Rural retailer targets gardeners

Rural supplies retailer Countrywide is making a serious move into garden retailing by relaunching garden centres in 15 of its 41 stores around the UK.

The company poached a B&Q garden centre manager, David Gray, in December and he has been developing the stores to include a broad range of plants.

Gray told HW that Countrywide had offered gardening products for some time but the decision had been made to use the infrastructure in place in some of the stores and extend the offer to plants.

"They've had garden centres, but they've never done it properly and really only played at it. They've got canopies and all the lovely garden fences but all they've really stocked is compost. They've done everything else - just not plants."

The aim was to supply the rural community with a premium range of plants and a stronger core gardening range.

He said that Dutch and Italian specimen plants sourced from a Belgian supplier would be offered, but the company had a culture of using local growers, which would be continued for plants.

Gray believes there is room in the garden centre market to expand. "We don't relaunch until Easter but we've been getting plants in to prepare, and sales are already up by as much as 60 to 70 per cent in some stores."

Extensive advertising was planned to let customers know that Countrywide was now "in the business of selling plants".

Gray was unable to say how much was being spent on the redevelopments. However, a revamp team has gone into all the stores and set them up with the first stages, focusing on plant bed presentation.

Gray added: "Future growth depends on how the first 15 perform but more could be invested into the garden centres if they prove to be a success."


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