Garden-centre allotment scheme hailed as an exemplar for independents

East Sussex-based Stone Cross Nurseries is paving the way for independent garden centres with its innovative plans to harness the grow your own trend.

The nursery said it planned to buy back fresh produce grown on its allotments rented to locals, with a currency that can be spent in its cafe. The move copies a similar initiative at a nearby pub.

Owner Garry Winwood said: "We have our own allotment here and the local Young At Heart group, aimed at older folk trying to stay fit and healthy, decided to take it on and grow their own produce and possibly sell it back to us."

He added: "I think this should be rolled out all over the country - as independent centres it's something we ought to be promoting. We are trying to create a destination site where people can come and enjoy themselves for half a day and visit the garden centre."

HW business and management adviser Leslie Kossoff described the Stone Cross Nurseries plan as a "major move forward".

She said: "This is wonderful. Winwood is right - all of the small independents across the nation should be looking at this and other ways of creating revenue.

"For the small independents, every single inch of land and property that they have needs to be generating revenue. Doing this with allotments is a really great marketing tool. This is a perfect example of exactly the kind of thing that is much easier for a small independent to do than the big guys."

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