Clay says centres fail to inspire

Online garden centre Crocus, set to supply Waitrose garden range, says centres lack inspiration.

Crocus director Peter Clay has criticised garden centres for failing to offer inspiration to their customers.

The online garden centre is providing Waitrose's new bespoke online garden range of 6,000 plants and products after the supermarket chain signed Alan Titchmarsh as its new brand ambassador.

Crocus supplies Next's online gardening in the form of ready-made borders and tools, as well as the RHS and Daily Telegraph.

Waitrose is for the first time using permanent units outside stores this season, selling plants and products it has sourced itself. The Waitrose "Flower Garden" has 850 flowers, plants, bulbs and seeds as well as 80 gardening tools and products.

Ranges will change seasonally and some will be available in store where Waitrose has not built units under outdoor canopies. The products include herbs and five-litre Buxus balls.

Clay said it is significant that Waitrose is taking the unprecedented move of partnering a company such as Crocus online, rather than offering a Crocus-supplied "white label" offer.

He said garden centres fail "dismally" to help solve problems. "Retailers getting into gardening clearly feel Tesco (owner of Dobbies) and Wyevale (Garden Centre Group) have not developed in a way they feel is the way forward. Next does what garden centres fail to do by creating imagine-able outdoors.

"What they fail to grasp is that many people would like to decorate their garden in the same way they decorate their home. Garden centres offer just a heap of stuff and people are expected to work it out. Until that changes, I don't see any progress."

Industry responds to gardening market offerings from Next and Waitrose

Carol Paris, director-general, HTA

"If they get them into gardening they will move on to a garden centre, so I think this may be good for the industry. We need more gardeners and everyone can have a share of that. What we don't want is for them to take garden centre customers. There's another customer who hasn't engaged in gardening and that's where Next and Waitrose can benefit us."

Neville Stein, consultant

"There is no doubt that the Next presentation of plants is not only stylish but, as Peter Clay says, inspirational - they give the consumers some great ideas of how plants can be used in a garden setting. But perhaps Next's customers are not a garden centre's core customers. Maybe their customers are younger, new homeowners and by default may not know much about gardening, so giving them ideas is essential. But I think even knowledgeable gardeners need inspiration and creating innovative displays that are fun and informative will help sell more plants."

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