HTA floats business group idea to tackle supply chain issues

HTA retail committee chairman Philip Evason has suggested the organisation forms a new cross-functional business group to discuss supply chain issues between growers and retailers.

The Haskins buying director told the HTA Garden Futures conference that the marginal gardener makes up 30 per cent of garden centre custom but they do not follow seasons like experienced gardeners. Instead, they buy on impulse, are media influenced and like grow your own. "If you get stock right, sales can increase by 150-200 per cent," he explained.

Evason said retailers want twoor three-day deliveries and that too much stock was arriving on Fridays, with only 12 per cent of retailers believing that the supply chain was as efficient as it could be.

His aim is to increase sales of UK-grown plants by using local networks, regional hubs and plant distribution centres. He suggested more regular deliveries in four-hour windows spread across the week.

Speaking in the same session on supply chain management, HTA ornamentals committee chair Geoff Caesar discussed the challenges facing Midland Regional Growers (MRG) transport cooperative.

"We have the technical side sorted," he said. "We've done the listening and have the right products, but we have to find an efficient way of getting product to nursery."

He added that customers want same week deliveries with time slots booked in on known days, helpful drivers and undamaged products.

But he said challenges included cost, lorries and trolleys not being full, fulfilling little and often orders, fuel prices and dealing with ordering peaks and troughs. In 2005, there was potential for the MRG to move 76,000 trolleys, but it is now only 40,000 a year, he added.

Caesar said there had been no revolution because retailers had not asked for delivery by one company and because growers' existing systems work and they have their own lorries and drivers. But he said his transport costs were down to 11.5 per cent from 13 per cent.

Caesar added: "We'd like to offer greater flexibility, less time in transit, better two-way communication, reduced cost, smaller and more frequent deliveries and all plant supplies in one delivery."

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