Retail Hardy Nursery Stock Supplier of the Year

Winner: The Bransford WeBbs Plant Company.

The building of a new 5,000sq m glasshouse has increased The Bransford Webbs Plant Company's ability to control the growing environments of a large number of crops in the nursery, while the research and development unit continues to ensure that the firm introduces innovative plants each year to respond to gaps in the market.

Through all of this, Bransford Webbs is meeting two points of the company mission statement: "To be the leading innovative nursery supplying new and sought after plants," and to: "Help Britain's gardeners create fabulous gardens."

The new glass space was built in response to the requirements of the crops grown on the site. The company says the new glasshouse was an essential capital investment To directly control the growing environments for a wider number of crops.

Bransford Webbs' objective to be able to provide a large range of hebe throughout the entire season is aided by the completion of this glasshouse and allows it to further improve the offer it has for current and potential new customers. The company has increased the numbers of varieties grown and, as a specialist in this genus, is now nearer to having impulse and interesting hebe varieties throughout the entire season.

The company has also introduced two new ranges of hebe to the garden centre market, bred at the nursery by propagation manager Karl O'Neill. The breeding of the new varieties began in 2012 and there has been an intense programme of trials and selection. The seedlings have been trialled for production and garden suitability, regularly monitored and trialled on the nursery, in gardens and in a small number of garden centres, until the final truly individual eight varieties were selected for introduction into garden centres.

Bransford Webbs has always prided itself on being a leader of innovation in marketing in the garden centre market and for the introduction of new and innovative plants to the market. The research and development unit, while always being essential to new introductions, has increased in size and has trialled more than 200 varieties between October 2014 and September 2015.

Each plant is entered into the trial equally where it is scored on a scale of one-to-10 by various members of the staff - from the sales, despatch and production departments - for its suitability for introduction to the market. The results are then analysed at monthly marketing meetings and each new plant must have a unique selling point and a potential place in the market before it is considered for introduction.

The company became aware of a gap in the market and a demand for an increased range of plants/varieties on offer for mid-to-late summer colour and impulse buys. One group of plants was introduced as individual promotions for July/early August and consisted of Osteospermum 'Sunny Art Deco', Dahlia 'Dalina' and Hydrangea Flair & Flavours Series. Each of these ranges offer immense colour and interest for late summer. The second group is the Summer Colour range, consisting of 15 varieties, in two-litre pots (RRP: £5.99).

Bransford Webbs has been looking to introduce a new form of point of sale to help customers improve sell-through on a current promotion. The buddleia marketing kit was a trial of a new concept designed in conjunction with a local designer and launched into centres in June 2015. It consisted of a tower with stick-on butterfly wobblers and a bench wrap, which went out to centres as a set on the trolley with the plants, enabling centres to instantly build their displays.

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