According To Evason ... Waitrose will grow the garden market

The garden sector still has growth potential so it is not surprising that Waitrose sees opportunity here. It is logical considering how closely the Waitrose customer profile is aligned to the core gardening consumer. It is experienced at handling short-life product and it is a true multi-channel retailer.

The link to Crocus is a quick and easy way into the online garden market, demonstrating the value Waitrose sees in the online customer. The tactic offers an instant customer proposition with limited effort.

This collaborative, partnering approach may well be important for the future of independent garden centres and should be considered in product sourcing, supply chain efficiencies and any online activity.

Waitrose's move brings potential strengths for the industry. Suppliers and growers will have more opportunities to place products with wider distribution. Both retailers and suppliers will benefit from consumers having a greater awareness of gardening. Waitrose, a trusted brand, is likely to appeal to younger, novice gardeners - a category that has, in the main, eluded established garden centres.

My main concern is that the multiples tend to hunt in packs, so we are likely to see greater interest in the sector, resulting in more distribution channels. When garden purchases make their way onto the regular food shopping list, longer term it may result in fewer visits to destination garden centres.

With greater emphasis on product choice, inventory control and supplier collaboration, independent centres can increase revenue by investing capital to introduce new product categories. They need to think across conventional boundaries, seek new markets, identify core skills and look for opportunities.

The divergence into restaurants is a good example, but there are other opportunities to develop the unique customer experience garden centres offer and reinforce the successful formula as formats for out-of-town, high-end consumerism.

Philip Evason is founder of Supply Chain Procurement Solutions


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