Barnes says Dobbies spend on local plants is increasing

Scotland-based garden centre chain Dobbies' top-selling line this month is strawberries, with customers catching 'Wimbledon fever' as Andy Murray progressed at the tennis tournament.

Chief executive James Barnes said despite worries that Dobbies is moving away from local growers as it expands, the 25-centre chain is spending more on locally grown plants and produce.

He said: "We will have grown the Scottish market full stop. Klondyke has the same number of centres as we have - mostly in Scotland - and they've had like-for-like growth.

"Our homegrown plant supply has increased also in absolute terms. We are spending more on buying plants from Scotland, particularly if you include Christmas trees. And if you include food, it has grown exponentially.

"There's always room for local fill-in and, from a philosophical point of view, we are keen wherever physically possible to source our plants from the north rather than the south because they are hardier. That will continue in 2011/12 because we are opening more Scottish stores."

Barnes' message to suppliers is to continue communicating: "Talk to us about what you are doing and how we can work together."

Barnes said produce in Dobbies' farmshops is 98 per cent locally sourced. He said Dobbies had worked on conservatory-living lines this year, with gardeners' gifts themed around plants. Dobbies is looking at growth in smart meters, composting and solar powered lighting. But he was cautious about the future: "My view is we probably have a difficult 12 months ahead."

DOBBIES IN NUMBERS
Strawberry punnets sold in past 12 months: 129,000
Meerkats sold year-to-date: 7,900
Scones in foodhall over the past 12 months: 440,000
Chickens sold in past 12 months: 940
Orchids sold year-to-date: 70,000


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