival Spalding and Trentham.

He added that bringing plants back to the centre of the building is important, achieved through cutting a hole in the box of the building. The planteria is on portable flatbeds, rather than benches, that he is rolling out to other centres. Sundries sections have a "potting shed" feel, without commercial shopfittings and with "V" gondola ends.

Roper said his job is to set the work culture rather than give staff empowerment. The restaurant is half the cost of the fit "but does pay off". Overall Redfields numbers are 37 per cent up. Plants profit is up 59 per cent, home 97 per cent, gardening 49 per cent, Christmas 28 per cent, garden leisure 71 per cent and fashion 80 per cent.

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