Homebase trading director forecasts take-off for sales of plants online

Online plant sales will take off in 2014, when it stops raining, Homebase garden trading director Matthew Compton has predicted.

"Peak is around the corner and it's very important to Homebase," he said. "The challenge is with growers at the moment and we're working with them to see what the weather does."

Compton said the grow your own season will be first to be hit if it does not stop raining soon. He added that "planting" and "enjoy" seasons follow but Homebase sees gardening as year-round.

Multichannel is "massive" for 2014, said Compton. "We've taken a big step forward this year and put more than 1,000 transactional items on the website for the first time, including 500 plants." There are also 50 videos featured online.

Click-and-collect is "an increasing part of the business" at Home Retail Group. On pricing, Compton said: "Our ambition is to be a third less than the independents."

A big aim in 2014 is to make specimen "stately home" plants "more attainable" with, for instance, 25-year-old olives at £99. There are also fruit trees from £10 and 38 2cm plug combinations. Delivery is £3.95.

Homebase asked for two per cent supplier rebates last month (p12), but Compton would only say: "Supplier relationships are important to us. Payments are made on pre-arranged agreements."

He will give a presentation about how the Nectar loyalty card has changed the chain's approach at the next Garden Industry Manufacturers Association AGM and meeting on 13 March.

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